The night had taken it upon itself to be clouded over and so Sam wound his way back towards town slowly, hunched over with his hands in his pockets. If Mary hadn’t had her family - his family, and fuck but that thought hurt - to get back to he thought she probably would have run after him. He hadn’t been able to help saying her name, it’d just slipped out.
“At least I didn’t call her ‘mom’,” he muttered. It wasn’t much of a comfort. She’d gone back to warmth and love and solid walls and regular meals and he was going back to….well, nowhere. For all intents and purposes he was stuck here, in 1983, with no hope of seeing his own time again. Of course he would, in the end. But he’d be old, would never be able to see Dean again because Dean would be living with the pre-time-travelled Sam and then the same thing would happen again and after that it all became some kind of headache-inducing loop so Sam stopped thinking about it.
“Enjoying yourself, Sammy boy?”
His head snapped up. The creature was back. It had red hair this time, fading into white where it twined around its body. The eyes were still unnervingly bright blue and instead of standing in front of him it was hovering in midair.
“Take me back. Take me back right now.” The creature rolled it’s eyes.
“Oh, I can’t do that now, can I? Where’s the fun in taking you home?”
“The hell does that mean? Take me back or I swear to god I’ll—” It floated over to him and raised a eyebrow, smirking.
“You’ll what? Glare me to death? I don’t think so, baby boy.” It seemed to consider for a moment, head cocked to the side. “But I’ll make you a deal - catch me and I’ll send you home. You’ve got one hour. See you on the other side!”
“What, wait - no!” Sam thrust a hand out, grabbing for the creature’s arm. It blinked out of existence, once again leaving the faint smell of cinnamon in the air.
Sam kicked at the ground angrily, clenching his fists and whirling in a pissed off circle. Now what the fuck did he do? He couldn’t track this thing, he didn’t even know what it was! At least with everything else he’d hunted he’d had some idea of how to track it down, or could look up how to do it. But he didn’t have his laptop and he doubted that the internet was as big now as he was used to it being – there certainly wouldn’t be as much information as fast and besides, whose computer was he going to use at this time of night? He certainly didn’t have time to waste in libraries looking up what the thing was. And even if he did have the time for that, what did he have to go on? Shape changer but not a shifter, could travel in time, apparently fly and teleport and smelt like cinnamon.
He’d never heard of anything like it.
“And you call yourself a hunter,” the creature’s voice whispered. Sam span around, eyes roving wildly as he searched for it. There was a laugh that seemed to whisk around him, fading in and out as it moved.
“C’mon, try harder than that, sugar plum!”
“Okay, now you’re just pissing me off,” Sam growled. One of the streetlights to his left flickered and he realised that the laughter was echoing near to it. He smiled. Finally, something familiar. He shut his eyes for a moment, just breathing. He could do this. He was going to catch this thing, possibly beat the crap out of it, and then he was going home.
He blinked and looked at the streetlights. Sure enough they were all flickering one by one. One would spend a few seconds sputtering and then flare back bright again as the next one started to go.
Sam started to run. The creature realised immediately that it was being chased. A delighted shriek of laughter echoed in the empty road.
“That’s the spirit, Sammy! Run, run, fast as a hunter can, can’t catch me cause I’m quicker than you!”
Sam ran. He ran and ran and surely the road through town couldn’t be this long and where had all the houses gone and the pavement had no cracks in it, was just one long smooth runway beneath his feet. He slammed to a halt. Very much not in Kansas any more, he thought sourly. Ahead of him was just darkness lit by streetlamps at regular intervals - ordinary enough? Well, it would have been if they didn’t continue on eternally. There was no scenery around him no, no sounds at all save his own heavy breathing, the pounding of his heart and the continued giggles of the creature.
Sam Winchester, however, wasn’t one to let a suddenly impossible world stop him from getting back to his brother. He’d faced worse. He breathed deeply and ran again.
