Driver Picks the MusicAuthor: briarwoodRecipient: rainylemonsCrossover:
Since music was an integral part of the prompt, I wanted to find something as far removed from SPN’s usual classic rock as possible. My research led me to Japan, and the beautiful, haunting melodies of traditional Japanese folk music
seemed exactly what I was looking for.
The Tule Lake internment camp in California is real and the history of the internment of Japanese immigrants during WW2 is also real, broadly as I have described it in this story. However, the camp as portrayed in this story and the characters and events I have set there are entirely fictional. And, yes, I admit it: the house in Rodanthe is borrowed from the movie.
Time period: Set during SPN season two after Nightshifter
but before Heart
; in the summer before the movie: X-Files – I Want To Believe
In 1997, the Winchesters were forced to abandon a hunt when Sam became sick. Ten years later, Sam's life might depend on Dean figuring out exactly what happened back then, but all he has to go on are some cryptic hints in Dad's journal.
Part OneTule Lake, CA, 2007
The waning moon rose over the lake, silvering the surface. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky but the night was still warm. Dean balanced the large brown bag on top of the cooler and carried both around to the front of the Impala. It should have been easy, but his injured hand was stiff and painful and he fumbled with the box. He swore as he almost dropped it, but Sam caught his movement and reached out to steady the box. Dean regained his grip, then set the cooler on the car, picked up the bag and took his place on the hood beside his brother.
Tonight they had nothing to hunt and nothing chasing them. There was nowhere in particular they needed to be. Tonight was a rare night for peace and quiet and watching the stars.
Dean took a bottle of beer from the cooler and prised the cap off using his ring. He took a long drink.
Sam hummed a tune quietly as he gazed up at the sky above them. There was a knife in his hand and he turned the blade idly so the silver flashed in the moonlight. He appeared completely absorbed in his own world.
Worried, Dean said sharply. “Yo! Sam! You home?”
Sam’s head jerked up and he stopped humming. “Oh. Hey, Dean. How’s the hand?”
Dean raised his hand and flexed it. “Just bruised. It’ll be fine in a few days.” Are you okay?” He offered Sam a beer.
Sam waved it away. “No thanks. I think I’m getting a headache.”
Dean shrugged. “Probably your singing,” he quipped.
Sam protested. “I wasn’t singing!”
“Wow. Did you hit your head back there or something?” Dean tossed the rejected beer back into the cooler and fished a piece of pie out of the bag. Having claimed his share, he threw the rest to Sam.
Sam caught the bag. “I’m fine.” He pulled a pie from the bag and began to eat.
Dean shrugged. “Okay.” He leaned back on the hood and joined Sam in watching the stars.
Dean was in the middle of brushing his teeth when Sam barged into the bathroom and hopped into the shower. It wasn’t that unusual, though usually Sam waited for Dean to be done. Dean finished up, packed his toothbrush with his shaving gear and headed out. As he left the bathroom, he heard Sam singing.
Dean stopped in the doorway. It was the same tune Sam had been humming the night before. Dean didn’t have a clue what it was. It sounded really weird, like maybe Indian or Chinese music, but that could have been just because Sam was a terrible singer.
Dean didn’t know the tune, but there was something about it that made his blood run cold. It triggered a memory: the smell of the ocean, a cold wind and fear. But Dean couldn’t place it.
Shaking his head, Dean gathered up their bags and headed out to the car. Once the bags were stashed, he sat down behind the wheel and rummaged through the box of tapes while he waited for Sam. Let him try singing over Dean’s music! He selected Black Sabbath and turned up the volume.
When Sam finally reached the car, his hair still damp from the shower, Dean was sitting in Sam’s usual place, reading their Dad’s journal. He waited until Sam slid into the driver’s seat. The keys were already in the ignition.
“You mind drivin’?” Dean asked. “I’m, uh, busy.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, Sam, I’m fine. I’m just tryin’ to remember something about an old hunt. It’s been nagging at me. I know Dad wrote it down, but I can’t find it. His notes are all over the place.”
Sam grinned. “Yeah, Dad never got the hang of indexing, did he?” He fired up the engine. “Did you find a new hunt?”
“Not yet,” Dean answered, turning the page. Then he mentally translated Sam’s question: where are we going?
“You wanna head to the Roadhouse?” he suggested.
“If you want to, but...” Sam turned Black Sabbath off as he pulled out of the parking lot, “I’d rather find another job.”
“Hey!” Dean reached for the stereo.
Sam smacked his hand away. “Driver picks the music, remember?”
Dean scowled, but he couldn’t argue with his own rule. “Fine. But if you pick that foreign crap, dude, I swear to God you’ll never drive my car again.”
“What foreign crap?” Sam asked as he turned on the radio.
Dean shrugged without answering and turned his attention back to the journal. He knew it must be in here somewhere. Dad wrote everything down. But his journal wasn’t exactly organised. Dean had read it cover-to-cover, several times over, but he still couldn’t find anything when he really needed it. He tuned out the music Sam had chosen on the radio and concentrated on reading while Sam did the driving.
