“I wanted to know how much time we had together, so I checked a website where you plug in your location and depending on the latitude, it gives you the time of the twilight period. By the way it’s getting shorter as we get closer to the spring equinox on March twenty.”
“I love when you talk nerdy to me,” Sam said with a lascivious grin.
Dean deepened his voice into the growl he knew Sam found most sexy. “There are three stages of twilight, civil, nautical, and astronomical. Each stage is around twenty-four minutes depending on how close to the equator you are.”
“Ooh, keep going,” Sam said, holding back a giggle.
“If we were up in the polar regions, we’d have hours and hours together at each twilight.”
“Oh if only, and we could cuddle up with the polar bears and penguins too.”
“No penguins up in the North pole, Sammy, c’mon you know that, it’s like saying Jesus rode dinosaurs.”
“I’m so glad I got you turned on to watching nature documentaries instead of just soap operas.”
“Hmph, I’ll give you turned on. Ahem…after the equinox, the time at twilight will start increasing steadily until it reaches its peak on the solstice, on June 21.”
“Ten days after the sacrifice is due,” Sam said.
“Thanks for the reminder, it’s not like I forgot or something,” Dean said.
“I know, but it made me wonder if something will happen on or after the solstice if we don’t come up with a sacrifice for her. We don’t know if this dusk to dawn thing just keeps going or if it just ends. Or maybe we just don’t come back.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Dean said into the weighty silence. “We’ve got time.”
“Three hours a day, that’s all the time we get together,” Sam said.
“Well, if you think about, out of twenty-four hours a day, three hours is kind of a lot,” Dean said, obviously trying to look on the bright side. “More than most brothers get.”
“One and a half hours at a time though,” Sam pointed out.
“Hey, a lot can happen in three hours, even in one and a half hour increments. I know you know that,” Dean said, waggling his eyebrows.
Sam laughed at Dean’s antics because he was right and it sure as hell was better than crying about the alternative.
“It’s a whole lot better than nothing, right?” Dean asked, voice trailing off to almost nothing as he no doubt remembered the times they’d both had to go through that. The my brother is dead or gone or missing or at college or whatever. He’s not here by my side where he’s supposed to be.
Sam nodded, surprised at his enthusiastic agreement. “That’s for damn sure. Back when we were traveling on the road, we’d have killed for this kind of a set-up, even back when…you know, we were together.”
“Hah, true very true, but it’s not just the time, it’s the location that’s messing me up. I swear that’s the weirdest part of all this,” Dean said.
“Yeah, we can only see each other out here at the twelve mile marker, right by her statue. Like she wants to eavesdrop or some creepy shit like that. Honestly the whole damn thing is just weird. I can’t get used to it,” Sam said.
“Well don’t, because like I said, we’re gonna figure this out,” Dean said, so firm and decisive like he was trying to convince himself too.
“I think what’s different though, from back when we were on the road, is that it isn’t our choice to only have this time together. That’s why it’s not working for us, it wasn’t something we chose,” Sam said.
“There’s a lot that’s not working for us,” Dean said.
“Like having the choice of either continuing living dusk to dawn or making a human sacrifice?” Sam said.
“That and some of the other personal choices we’ve made recently,” Dean said.
Sam didn’t say anything, because at first he couldn’t. They’d blocked it off from all discussion for so long now, and Dean was just casually throwing it out there. “Personal choices, you mean…us?”
Dean nodded and drew Sam into his arms, they twined themselves together and stopped talking, there wasn’t anything more to say. Sam felt better about things, having gotten to talk to Dean about it all. But the weight of the choice before them was hard to bear, even with his help. He concentrated on the weight of Dean’s arms around him instead, of how perfect and right it felt, how much it meant to have him there. Even if it was out here at mile marker twelve and for an hour and a half at time.
“I’m fading,” Sam whispered when he began to feel the pull of the dawn.
“Until we meet again,” Dean said, brushing their lips together at the last moment that Sam was still there.
Sam faded into the now-familiar nothingness with the thrill of feeling the lips he’d missed for too long. It was almost enough to hold him there against the power of the dawn’s arrival. Until it wasn’t.