He was catching up to it now. He passed beneath streelights just seconds after they’d stopped flickering. It was still invisible though, just a voice - less than that, just laughter. That laughter was really getting on his nerves now. Finally he managed to grab onto one of the lights just as it started flickering.
“Aw, you got me. With seconds to go, what a shame.” There was a rush of wind and the creature was visible again. It had taken on its original form, all white hair and silver eyes and features that weren’t quite the same from moment to moment.
“Just send me home already!” Sam snapped, folding his arms.”What’s the point of all of this?”
“Usually to teach people a lesson,” the creature snapped back, mirroring his pose with a mocking sneer, “But all you’ve done is mope about and get pissed off. Frankly, I’m disappointed.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Stop thinking about what you could have had, Sam Winchester,” it uncrossed its arms to poke him hard in the middle of the chest. Cold bloomed at the point of contact and Sam flinched away from it. The creature continued, “Stop looking back on a life that never was as some kind of fucking golden age you were denied. Look at what you have.”
“Who are you?” Sam tried to ignore what it was saying, to ignore the nagging suspicion that it was right.
“It doesn’t matter who I am, you won’t listen to me anyway. Or would you, if I looked like this?” the ghost changed shape to Mary in her nightdress, the way she looked when she died, complete with blood and the smell of burning hair. Sam took a horrified step back, shaking his head.
“Don’t look like her. Don’t you dare look like her.”
“I am her, Sammy, I’m Mary and I’m John and I’m Jess,” as it spoke the names it flickered into their shapes, finally stopping in the worst one it could possibly have chosen - a younger version of him. The younger Sam smiled sadly and tilted his head, “I’m everyone you can’t forget and everyone you won’t. I’m your past, Sam and you’ve got to stop living in me. Obsessing over me won’t make me better, won’t change me. All that time you’ve spent dwelling over what you could have done differently, whether it would have changed anything…it’s pointless.”
“Then why bring me back here? Why make me live you for real?”
“I was trying to prove a point. If you’re too stupid to take it on board then I guess there really is no hope for you. It’s not about the place or the people or the situation. What matters is that it’s over. It’s over and done with and more importantly you can’t change it. You’re not nearly important enough to do that.”
“Not important? You do know what I am, don’t you? What I did? What Dean and I did?”
“Blah, blah, apocalypse, Lucifer, Azazel, demon blood - see, you say those things and I hear you thinking them but all I actually hear is ‘wah, wah, my mommy died and daddy didn’t love me and I’m too self-absorbed to get the fuck over it and enjoy what I have’,” the creature snapped out of it’s young Sam shape and into its own. “It makes me sick to just look like you, to be honest. Sometimes I think just looking at you could make me sick.”
“Are you done insulting me?”
“Oh, that’s something that could never happen. I am, however, done being around you. I am done with your refusal to listen to reason and…and….and everything about you. This was not nearly as fun as I’d hoped it’d be. Go the fuck home, Sam Winchester, and if I have to bother with you again I swear on all you hold dear I will take you by your stupid hair and toss you off of a mountain.”
So saying, the creature lunged forwards, wrapped its arms around him for the second time and engulfed him in light. Sam once again did the only rational and sane thing to do in such a situation. He took the easy road and passed out.
Sam mooched about the town for the rest of the day. He had no idea what he was supposed to do, no idea how to get the creature - ghost, spirit, demon, whatever it was - back to send him home. He wondered how Dean was doing, whether his brother knew he was gone yet. He probably did. Dean always seemed to know the second Sam was missing. He’d be losing his mind by now, tearing up Bobby’s house, then the junkyard, moving in wider and wider circles to find him. It was possible that Sam should have found that kind of behaviour a little unnerving. He didn’t. And, well, didn’t that just speak volumes about their relationship?
Eventually the light started to fade and Sam, without really realising it, found his feet winding their way up towards a very familiar house. He stopped on the street away from it, just looking. He forced himself to keep moving, to walk on by. Five minutes later he changed his mind and walked back. He repeated this about three or four times and by the time he finally just stopped and stared at the house it was fully dark.