Finally, Dean found something. A North Carolina address, in Dad’s handwriting, was followed by five names, each of them crossed out. There were rough sketches of several things that looked like ornaments: a vase, a box, a bowl of some kind, and what looked like a woman’s head with a couple of lines coming out of it. Dean had no clue what that
was. Beneath them was a drawing of some kind of flute. Under the sketches Dad had written a date, and a note scrawled so badly Dean could barely make it out. The date seemed right, and North Carolina was right, too. Dean marked the page with a paperclip and put the journal away.
His stomach growled and he remembered they had skipped breakfast. “Let’s find a place to stop,” Dean suggested. “I’m starving!”
“We passed a diner a couple of miles back,” Sam said. “You want to head back there?”
Dean looked up, paying attention to the road they were on. All he saw ahead was lonely, two-lane blacktop. It might be hours before they found another place to stop. “Yeah, let’s go back,” he decided.
Sam nodded agreement and slowed the car. He checked the rearview and began to turn the car around. Dean wasn’t really paying attention; he knew Sam could handle the Impala. But though the highway was wide enough that even the Impala should have been able to turn fairly easily, Sam ran her rear wheels up onto the verge.
“Hey!” Dean yelped. He stared at Sam indignantly.
Sam braked hard and raised a hand to his eyes. “Crap!” he muttered.
“Sammy?” Dean was immediately concerned.
“Sam rubbed at his eyes. “God, Dean, I’m sorry. My eyes...”
“Move over. I’ll drive.” Dean got out of the car and walked around as Sam obediently slid across the seat. Dean started the car again and finished the turn. “What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“I don’t know. Everything blurred for a moment there. I’m okay now.”
Dean doubted it, but he didn’t argue. He started the Black Sabbath tape again and started looking for that diner.
Over a stack of pancakes and a great deal of coffee, Dean showed Sam the page he’d marked in Dad’s journal. “I can’t make out that last part,” he admitted.
Sam studied it closely. “Ninety-seven,” he said thoughtfully. I don’t remember Dad hunting in Carolina.” He frowned at the page. “Dad’s writing is awful,” he complained, then, “F.M.L. That must be someone’s initials. The next part could be anything, but this says ‘should be over’. Is F.M.L. the spirit he salted and burned?”
Dean frowned, confused. “You don’t remember that hunt? The house on the sand dunes?”
“No. I don’t.”
“Dad thought it was a haunted house. Everyone who lived there went nuts or died.” Dean pointed to the crossed out names. “These were the original owners. Dad thought one of them was the spirit. I’m not sure if he crossed ’em out as he burned them or if he decided none of them was the suspect. But we never finished that hunt because you got sick.”
Sam blinked. “I got sick? I don’t remember.”
“You and Dad had a fight and you ran off and collapsed on the dunes. By the time I found you, you were burning up. It was bad enough that Dad left the hunt to get you help. We nearly lost you, Sam. How can you not remember?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because
I was so sick?”
“Like you blocked it out or something? I don’t know, man. It doesn’t sound like you.”
“Why are you bringing this up anyway? I mean, this was ten years ago.”
Dean hesitated. “Yesterday, and this morning, you were singing. It’s the same tune you had stuck in your head back when you were so sick.”
*Rodanthe, NC, 1997
Dean found his little brother unconscious on the sand dunes.
He was half-hidden in the long grass, lying on his side. Dean knelt beside him and shook his shoulder. “Sammy! Sam! Come on!”
Sammy didn’t respond and his skin was hot under Dean’s hand. Dean thought at first it was heatstroke, but the day wasn’t that hot. He touched Sammy’s cheek. He felt rough sand against his palm; the sand clung to Sam’s face. He also felt the dampness of sweat and the boiling heat of Sam’s skin. The kid was burning up.
“Sammy!” Dean tried again, shaking him harder.
Sam shifted slightly, and mumbled something that sounded almost like singing. An instant later, Dean realised it was. Sam had been humming the same damn tune all week. It was driving Dean crazy, but right now he was glad for the evidence that Sam was still in there.
At fourteen, Sam was no longer a lightweight, but Dean was strong. He managed to hoist his brother onto his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and started back along the beach. Sam groaned as Dean walked.
“I know, Sammy,” Dean tried to comfort him, “but it ain’t far.”
The house the Winchesters were investigating was abandoned and damaged by the recent coastal storms, but from a distance it appeared intact. Only the broken staircase and crooked shutters gave away its fate. The Impala stood on the far side of the house, protected from the worst of the weather. By the time Dean reached it, his shoulder and back ached like a bitch and he was as sweat-drenched as Sammy. He got the rear door open and managed to lay Sammy down on the back seat. Then, finally, he sank to the ground, wiped his face with his sleeve, and waited for his heart to slow down.
Inside the car, Sammy started humming again. Now wasn’t the time to get mad at Sammy’s crappy taste in music, but man, that was irritating!
Dean dragged himself back to his feet. He checked Sam’s forehead: he was still burning up. “Okay, Sammy. Stay put. I’m gonna get Dad.”
“Dad doesn’t care,” Sam mumbled. Then he went back to humming that irritating tune.
Dean pretended he hadn’t heard. He took his jacket and tucked it under Sam’s head as a pillow. He closed the car door and took off as fast as he could run, yelling for Dad.
Sam covered his ears with his hands, moaning as he thrashed on the bed. “Make it stop, Dean! Please make it stop!”
