The Company You Keep
Many, many thanks to Megan and Marinarusalka for the beta assistance. All errors are mine.
The characters and situations portrayed here are not mine, they belong to the WB. This is a fan authored work and no profit is being made. Please do not link to this story without appropriate warnings. Please do not archive this story without my permission.
The Company You Keep
There was a time when Sam would have given anything to have the nightmares stop. When craving a good night’s sleep was like craving food or water, like he might die if they didn’t stop, if he couldn’t sleep.
He never wanted to see the future. He wasn’t so thrilled with seeing the past either but at least he knew it was over. It might haunt him, but it wasn’t going to happen again, not that way. Jessica couldn’t die twice, nor could his mother. Jenny wouldn’t be pounding on her window screaming for help. Sari wouldn’t scream because of the fiery spirit in her closet.
Seeing the future was worse, in a way. It was like living constantly with the knowledge the step you just put your weight on was going to break, like seeing the car coming at you a fraction of a second too late to actually get out of the way. It was the bullet that couldn't be called back. It was waiting to fall, waiting for pain, waiting for impact, all the damn time.
He wasn’t exactly sure when the dreams, the nightmares, stopped. A week or so ago. Maybe ten days. It took him a few days to realize it. To actually recognize the fact that he was waking up, not with a jolt and jerk, sweat on his skin and a sour feeling in his stomach and mouth, but waking up and being disoriented and still sleepy, but most of all, without the pump of adrenaline through his veins. It took even Dean a couple of days after that to realize that Sam was sleeping in, that he had to wake him to get them moving, that Sam wasn’t napping in the car anymore. Sam thought Dean might actually have found that to be annoying on some level.
Once he’d realized it, it was a shock – a good one, but he hadn’t realized how hard it had become to think, to reason, to focus. That Dean had been rightly worried about his reflexes, his reaction time. Thinking clearly and moving like his body was his own again had been like coming out of a long illness. Everything looked better, tasted better…even Dean’s jokes were funnier. And for a couple of days, it had felt like something more normal for them, when Sam wasn’t dogged by fatigue and Dean was trying to keep his worry over Sam on such a tight rein that it made his temper short and his own reflexes less smooth because he was always that much too ready to snatch Sam back from disaster.
He'd had a couple of days after he'd first noticed, no more, to be free of them: his dreams, his nightmares, his unnerving flashes of events that had yet to happen or people he had yet to meet.
It had felt like a gift, a reprieve.
It wasn't until he realized where he was, where he wasn't, that he understood why even if he didn't understand how.
People with no future couldn't see it.
Dean had checked the mausoleum a dozen times, taken a crowbar to the tiles of the floor until some of them cracked, listening for hollows, listening for hidden places. He'd lit match after match, chasing breezes, following the thin line of smoke. He'd pried open the stone crypts and stared at bones almost all dust.
They'd been no more than ten feet apart. They'd checked the small ten by ten chamber from one side to the other. He'd headed back up, and he'd heard Sam's footfalls behind him until he didn't. All he'd done was turn, take a step down.
Sam was gone. He hadn't cried out. There'd been nothing.
Dean had screamed himself hoarse.
They'd come in broad daylight.
He waited. And waited until the sun set and the moon rose. For the first time in the last month or so, the Lewiston ghost had not shown itself.
Dean wanted to be sick.
It fit the pattern, what pattern there was. The ghost had been haunting the high decorative tower of the Lewiston cemetery for over fifty years. Not all the time. Five years, three, seven, might lapse before it showed itself again. A half dozen people had seen it this time, the headlines of the small local paper had proclaimed its return, and that story was picked up by the Dayton Herald.
Lewiston's resident ghost makes appearance after six years.
Curious enough for Dean to want to check it out. For Sam to grudgingly agree to see what he could find out.
Sam was good -- he'd always been good. Internet, card catalogue or microfiche, he found the weirdest shit, made connections. Dean could make them too, but Sam was better at it, quicker, even when he was off his game. All those years at college had sharpened already well trained instincts for research and patterns and connections of facts.
The ghost had its own agenda obviously. Sometimes it would linger for weeks, months. Other times just for a few days.
