Story by Gail Z. Martin
Dioramas by Catherine Curl
“People go missing all the time, Sammy. They go out on a drive and never come back,” Dean replied when Sam pitched a new possible case.
“I think you’re confusing real life with a Springsteen song,” Sam said without looking up.
“Don’t diss the Boss.” Dean grinned and went back to the book he was reading.
“Let me guess. He rocks—on occasions—like Bon Jovi?” Sam couldn’t help his snarky reply.
“You know it, baby bro.”
They were between potentially world-ending cataclysms, and Sam enjoyed having some downtime for them to watch movies, read, explore the Bunker, and catch their breaths. They’d even filled the green cooler, taken a blanket, and gone to a drive-in theater a few towns over to sit on Baby’s hood and watch some cheesy horror flick.
Still, Sam couldn’t help scanning the news of the weird for their kind of cases, and he thought he found one that needed attention.
“Those four people who went missing? Police found them—alive—in towns all over the state. And get this….they didn’t remember anything about their lives before the disappeared, just that they saw a purple light and woke up in a new place.”
“Witches,” Dean said. “I still hate them—minus Rowena.” He looked at Sam. “Can’t we send someone else for once? I thought we were taking some R&R.”
Sam frowned, wondering what was going through Dean’s mind. His brother usually jumped at a case, especially one that might be easy and straightforward. He knew better than to ask, so he’d just have to figure out what was bothering Dean, something he’d gotten good at after a lifetime of practice.
“No one else is around. We’re only two hours away. And these people just vanished on partners, kids, jobs—really messed things up.” Sam knew what it felt like to have Dean disappear, and he wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
“You don’t think it’s angels again, do you? Because frankly, I’d rather have witches,” Dean replied.
Sam shook his head. “Considering that one of the ‘missing’ people showed up living her best life as a stripper, I don’t think it’s angels.”
Dean snorted. “Yeah, probably not.” He put down his book and stretched. “Alright. I can be ready in fifteen. Let’s roll.” He headed for his room, then turned. “Besides, if we leave now, we can hit that sweet little burger joint with the awesome onion rings for lunch.”
Sam settled into the passenger side of the Impala, the place he felt most at home in the world. The times he drove Baby without Dean never seemed right, and he knew that sitting shotgun while Dean sang along with Metallica was where he belonged. He also knew that saying so out loud would get him teased, no matter how much Dean sometimes needed to hear that, even after all this time.
Waverton looked like a sleepy little town, which immediately put Sam on edge. Some of their worst cases had happened in places that looked like they belonged in one of the Hallmark movies Sam sometimes watched when he knew Dean wouldn’t catch him.
“Place looks too perfect, Sammy. That’s a dead giveaway something evil’s here,” Dean said, proving again that the brothers often thought alike.
They got a motel room, and changed into their Fed suits. Then they started interviewing the family members who had been left behind, and the two ‘missing’ people who had returned.
Several hours later, they headed back to the motel to change and stopped for a bite to eat while they processed what they had learned. Sam had a pretty good suspicion he knew what was going on, and wondered if Dean had reached the same conclusion. Something was bothering Dean, and Sam still couldn’t figure out what it was.
“Sounds like some sort of wish-fulfillment,” Sam finally said. “Like that coin in the fountain we ran into a while back.” When I got struck by lightning. He had never told Dean about his brief death—no need to add one more to the already long tally.
Dean gave a curt nod. “Or a creepy witch, granting wishes. In two of the cases, everyone knew the victim wanted to be somewhere else. They got their chance, and high-tailed it to the horizon.”
Those were the two who hadn’t returned. To be honest, Sam didn’t think anyone had tried too hard to convince them to come back, so maybe the chance to make a fresh start was for the best.
“Yeah, Dean—but what about the two who did? They still don’t remember who they were or anything about their past, but when people they loved went looking for them, there was still a strong enough gut-level connection to make them want to come home and start over, even if they never get all their memories back,” Sam pointed out.
He liked the idea that people could have a bond to their loved ones that went deeper than memory, stronger than a spell—soul-deep, and unshakeable. Like the way he and Dean always came back to each other, despite all the stops and starts in their past. Thankfully, that stage of their lives was over, and they’d not just made peace with how things were, but they’d both confessed that they didn’t want anything else.
“If they were so happy, why did they vanish? Something must have been bugging them.” From the way Dean picked at his burger without making eye contact, Sam could tell that the case bothered his brother.
