Characters: Sam, Dean
Spoilers: Virtual Season story; VS 2, episode 10
Summary: As a favor to one of John's Marine buddies, the brothers end up hunting a ghost that is haunting a small town. The tables are turned, allies become enemies, and soon Dean is literally buried in his work, Sam his only hope.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
a/n:Thanks for coming back. Hope you enjoy this one… we’re heading down the rabbit hole.
Wayside Inn B&B, early morning
Dean was dreaming.
Sam lay staring at the ceiling of their hotel room, unsure as to what had awakened him. He could hear the rustle of restless legs against coarse sheets and the low, unintelligible mutterings of his brother as he struggled with his subconscious. Sam lay still for another moment, hoping Dean would pull himself out of the dream. It was unusual for Dean to have a nightmare – unusual enough that Sam wasn't sure exactly how to deal with it and keep all of his fingers. That Bowie knife was wicked sharp.
Shifting sideways, he looked over at Dean. His brother was on his stomach, arms shoved under his pillow, face half-buried between the white case and the crook of his elbow. Sam could see his right eye squinted tightly shut, see the brow furrowed in anger or frustration. As he watched, Dean's shoulder jerked as if he'd been hit and his legs shifted roughly against the sheets.
"Dean," Sam said, his voice low and heavy with the remnants of sleep.
Dean's head twitched slightly and his frown deepened.
"Dean. Wake up." Sam made sure to keep his voice a low command, not a plea.
Slowly, as if his lashes were woven together, Dean opened his eyes. Sam could barely make out the green of his brother's irises. Dean blinked twice, then carefully eased his right arm out from under his pillow. Sam saw the hilt of the Bowie knife secured in his brother's grip.
"Time is it?" Dean mumbled and rolled stiffly over to his back, the hand with the knife dropping down beside his sheet-covered leg.
"Uh," Sam craned his neck to check the red digital numbers on the clock radio sitting on the small nightstand between the two beds. "Six."
Dean rubbed his face with a clumsy hand and groaned. "We gotta be somewhere?"
"Not really." Sam sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.
Dean rolled his head against the pillow, working the muscles of his neck with his free hand. Sam noticed that he had yet to let go of the knife. Without looking over at Sam, he grumbled, "What'd you wake me up for, then?"
"You were dreaming," Sam answered honestly.
He watched as Dean stilled. He simply ceased moving, his eyes on the ceiling. His chest didn't even rise and fall with the rhythm of breathing. It was such an unnatural sight that Sam almost called out to him to make him blink, breathe, twitch… something.
Dean saved him from saying anything by folding himself forward into a sitting position, his black T-shirt bunching, the sheets pooling at his waist, covering the boxer-briefs he'd slept in. His hair stuck up in hap-hazard tufts and when he turned to look at Sam, his eyes were puffy and shadowed.
"You want the first shower?" Dean asked.
Sam shook his head in a silent answer, wondering what his brother had remembered in that frozen second. Dean blinked at him a moment more, then shifted his legs out from under the sheets and dropped his feet to the floor. It was only then that he noticed the knife in his hand.
"Huh," he bounced his head once.
Sam watched as he forcibly uncurled his fingers from the knife hilt and reached over to set it on the nightstand next to the clock radio.
"You okay, Dean?"
Dean slid hooded eyes over to him. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Sam lifted a shoulder. "Didn't look like a good dream, is all."
Dean repeated the rubbing motion across his face. Sam recognized pattern: fingers across the forehead, down to the temple, across the cheekbones, ending at the mouth. Dean was working to erase images that were still too vivid in his mind, images that danced across his vision and teased his perception of reality, images that blended and warped and frayed the edges of his heart. Sam knew these images; he'd seen his own version of them often enough over the last two years.
"I'm fine, Sam," Dean muttered, rising to his feet.
He shoved his comforter and blanket, kicked off the bed at some point during the night and now bunched in a pile between the beds, out of his way as he moved toward the bathroom. He reached behind his head, between his shoulders, and pulled the T-shirt off, throwing it on top of the duffel in the corner.
Sam watched him walk away and couldn’t help but wince at the still-fading bruise across Dean's back from his struggle with the last spirit they'd had to salt and burn. With a sigh, Sam stood up and padded over to his laptop, pushing the image of Dean's face caught in a nightmare from his mind. He noticed that Dean had made some notes when they returned from the cemetery last night.
Larry's spirit – where's the body?
Dead kid – Reed's property… find the chick.
Drowning animals, sinking houses, kid in closet – what's the connection?
Sam smiled in silent wonder. His brother never ceased to surprise him. Sam always saw Dean as the action while he was the thought. Shoving a hand through his shaggy hair, Sam gazed up as the light from the morning began to slowly illuminate the dim hotel room. He knew these notes were a sign of Dean's struggle to do the job, to make sure it was done. He knew how badly Dean wanted to be elsewhere.