Dean had actually found the small side article from six years prior. The headline spoke of a local woman gone missing. Alva Shumaker. The little two paragraph blurb on the fourth page reported that the ghost had not made its appointed rounds the night before.
Back to the previous incident. Searching forward until the ghost stopped appearing.
This time it had been a local college student that had gone missing. Craig Lane.
The ghost never seemed to want to harm anything. It appeared near the high stone obelisk with the cross on top and the eternal flame. Made its circuit around the cemetery, pale and barely formed, mist and moonlight…people watched it. Brought their cars and their kids. It was like a laser show for some. Never quite sure they saw it because if anyone got too close it vanished. It never spoke, never looked at anyone, just wandered the same path, through the stones, past the small chapel, down to the pond and back again to the elaborate mausoleum with the Hanover family crest in bas relief over the miniature colonnade.
Ghost appeared, made its rounds. Night after night until it stopped for its own reasons.
And someone went missing.
Just one. Never found. No bones, no blood, no trace. Usually it was the missing person that pushed the nightly "Ghost Watch" off the front page.
The missing vanished from their homes. Vanished when they walked to the corner to pick up milk. Twenty-three years earlier, Gerald Vandiver's car had been found a block from his house, returning from a doctor's visit. The car was locked. No forced entry, no fingerprints.
The ghost didn't show. Dean stood in the center of the Hanover Mausoleum with its small oil lamps and its marble decorations and its brass plates and its dead and the ghost didn't show.
Neither did Sam.
There was air. Sam wasn't sure if that were a good thing or not.
There was even enough room to move somewhat.
There were also other bodies. Enough for it to be a little crowded. They were dried, some merely bones, but Alva Shumaker looked really well preserved for being dead six years.
Sam had used his flashlight sparingly, glad it came with him when he'd been brought wherever he was.
The Hanover house was a local landmark. A mansion, decorated at Christmas, open to the public. Sam supposed he should be grateful that the Hanovers had been as given to largesse in their crypts as in their ancestral home.
It had taken time, precious battery time to figure it out. Some of it anyway. The marble on the floor was older, grimed, cracked. The slab above was solid, concrete foundation, poured and molded. A sublevel to the already impressive two story structure that dominated the Lewiston Cemetery. It wasn't a replica of the Hanover house but it was impressive. Meditation benches, wrought iron gates at the front. A trust fund to keep oil in the lamps so there was always light. Fresh flowers in the main level. A miniature Greek temple complete with statuary.
Below were the crypts, the three in the center, raised and carved with effigies. Along the walls were more, for the later generations. Every one marked. A name, a scrap of poetry.
He hadn't seen anyway to get to the lower level. They'd looked. Gone over every inch of the mausoleum, looking for something to indicate who the ghost was, what it sought.
Sam knew now.
Not particularly malicious, just lonely. Some revenant spirit, probably one of the Hanovers although Sam couldn't quite make out its name, or anything it said. But he knew it was talking, could hear the whispering of an echoey voice. Could feel its presence, so happy to have company -- or it would be. As soon as he died. As soon as his own ghost was trapped here to keep it company. He knew it missed its family terribly. That was the point.
He missed his own family too.
But he'd shouted himself hoarse. He'd listened and heard nothing. Even when he found the small opening where the slab above had cracked, letting in air. But it was a crack only, a chip. Not even wide enough to get the flashlight handle through. He'd heard nothing except faint sounds of birds and insects, the distant sound of the river. No cars. No Dean calling his name.
He wouldn't suffocate, but after two days he was already thirsty, and even trying to be careful, the scent of his own urine was kind of sickening.
He couldn't stand or sit up. There were no upright crypts on this level, only the raised markers set in the floor. They'd built the rest above it, sealing this generation away from sight for whatever reason.
He slept to keep the panic at bay and tried to dream if only to escape the close darkness. He only woke again a few hours later to the dim glow of his watch.
People with no future didn't dream.
Short of packing explosives around the mausoleum, Dean didn't know what else he would find there. Probably nothing, but blowing the overly ornate miniature temple into a million pieces would make him feel better.
The answer wasn't there. But it was somewhere.