Dean, kneeling beside the bed, looked up at John helplessly. “We’ve got to do something, Dad.” He dipped the cloth into a bowl of iced water, wrung it out and stroked Sam’s face with the cool cloth. “Make what stop, Sammy?” he asked gently, but it was obvious Sam couldn’t hear him. When Sam didn’t respond. Dean climbed up on the bed and held his younger brother, stroking his sweat-damp hair the way he used to when Sammy was little and suffered from nightmares. He looked up at their father, silently pleading.
John nodded grimly. “I thought his fever would break overnight, but you’re right. Sam needs help.” He offered the car keys to Dean. “Don’t go to the clinic. There’s a hospital in Williamston on the mainland. Take him there. The afternoon ferry leaves in 74 minutes.”
Dean accepted the keys. “What about you?”
“I can’t abandon this hunt without at least making sure no one lives in this house again. I’ll join you at the hospital as soon as I can.” John bent over the bed and lifted Sam up into his arms.
Dean scrambled up and hurriedly packed their things while John carried Sam out to the car. By the time Dean ran down the steps with his bag and Sam’s in his hands, John had extracted everything he thought he needed from the Impala’s trunk. Sam lay on the back seat, a blanket tucked around him.
John had more instructions for Dean, and reminded him not to give their real names at the hospital. He gave Dean a credit card. “If no one asks you for insurance, don’t bring it up. But if you need money, use this. I’ll be there in two days at the most.”
“Yes, sir,” Dean agreed, pocketing the card. He looked worriedly at the gasoline cans around Dad’s feet, but he was more worried about Sammy. Dad knew what he was doing.
John reached through the car window to ruffle Sam’s hair. “Hold on, son. Dean will get you help.” To Dean he added, “Don’t drive too fast – you don’t want to get pulled over. Take care of Sammy. I’ll join you as soon as I can.”
The road to town was wet, but not flooded. At high tide the sea covered the road, cutting the house on the dunes off from town. Dean was forced to drive slowly as the waves broke beneath his tyres. And then he had to wait for the ferry to the mainland. Once back on solid land, he put on as much speed as he dared, wishing he had ignored Dad’s orders and gone to the clinic as Sammy, behind him, kept begging him to make it stop.
At the hospital, the doctors took over quickly. Dean did his best to stay close but he was made to leave while the doctors worked on Sam. He filled out forms, remembering to check Sam in under their current alias to match the credit card Dad gave him. Then all he could do was wait.
Sam had a tube in his arm pumping some kind of clear liquid into his veins. They must have given him some kind of sedative because he had stopped thrashing. Sam’s eyes were closed in sleep, but Dean didn’t think it was a healthy sleep.
“What’s wrong with him?” Dean asked.
The doctor, a middle-aged man, answered gently. “Mostly likely it’s flu, but we aren’t sure yet. We need to wait for the test results. For now, we’re just treating the symptoms.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, he was very dehydrated, so we’re fixing that with the drip. We’ve given him something to bring the fever down, and we took some blood to find out what’s causing the fever. You see, if we try to treat him before we know for sure, we might make it worse.”
Dean nodded, appreciating the plain explanation.
“Does your brother have problems with his hearing?” the doctor asked.
“No. Well, he has lousy taste in music, but that’s all. Why?”
The doctor smiled a little. “He said he could hear music.”
Dean frowned. “Yeah, he’s been saying that for a few days. Is that something to do with his sickness?”
“It’s an unusual symptom, but it could be related.” The doctor glanced at Sammy, then back to Dean. “You can stay with him if you like. I’ll let you know when the test results are back.”
“Thanks, Doc.” Dean sat down by the bed.
It was dark when John reached the hospital. A quiet conversation with a nurse gained him access to Sammy’s room. He peered through the open doorway.
John saw Sammy first, pale in the moonlight coming through the window. He looked like he’d lost weight and John cursed himself for failing to notice sooner how ill Sammy was. The boy was growing so fast it was hard to keep track, but this gauntness was more than a growth-spurt. Sam had been sick for a while and John hadn’t seen it. Now he was lying in a hospital bed with a tube in his arm.
On the far side of the bed, Dean was slumped in a chair, sound asleep. He was wearing his leather coat as a blanket. John thought it likely he hadn’t left Sam’s side since they arrived here. John was filled with pride for the boy. He did his job: he got Sammy the help he needed.
As John watched, Dean stirred and opened his eyes. He saw John in the doorway and started up, going for a weapon.
John spoke quietly. “It’s okay, son.”
Dean relaxed, but stood up and crossed the room. “Dad.”
“Let’s talk outside,” John suggested, not wanting to disturb Sammy. He led Dean to the waiting area nearby and went to a vending machine for coffee. “How’s Sammy?” he asked.
“They say he’s stable, but they don’t know what’s wrong yet. It ain’t the flu.”
“Dean, I didn’t ask what the doctors say. How do you think he is?”
“I don’t know, Dad. His fever broke and he managed to eat something. But I’m still worried. And so are they or they wouldn’t be feeding him the sleepy juice.”
“Makes sense. But he’s better? I mean, a little?”
“Yeah, some. We were right to bring him here. Dad, did you take care of the house?”
John nodded. “Burned it to the ground. It’s not as final as locating the spirit, but at least I know no one will live there again.”
“What if they rebuild it?”
“Out on the dunes, it’s probably not worth the trouble. The next big storm will turn what’s left into driftwood and splinters.”
