Title: "another scar will take this one's place"
Rating/Classification: sexual situations, AU, a bit crack-ridden, crossover, Isabel, John, gen
Disclaimer: I so seriously don't own any of these characters, title is from "Packing for the Crash," by Tom McRae.
Summary: 2075 words. A highly convoluted sequel to another scar will fade taking place somewhere around late season two of SPN and in the future of Roswell. Isabel is 'on,' and she can't shut John out.
Isabel leaves Michael in Vancouver after the first dream. She tells him to keep heading north, to finish the rendezvous with Max and the beacon from Antar. "But Iz'…" "No buts. I have to go. I'll be back in time for the trip." She climbs out of bed, dresses in haste and kisses him on the forehead --sisterly, asexual, too comfortable after all this time-- and doesn't look back until long after she's over the border. Even then, it's only a glance. That's all she can afford these days.
The dream is still chasing her, of course. Playing behind her lids like a drive-in movie. The man from that lonely bar in Wyoming where she'd waited for Michael to pick her up, the one who'd watched her… cataloged her every move… caught her hand and smelled her otherness. John, she remembers. She'd pulled it from his mind with a quick waking walk. She'd touched his bristled cheek, tasted the hint of a smile, and put him to sleep.
John is screaming now inside her head. And he's wide awake.
He thought she was 'off.' He broadcasted that so loud in that bar that it had almost made her laugh. Something *is* wrong with her. She knows that. She's always known that. But now… now Isabel is 'on,' and she can't shut him out. He's loud and clear.
It all comes to her as she fiddles with the radio dials in her rental car and tunes to the Rolling Stones. The man is dead now… but not quite. John whispers to her, his breath lifting her hair like the desert breeze flowing through the windows that she's cranked all the way down. "My boys, Dean and Sammy… they're good boys, Isabel. Honest boys. They need to know…" But then the whisper cuts off and turns into hoarse cries of pain and she realizes that he's not speaking that way because he needs to be quiet but because his throat is so raw he has no other choice.
She stays with him all way through the desert, into the plains. She holds his hand and tells him stories about Roswell… about Tabasco sauce on cake and the UFO Center and Liz Parker and how one gunshot changed all their lives. Sometimes John laughs through the agony. Most of the time, the sounds he makes turn the dream into a nightmare. She pulls to the side of the road three times to throw up.
By the time she gets to the Roadhouse-- it's always a dive bar somewhere, isn't it?-- she's dehydrated, her mouth tastes like bile, and she hasn't slept in three days. And John is quiet.
His silence is what catapults her out of the Jeep and over the building's threshold, practically falling as she half-stumbles to the bar. She doesn't know what it means --if it's final, forever, and she's failed him already-- and the woman serving up drafts is probably about to bite off a suspicious greeting but stops as Isabel gasps out, "John Winchester."
The mug in the woman's hands falls. When it shatters, she doesn't even blink. Isabel's knuckles turn white as she clutches at the bar. "What you know about John Winchester, girl?"
"I second that question."
The low drawl makes her whirl around, spin on her heel and teeter. It's almost familiar. Almost. But before she can see if the face is the same, John's voice slams into her skull. THX and Surround Sound. It fills her, overwhelms her, the screams she hasn't heard in fifty miles. And there he is, in Technicolor, chained and bleeding, with wounds even Max can't heal.
And then Isabel is 'off.'
"Don't think so."
"Doubtful. But she is a woman…"
"Do I need to remind you boys whose bar you're in?"
"No, Ellen, indeed you do not."
"Dean's sorry he's an idiot and so am I."
"An idiot or sorry?"
Isabel awakens to voices, quiet ones, and unbearable pain behind her eyelids. Like she could down an entire bottle of Advil. John's raw whisper is there, too, but he won't pull her back into the dream world… not until she's talked to them. Them. Dean and Sam.
That's what he asked her in Vancouver: "Find my sons." And she pulled away from the warmth of Michael's body and came here. Where, apparently, they tie their guests to chairs. She undoes the knots with one flash of her hands, as she's still bringing her head up and focusing. The brothers don't even notice. They're still arguing back and forth and she suddenly misses Max so sharply that it brings tears to her eyes. The one even looks a bit like him. Tall, a little too thin, with his hair in his face.
"Boys, your lady friend is up and around." The woman from behind the bar is standing a few feet away. Her light brown hair hangs loose around her shoulders and her face speaks of strength and years. Something about the set of her mouth reminds Isabel of Mom and she wonders if she's doomed to see her broken family everywhere, in every face, no matter where she runs.
"I-I'm not a witch or a demon," she murmurs, as the shorter brother --Dean, something tells her-- narrows his eyes. "I *am* a woman," she can't help but add, swallowing the dryness from her throat.
Sam laughs. Dean glowers for a moment before chuckling, too. The woman, Ellen, shakes her head and sighs, "Well go on. Make nice. She's already untied herself. If she was going to kill you, I suspect she would've done it by now."
"And ruin my manicure? Come on." Isabel sheepishly lets the ropes fall and raises her hands. Ellen immediately fills one with a glass of water and says nothing when she sees that Isabel's nails are ragged, unpainted, and there are scratches on her palms from where they've dug in.