He started at the Hanover house, open 10 to 2 daily, admission $2.00. He'd walked the halls and peered into the rooms that their ghost had probably walked once upon a time as living flesh and blood. He'd already done this with Sam, a few days before. Looking for a reason, why the spirit was so restless, maybe why it was angry.
Big family. From the family photos in the library, generation after generation, birth control pretty much not in the equation. Ten children here, fourteen there, spread out, spread wide over Lewiston and around.
The influenza epidemic of 1918 had decimated the huge family. Left grieving parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, children. There was no one left. The last of the Hanovers had died way back in the mid fifties. There might be cousins, distant, but of the once huge family, just the one had lived long enough to see the mass production of the automobile, the advent of fast food, and Elvis.
She'd never married. The curator of the family museum had told him Beatrice Hanover had been a little off, maybe as a result of the fever she'd suffered as a child. But she'd been a pleasant woman, friendly, a little eccentric. Spent a lot of time at the cemetery, leaving flowers, polishing the brass. Talking to her dead family.
Dean figured she probably still was.
Off or not, she'd been a shrewd business woman, had salvaged the family's fortune after the '32 crash. Saved the town. She got a lot of respect. They'd talked about renaming the town Hanover in gratitude and she'd told them no. There had always been Hanovers in Lewiston and there always would be.
Dean wasn't willing to say the same about Winchesters.
He'd managed food but he needed sleep and he knew it.
He was afraid of what that would bring him as the hours crept by. What was the rule? Anyone missing after 48 hours became harder to find.
He'd reported Sam missing after the first 24. The cops had been sympathetic and he couldn't say they'd been unthorough. For once it helped that they'd been remembered. At the hotel, at the diner they liked, amid the other ghost watchers.
People remembered Sam, his smile, his laugh.
Dean was grateful for that, because he'd nearly forgotten Sam could do either. Glad to see that part of his brother back.
He wasn't ready to let him go. Not yet. Not ever.
But he was afraid to sleep.
Sam only knew it was night because it got colder. He'd slept too much to know any longer, on his watch, if it were a.m. or p.m. But the nights were cold, chill. Not dangerously so, but enough to make him shiver. He wasn't so thirsty any longer but his mouth was dry and his muscles hurt from the cramped position. The hunger pangs lingered though. Or the cramps. He wasn't sure which.
He'd tried and tried again, even knowing it was useless, to push up, find another weak spot in the slab above him. To see if his small air hole could be expanded. It was too massive or he was too weak or both.
It wasn't so much that he was afraid of dying, or even dying like this. If he thought about it, he'd probably batter himself silly on the stone trying to get out.
He wasn't going to do that. Dean would be looking and Dean didn't give up. Not on Sam. He never had.
Sam wasn't going to give up either, even if he only had hope to hold onto.
His companion ghost was getting easier to understand. He wasn't sure that was a good thing. It spoke quietly, a conversation with itself, with pauses and snorts and deep breaths, just like it was talking to someone. Mostly he got impressions though. He thought it -- she -- was female. Not terribly old when she'd died. Her laugh sounded young. He never saw her though, not in the pitch blackness of this forgotten crypt. He could only hear her.
He'd read the family history, but he couldn't remember all their names…only some. Beatrice he remembered and he whispered that name once when the ghost chattered.
It went silent for a moment, and whispered it back…then went on with its chattering. It could have been an echo.
He tried Beatrice again and the ghost didn't pause.
Further back then, the father of the last generation, Howard.
Again the pause, the waiting….and the chittering again. Maybe a little agitated
He was literally shooting in the dark. All the names he could remember. They worked once, not the second time, until Sam wanted to scream in frustration when he hit the last name he could remember.
His head was pounding, and his heart as well. He'd stretched and his joints had popped, loud in the closed in space. His eyes burned but there were no tears. His body couldn't spare the moisture.
Please. Tell me your name…
She'd fallen silent then and Sam closed his eyes. Not that the view was any different.
Her overwhelming loneliness followed him into sleep.
He hadn't meant to fall asleep. Hadn't really. Just a doze. Waking suddenly, propped up on one hand in the Lewiston library. He thought someone was calling him, but not by his name.