Sam just didn't feel the same. He was happy being on this hunt, being with his brother, doing what he'd been trained to do, what he knew how to do, what he was good at. He was happy doing the job. If he could block out the countdown that glared from Dean like a beacon, Sam might even be able to forget that he was a walking expiration date.
Glancing over his shoulder when he heard the water from the shower shut off, he knew the first thing Dean would want to do would be to talk to Frank. That conversation had better produce more results than their last one had, or Dean was going to start throwing punches. The knowns in this simple case were outweighed pretty significantly by the unknowns.
"Tell you one thing," Dean said, walking from the bathroom into the hotel room in a cloud of steam, a small white towel clutched in his hand and another wrapped around his waist. "Ol' Frank better shake loose with the facts, or…"
"Why don't you let me talk to him," Sam offered.
Dean reached up with the hand towel and began to rub the water vigorously from his hair. "You gonna use your Jedi powers on him or something, Sammy? You will bring Leia and the Wookiee to me…"
"No," Sam rolled his eyes. "I just think that I could… y'know… connect with him."
Dean tossed the towel toward the bathroom door and turned to his duffel with a look of mock hurt on his face. "What do you think I would do, huh?"
"Seriously?" Sam lifted an eyebrow. "You're not the… connecting type, Dean."
"What are you talking about?" Dropping the towel from his waist, Dean pulled on his boxers and jeans. "I can connect. I connect!"
"Uh-huh," Sam stood and stretched his arms over his shoulders.
Dean dug through the duffel for a clean shirt, pulled out a white T-shirt, smelled it and jerked his head back with a frown. Picking up the black one he'd discarded earlier, he shoved his arms in the sleeves and tucked his head through the hole. Watching him, Sam tried to remember the last time they'd stopped to do laundry. Coming up blank, he walked past Dean and headed to the bathroom, hoping he had some clean clothes in his own duffel.
"All right, Sammy," Dean said, grabbing a green long-sleeved shirt from the bag and shrugging it on. "You go and be Zen with Frank. I'll find the chick with the Falcon."
He reached for his .45, tucking it into his waistband, and flicked the tail of his shirt over the weapon to conceal it. Rolling his neck, he said, "Sooner we smoke this spirit, the sooner we…"
Dean looked up, meeting Sam's eyes. Sam waited, hand on the bathroom doorframe, watching his brother. He saw it – the barest flicker of a shadow, the darkness that had been as close to his brother as gravity since the moment Haris had grabbed Dean. Grabbed Dean and not Sam.
"Dean?" Sam prompted when he didn't continue.
"Forget it." Dean grabbed the Impala keys. "I'll be outside."
Before Sam could say another word, Dean opened the door, stepped through, and closed it behind him with a troubling air of finality.
Sherriff's Station, morning
"You were right."
Frank’s earlier enthusiasm at their arrival had apparently cooled overnight, leaving Sam to wonder if something had happened. Sam pushed the rolled cuffs of his white shirt up to his elbows and leaned forward.
"Looks like your brother's spirit is the thing that's causing the problems around town."
Frank sighed, resting his forehead on his tented hands. Sam waited. It's not every day you hear that the spirit of your brother is killing people.
"You take care of it?" Frank asked, his voice muffled by the position of his head.
"Not exactly," Sam replied, shifting uncomfortably in the hard wooden chair across from Frank's desk.
Frank jerked his head up. "What? You boys had all night!"
Sam raised his eyebrows in surprise. "It’s not that easy, Frank. There are, uh… special circumstances."
Frank drew his brows together in angry confusion. "What circumstances? You dig up the body and burn it, right?"
Sam kept his face carefully blank, masking the utter surprise he felt that Frank knew what was involved in vanquishing a spirit. "Normally, yes," he said. "But, you see… your brother, uh…"
Frank pushed himself to his feet in an almost violent motion, the large chair he'd been sitting on rolling back and hitting the wall with a dull thud. "You just go take care of it. That's what you Winchesters do, right? Take care of things like this?"
Sam narrowed his eyes. "When was it you served with my dad again?"
Frank shifted his gaze to the side, then walked around the desk until he was close to Sam. Pulling at the leg of his uniform, he shifted a hip up on the edge of the desk, and leaned forward on his thigh with one arm.
"Look, Sam," Frank said in a conspirator’s whisper. "I was up most of the night trying to keep my niece from, uh… doing something… well, something she'd regret."
Sam sat back, watching Frank with careful eyes.
"I'm sorry if I've been a bit… off," Frank rubbed a hand through his black hair. "I want to help you, I do. I just… I want this to be over."
Sam pressed his lips together. "Why didn't you tell us the abandoned house that kid was found in belonged to your niece?"
Frank blinked. "I, uh… I didn't think it was important."
Sam nodded once. "Well, if you really want to help, you should let us decide what's important."