“Is the spirit what hurt Sammy?”
John was surprised Dean made that connection. He answered cautiously. “I don’t think the spirit caused Sam’s illness. It could be making it worse. That’s why I wanted you here, off the island.”
Dean considered that and nodded. “Can I go back to Sammy now?”
“Yes, if you want to. I’ll wait here until the doctor comes around.”
John watched Dean walk away, observing the stiffness of his shoulders and knew the boy blamed him for Sam’s illness. Something was going on with those boys. He remembered Sam back at the house, begging Dean to make it stop...whatever “it” was. There was a time when Sammy would have directed that plea to his father. Now it was Dean he turned to when he was scared or in pain. That was a good thing, John told himself. John wanted them to be close, for their own sakes. But it hurt to know he was losing one, maybe both, of his boys.
“Haven’t heard that name in a while,” Ellen said.
Dean let out the breath he had been holding. “You know who it is?” He could hear glasses clinking in the background.
Ellen muttered a curse, evidently trying to balance something as well as the phone. “M.F. Luder is an alias for Fox Mulder. He used to be an FBI agent.”
Dean’s heart sank. No help there, then. “Why did Dad have a Fed’s name in his journal?”
“Well, Mulder wasn’t your typical G-man. He was obsessed with the paranormal. Aliens and U.F.O.s in particular, but he did a little monster hunting on the side.”
“Aliens. So he’s crazy.”
“You said he was a Fed. Is he dead?”
“I don’t know for sure. The Feds kicked him out on some trumped up charges. He disappeared after that. He’s in hiding, most likely, but he could be dead.”
Dean thought it over for a full second, but he didn’t really have a choice. “Ellen, I need to track down how he knows Dad. It could be important.”
Ellen was silent for a while. “He had a partner at the FBI who quit a couple of years after he did. Doctor Dana Scully. I’ll see if I can track her down.”
“Okay. Thanks, Ellen.”
Dean pocketed his phone and headed back to the motel room. He hesitated outside the door, wanting to be sure he wouldn’t show how worried he was becoming. Then he took a deep breath, pushed the door open and stepped over the salt line.
“Hey, Sam. I saw – ” Dean broke off abruptly. “What’s wrong?”
Sam lay in bed, though it was barely nine o’clock. He had one arm covering his eyes. “I feel like crap,” Sam confessed with a groan. “I guess I’ve got flu or something.”
Dean leaned over the bed and lifted Sam’s arm away from his face. He laid the back of his hand on Sam’s forehead. The skin felt burning hot. “Geez, Sam. Did you take anything?”
“Well, you’re gonna.” Dean rummaged through his bag for the Tylenol and made sure Sam swallowed two of them. He left the rest beside the bed.
This was a coincidence. It had to be. They hadn’t been anywhere near North Carolina, so how was it possible for that spirit to have gotten its claws into Sam again?
Dean left to get a bucketful of ice. He covered the ice with water and left a cloth in there to soak. By the time he was done, Sam was asleep. Dean watched him, worried. Maybe Sam was right. Maybe it was just the flu. But flu could be dangerous. Dean pulled out the laptop and spent an hour with bustyasianbeauties.com
. Then he tried to get some sleep.
When Dean woke, Sam wasn’t in bed. He was working on the laptop, which was normal behaviour for Sam, but he looked terrible
. His hair was damp with sweat and hanging over his face in rat-tails. His face was flushed. He was propping his forehead up on one hand, his eyes half-closed as if he could barely stay awake.
“Sam, what the hell?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” Sam explained. His voice sounded as dull as his eyes. “Decided to do some research.” Sam closed the laptop and ran a hand through his hair.
“You’re sick, Sam!” Dean protested. He looked for the ice bucket, but of course the ice had melted while he slept. He pulled the cloth out anyway, wrung it out over the bucket and threw it to Sam.
Sam tried to catch it and failed, which made Dean worry even more. Sam retrieved the wet cloth from the floor and used it to wipe his face. He mumbled a thank-you and laid the cloth over his knee. “I, uh, I looked up that guy. M.F. Luder.” The tone of his voice suggested he hadn’t found good news.
“Yeah?” Dean prompted.
“The guy is a nut, Dean. No way is he a hunter.”
Uh-oh. “What did you find?”
Sam shrugged. “A bunch of articles he published, mostly on U.F.O. watcher websites. According to him, aliens are abducting humans to infect them with alien D.N.A.” Sam rolled his eyes. “Yeah, they’re building a slave-race of alien/human hybrids. Oh, and there’s an international conspiracy of government officials helping them by covering up the evidence.”
Dean nodded. “You’re right, that’s crazy.” It was disappointing. But if the guy was nuts, why was his name in Dad’s journal? “Sam, that doesn’t make sense. Dad obviously trusted the guy, and I talked to Ellen; she kinda vouched for him, too.”
“So, what? The U.F.O. stuff is a cover?”
“I don’t know, maybe. Wait.” Dean remembered Ellen’s information, then. “M.F. Luder is an alias. His real name is Fox Mulder.”
Sam smirked. “His parents must have really hated him. Who the hell calls a kid Fox?” He opened the laptop again. “Do you know anything else about him?”
“He used to be a Fed. F.B.I.”
“Okay. I’ll try the F.B.I. database.” Sam started to type. “Let’s see what...woah!”