He blinked and rubbed at his eyes, knowing it was a dream but he looked around anyway. The librarian was at the desk working on something, updating a computer. The library was pretty well equipped for such a small town. Another grant from the Hanover estate.
There was a genealogy here. Copy of the one at the mansion. Hand written and later photocopied and bound. The script was hard to read in places and Dean rubbed at his eyes. There was no Lulu.
Maybe he'd dreamed it. But in his own memories he couldn't find anyone he knew by that name.
Another check though and he stared hard at the lists and the roughly sketched family trees and found Lucille.
Lucille. Lucille Desmond married Daniel Hanover in 1806. They'd moved their family here to Lewiston. Set up their dynasty. Bred like bunnies.
Sixteen children born alive, six died at birth.
You'd think a woman like that would want a little peace and quiet.
He couldn't remember seeing a marker for her. Nor for Daniel. The oldest plaque in the mausoleum went back to the mid 1800's on birthdate. Her children.
But the ghost hadn't appeared in the 1950's, when the last of her line had died, alone and childless.
He had a list of news paper and obits. He needed copies. The librarian was very happy to help.
Would you talk to me?
Sam felt kind of idiotic asking and did so in a whisper although that was more because he really couldn't find enough moisture to loosen his throat. He was sleeping more, which wasn't a good thing. And still not dreaming though he tried. Shouldn't his prescience, his shining, be good for something? So he'd thought of Dean, and replayed conversations in his head. Pictured his brother, smiling, laughing, even angry. Anything that would stick and follow him…although even if he could, maybe, somehow, let Dean know…he couldn't tell him where exactly.
The air hole opened to sky and earth not into the mausoleum chamber above, he didn't think. A crack in the foundation, maybe.
You sound like you have a lot to say…could you talk to me? he asked again and the ghost would pause and then murmur. And wait. Waiting for him to talk.
So he did. It didn't seem to matter how weak his voice was, she listened. Made noises like asking questions…
He could, of course, be completely delirious.
My name is Sam.
She had a grandson named Sam.
It was the clearest thing Sam could make out. He thought he made it out.
I'm not him, you know.
She missed him, that grandchild. Missed them all.
Sam tried to remember who the grandmother had been but it was hard to think. He understood her loneliness.
My brother misses me. He'll be worried.
She wanted to comfort and soothe him. It made his eyes burn again.
Please. Please. I'm not ready to leave him yet.
Sam slipped to sleep again to the sound of her crying.
He was getting stupid. He rubbed his eyes and finished off the rest of his cold coffee and tried once again to read through the account of the first appearance of the ghost while he waited for the cemetery manager to show up to work.
The police had called. The investigation was still open. They'd found nothing. No sign of foul play. No indication that Sam had left the town or been taken.
Of course not, you idiots. He's still here. Dean had wanted to scream. He'd thanked them politely. "Morons," he snarled when he hung up.
Sam's stuff was still in the hotel room; clothes and books and walkman. His phone rested in the charger, next to Sam's bed. It had been dying.
Dean refused to think that had been a sign of some kind.
He stretched and tossed the photocopied news articles onto the front seat of the car. There was an answer here, somewhere.
Beatrice was buried in the mausoleum. Her siblings, her parents. Generations back.
Lucille and Daniel were not. Nor their immediate children, save the last, the youngest.
So where were the others buried?
Sam tapped the flashlight handle against the stone just for the noise. The bulb was dim. The noise was welcome.
She wasn't murmuring constantly any longer. Not talking as much but when she did, he could understand her. Again, not necessarily a good thing -- like the closer he got to dying, the more understandable she became. He could feel her though. Lingering. Hovering. Fretting.
Sam couldn't even hear his own voice when he talked to her, hence the tapping until even that required more energy than he had.
She didn't seem to have any trouble hearing him though.
…so it's kind of just me and Dean, now, you know. Just us two. If I stay with you…he'll be alone. Like you are…and I'm not really who you want anyway.
I just want to be with my family.
I know. Me too. Please. I can't help you from here. But we can...I know what you want, where you want to be.