Frank sat up a bit straighter, his eyes becoming hard at Sam's tone. Pushing himself away from the desk, he turned to walk over and stand in front of the office window, facing the railroad car diner. He cocked his head to the side.
"Is that your brother's car?"
"Yes," Sam replied, without looking. Dean had parked in front of the diner and headed in for coffee and to wait for him.
"What's he doing over at the diner?"
"Getting coffee," Sam said. "Tell me about the house, Frank."
Frank sighed, looked down and cupped the back of his neck. "It's my brother's house."
"Your brother's house," Sam repeated. "And you didn't think that might be important? You asked us to hunt your brother's spirit, man."
Frank shrugged, still facing away from him. "This isn't easy for me, Sam." He turned around and the look in his eyes when they met Sam's was wounded. "He's my brother."
Sam ignored the sharp, unexpected pain that sliced through his heart at those words, forcing himself to stay on target, stay focused. "He was your brother. He's an angry spirit now, Frank. And he's killing people."
Frank nodded, dropping his eyes. "Reed, uh… she lived there with Lawrence. After he died she… well, she never could go back in there. We locked it up."
"How'd the kid get in?"
Frank shrugged. "Dunno. Window maybe?"
Or Lawrence's spirit dragged him in…
Sam pushed his hands against his thighs and stood. "We gotta get in that house, Frank."
"Reed's the only one with the key," Frank said, looking back out the window.
"How do I find her?"
Frank gestured to the window with his head. "Looks like your brother already has."
Luke's Diner, morning
Dean sat at the counter, the tips of his fingers tapping lightly on the thick rim of the white coffee cup. Luke walked by silently and refilled the half-empty mug for the third time. Dean lifted the corner of his mouth in thanks, appreciating Luke's taciturn personality after the restless night of disjointed, haunting images that plagued what he jokingly referred to as sleep.
Normally, when sleep claimed him it was a complete takeover. It was the one time he allowed himself to surrender. He gave in to the darkness and let his mind drift. But since Riverside – hell, since New Jersey – his mind had been working day and night trying to find his way out of the labyrinth Sam had inadvertently created inside Dean's soul when he sold his own to Haris. For Dean.
It was hard to focus on the hunt – on any hunt, since he'd found out about Sam's deal. It was hard to remember why he was supposed to care about what happened if they didn't stop the spirits and the creatures of the night. It was hard to remember that he was supposed to care what happened to the people they were there to save.
He should have known… the thought echoed through him whenever he allowed himself to pause long enough to breathe. He should have known standing in that motel bathroom in New Jersey, seeing the gold amulet, feeling the silence inside of him. He should have known it wouldn't have been that easy. Nothing was that easy. The amulet was powerful, but if it had been able to get rid of the demon… Dean shook his head, his jaw tight.
If we never go back to New Jersey it will be too soon…
An age-spotted, time-worn hand suddenly rested on the counter under Dean's gaze. He lifted his eyes just as Zeppelin's Nobody's Fault but Mine started to play over the diner's stereo. He looked at Luke, feeling the silent man's eyes on him. Luke blinked, shot his eyes to the speakers in the ceiling, then back to Dean.
"Yeah, man," Dean said softly. "Zeppelin's an old friend."
Luke smiled, turned, and stepped through the swinging doors and into the back kitchen area just as the bell above the door jangled. Dean dropped his chin and looked over his shoulder as Reed Jessup walked in, sans Wiccan books.
"Luke?" she called, brushing her short, dark hair away from her face.
"He's in the back," Dean answered.
Reed rested her large brown eyes on him and Dean felt a familiar pull in his belly that he'd not felt in a long time. Something about this girl had part of his brain drifting to images of tangled sheets and salty kisses, and another part to thoughts of crosses and holy water. Dean held her eyes as Reed darted her tongue out to wet her lips, then walked up to him.
Swinging a long, slim leg over the red leather seat of the bar stool next to him, Reed rested her arms on the countertop and folded her hands as if in prayer. She never took her eyes off him and Dean felt his skin heat up under her scrutiny. Keeping his eyes carefully empty, he waited.
"So," Reed said finally, breaking eye contact and looking down at the white tiled countertop. "You know anything about that beauty hauling your ass around?"
Dean stuck his tongue into the side of his cheek and suppressed a grin.
"A bit," he nodded, picking up his coffee and taking a sip.
"Good," Reed nodded and lifted her head, tilting it to the side and sliding her eyes to his face. "Kinda makes up for the fact that you're getting paid to desecrate my father's grave."
Dean choked on his coffee. "What?"
"Uncle Frank told me," Reed twisted around on the bar stool so that she faced him, putting her back to the door. "The idiot actually thinks that my father's ghost killed that kid."
Dean leaned on the counter with one arm, and rested his other hand on his thigh. "What do you think?" he asked.