“Fox Mulder’s file is sealed.”
“Can you unseal it?”
Sam gave him a weary look. “Crack military-grade encryption on my laptop? Sure; I’ll get right on that.”
Dean knew he was being sarcastic, but Sam seemed more alert than a few moments earlier, so he answered deadpan. “Think you can be done by breakfast?”
“Dude, I’d need a supercomputer and even we had one, I couldn’t do it fast enough. We’d have agents breaking down the door in no time.” Sam wiped his face again and sighed heavily. “Maybe we could, uh...”
Dean walked over and gently closed the laptop. “Sam, it’s not important.”
Sam looked up at him miserably. “It might be.”
“What do you mean?”
In answer, Sam hummed that weird, haunting tune. “I couldn’t sleep,” he confessed.
Part TwoVirginia, 2007
Doctor Dana Scully looked into her rearview mirror once more. The black car was a long way behind, but it was still following. She hadn’t been certain before; they might have simply been on the same road. But she had chosen to make her home in an isolated place for a reason and no one came out here unless her home was their destination. She was sure now: the car was following her.
In her previous life as an FBI agent, she wouldn’t have gone home knowing she was being followed, and she would have been armed. Now she was caught between the two: the nearest gun was in her house, but she couldn’t go inside until she knew who was in that car.
She turned her car toward the driveway but instead of going inside she used the car to block the gate. Then she waited.
Sure enough, the car behind came to a stop behind hers. As Scully watched in her rearview mirror, a man climbed out of the car. She assessed him quickly. He appeared to be in his early 30’s, a tall and handsome man who moved with a confident step. He wore old blue jeans and a dark blue jacket. He certainly didn’t look like an agent. Scully rolled her window down.
The stranger offered smile that was probably meant to be reassuring. “Doctor Scully?”
“Yes,” she answered warily.
He glanced back toward the car. “Uh...my name is Dean Winchester. I think you might have known my dad. John Winchester.”
Scully frowned. “I’m sorry. I don’t think so.”
He looked disappointed, but rallied quickly. “Right. Well, he knew your old partner, Mulder.”
She stiffened at the sound of Mulder’s name. Though no one had come looking for him in some years, Mulder was still technically a fugitive. Even if this man was not working for them, it was still reckless to discuss Mulder with anyone.
Unfortunately, Winchester noticed her sudden tension. “I was hoping you’d know where I can find him. It’s really important.”
Fear made her speak more rudely than she otherwise might have. “If your father knows Mulder, ask him.”
Immediately, Winchester’s smile faded. His eyes slid away from hers and he bowed his head. “I wish I could.”
Scully knew grief when she saw it. It was something she saw all too often in her work at the hospital. “I’m sorry,” she said at once, and she meant it.
He made an impatient gesture. “Lady, I don’t have a lot of time. My brother is gonna die if I don’t find Fox Mulder, and he’s all the family I’ve got left. Please. Help me.”
“What’s happened to your brother?” she asked, because it seemed like the safest ground. This sounded like something to do with an X-File and she was not eager to go down that road again. She racked her brain for a memory of the name he’d mentioned but it meant nothing to her. Who was John Winchester?
Winchester glanced back toward the car again. “It’s kinda hard to explain. He’s sick.”
Scully reached for the bag at her side and opened the car door. “I’m a doctor. Is your brother in the car?”
“Yes, but – ”
She ignored the rest and headed for the car. She found the brother in the rear seat and it was immediately evident to her that he was very ill. The young man was fully dressed and clutching a blanket around his shoulders, but still he was shivering. His head was lolling back, his eyes half-closed. Scully opened the car door and reached inside. She pressed her fingertips against his neck. His skin was hot and slick with sweat, his pulse strong, but too fast. He coughed weakly.
“What’s your brother’s name?” she asked as the other man reached her side.
“Sam. Can you hear me?”
Sam mumbled something and turned his head to the side.
“He can’t hear you,” Dean told her.
“Deaf?” Scully knew some sign language, but Sam was clearly in no position to see her signing.
“No,” Dean answered, then corrected herself. “Uh, yes. Not usually.”
Scully didn’t quite understand, but she assumed he meant Sam’s sickness had made him temporarily deaf. “You have to take him to a hospital,” she told him. “He needs fluids, antivirals...”
“We can’t,” Dean snapped, then added in a softer tone, “No insurance. No money.”
There were free clinics they could have tried, but Scully didn’t press the point. She recognised that Sam needed immediate help, and she could at least get him stable. If need be, she could call an ambulance from the house.
“Can you carry him?” she asked Dean. “I’ll treat him inside.”
Dean shook his head. “Thanks, doc, but I need to find Fox Mulder.”
“We can discuss that after I save his life.” Scully closed the car door again and headed back to her own car. “Follow me,” she commanded.
Dean gave a shrug, but answered in a more respectful tone. “Yes, ma’am.”
Once inside, Scully directed Dean to the living room, where there was a couch she thought would be long enough for Sam to lie down. She had underestimated Sam’s height, however. Still, the couch was adequate, and she found several extra pillows to pack around him and a comforter to keep him warm.
She pulled a stool close to the couch and opened her bag. “The kitchen is on the second right. Get me a bowl of water – tepid not hot – and some clean cloths.” When Dean didn’t move at once she snapped, “Now!”