Hesitant, afraid to let go, to be once more trapped in the never ending loneliness, to be separated from those she loved.
You need to let me go.
Denial and doubt. No. no. nonononono….
Who are you?
Lulu. I'm Lulu…
I'm someone else's son. Someone else's brother. I'm not yours.
She wept and Sam wanted to weep with her but he couldn't. He understood her grief, but he couldn't share it. No one could. None of the people she'd taken to keep her company could. They'd only helped for a little while, until they died. Until their own spirits made peace with the world and moved on and she'd go looking again for company.
I'm not who you want.
And she was gone. Presence, the yaw of fear and grief. Gone.
Sam was left with his own. I'm sorry, Dean. You didn't fail, here. You didn’t…I'm sorry.
It seemed somehow right that his own grief should replace hers.
It was nothing but a flat area near the river. Wooded, pathed. A park now. They'd moved the cemetery in the mid 50's when the river flooded. Dug up the graves, contacted the families. Restored the remains that had surfaced during the flooding.
Brick by brick, stone by stone, they'd moved the mausoleum, built a new foundation, restored it to its wealthy opulence.
Beatrice had helped the city pay for it. She'd revered her dead. Revered other people's too.
She'd been getting old though. She'd moved the crypt, checked the names.
She'd left someone behind.
It was the only thing that made sense. The burial records said Lucille and Daniel and their children had been buried in the family plot at the cemetery, the old cemetery. But they hadn't been moved.
The only explanation was that the graves hadn't been obvious. The original mausoleum had been built in the late 1800's -- imported tile, commissioned statuary. Greek revivalist style.
He had the old plot, but there was nothing to see. Just grass, but he spent the afternoon pacing off the lines until he found where the mausoleum had originally been placed, looking over the river. Lovely spot.
He'd dig the whole damn park up if he had to. He'd thought about going to the police. To anyone, but what could he say…your famous ghost is kidnapping people. We need to salt and burn her bones. They aren't in the cemetery, they're in your fucking park and even if we do, my brother is still gone.
He hadn't given up hope but he didn't know what to do with it. Where to put it.
In the end, he hadn't even had to try very hard. The sun set and the darkness crowded around and Dean pulled out shovels and pick axes and the old plot plans. A Coleman lantern had shown the spray paint marks he'd left earlier.
He dug down about three feet when he saw her; insubstantial, shifting features indistinct. She was small, petite. It was a wonder childbirth hadn't killed her.
"Lulu," he said it and she looked at him.
He could feel her grief; it matched his own. "Where is he, Lucille? Please. You took my brother, where is he?"
She said nothing and he felt her apology anyway. Her loneliness.
He kept digging and she waited, hovering.
He hit something hard, stone…concrete. He dug faster, tossing dirt. Recognized the tiles of marble. The old sublevel. It would be solid. The graves would be beneath.
A whisper, no more and she was moving, away from the site, across the hill that separated the river bank from higher ground. Toward the new Cemetery.
He hesitated and she waited. Looked back at him.
Dean thought his heart might pound out of his chest.
She moved away again and he followed her; back across the grounds and he fumbled for his phone.
She didn't pause, only swept through the wrought iron gates, stepping into the crypt and down the steps.
Dean thought maybe he would stop breathing but he found air enough. "I need an ambulance the Lewiston cemetery, the Hanover crypt."
Sam looked like he was sleeping. He didn't look all that different really, but his lips were cracked, his complexion sallow. He was cold and his heart beat irregularly. He didn't wake up when Dean touched him, when he checked him over.
Dean looked up, Sam propped against his knee and chest. He could hear the sirens.
I miss them so…
She faded before the ambulance arrived.
"Sam…Sammy," Dean whispered. "In here!" he yelled when the EMT's called out. The police too. Dean didn't care.
"…sorry." Sam's voice was no more than a breath, just air escaping and Dean held tight, reluctant to move even when the paramedics needed him too.
"Mr. Winchester? You want to let them do their job and tell us what happened?"
Dean was tempted to ask one of them if he could borrow their handcuffs, just to keep Sam from vanishing on him again.
"Don't leave me, Sam," he said instead and thought maybe Sam agreed to that.