Reed squared her jaw. "I think that anyone who even… flirts with the notion that my father could be a killer – spirit or otherwise – is insane."
"You believe in spirits?" Dean asked, his eyes taking in her face, the quick flash of her eyes, the severe set of her mouth.
"I think I'd be a fool not to," she replied.
Her eyes held him; they were full of thoughts yet empty of emotion. He'd become skillful at reading people over the years – knowing if they were lying, if he could trust them, if he could get more out of them, if he could con them, if he could have his way with them.
But Reed, he noticed, hid inside her own eyes.
Dean offered her a grin, one that he'd used countless times on countless women. A grin that had gotten him exactly what he wanted – regardless of what that might be – more times than he could remember. Reed raised an eyebrow, quirking up the side of her mouth, and turned to face the counter.
Dean stayed where he was, enjoying the side view of her as much as the front. She wore a red T-shirt and dark jeans, and when she leaned forward, he could see the top of a tattoo at the base of her back when the T-shirt inched up. She knew he was studying her. He saw it in the subtle way she held herself still, shifting her body slowly as she breathed so that he could better appreciate the tapered waist and long legs.
Dean decided to change tactics. "You seem to recognize a classic when you see one," he said, his eyes trailing up to her face. "1970 Ford Falcon. A beauty."
Reed's shoulders dropped and she looked at him with a genuine smile that lit up her eyes. "Oh, yeah. I always loved that car – almost as much as Pop did."
Not the connecting type my ass…
Her eyes lost focus with memory. "I'd volunteer to wash it when I was younger. He had it ever since I could remember. Taught me all about the engine when I was twelve, taught me how to get it to perform for me when I was sixteen…"
She paused and looked down. "It was my gift when I graduated from college."
"Sounds like he loved you a lot," Dean said softly.
Reed smiled but didn't look up. "Yeah," she nodded. "Yeah, he did. He was a great man, my Pop. I really miss him, you know?"
Dean nodded. He may not have lost his father, but he was gone just the same. And not for the first time, he'd left when Dean needed him most.
"When he gave it to me," Reed chuckled, looking out the window toward the car. "You would have thought he was parting with a child. He was smiling at me and the car with tears in his eyes."
"Treat her right and she'll take care of you forever?" Dean said, his voice rough.
"Kinda, yeah," Reed met his eyes. "How'd you know?"
Dean lifted a shoulder and shifted his eyes behind her as the bell above the door announced Sam's arrival. "Heard something like that once before."
Sam met Dean's eyes. Dean nodded silently at him, you okay? Sam pulled the corner of his mouth up in a quirk of a smile, yeah. Sam shifted his eyes to Reed as he approached. Reed nodded at Sam as he walked past them and dropped down on the other side of Dean. Luke finally emerged from the kitchen and put a cup down in front of Reed first, then Sam. Pouring the coffee, Luke looked at Reed who asked for bacon, eggs, and toast. Luke shifted his eyes to Sam.
Sam looked over at Dean. "You eat?"
"I'm good," Dean glanced back at him.
Sam narrowed his eyes, his expression saying that's not what I asked. Sam looked back at Luke.
"We'll have the same," he said. Luke's eyes slid from Sam over to Dean and a small smile played around his mouth. He nodded and stepped back into the kitchen.
"I know you guys think my, uh… my dad killed that boy," Reed said quietly. "But it's not possible."
Dean began to twist the silver ring on his right hand thoughtfully. "It's hard to say what death does to a soul, Reed." He felt Sam shift beside him, but didn't look at him.
"Funny, that coming from someone who makes a living destroying souls."
"Not souls," Dean snapped. "Spirits. There's a difference."
"If you say so."
Dean pulled his bottom lip in, biting off the sharp retort her words dug from inside of him. "We wouldn't even know they were around unless they did something… well, evil."
Reed turned on her stool and grabbed Dean's arm. He looked down quickly at the small hand with a surprisingly strong grip, then up at Reed's face. Her eyes were hot, her lips trembling.
"Listen," she said, her voice shaking. "My father never did an evil thing in his life. He gave everything… everything to this town, to these people. He died saving the mayor's son, for Christ's sake! Sacrificing himself for the sake of someone else should at least buy him some peace in the next life."
Dean stiffened. He felt rather than heard Sam hold his breath. Lowering his chin slightly, but keeping his eyes on hers, Dean covered her hand and said in a low voice, "I believe you."
She dropped her shoulders. "You do?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah, I do."
She stared at him a moment longer and he felt the pull in his belly spread outward. He was suddenly very aware of how his clothes felt against his skin. He could feel his heart beat against his ribs, feel the rush of blood in his veins. His chest felt tight and he realized he'd forgotten to breathe for a moment.
Luke stepped out of the kitchen, three plates balanced on his arms and Dean jumped slightly, startled. He released Reed's hand and she turned to face the counter. Following suit, Dean caught Sam's stare. His brother's eyes were shadowed with worry. Working to clear the foggy heat from his brain, Dean gave his brother what he thought was a reassuring grin and watched Sam's brow furrow further.
