Future Steps I: Step Into the Light

by Wolfling

(Rated G)


Dean was starting to get a little worried.

He'd been wandering around these caves for what felt like hours now and he had no idea where he was. He kept trying to retrace his steps, but he didn't seem to be getting anywhere and Dean was kinda scared he was just going in circles.

He was taking a break, sitting with his back against the rock wall and his flashlight turned off to conserve his batteries when he finally caught sight of a glimmer of light way down the corridor. He was up and moving towards it before he had time to complete the conscious thought to do so. He made it to the end of the corridor and turned left into another, more narrow one that was suddenly very familiar. This was the path that led back to the entrance, Dean was sure.

Dean was moving along it, heading as fast as he dared for the way out when he heard something that was even more welcoming than that -- his father's voice calling his name.

"I'm here!" he yelled back, relief at knowing he was going to get out of here for sure because his dad had come and found him for the moment overriding any apprehension he felt over the fact that his dad was going to rip him a new one not only for getting lost, but for running off and leaving Sammy at the Impala alone in the first place.

There was a pause in his father's yelling and then, "Dean!" even louder and sounding closer. Dean called back again, moving in the direction of his father's voice.

It wasn't long before he saw first the bobbing light of Dad's flashlight and then Dad himself came into view.

He was prepared for Dad to come right up to him, maybe even clap him on the shoulder if Dad had been sufficiently worried. He wasn't prepared for his father to walk right up to him and pull him into a hug so tight he swore he could feel his ribs creak. And when he finally let go he kept his hands on Dean's shoulders and stared at him with an expression that Dean couldn't put a name to.

"Are you all right?" Dad asked him, his voice strangely hoarse.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Dean replied, feeling slightly off balance at the way Dad kept looking at him. "I just got turned around and couldn't find my way back out." He paused and licked his lips before continuing. "I'm sorry Dad. I know you said stay by the car with Sammy, but-"

"It's okay, son," Dad said interrupting him, which was probably the last thing Dean had expected to hear. "We'll talk about it all later. But for right now we need to get out of here as quickly as possible." In spite of his words, he seemed reluctant to let go of Dean. He finally moving his hand off Dean's shoulder, sliding it down his arm and taking his hand. "You stay with me," he ordered. "And don't stop moving no matter what, you hear?"

Dean was far too old to need his father to hold his hand, but there was something in Dad's posture, in his voice that kept him from arguing or pulling away. So he simply nodded his head and said, "Yes sir," and was rewarded with a squeeze of his hand the way Dad used to do when he was young and in need of reassurance.

"Good man," Dad said, giving him an approving smile that was a little shaky on the edges in a way Dean was not used to seeing from his father. "Let's go."

Not letting go of Dean's hand, Dad started them back the way he had come, moving sure and swift, Dean having to almost run to keep up to the pace. There were moving with such urgency that Dean's back between his shoulder blades began to itch and he wondered if he turned around what he would see chasing them.

They made it to the mouth of the cave and out into the night. Dean felt a weird, slightly unpleasant tingling go through his whole body as they passed the cave mouth and he stumbled a couple of steps, suddenly dizzy. But his Dad didn't stop moving, all but dragging Dean for those few steps before he regained his balance. He did squeeze Dean's hand in apology or encouragement before urging them on even faster now that they had moonlight to see by.

Dad didn't let them stop until they were a good deal further down the trail and the cave was completely out of sight. He let go of Dean's hand only to grab his arm again as if afraid if he let go, Dean was going to vanish or run off.

"You all right?" he asked again, searching Dean's face for Dean didn't know what, but it made him tense up as if anticipating the other shoe dropping right on his head.

But he nodded, his eyes searching Dad's face in turn for any clue to what he wasn't being told. "Yes sir."

John stared at his face hard for a long moment then finally seemed to relax as he nodded and let go of Dean's arm. "Do you know how long you were in there?"

"I'm not sure. Couple of hours, I think? I lost track of time when I lost track of the way out." Dean braced himself, knowing this was when he was going to get the "I'm disappointed in you. You disobeyed a direct order," lecture. Not that, in this case, he hadn't earned it.

But Dad just gave him another look Dean couldn't decipher and said, "You were gone a lot longer than a couple of hours, son. It's been-"


Dean had just started to turn in the direction of the half familiar voice when he was barrelled into by another boy, slightly taller than him, who wrapped long arms around him and hugged him as tightly as his Dad had earlier.

"Sammy, let your brother breathe," Dad said.

"Sammy?" Dean stared as the boy pulled back a little sheepishly at Dad's words. Shaggy brown hair, puppy dog eyes staring hopefully at him, the wide smile with dimples, those were things that Dean would recognise anywhere. But this wasn't the almost 11 year old little brother that Dean remembered. This was someone taller than him who looked to be almost the same age he was. But at the same time it was indisputably his brother Sammy.

"Dad," Dean asked faintly, "just how long was I gone?"

"Three years," Dad answered, and with Sammy standing in front of him as proof, Dean had to believe.

That hadn't been a cave, that had been the portal they'd been here to investigate. The one that sucked people in and held them in stasis for years. The one that had apparently sucked him in for years.

"Well crap," Dean said with feeling.



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