The lights were on in the downstairs windows and he could see people moving about inside. Sam swallowed, throat suddenly thick. He glanced to either side of him and, seeing nobody, hurried up to the house as quietly as he could. He stood to the side of the window in the shadow cast by the wall. The square of light shining out stopped just inches from his toes. He couldn’t hear anything but he could look in. He shouldn’t have. He shouldn’t have been doing it, shouldn’t have gone anywhere near the house. This was beyond creepy and if he got caught…he shook the thoughts away. If he’d been thrown back in time for no reason he was going to take all the damn chances he could to look at his past. These were things he couldn’t remember, things he never would be able to remember. The universe owed him this much, he figured.
Looking through the window he could see John sitting at the table next to Dean, plates and silverware all laid out in front of them. A picture perfect, father and son snapshot. Dean was so small but so vibrant. He beamed up at their dad, legs swinging under the table as he chattered away about something or other. John leaned on his elbows, looking sincerely at him in that way parents do when they’re not really interested in what their kids are saying so much as they are interested and in love with their kid.
Sam bit the inside of his lip. He couldn’t remember one time he’d actually seen John look at him or Dean like that when they were kids. Not one. It just wasn’t fair—
“Mom,” he breathed as Mary came into view. She was holding a blanket-wrapped bundle in her arms, pressed close to her chest. She smiled down at it, dipped her head to kiss it.
That’s me, Sam couldn’t help the small, disbelieving smile that flickered across his face. That’s me right there. I’m looking at myself and I’ve only been alive for twenty one days.
Mary looked up from the baby and went to John. He reached up to loop his arms around her waist, pulling her close. She leaned down and quickly kissed his forehead before moving away. She made to go over and put Sam down but was stopped on the way by Dean twisting in his chair to hug her on the way past. He pressed his head into her stomach and he must have said something because Mary’s mouth moved and Sam had seen those words formed enough times to know them without hearing.
I love you too
The noise that caught in his throat was frankly pathetic. He balled his hands into fists and pressed one against his forehead, sliding it down over his eyes. He couldn’t watch any more. He’d never had this, never had the chance to know that this was even like. Whatever the creature that had sent him here was it wasn’t kind. This wasn’t a gift, this was a slap in the face to his entire life. He couldn’t stand here and look at the family he never had any more. He glanced up one last time as he turned to go.
And locked eyes with Mary through the window.
The bottom dropped out of his stomach and he froze. Mary’s expression flashed furious for a second before her smile flipped back into place. She handed baby-Sam to John and said something to him - some excuse to go outside probably - and left the room. Sam could have taken that moment to run. He could have been halfway down the street by now. But what would be the point? It wouldn’t help him get home and he’d then only have to spend the rest of however long he was stuck here making sure he didn’t run into his own mother who didn’t know she was his mother. So he stayed where he was and waited for her to come to him.
Sam found himself holding his breath as she stepped out. She was wearing a light summer dress and white slippers, was tugging the sleeves of a sweater over her fisted hands. She didn’t lower her eyes from his as she clicked the door closed behind her.
“Okay, who the hell are you and why the hell are you staring through my window?” she demanded, no pre-amble. She didn’t shout, just kept her voice steady and strong. Sam almost smiled. Oh yeah, he thought, that was his mom. Her voice made his chest ache. Mary folded her arms, waiting for a response.
He shook his head
“No one, I’m…I’m no one.”
Mary frowned and walked towards him. Sam glanced up at the window, afraid now that John would look out and see his wife confronting a strange man in front of their house. Mary didn’t seem to care. She came right up to him and jabbed him in the chest with one finger.
“Explain to me right now why I shouldn’t call the cops and have your ass arrested.”