"Thanks, Luke," Reed said. Luke nodded and returned to the kitchen.
"Y'know," Dean said around a mouthful of eggs. "There's one way to find out if your Dad was involved in that kid's death."
Reed held a piece of bacon between two fingers and bit off the end. "How?"
"Check out your house."
"The house where the kid—"
"Oh," Reed dropped the bacon. "I haven't, um… I haven't been back in there since he…"
"You wouldn't have to go in," Dean assured her. "Just let us in."
"How would that help you determine anything?"
Dean glanced over at her. "We have ways. Y'know, special tools."
Reed lifted an eyebrow. "Like what?" she scoffed. "You hear ghosts on your walkman or something?"
Sam coughed. Dean glared at him. "Not exactly," he replied, his eyes still on Sam.
"I'll do it," Reed said suddenly. "I'll let you in."
Dean nodded at her. "Great—"
"But first," she interrupted. "I have to go meet with two clients. I handle the land survey for the county. I can meet you there in an hour… that work?"
"Sure," Dean smiled at her.
She smiled back, finished her breakfast and laid a five dollar bill on the counter. With a glance at Sam, she stood, looked at Dean, smiled, and left the diner.
"Okay," Sam said. "What the hell, Dean?"
Dean sipped his cooling coffee and glanced hopefully toward the kitchen door to see if Luke would make an appearance and refill his mug.
"What?" he asked innocently.
Sam pushed his empty plate away. "You got a thing for this girl?"
Dean pulled his eyebrows together. "No!"
"Then what was all that…"
Dean looked over at him. "I was connecting."
"Uh-huh," Sam sat back. "Seem weird to you that she changed her mind so suddenly?"
Yes. "No," Dean shook his head. "She just wants to prove that her dad's not evil."
"It's not her dad anymore, Dean," Sam pointed out.
Dean pushed his plate back, looking at the two pots of hot coffee directly across from him. Maybe I could just climb over the counter and get some. Luke won't even notice…
"Well, you know that and I know that, but… y'know, normal people don't think like that."
"Frank said that he was up with her all night trying to stop her from doing something she'd regret."
Dean lifted an eyebrow. "Like what?"
"He didn't say." Sam shrugged. "Didn't say much of anything, really."
"That guy's really starting to piss me off," Dean grumbled. Hearing an odd noise, he looked back over at the coffee pots. Did they just… move?
"I think he's covering for someone," Sam said, standing and turning his back to the counter. He rested a hand on his hip and looked out the diner window at the police station.
"Reed maybe?" Sam looked over at Dean.
Dean thought about the conflicting impressions he had of Reed. "I don't know, Sam."
"She did have those Wiccan books," Sam pointed out.
"She seems like she just misses her dad, y'know?"
"You got a thing for her," Sam repeated, and this time, it wasn't a question.
Dean didn't reply.
"Something's not right about that girl, Dean," Sam turned to face him. "She's not like, y'know, Bambi the waitress."
"Bambi wasn't a waitress," Dean said, distractedly. "She was a bartender."
"Whatever. I’m just saying, you can't just have your usual kind of fun—"
Without warning, the coffee pots across from Dean exploded. Dean cried out in surprise and instinctively threw his right hand up in front of his face. The scalding liquid splashed across the back of his hand and tiny shards of glass from the pot slashed his cheek.
"Son of a bitch!"
"Dean!" Sam was at his side in an instant, pulling him away from the counter, pulling his arms down, trying to check his face, his eyes. "Are you okay?"
"Get off me, Sam… ah!" Sam's searching grasp slid over the back of his burned hand. "Shit."
"Sorry, sorry," Sam muttered, reaching for a napkin.
Luke materialized as if from nowhere and handed Sam a wet white towel.
"Thanks," Sam said and began to carefully wipe at the coffee dripping from Dean's hand and face.
"I got it, I got it," Dean said irritably, grabbing the towel from Sam and finished wiping the coffee. "What the hell was that?"
He blinked up at Sam, his face stinging, hand burning. Sam was looking over at the counter, horror etched on his face. Dean followed his brother's line of sight. The wall behind the coffee pots was splattered brown with coffee, the liquid running down the wall, clinging in the shape of two words: I can't.
"Dude, we have definitely crossed over into weird," Dean muttered. He felt something tugging at his arm and looked down. Luke was pulling his right hand to him, turning it over to inspect the angry reddening of his skin.
"I can't?" Sam read. "I can't what?"
"It's okay, Luke," Dean reassured the white-haired man. "We got some—" he hissed as Luke laid two cool fingers gently over the larger welts. "Easy, ah… thanks, thanks man, but really… it's okay." He pulled his hand away from Luke's attempted ministrations.