Left alone with Sam, Scully worked with the efficiency of long practice. She first made sure he was comfortable, then folded the comforter down and unbuttoned his shirt. She noted in passing several long-healed scars. Using the stethoscope from her bag, she checked his heartbeat and listened to his breathing. His lungs sounded congested and she feared early pneumonia. She continued her examination, checked his throat and eyes then looked for a rash or other symptoms that might help her reach a diagnosis. When Dean returned with the requested water, Scully laid a damp, folded cloth on Sam’s forehead and used another to wipe the sweat from his face and neck.
“Has he been vomiting at all?” she asked. “Or complaining of nausea or stomach ache?”
“What about diarrhoea?”
“Not that I’ve noticed.”
“Yes. But Sam gets that a lot. He’s, uh, he’s a psychic and when he gets his visions, they give him headaches.”
Scully nodded, adding that piece of information to the list, pleased that she could eliminate the worst of the possibilities based on Dean’s answers. “Tell me why you think finding Mulder will help your brother,” she instructed.
Dean sat down on the nearest chair. “That’s...complicated.” He took a battered, leather-bound journal from inside his coat. “This is my dad’s journal. I found Mulder’s name in here in connection with a...with something that happened in 1997.”
She noticed his stumble and wondered what he had meant to say. “Was your father involved with an X-File?”
Dean frowned. “What’s an X-File?”
“It’s the designation the F.B.I. uses for investigations involving unexplained phenomena.”
“That’s a fancy word for what? Ghosts and curses?”
Scully smiled; she was so used to people reacting with contempt or scepticism to her old job. “Ghosts, alien abductions, mutant creatures that feed on human liver, supernatural serial killers, possession, reincarnation, telekinesis...and suchlike.”
Dean nodded as if all that was commonplace. “Well, if my dad was interested in it, there was something supernatural involved. So, yeah. An X-File, I guess.”
1997 was after she and Mulder became partners. Scully didn’t think Mulder had worked many cases without her. She had no way to check, though. Most of the records of the X-Files were destroyed in a fire and what survived was now buried: she had no access to the files any longer.
“Go on,” Scully prompted.
“We were in Rodanthe, on the North Carolina coast, looking for something that had killed people. Dad thought it was a spirit. A ghost. But we, I mean my dad, was still trying to figure out who it was when Sammy got sick. We had to leave and I think this Mulder guy took over the hunt. Now it’s happening to Sam again. I need help to find what we missed.”
Scully wasn’t sure what to make of this. “You believe your brother’s illness is supernatural?” she checked. That was a new one, even for her. Certainly she remembered X-Files in which paranormal phenomena had affected individuals’ health. Her own cancer was one of them. But it seemed a strange assumption to make about an illness that gave every appearance of being simple flu.
“I’m sure of it,” Dean confirmed, but offered nothing further.
Scully reached for her prescription pad and wrote on it. She tore off the page and offered it to Dean. “You should be able to fill this at the pharmacy in town.”
“What is it?”
She was accustomed to the question, even though the answer should have been obvious. “It’s medication for Sam. Something to bring his fever down and help him fight the infection.” She was most worried about the incipient pneumonia, and would have preferred to treat him in a hospital, but this was a good beginning. She could see Dean’s reluctance to leave. “You can trust me, Dean. He’ll be safe here. Do you need money?”
“Uh, no. I’ve got it covered. Just...take care of him.”
“I will,” she promised.
Dean watched Sam for a moment. It was as if he couldn’t tear himself away. Scully had seen that at the hospital where she now worked; parents of young children were often reluctant to leave, but Sam was far from being a child. Dean was a strange, intense young man. But then he nodded curtly and left without another word.
As soon as Scully heard his car leave her driveway, she stood and turned toward the door. She wasn’t surprised to see Mulder standing there already. She smiled a greeting. “Mulder.”
“Who’s your patient?” He came forward and kissed her forehead.
Mulder had changed a great deal since their years in the F.B.I. His old obsessions were still there, but these days he was content to hide away in the room he called his study, tracking the signs, but rarely investigating in person. His clothing tended toward jeans and sweaters instead of smart grey suits. He sported a heavy beard: he grew the beard as a means to change his appearance when they escaped the F.B.I and their bogus charges against him. The disguise was no longer necessary, but they were both used to it now.
“His name is Sam Winchester,” Scully reported. “Apparently you knew his father. John.”
“John,” Mulder repeated thoughtfully. “John...Winchester!
” Mulder repeated. A sudden, rare smile cracked his face. “I do know him. I never figured out whether I should arrest him or give him a medal.”
“Who was he?”
Mulder frowned. “Was?”
She nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
“John was...a specialist. We ran into each other a few times on different cases. We had some things in common. John lost his wife in very strange circumstances.”
“She was abducted?” Scully assumed.
“No, she was killed. But not by anything human. Why are his sons here?”
“I’m not sure. Dean thinks you can help him.” Scully repeated the little Dean had told her.
Mulder nodded. “If the sons are anything like the father, they’ll never talk to the F.B.I. It’s safe to tell them I’m here.” Mulder looked past her to the sick man. Scully turned, too.
Sam was moaning again, apparently delirious. It sounded like music.