“I-” There weren’t the words to explain. His tongue tangled with them, he couldn’t tell her a thing. He wanted more than anything to pull her into a hug and not let go until someone made him, wanted to take the comfort that he’d never gotten to have. She’d probably knee him in the balls if he did that though. “I’m not…”he began, then shook his head. “I’ll go, I’m sorry, I just…I’m sorry. For everything.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mary let her hand drop and wrapped her arms around herself. The angry line of her mouth shifted into something more quizzical.
“Nothing. Sorry, I…look, have a good night, okay? You’re very lucky to have your family with you.” Sam made to go but she caught his arm.
“You should come in.” It sounded impulsive, like she only half-wanted to say but once she had she truly meant it.
“…You’re inviting me in? Why? I’m just some guy,” he laughed dryly, “You don’t even know me.”
“I know sadness when I see it. And you look sad.”
You don’t know the half of it, he hated the bitterness that swam through his veins, hard and harsh and Mary didn’t deserve it so he took a deep breath and smiled wide and fake.
“You’re so kind. Too kind, and I’d love to but…I can’t. I have to go. Thank you for the offer.”
“See you round sometime then, huh?” Mary said, “You staying in town long?”
“Not long.” hopefully, he added silently, “Goodnight, Mary.”
He finally turned to leave, heart beating heavy in his chest. Just knowing she was right there and he couldn’t say anything to her, anything at all, made him want to scream and cry and black out all at the same time. He wanted…god, he wanted to turn around and run in there and just swallow up all the love in that house. All the light, all the warmth, he wanted all of it for himself because seeing it made a space in the back of his chest scream that it was empty and dark and alone.
“Wait, how did you know my name?” Mary called after him a few seconds later. Sam didn’t turn. She shouted again, “I never told you my name! Come back here!”
Sam kept on walking.
One moment Sam was in a happy, warm little dream space - not quite visions of sugar plums and involving a bit of festively themed nudity - the next he was gasping awake and staring into big silver eyes. Big silver eyes in a big silver face attached to a big mass of flowing whiteness. The whiteness swam around him, blurring the room from view.
“Time to go, Sammy boy,” it said, voice faintly bell-like with more than a hint of amusement to it.
“Wha-” was all Sam had the time to get out before a pair of long, skinny arms had twined around his chest and hauled him into a flashing white void that was too bright to keep his eyes open in. He would have struggled - tried to, in fact - but whatever it was that had grabbed him had made his entire body numb and if he was actually moving he couldn’t tell. In the end he gave up, shut his eyes and passed out for a bit.
“Hey,” something poked him in the side, “Hey you. Wake up. Hello-oo, are you alive?” Sam groaned and opened his eyes, wincing at the sunlight. Wait…sunlight? He frowned and turned his head. His cheek scraped against pavement, making him flinch.
“Oh good, you aren’t dead. That would have been embarrassing.” A figure dressed all in white was crouched next to him, one arm wrapped around its knees and the other outstretched where it had been poking Sam hard in the ribs. It curled its fingers away from him and sat back, leaning on its hands.
Sam twisted away from it, sitting up and putting as much distance between them as he could without standing up. He wasn’t sure his head could handle standing up right then. The figure rolled it’s eyes. Silver eyes. Sam tensed up - it was the thing that had grabbed him at Bobby’s. It didn’t look exactly the same but it had to be it.
“What the hell are you?” Sam’s hand flexed fruitlessly, wishing for a knife or a gun or hell, even a rock right now would be good. He had nothing. If this thing was going to kill him, he didn’t have a chance of stopping it.
“I’m not going to hurt you, if that’s what you think. Not fatally, at least,” the creature tossed its head, sheets of white hair rippling down its shoulders. That was when Sam realised that it wasn’t wearing white clothing, it was just wrapped in it’s own hair, long swathes of it draped over the skinny body. And then there was its face. Sam couldn’t stop staring at it, not sure if it was male or female. With it’s head angled that way to him it looked like a girl, but half a second later it moved a fraction of an inch and looked male.