"Dean," Sam said, still looking at the wall. "We need to find the rest of Lawrence Jessup. Soon."
"Ya think?" Dean snapped, shaking his right hand. "Damn, that stings."
"C'mon," Sam took his upper arm and turned him away from Luke and toward the door. "There's some burn cream in the Impala."
"This is your fault you know," Dean grumbled as they walked out under the bell.
Dean's eyebrows met over the bridge of his nose as he paused next to the trunk of the car, waiting for Sam to retrieve the burn cream. "Let this be a lesson to you, Sammy," he said, raising his hand, the back of it facing Sam. "There are no easy hunts. There are hunts where we kick ass, there are the hunts that kick our asses, and there are the hunts that never end… but there are no easy hunts."
Sam twisted his mouth into a rueful grin as he carefully applied the cream to the back of Dean's hand. "Gotcha. No easy hunts."
"Here endeth the lesson."
Jessup House, late morning
The house looked old, but well-kept, Dean noticed. For not having been lived in for three years, someone was making sure that it didn't fall into ruin. As he shut off the Impala, he scanned the property and saw the dark blue Falcon parked on the other side of the lot.
"Your girlfriend made good time," Sam commented as he opened his door.
"Maybe her clients didn't show," Dean suggested, tugging at the stiffening sleeve of his green shirt. The coffee had dried on the way over and left a large brown stain on his right sleeve and splashed across the front. He reached over the back of the seat and snagged his leather jacket.
"Maybe there weren't any clients," Sam countered. "Maybe she just wanted an excuse to get here first."
Dean gave Sam a look. "To do what, Sam? Erase the EMF? Hide the ghost in her closet? Clean up the ectoplasm from the floor?"
Sam scowled at him. "I'm just saying I don't trust her."
"Yeah," Dean snapped, shutting the car door. "I got that."
Dean headed for the trunk of the Impala, pulled his .45 from its spot in the back of his jeans, and retrieved a rock-salt-filled shotgun. Dropping the .45 into the trunk, he tucked the shotgun into the inside of his jacket. As they walked toward the parked Falcon, Dean caught sight of Reed standing just outside of the back door, arms wrapped around her slim body, eyes fixed on the ground. He turned to shoot a look at Sam over his shoulder.
"Behave," he commanded in a whisper.
"Isn't that usually my line?" Sam whispered back.
"Hey, Reed," Dean greeted her with a swift grin and a salute-like wave.
"Dean! Oh, my God, what happened to your face?" Reed dropped her arms and stepped up to him, her hand reaching out for the tiny slices across his cheek.
Dean pulled his head back and away from her hand. "Nothing, really, I’m okay."
Reed's eyes shifted beyond him and rested on Sam. Dean was struck again by the dual impressions of light and dark that echoed in her eyes. He couldn't decide if he wanted to kiss her breathless or tie her to a chair and throw Latin at her. He looked back at Sam and was surprised to see an answering challenge on his brother's face as he looked back at Reed.
"Okay, uh, yeah," Dean said, stepping smoothly in front of Sam. "You bring the key?"
Reed nodded. "Yeah, but, uh," she looked back at Dean and he felt himself melt a bit at the look of wounded fear that crossed her face. "If you don't mind… I think I'll just stay out here."
"Works for me," Sam muttered. Dean glared at him.
Reed unlocked the door and stepped back. Dean gave her a reassuring smile and stepped inside, followed closely by Sam. The minute Sam shut the door, Dean pressed a hand to his temple. The pressure inside the house seemed to suddenly increase, wrapping iron bands around his head.
"Damn. You feel that?" he asked, noticing Sam was holding his head as well.
Sam nodded. "Feels like… like the air right before a bad storm. Or a tornado."
Dean dropped his hand and looked around. "Yeah," he nodded. "Exactly like that."
"Let's get this over with, man," Sam muttered, pulling the EMF detector from his jacket pocket and flicking it on.
"Where did Frank say the boy was found?"
"Closet," Sam replied, his eyes intent on the red lights illuminating the small device in his hand. "Dean, this thing is wigging out. There's something here, all right."
Dean slid the shotgun out into the opening. "Which closet?"
Sam looked up and shook his head, his face serious.
"Okay," Dean shifted his shoulders. "We'll just check them all."
One by one, they opened each closed door, Sam stepping behind the door, Dean holding the shotgun at the ready, Sam pulling the door open, Dean pointing the shotgun inside. They worked their way through the downstairs, and when they reached the top of the stairs, they encountered the first locked door.
Dean glanced over at Sam, shrugged and started to raise his foot.
"Wait, wait!" Sam brought his hand down swiftly, blocking Dean's entry kick.
"What? What?" Dean stepped back.
"Dude, the door opens out – toward you," Sam pointed to the hinges. "You'd probably just end up jamming your knee or something."