After Dean had woken up from his morning sleep session, he heard the rattling and banging that meant someone was coming down the main staircase into the bunker. For a long, dumb moment his heart leapt up with joy, Sam was back home. Then of course, he heard Cas and Jack talking, and their Mom calling his name. He rolled out of bed and pulled on a new set of clothes. He looked at himself in the mirror as he shaved and decided he wasn’t up for telling them all the whole truth, not yet. Not until he’d talked it over with Sam. He had to tell them the rest though.
“Okay, sounds like we’ve got some researching to do guys,” Mary said, after Dean had finished his tale.
“Why is there animal fur in here?” Jack asked. He was sitting in the chair Sam usually occupied at the research table. Sure enough there was a coating of white cat hair on the table around all the books and papers.
“Sam had a cat, well it was the lutin actually in disguise, but since he’s dead and gone, no more cat hair.”
They all got to work on the research into the bunker and its founding. Dean took a break to make a lasagna with the supplies they’d brought back. And once it was in the oven, he brought everyone some beer.
“What are we drinking to?”
“Nothing, I’m just glad you guys are home,” Dean said, realizing in that moment how hard it had been, being in the bunker alone, especially with all the worry and weirdness.
“I found something that might explain the whole land war thing,” Mary said. “So according to this report they sent back to the home office in England, when they first began a building project, they knew they had to control what kinds of supernatural beings were around. Out here in Kansas, that meant the lutin who they were worried might have had some backup resources as well as other supernatural creatures who already lived here or who’d moved in with settlers.”
Mary plopped a big binder of loose-leaf reports and opened one up that had a triple size piece of paper folded, she opened it up all the way. “See here’s the map I was telling you about.” They all gathered around and looked at a map of the area around the bunker.
“They had a method they’d used and it had worked in Europe, so they did it over here too. I’ll read the description to you,” Mary said, pulling the folder back over to herself while they looked at the map.
“The North American Men of Letters have utilized our tested method for sanctifying the land for protection. All four corners have been locked with buried statues from some of the approved European traditions and the rites and agreements have been made with the deities for each of the four directions. A statue for the goddess of the dawn was buried in the easternmost position, where she will faithfully do her duty every morning, greeting the dawn and protecting the land.” Mary looked up at Dean, her eyes assessing as she watched her son take on the information.
“Those absolute fucknuts,” Dean said, slamming his beer bottle down on the table.
“What is a fucknut, Dean?” Jack asked, with that guileless confusion that still reminded Dean of way back when Cas had been similarly clueless.
“That’s why the lutin went after Sam’s hair, he thought he could win his way back into the land. The elflocks thing, the braided hair I told you about that the lutin stole off of Sam’s head. It was all about having power over him, so that he’d…I’d don’t know, let him into the land again? Go against the deities guarding it?”
“You really were in the middle of a land war,” Mary said.
“You should know better than to get into a land war with a Sicilian.” Cas quoted.
Dean saw Jack make the confused puppy face that meant a derailing question was coming. “It’s from a movie, Jack, and very funny, yeah, Cas, I suppose Mater Matuta is Sicilian adjacent,” Dean said.
“So is that what this marking means on the map?” Jack asked, tracing a circle around the spot in the middle where the bunker stood. “Is that a six mile radius of protection around the bunker from the spells and statues buried at the four directions?”
Instead of answering Jack, Cas brought up something else instead. “Looking at this map, I can see something else that is interesting, it’s what I think you call the ley lines.”
“Yeah, they’re like power lines, but not electrical, in the earth or something, right?” Dean asked, not sure why this would matter.
“Yes, that is close enough, and according to this map, the Men of Letters chose this place for a reason. We are sitting not only in the geographical center of the United States, but it also worth noting that the bunker has been sited at the confluence of many powerful ley lines. See, they come in here, six directions, here, here, and here,” Cas said, pointing at places around the marked location of the bunker. “These ancient lines of power that move through the earth converge here and only here.”
“How does that change anything, knowing about the ley lines?” Dean asked, frustrated with what seemed like something way out in left field.
“According to the records I was reading, the Men of Letters had intended this facility to become functionally eternal over the years, through the power of the deities they’d invoked in its founding as well as siting it at this spot of power. Where the ley lines cross. Their calculations had envisioned the power accumulating in the bunker to increase in a logarithmic scale that would become so immense that it would be impenetrable by the year two-thousand,” Cas said, looking at them like they’d all understand.