“Would you stop staring that, it’s frankly disconcerting,” it snapped. “Fine, I’ll fix a shape if it’ll make you feel better.” The things face sort of rippled. A brief flash of light made Sam blink rapidly. “Will you listen now, instead of being fascinated by my face?” a blonde haired, blue eyed boy said tetchily. Sam, too confused to speak, nodded.
“Good. Well then, Sammy boy, you’re in for a real treat here. I’d say you’re not in Kansas any more but, well,” he chuckled. “That’d be the opposite of the truth.” Sam rubbed his temples. He could feel a bitch of a headache coming on.
“Just tell me what’s going on. Please.”
“Aw, but where’s the fun in that? I reckon it’d be more interesting for you to work it out all by yourself. And anyway, you’re a smart boy. It won’t take you long. Just…try not to step on any butterflies, yeah?” And with that, the creature blinked out of existence, leaving behind nothing but the faint scent of cinnamon.
Sam sort of sat there for a while, staring at the space where it had been. After a few minutes he shook himself and got to his feet. His back ached, muscles throbbing in time with the growing pain in his head. He pressed the heel of his hand to the bridge of his nose, grimacing.
“Hey buddy, you alright?” Sam turned to see a concerned looking man walking up to him. A man with dark hair, a smile that was genuine but a little uncertain and a whole host of other parts that, when put together, made Sam’s eyes flare wide and his legs take a stumbling step backwards. This could not be happening. There was no way, just no way, not again…
“Woah there, are you okay?” John Winchester asked, reaching out a hand to grab Sam’s shoulder. “You hit your head or something? I saw you get up just now. What happened?” Sam’s brain stuttered for a moment, trying desperately to catch up to itself and think of something, anything, other than holy shit it’s dad.
“What day is it?” Sam eventually blurted out. John frowned and looked at him curiously.
“Uh, excuse me?”
“I know it sounds weird but please, could you just tell me the date?”
John laughed awkwardly, “Wow, you must have been to some party. Alright then, it’s the twenty-third.”
“Of what? You must still be pretty gone - how are you still upright?” John carefully removed the hand he’d put on Sam’s shoulder. “It’s May. May the twenty third.”
“Good. That’s…that’s good,” Sam braced himself to ask the next question. “…what year is it?”
John’s eyes widened in disbelief and he shook his head, laughing humourlessly, “No really, how much did you have and how come you aren’t blind? What year is it? You’re messing with me.”
“Just tell me! It’s important!” Sam snapped and immediately wished he hadn’t. John folded his arms, mouth pressing into a hard line before he answered. “1983, if it’s so important.”
Sam’s blood froze. 1983. Nineteen eighty-goddam-three. It was 1983, he was in Kansas and he was talking to his father just weeks after he’d been born. His head swam and he rubbed a hand across his eyes. This was too much to handle. What kind of creature had the mojo to send him back in time anyway? It hadn’t been an angel, or hadn’t looked like one at least.
“Holy fucking shit, it’s 1983,” he muttered to himself. He thought he might feel better if he just passed out again.
”..that’s what I just said,” John shot back. “Are you okay? Do you need a doctor or something? You’re not…not on something, are you?”
“But it’s 1983!” Sam lowered his hand and just stared at his dad, wishing he had a way to explain things to him that wouldn’t make him sound crazy. Crazier than he already sounded. Okay, so there probably wasn’t anything he could say that could do that right now but a guys could dream, right?
“What’s so great about 1983?” John asked. He looked more and more like he wanted to get the hell away from Sam as fast as he could. “It comes after ‘82 and it’ll preface ‘84.”
“It’s the year I was— you know what, never mind. Thank you.” Sam thrust out a hand. “Sorry about all this, you’ve been a real help.” John shook his hand slowly, giving him an uncertain look.
“You’re welcome, I guess. You have a good day.”
“You too.” Then before he could freak out his father any further, Sam turned and strode down the street, not knowing where he was going and entirely conscious of the way John was staring after him. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.
Well this is shaping up to be a wonderful Christmas.