"Huh," Dean looked at the hinges, then over at his brother with a grin. "Eagle Eye Winchester."
Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head. Dean handed him the shotgun, then knelt down, pulling out his lock pick kit. He had the door open inside of a minute. Pulling the door to him, Dean stepped inside. The pastel quilt, school banners, and stuffed animals told them this had obviously once been Reed's room. The bed was in a corner with a window next to it and another window directly across the room from the bed. A dresser and desk were positioned between the two windows.
"Dean," Sam called as he crossed the room to the desk.
Dean stepped up next to him. There were two books left on the desk, one opened to an illustration of a pentagram. Dean narrowed his eyes and peered closer. Each of the pentagram's five points had a word: earth, air, fire, water, spirit.
"I'm thinking Frank's not the only one that's being less than truthful with us," Sam said in a low voice. "Look at this…" He flipped through the book. "There are spells in here, man… real spells."
"For what?" Dean asked.
Sam shook his head. "Glamours, protection… uh, here's one to remove warts…"
"Sounds harmless enough," Dean commented, stepping away from Sam and over to the window.
Looking out, he saw Reed standing at the edge of the property, looking up at the house with a worried expression on her pale face. She had one arm wrapped around her middle and the other tugging on a necklace or charm around her neck. He heard Sam behind him flipping through more pages of the book. Without being really conscious of doing it, Dean began to trace a finger along one of the rectangular pieces of glass in the window.
Content to let Sam dig deeper, Dean continued to watch Reed, trying to figure out what compartment she fit into inside his head. He traced his finger down and to the left. Sam was right, she wasn't like the Saturday night specials he picked up in a bar. He brought his finger back up and to the right. She wasn't an innocent, someone they needed to protect, shelter.
He dragged his finger across the pane and back to the left, then down to the lower right. She wasn't like Cassie, not real, not someone he wanted to let inside of him. He slowly brought his finger back up to where he'd started, his eyes pulling focus from Reed to his hand. She was nothing like Melissa, a kindred spirit. She was beautiful and dangerous. He suspected she could hurt him.
And he wanted to let her.
Dropping his hand, he stared at the shape in fingerprint smudges on the window pane: a pentagram.
Jumping slightly at the sound of Sam's voice. "What?" he asked, turning.
"There's more in this book," Sam looked at him, his eyes serious and scared. "I think that Reed might've—"
Before Sam could finish, he was jerked from his feet and thrown across the room, hitting the wall with a vicious thud.
"Sam!" Dean brought the shotgun up and darted his eyes around the empty room.
"De—" Sam was pulled roughly from the wall before he could complete his plea and ejected from the room, the door slamming shut on Dean's surprised face as he launched himself after his brother.
"Sam! SAMMY!" Dean pounded on the door with the flat of his hand.
He heard a crash and then Sam cried out.
"You son of a bitch," Dean looked up, yelling at the emptiness. "Leave him alo—ah!"
The pressure in the room spiked and Dean dropped the shotgun and grabbed his head. He felt like hands were on either side of his skull, pressing hard in a vice-like grip. "Friggin' spirit…" he groaned, blinking at the door. Opens the right way now… He released his head and with a powerful thrust, slammed his foot into the door.
He bounced back forcefully, landing in an unceremonious heap on the bedroom floor. He felt like he'd jammed his hip up into his shoulder.
"Sammy!" he called when he heard his brother yelling unintelligibly from the other side of the door.
Scrambling to his feet, he rushed the door again, this time throwing his body against it, shoulder first. As he made contact, music blared throughout the room. Dean clapped his hands over his ears, trying to find the source of the noise as the words of the song screamed through his head.
I'm not gifted…Slightly twisted…Try hard try hard…To see if I can push you any further…
He knew this song: Staind's Suffocate.
"What the hell?"
Finding the source – a stereo sitting on top of Reed's old dresser – he swiped at it, knocking it from its perch and silencing it as it broke into pieces on the floor. Bending down and picking up the shotgun, he straightened and whirled to face the door, chambering a round as he did so. Praying Sam wasn't directly on the other side of the door, but knowing the even if he was, the shot wouldn’t kill him, Dean blasted the handle of the door off. Seeing a small opening, he rushed the door again, only to be slammed back by a sudden, vicious blast of cold that pinned him against the desk and ripped the shotgun from his hand.
Blinking as the cold pulled tears from his eyes and crystallized his breath, he looked at the door with confusion. Words began to form on the door in tiny rivulets of water: I can't breathe…
Dean pulled in an instinctive breath, the icy-cold of the air stinging his lungs. He heard Sam cry out again, and this time he could tell what he was saying. Sam was calling him, saying his name… Dean! Dean, get out of there… DEAN!
"I know you can't breathe, you freak!" Dean yelled into the icy air. "You're dead!"