Mary and Dean looked at each other and shrugged.
“Oh, I see, it’s not just the power of the crossing ley lines, it’s the deities interacting with that power for all of these years,” Jack said very matter-of-factly.
“I would imagine that confluence of power was likely what made the keys burn both of you as you passed into her realm, as they are connected to the magic that protects this place. Coming into contact with the deities would likely overload them,” Cas said.
“This power that we’re talking about, is it a good thing or something we should be worried about?” Mary asked.
Jack and Cas looked at each other and shrugged.
“I can feel it, but I don’t know if it’s ‘good’ or not. I mean…this place feels very different to me than anywhere else I’ve been. I thought it was because it was home,” Jack said.
Dean was struck with an intense wish that Sam had been there with them to hear Jack say that.
“I…uh, that’s awesome, kid,” Dean said, conscious of how gruff his voice sounded. No one but Mary seemed to notice him clearing his throat or dabbing at his eyes. She smiled across the table at him.
“I have always felt the power of this place. At first, I thought it had to do with the angel warding because I had to fight against that. I have never taken the time to investigate the source,” Cas said.
“That’s okay, we didn’t need to know until just, oh like a week ago,” Dean snarked.
“Dean, he’s trying to help,” Mary scolded.
“I know, I know you all are, but it’s frustrating. Sam is just gone half the day, and then I am—sorry, it’s all just messed up.” Dean stood up from the table and stalked off to the kitchen to check on his lasagna. He thought he’d pack some of it up while it was warm for them to eat in the car while they talked at dusk. Dean threw together a quick salad and brought that too, and a few beers. It all fit nicely in their old green cooler, it would be easier to talk to Sam about this stuff, they were trying to help, he knew they were, but they weren’t going through it like he and Sam were. He left without saying anything to the rest of them, feeling embarrassed at his outburst. Dean figured the lasagna would make up for him not being there.
He parked at the twelve mile marker and waited for Sam to reappear.
“Oh my god, that smells amazing!” Sam cried as he faded back into view to solidity.
Dean grinned and pulled out the container of lasagna and handed Sam a plate and fork. Sam served himself a giant corner piece and took a huge bite, moaning around his fork. “Oh hell, this is the best thing,” Sam moaned.
“Well, if it’s giving you so much joy, I’d better have some,” Dean said, still grinning he served himself and had to agree, he knew how to make an awesome lasagna.
“I take it we’ve been resupplied?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, they all showed up, back from Georgia with a trunkful of the groceries I asked for. I texted Mom a list, so it’s not just all frozen food.”
“She does get in a rut with that,” Sam said.
“Well, cooking’s not for everyone, dude,” Dean said. “I spent a lot of years wishing for a kitchen, and now that I’ve finally got one, well you know.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I do know, Dean, since I’ve been lucky enough to be the main beneficiary. You’re a hell of a cook. Don’t listen to me if I ever say anything different, you hear?”
Dean just smiled and ate his lasagna. Sam served himself seconds, and then literally clapped his hands when Dean produced the green salad.
“I don’t know what to eat first!”
“If it’s salad, I’m gonna see if I can get a ride on the dusk train early tonight,” Dean joked.
Sam looked up at him sharply. “You wouldn’t,” he said.
“I was kidding, haven’t had my beer yet,” Dean said, he reached into the cooler and brought out the two beers. He popped the caps on both and handed one to Sam.
“To having our Scooby gang back together,” Dean said.
“They being helpful or bugging you?” Sam asked.
“Mostly helpful, hell it was nice not to be alone in the bunker for a while, you know? At least you had the damn cat,” Dean said.
“Who turned out to be the lutin, but yeah okay, whatever. How are they bugging you?”
“It’s dumb, we figured out some stuff about how the bunker was built, it’s on the spot where all these ley lines cross. It’s supposed to have been built to accumulate power. Cas was going on about how he’d always felt it but never bothered to investigate…and I…”
“Blew up at him, because he didn’t anticipate our needing to know about this a week ago. Dean, you have to cut him a break sometimes,” Sam said.
“You sound just like Mom,” Dean grumped, swallowing a third of his beer instead of saying more.
“Okay, so what else?” Sam asked.
****To Part 6