She drinks, gratefully, draining the whole glass as Sam and Dean whisper furiously about "Dad" and "the girl" and "demons." They only know the half of it, she thinks. They don't know that even more exists beyond their world.
"Do you have visions, is that it?" Sam asks her, finally. His eyebrows scrunch together and he looks genuinely concerned. "I know they can hurt like a bitch… excuse me," he adds at the last second, his embarrassed grin revealing deep dimples.
"No, not visions." She has to look away from him, from his earnest-ness. From the *Max*-ness of him. His brother is easier. All sharp edges and thorns and suspicions, like Michael. "I'm Isabel," she tells him, softly. "And I've spent the last week with your father."
"Oh, really?" A muscle jumps in his cheek. His jaw is tight and she wonders if it would feel like John's… like weight and history and legends and the hunt. "They have nice vacation bungalows in Hell now? Did you get room service?"
"You don't believe me." She stands, slowly, and he instinctively steps back while Sam steps forward. They do it without thinking… protecting each other. John's good boys, his honest boys.
Isabel closes her eyes… and takes them on a walk.
It's just a snippet, really. A snapshot. Not even a daydream. She's honed her powers in the last few years and it's almost too easy to harness this one glimpse, one shared image for the three of them. It's one where John wrapped his hand around hers and pretended he wasn't bleeding. Where he smiled that rogue's smile that he passed on to the next generation.
When she opens her eyes, Dean and Sam are both crouched on the ground, shaking off that place between sleep and awake that's her second home. "I dream," she shrugs, wearily. "And he has nightmares."
She washes up in the small women's bathroom, staring at her reflection in the mirror and wondering when her face got so hard. When did she stop being pretty? She'd worked so diligently at it for so long, at being vivacious and popular Isabel Evans. All she is now is dark circles, frown lines, and dyed auburn hair.
Sam was still asking about her powers as Ellen took her by the elbow and guided her in here. He's curious, that light in his eyes aching for understanding for some flicker of "we're the same." But they're not. And she has no intention of telling him that. Of mentioning names like Vilandra and Kivar and showing him that beneath this stretched-out, withered skin, she's gray.
Dean senses that. He's like his father that way, registering what's strange and… alien. He would've grabbed her wrist in the bar, too, stared her down and followed her.
"You got 'em pegged," John notes, quietly, and she holds on to the sink as he pulls her in.
The light is white, too bright, like Purgatory, and she knows it's all he can manage past the anguish, past what's being done to him. So, she takes his hands and helps him soften it, helps him build a bed and a blanket and some whiskey to dull the ache. Martha Stewart Dream Living, Michael likes to call it.
"Help me, John," she whispers. "Tell me what to say."
"Don't say anything," he tells her, even softer. "Don't say anything just yet."
His big hands skim over her shoulders, cup her face, and she realizes that maybe she's been wrong this whole time. She hasn't just been saving him, keeping him sane… he's been holding her together, too. All her pieces.
John kisses her and she tastes blood, salt and brimstone. It rocks her back against the bathroom door, even though she can take the dream world standing straight now. He kisses her, tangles his hand in her hair, and surges inside her. No foreplay, no permission asked for. Just her zipper yanked down and her legs folding, unbidden, around his hips.
She pulls the name "Mary," from his brain but he shakes his head, gently, and tells her, "No. No, this ain't about her, Isabel. This is us. This is 'thank you,' and this is 'goodbye.'"
"*No*. No, don't say that." She pounds at his chest, shoving and pushing, but he just cradles her close and soon… soon they're both screaming. Both wide awake. "John… oh, God, John, no… not like this. You can't leave me like this."
The aftershocks of the climax are still rippling through her when she comes back to herself, to the fluorescent light and the faint smell of bleach.
John whispers one last time, his lips tugging at her earlobe. "Tell 'em… tell 'em to stop looking. Tell 'em to forget."
Isabel doesn't look back until long after she's over the border. Even then, it's only a glance. That's all she can afford these days.
Of course, they don't want to let her leave. Especially after she delivers their father's message.
But she takes care of their resistance quickly, efficiently, and hopes that they dream of happier places and easier times. That when they wake up, it's to some semblance of peace.
The fourth war is raging across Antar, showing no signs of stopping. Ever since they got here, it seems like they're always at war with someone. The Skins brought the battle all the way to the palace last night. They breached Michael's quarters and earned cataclysmic losses for their troubles. It's one loss too many, one too close. The queen stares at her brother across the council table and understands his slight nod as if he had spoken aloud. They hardly speak anymore. But he steps back and she steps forward. They do it without thinking… protecting each other. And those they love.
She turns to the traveler and bites off the orders as if her heart, and her family, isn't breaking all over again. "You need to take the princess. Take her home. Take her deep into time. She'll be safer there with their demons and beasts."
One of the guards brings her daughter into the chamber. Isabel kisses her forehead one last time and inhales her sweet, human scent before she resolutely hands the toddler into the traveler's arms. "You know where to go?"
Ash chucks Jo'han under her chin, making her laugh and laugh. His fingers morph, his neck widens, but his dark, liquid eyes retain their wisdom. "It's always a dive bar somewhere, isn't it?"
March 13, 2007.