*Rodanthe, NC, 1997
The landward wind lifted the sand in great billows over the road and Mulder’s car. It was almost like driving through a sandstorm; visibility was poor enough that he began to wonder if this side trip was such a good idea, but not poor enough for him to turn back. He hoped to get a look at the house that was acquiring such a sinister reputation, to see if there was any evidence of...anything. The house was currently unoccupied, the legal incapacity of the current owner holding up its sale to the next.
He rounded the dunes and there it was: a house built on sturdy wooden stilts atop the shifting sand, the blue-painted shutters closed. But it was not empty. Mulder saw a boy, a teenager, standing on the mezzanine and leaning on the rail. The window behind him was unshuttered. Slowing his car, Mulder observed the house for a few moments. There was a dark-coloured car parked in the shadows beneath the house and the front door stood open. An older man emerged from the front door and called up to the boy who responded with alacrity.
So much for Mulder’s plan to explore the abandoned property. Most likely, these were relatives of the owner using the house for a vacation. He considered talking to them, but decided to return later. He wanted to hear the gossip around town first. Mulder turned the car around. In his rearview mirror, as he headed back toward the causeway, he saw the older man watching him from the shadows of the house.
The house in Rodanthe had a long history, but in the past twenty years it had changed hands eight times. Every family that lived there experienced tragedy: murder, suicide or insanity. There had to be something here that was causing it. The locality provided a number of possible theories: Rodanthe was just a short distance from Roanoke, from where the famous lost colony vanished in 1587. The barrier islands were once notorious for their shipwrecks, the long sandbanks were an easy place for ships to run aground in poor weather. Maybe there had been something here for a long, long time.
The ferry to the mainland took only two trips a day, so Mulder had several hours free to ask questions around town. He started at the general store, where the shop assistant, Abbie, was all too happy to gossip all day about the house on the dunes and its bloody history. Mulder was working on a way to extricate himself from the conversation when someone he recognised walked into the store. The bell above the door jingled, announcing the new arrival and Mulder glanced that way, hoping the customer would distract Abbie long enough for Mulder to make his escape. But the man wasn't looking at Abbie. He met Mulder's eyes and nodded a greeting.
“Long time, G-man.”
Mulder felt a tension he hadn’t known he was carrying dissipate. “Winchester.”
“Thought I recognised you out at the house.”
Mulder hadn't recognised him, but he didn’t say so. “I was in the area,” he said carefully.
Winchester took a local newspaper from the stand and paid for it. “Let’s catch up over a beer,” he suggested, though it was early to be drinking. His eyes flicked to the loquacious Abbie as he spoke and Mulder understood that “beer” was code for “in private”.
Mulder agreed quickly. They sat in Winchester’s car, overlooking the ocean, while they talked.
“You’re living in that house? Isn’t that dangerous?”
Winchester shook his head. “We won’t be there long. What do you know about this?”
It was typical of Winchester to demand information without offering any, but Mulder answered, summarising the information he’d gathered. He did not, however, offer a theory of his own. He knew better than to share his speculations with Winchester. “Do you know what’s out there?”
“I’m working on that,” Winchester answered cagily, then added, “I think it’s a spirit. Every time a new family moves in, one of them is singled out by this thing. They go crazy and if no one stops them in time they either kill someone else in the family or themselves. What I haven't figured out yet is how it happens. It could be ghost possession but I can’t get to the survivors to confirm that.”
This was why Mulder enjoyed Winchester’s company. The man was a petty criminal; he had no doubt of that. But who else in Mulder’s life could speak so seriously of ghosts and possession? For Mulder, so accustomed to derision for his willingness to consider extreme possibilities, being in Winchester’s company was relaxing.
“I might be able to get access,” Mulder suggested. His F.B.I. credentials did open a lot of doors.
“Doesn't matter. What I need to do is identify the spirit that’s causing the insanity. Then I’ll stop it.”
Mulder got the message: his presence wasn’t wanted or needed. He was okay with that. His interest here was in taking care of the problem and it seemed Winchester had it covered. So he simply offered his card. “I’m out of here on the afternoon ferry. If you need any help...”
Winchester accepted the card and looked at it. “I won’t. But thanks.”
Mulder spent the next few hours killing time and sampling the local barbecue before he drove down to the ferry port. While he was watching the cars rolling off the ancient-looking boat, one of the locals approached him. “Agent Mulder?”
Mulder hadn't introduced himself as F.B.I. while in town, but he agreed that he was.
“There’s a call for you.” The man nodded toward the ticket booth.
Mulder locked his car and headed over there. He took out his badge for the first time since he got into town. “I’m Agent Mulder. I was told – ”
The man picked up the telephone receiver and handed it to him. “Just hit the button.”
Mulder put the receiver to his ear and pushed the button. “Agent Mulder.”
“G-man, I’m gonna eat my words. I need help.”
Before Dean Winchester returned to the house with his brother’s medicine, Mulder had time to discover a great deal about John Winchester’s sons. He remembered the father well: a very driven man he first met shortly before he was partnered with Scully. They were never friends, nor even contacts, but they had a way of running into each other every so often, working similar cases. Before Winchester, Mulder had no idea that hunters even existed.
The case in Rodanthe, NC was never officially an X-File. Mulder found the reports of people dying or going insane in an isolated beach house and when he happened to be in the neighbourhood he went to check it out, thinking it might be worth opening a file. But Winchester got there ahead of him and Mulder found nothing he could use to claim federal jurisdiction on the case. All the deaths were confined to one small island. It wasn’t federal land and no one involved was a government official.