He couldn't see her but he agreed. A promise was a promise.
"Sure, Officer, but you've got some graves left down by the river."
They couldn't leave town for a few days. Dean expected the suspicion, but they stayed because Sam needed to. A couple of days of fluids and he was eating again.
The police didn't want to believe Sam either but he was pretty adamant. Sam got out of the tiny hospital the day they dug up the site by the river.
It was a twelve by fourteen piece of granite, resting on a cement foundation. It took a heavy crane to lift the slab.
They found Sam's flashlight in the shallow under level, along with the twenty or so graves including Lucille and her husband and most of her children. Sam leaned against the Impala and ignored the fact that Dean stood close enough to brush arms. He didn't mind.
Dean made a small sound when the space was revealed, not quite a hiss, not quite a curse. "Good thing you aren't claustrophobic," he'd muttered.
Yeah, good thing.
Last night, when Sam slept, he'd dreamed. He thought there might have been a nightmare brewing but Dean had reached over and soothed him out of it. He thought it was Dean. It might have been Lulu. It had been surprisingly mother-like.
"She didn't want to be separated from her family," Dean murmured as the police moved in to identify the other bodies, the ones not buried. Bones and dust and bits of cloth.
"Me either," Sam said quietly and Dean leaned a little more heavily against him. Sam kept his smile small. "She never meant to hurt anyone. She was just lonely."
"Why you?" Dean asked.
They'd had time to talk about theories, about impressions. None of them quite clicked. "I stopped dreaming."
"That makes no sense."
It didn't but Sam thought maybe there was something to it. So he'd checked, since they couldn't leave town. Alva had lived alone, no family. Same for Craig Lane. Gerald Vandiver had family but his neighbors said he hadn't talked to them for years. Some kind of rift. They checked other victims.
"You've got family," Dean said.
Sam smiled. "Yeah, I do." He'd nudged Dean's shoulder. "She got what she wanted. It should stop now."
"Maybe. I think we should still salt and burn," Dean said, but it wasn't because he disagreed. He was just pissed off.
A couple of days later they were free to leave, the police told them.
There was a reward due for information relating to the missing cases file for Alva and Craig. Not tons. A couple grand. Dean didn't turn it down.
A reward from the Hanover historic trust too. Another couple of hundred for restoring or completing parts of the family history. The Trustees thought finding the remains of the earliest members of the family qualified.
The night before they left Sam dreamed of the big house and the grassy yard beyond that rolled to the river. People, lots of people, all related. He wandered through them, knew none of them except one and he'd never seen her clearly. The only pictures of her were ancient and small and she'd been old.
He wanted to ask her but it was a dream and his dreams rarely gave him answers, only more questions. But he'd had cake and lemonade and she'd kissed his cheek before chasing her children across the broad lawn.
He'd left and walked by the river, watched it flow. Seen Dean on the other side and waved.
When he woke, he thought he knew what it was, why him. He wasn't so sure he wanted Dean to know and since he wasn't sure, he said nothing.
It wasn't that the victims had been alone. But it was likely they'd die that way. Which meant he would, maybe.
He never dreamed of his own future, only of others. He hadn't seen his death or Dean's and he wasn't sure what that meant.
Maybe that none of it was soon, or sure.
They stopped by the cemetery on the way out. Dean had rolled his eyes but Sam had only quietly said, please.
Dean walked with him up to the crypt. He wouldn't let Sam go inside, stayed close when Sam laid the thin bouquet of lilies on the steps, leaning them against the iron. Lulu wasn't here yet but she would be.
"You've got weird taste in friends," Dean said, nudging Sam with his elbow.
"Family makes up for it," Sam said and Dean didn't know what to do with that so he looked away. Sam gave him a light shove. "The weird part anyway."
"You ready to hit the road?"
Sam nodded, shoved his hands in his pockets. Ducked his head when Dean's hand rested light on his lower back before he walked around the car to the driver's side.
Sam looked back at the cemetery, eyes tracking over the headstones. He could just barely hear the river behind them.
Maybe he would be alone when he died, but ever after…
Right now, he was alive and someone was waiting.
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