“You know how sometimes you like to go out for a drive by yourself, to clear your head? Or I like to go for a run, or make a shopping trip on my own for a little elbow space? That’s healthy. It doesn’t mean someone wants to stay gone—just that they needed a little fresh air.” Sam could see from Dean’s expression that he was thinking that over.
“So cursed coin or witches?” Dean asked.
“I’m leaning toward witches, since all four people had the same life coach, Mandy Osborn.”
“What the hell is a ‘life coach’?” Dean’s tone made the air quotes clear without needing a gesture.
“Someone who helps you sort out how you deal with what’s going on, personally and professional,” Sam replied, as he called up Mandy’s address on his GPS.
Dean snorted. “Bet those coaches never ran into a Winchester. Sorting out our crap would make their heads explode.”
“You’re not wrong,” Sam agreed.
They broke into Mandy’s office late that night. With a comfy couch, plenty of pillows and soothing artwork, it looked like every therapist’s office on TV.
“Aw, Sammy. Look what I found! Just for you.” Dean tossed something to him, and Sam caught it, finding himself holding a stuffed bear.
“Funny, Dean.” He put the bear down, and looked at a book on the nearby desk. “Hey—get a load of this. It’s a spell book.” A nearby curio cabinet caught his attention, especially the large amethyst geode. “Purple light,” he murmured, as the pieces came together in his mind.
“I’ve been waiting for you boys to show up. Heard you’ve been asking questions,” a woman’s voice said. Sam recognized Mandy from her web site, but the white gown and sword definitely weren’t part of her LinkedIn profile.
“You’re the witch,” Dean and Sam both leveled their guns.
Mandy rolled her eyes. “Puh-leese. I’m a life coach. I help people get what they’ve always wanted.”
“By making them forget the people they love?” The edge in Dean’s voice should have been a warning.
“By hitting the reset button and giving them a chance to start over,” she argued, not nearly intimidated enough by their guns. Mandy looked at them more closely, and cocked her head. “Something you two have done more than a few times, I’d wager.”
“None of your damn business. Now put down the sword, grab your hex bags and get the hell out of town. Stop screwing up other people’s lives,” Dean ordered, although the twitch of his trigger finger told Sam how much his brother really wanted to end the witch.
While Dean and Mandy argued, Sam moved closer to the curio cabinet.
“Plenty of people want what I’ve got to offer. I’ll just set up shop somewhere else,” Mandy taunted.
“Not without this, you won’t.” Sam held up the geode. “Purple flash of light? Dead giveaway.”
Dean’s warning came a few seconds too late. The geode flared, blindingly bright, right in Sam’s face. He heard a shot, and the sound of something shattering. When the light faded, Mandy was gone and splinters of the geode lay scattered on the floor.
He looked up, unprepared for the utterly bereft look on Dean’s face. “You okay?” Sam asked.
Dean heaved a sigh. “I thought—hoped—we were past all this. You gonna be Keith again, or go for a brand new name? Got a destination in mind? Oklahoma? Texas?”
“Kinda thought I’d stick with ‘Sam’,” he replied, “Since it’s a family name and all. As for where I’m heading—figured on Lebanon, Kansas.” He waited for Dean to catch on.
“Sammy?” Dean’s eyes widened, and the look of frightened hope on his brother’s face made Sam’s heart break a little. “You’re still you? You still want—” His voice choked off
“I can’t believe….after everything….you thought I’d want to be somewhere else? Someone else?” Sam shook his head. “Not a chance, Dean. ‘Fraid you’re stuck with me for good this time. Jerk.”
He wasn’t about to comment on ‘chick-flick moments’ when he wrapped Dean up in a tight hug, and felt Dean nearly crush his ribs in response.
“Nobody I’d rather have with me in the Impala, Bitch,” Dean murmured, accepting and returning the hug that covered all the things they didn’t usually put into words. “Let’s go home.”
And if they took their time, watched the sunset and stretched out to look at the stars, Sam wasn’t going to complain a bit, since home wasn’t the Bunker or even the Impala. Home was Dean, and always had been.
If you missed it, catch Gail and Cat's story of the boys' weekend adventure, "Just Another Weekend in the Bunker"!
Spend more time in Sam and Dean's world with original Supernatural Fan Fiction written exclusively for The WFB!
Get to know CatCurl, the artist behind these vignettes, and see her incredible Supernatural drawings, in WFB's artist profile: Inspired by Supernatural!