Mulder knew little of John Winchester’s sons. He’d known they existed, and felt sorry for them: Winchester never struck him as father-of-the-year material. But after a short time on the computer Mulder found he knew a great deal about the boys.
Dean Winchester had several outstanding warrants against his name. The most worrying was for a series of murders in St Louis. There were also a couple of murders in Baltimore – one of the victims was a local cop. Sam was questioned in relation to the death of his girlfriend in Palo Alto, but that death had eventually been ruled accidental, absolving the young man. Most recently, both brothers were implicated in a bank robbery in Milwaukee during which several hostages were killed. How many of the charges were true? Mulder wondered. He knew from personal experience how easy it was to get framed if you asked the wrong questions of the wrong people. Starting with the St Louis serial murders, Mulder began to dig deeper.
He heard Dean’s return, but didn’t let that interrupt his research. A few minutes later, the door to Mulder’s workroom opened. Mulder smiled to himself. Scully always knocked. So he knew without looking that this was Dean. He kept his eyes on the computer screen, waiting for the man to speak first.
The walls of the workroom were covered with Mulder’s research into paranormal activity, spanning several years. U.F.O. Sightings. Abduction hot-spots. A series of murders in San Francisco, each occurring on or near the full moon. Disappearances in Connecticut. And much, much more.
“Are you a hunter?” Dean Winchester finally asked.
Mulder turned to face him, the swivel-chair turning beneath him. “Not any more. It was never more than a sideline for me.”
Dean took a step toward him, his eyes now on the computer screen. “That ain’t what you think,” he said defensively. His body was tense.
Mulder knew than that the man was armed. “Four women tortured to death. One suspect was in two places at once. A dead man with your face was fingered for the last one. Unless you make a habit of coming back from the dead, I’m thinking shape-shifter.”
Dean relaxed a little. “Okay, then it is
what you think.” He offered a brief smile. “I need your help.”
Mulder gestured to a chair. “You think I know something that will help your brother. Ask away, but I’m not sure I know anything useful.”
“I need to know about the house in Rodanthe. I think you were there in ’97.”
“I was, but just to clean up. Why do you think the house is connected to your brother’s illness?”
Dean sighed heavily and rubbed one hand over his face. “It’s the music. Sounds crazy, I know, but if you’re a hunter you know: crazy is where we live.”
“Music?” Mulder leaned forward, intrigued. “Tell me more.”
Scully served the two men supper in Mulder’s workroom. Mulder wouldn’t have eaten anything if she didn’t. When she carried the tray into the workroom both men were deep in conversation, but Dean’s eyes lit up when he saw the food.
“No change,” Scully reported, and saw some of the light go out in his eyes. “I’ll let you know as soon as there’s something to tell,” she promised.
She smiled and turned to go, but Mulder called her back.
Even after all this time, he called her Dana only in their most private moments. She turned back.
“Dean, give me that tune again,” Mulder said.
Dean frowned, but he hummed a short phrase of music. “Something like that, anyway.”
“Do you recognise it, Scully?”
“Once more?” she asked Dean, and he repeated the tune, looking embarrassed.
Scully didn’t recognise the tune, but there was something familiar about it. “It sounds Asian. Chinese, perhaps, or Japanese.”
Mulder spun around on his chair and did something on the computer. “Japanese! Of course.”
Dean moved up to his side. “Japan? That means something?”
Scully left the room quietly, knowing he would forget she was there once he got into the research. In this respect, if no other, they weren’t partners any more. She went to check on her patient first and found Sam awake. He jerked up when he saw her, trying to throw the comforter off hisbody.
She sat beside him. “Relax, Sam. You’re safe. My name is Dana. I’m a doctor.”
“Where’s Dean?” Sam sounded groggy and confused, but there was an urgency in the question.
“He’s close. I’ll tell him you’re awake. Just let me look at you first.” She examined him quickly. The fever was down, but still higher than it should be. His heart rate was back to normal. “You seem better,” she said with a professional smile.
“I’m not,” Sam told her.
“I’ll get Dean.”
Scully knocked lightly on the workroom door and peered in. “Sam’s conscious,” she reported. “He’s asking for you, Dean.”
Dean ran past her without a word.
To Mulder, she said, “Are you buying this?”
He gave her a look she knew very well. “What do you think, doctor
That was the trouble. She didn’t know what to think. All she could do was give the scientific answer. “Without labs I can’t be sure, but Sam has most of the classic symptoms of influenza. I gave him standard antivirals and he’s responding.”
Mulder nodded, accepting her diagnosis. “Flu doesn’t explain the ohrwurm
. The music.”
“True.” She could offer no other comment.
“Did we ever talk about hunters?” Mulder nodded toward the door.
Scully closed it and sat down. “No.”
Mulder had the grace to look embarrassed. “Let’s just say I was never the only one open to extreme possibilities. Hunters mostly work outside the law. I always tried to stay legal.”
“And these men are hunters? Mulder, I couldn’t sit by and let Sam die, but should we be sheltering them?”
“Definitely not.” Mulder reached down and detached a memory stick from the computer, turned the screen off and stood up. “But I can’t turn them away, either.”Continued...