Title: Forgettable (and Remarkable So)
Rating: General Audiences
Word Count: 1504
Warnings: Honest to Pete, folks, nothing horrible happens in this one
Characters/Pairings: John Winchester, Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, Impala (Supernatural), Original Character
Beta Credit: Thank you lavinialavender for the lovely beta! All remaining errors are my own.
Summary: John Winchester commissioned the mark off an amateur white witch with a knack for sigils. Folks could see the Impala, get an impression of her, and then wouldn't be able to remember a single concrete detail when she pulled out of sight. It's the reason the Winchesters are so hard to find (and the reason Dean would never change an inch of the Impala).
John Winchester commissioned the mark off an amateur white witch with a knack for sigils. The man was also from a vessel line (though neither of them knew it) and recognized something in John that made him trust when a smarter practitioner would have run.
“I can see what you mean,” he said, ghosting his hand over the Impala’s lean black flank, not quite touching the metal skin. “She’s beautiful, but not exactly unobtrusive.”
“Exactly,” John agreed. “Smart thing would probably be to sell her for a cheap hunk of bolts with a good engine but...Dean! Sit down!”
The witch jumped at the snapped command, more than he would have reacted just seeing the round face of the child who had appeared in the window. “Your kids?”
“Right,” John said, a mix of embarrassment and pride in voice. “That's Dean. I left him back there with Sammy. “
The witch wasn't sure whether John had left his (very young) children in the car because he hadn't trusted they would be safe in the interview with a twenty-something who had turned to the Dark (or at least Grey) Arts, or because he was uncomfortable and unaccustomed to being the sole caregiver. “Your family has lost a lot.”
John took and released a careful breath. “Too much.”
“I think I can figure out something for your car,” the witch said. “Give me a couple days?”
“Sure, take your time,” John said. “We've got no place we need to be.”
The witch had worked with cars his whole life (and had the engine grease beneath his nails to prove it), and had respect for beauty. Before turning to magic, he had valued balance. He still did, but had come to believe that a well-placed mark could bring prosperity where it was deserved, and pain where karma would work too damn slow, and even save a life (maybe someday even the one he had lost). The solution he came up with in the end was elegant and sleek as the Impala herself.
“You don't really want people not to see you,” he told John as he laid out the plans. “Firstly, that would defeat the purpose of having a cool car, and secondly, a car people don't notice is far too likely to end up in a crash, unless you stick to empty back roads for the rest of the life of the vehicle. So this does something very different.”
John craned his head to look at the plans. They were sketchy charcoals over cheap newsprint, but there was something striking about them, about the angles and loops the man had laid over the recognizable frame of the Impala. He had to squint to keep the whole thing in view. “So what does it do?”
The witch grinned. “It makes people forget .”
John looked up to frown at him. “How does that help us?”
Dean moved past their work station in the witch’s small house that doubled as his workshop and garage, talking a mile a minute in a childish babble that neither man paid attention to. He was toting Sammy on his back like a particularly awkward backpack, and presumably the monologue was directed toward his brother. John absently glanced at his children. When he looked back, the witch had the plans folded and he was grinning even wider.
“Can you tell me what they looked like?” he asked, nodding down at the papers under his hands. “Anything at all?”
John thought. He had an impression of...darkness? And clearly they were on paper...but... No matter how he wracked his brain and thought, he couldn't dredge up a single solid fact about the markings (had they actually been markings? Or more like…a design?) that he had seen moments before. “No,” he said slowly. “I have impressions, but...nothing solid.”
Wordlessly, the witch unfolded the paper. The lines were there again, all charcoals and darkness and sweeping almost-characters.
“Huh,” John said.
“It should work for the whole vehicle,” the witch said. “Folks will see the Impala and get an idea of it and remember it existed, but the second it's out of sight, details like make, model, year, maybe even color, will be gone.”
“That could work,” John said.
“The only trick is that you’ll have to carve it into the frame,” the witch said.
John blinked. “I will?”
The witch folded up the plans, and once again John couldn't remember what they had been written in (drawn in?) or the least detail about them. “Unless you want to forget what your own car looks like,” the witch said, “it will have to be your own hands laying the sigils. Are you up for that?”
“Sure,” John said, sounding far from it. “I've worked on a car or two in my time. That won't be a problem.”
They worked together on carving the sigil into the structure of the Impala, and it took two days of sweat and swearing before it was done. The witch never touched the car or the tools with his bare hands (his work gloves were lined with silk, and other things that kept all kind of spells from sticking), and as the process went farther and farther along, it became harder for him to even look at the vehicle.
“I thinks it's good,” he said as John tapped the last tiny mark into the underside of the roof, beneath headliner they had carefully pulled down. “I'm having a hard time remembering what the outside looks like when I'm in it, so I think it's where you want it. Remember, if you ever need to replace a piece, you'll have to re-lay that piece of marking.”
John nodded. He was exhausted but satisfied. He too could feel the level of safety (anonymity) that now cloaked the car.
(If either man had not been a potential vessel, the mark may not have held. Normal folks can use angelic markings, but only those attuned to Angels can actually feel the markings when they work. That makes the laying of the power all the more secure.)
The Winchesters hit the road the next day. John had paid the witch most of what he had, though that was only a fraction of what the sigil was worth. Years later, he tried to find him again, but without success. No one remembered him or anything about him. It was as though he had vanished into John’s memory and existed nowhere else.
John was a little jumpy with the car at first, hyper aware of the magic now etched into her bones, but the boys made themselves at home in the way that small children do. By the time Dean and Sammy were old enough to carve their initials into the back seat of the Impala (right in the heart of one of the larger swirls of meaning), Dean had already made other markings, shoved small toys into places that they shouldn't by all rights be able to fit, and generally made himself a home. The Impala knew and recognized him. When John began showing him how to fix her up, how to replace and jerry-rig and enhance various parts, Dean had already become part of the spell. Like his dad, he could always remember what his baby looked like, sounded like, and felt like in his head.
(Though John didn't realize it, when he showed Dean how to repair the Impala, he also showed him how to renew the sigil on pieces that had become worn out or broken. Dean didn't realize at first that the small marks he carved into every replacement piece weren't a necessary step in the process of fixing a car. There is more than one civilian driver across the continental USA who has a harder than usual time finding their car in a crowded parking lot, thanks to Dean Winchester.)
Sammy, younger, less mechanically inclined (less trusted) than his older brother, never left quite the same mark. Proximity eventually allowed him to remember the Impala (at the very least, he could remember what a black 1967 Chevy Impala was supposed to look like, and knew the particular Winchester vehicle when he saw it,) but he never had the same instinct for the mark, and could never quite hold onto the image of it clearly. When he walked away from John and Dean to go to Stanford, he may not have been able to go back even if he tried.
When the Impala was dented, crushed, or totalled, Dean rebuilt it from grille to tail to be exactly the same, down to the tape deck (which had its own spiderweb of markings), because he knew that car, and the magic she carried, in his bones. When left with the vehicle, Sam changed things (and felt more comfortable for it) because he had never actually been able to see or feel the spell that had allowed them to vanish. He had just assumed that he (his father, his brother, the Impala) weren’t worth remembering.
I learned a new word writing this fic (a case of “There has GOT to be a specific term for that!”) and used one I learned relatively recently, so:
*headliner - that cloth stuff on the top of the inside of a car. This might also include whatever is underneath the cloth. (my casual internet search was inconclusive)
*grille - the front piece of a car that lets air into the engine block. I include this one, because I only recently learned that when you write about cars it has the extra “e” at the end. Technically a different word!