As if someone had pressed a mute button in his head, all sound ceased. He couldn't even hear his own heartbeat. Wrong answer, Dean chided himself seconds before he felt his body lifted into the air as if in slow motion, felt dull pain as the glass of the window gave against the force of his back as it hit, felt the dizzying weightlessness of falling through the shattered glass. He desperately reached out a hand and grasped the window ledge, shards of glass cutting into his palm.
"Ahh!" He screamed in pain, flinging his other hand up and finding a glass-free hold. He looked desperately over his shoulder and saw Reed standing in the same place, in the same position, staring in his direction, but not reacting.
"Reed!" he yelled. He had to turn his head back toward the house. Looking over his shoulder put too much pressure on his right hand; the glass dug further into his already abused palm. "Reed… please."
He heard the outside door slam shut. He glanced quickly over his shoulder. Reed was gone. He heard Sam's voice, then Reed's voice answering him. Feet pounded against the floor inside of the house and Dean closed his eyes. C'mon c'mon c'mon…
"Dean!" Sam's voice was closer, frantic, and the sweetest sound he'd ever heard.
"Sam…" he breathed out his thanks. Lifting his head, he met his brother's anxious eyes. Blood ran down the left side of Sam's face and dripped from his chin. Sam reached out through the window, grasped Dean's upper arms, and began to pull him back inside to safety.
"Easy… I got you," Sam ground out through clenched teeth.
As soon as Sam got him half way through the window, Dean was able to hook his leg over the window sill and haul himself the rest of the way. Sam stumbled backwards, his arms still grasping Dean's upper body, and Dean tumbled forward, reaching blindly out to keep a hold of Sam. They ended up in a heap of tangled limbs on the floor of Reed's old room.
"You okay?" Sam panted.
"Yeah, you okay?" Dean replied, his eyes scanning Sam's bloody face.
"Yeah…" Sam picked up Dean's right hand. "Dean, this looks bad."
"So does that," Dean nodded at Sam's head, wincing when Sam's grip pressed against the burns on the back of his hand.
Reed stepped into the room, her face pale, her hands trembling. Dean pushed against Sam, who pushed back. They managed to untangle themselves and stand up, facing her, waiting. Reed looked around her old room, her face a display of shock and sorrow.
She looked back at the boys. "He… he did this?"
"Think so," Dean nodded.
He felt a tickling sensation on the tip of his finger and looked down. Blood dripped from his middle finger onto Reed's floor. She followed his gaze and stepped forward. Digging into the upper drawer of her dresser, Reed pulled out a light blue cloth scarf and stepped up to Dean. She had it wrapped around his hand before he could protest.
"Reed," Sam said softly. "You know we have to take care of… of your father's spirit."
Holding Dean's hand carefully in hers, Reed kept her head lowered, refusing to meet their eyes. "You don't know it's him. Not for sure."
"We're pretty sure," Dean said, watching her, waiting for her to raise her eyes.
"But the boy…"
"You saw what happened in here," Sam argued. "Your dad's spirit trapped him, killed the boy like he died – made it so he couldn't breathe."
Reed shook her head. "But how did he get in?"
"Doesn't much matter how he got in," Dean said. "It's how he left that's the problem."
Reed raised her eyes at that and Dean felt like he'd been punched in the gut. Hatred, pure and real, flashed through her eyes. The look was quickly erased by one of sorrow, but Dean knew what he'd seen. He knew Sam was right: Reed wasn't an innocent orphan. His eyes cut over to the books on her desk. She knew more than she was letting on.
"What do I have to do?" she asked, her voice low, wary.
"Well," Sam glanced over at Dean. "You're a land surveyor, right?"
"We need a map."
Wayside Inn B&B, early afternoon
"We're wasting time. We should just get over there, Sam."
"We should clean the glass out of that hand."
"Reed wrapped it."
"Dude, does the word 'infection' mean anything to you?"
"Fine, but you're going first."
"Head wounds trump hand cuts, Sammy."
"Fine, but – ah! Easy," Sam pushed Dean's hand away, glaring at him as Dean began to clean the blood from the cut on his scalp. "What are you mad at me for?"
Dean looked at him. "What makes you think I’m mad at you?"
Sam glared at him a moment longer. Dean didn't blink, simply looked back at him. Sighing, Sam relaxed back on the chair as Dean finished cleaning his head, then began to stitch up the cut.
"What did he hit you with?" Dean asked, his mouth tight.
"The stairs," Sam growled. He hated stitches. Hated the hot pinch followed by the tight pull, hated the fevered flush of his skin when they were done. "I think Reed knows."
"What? That her dad's a jigsaw puzzle?"
"Yeah," Sam nodded.
"Hold still, dammit."
"Sorry," Sam gripped the arms of the chair. "I think she might've done it."
Dean shook his head once. "I don't think so, Sam."
"Total gross factor aside, she's not big enough to chop up a full-grown man, then dig multiple graves."
Sam was silent for a moment. "I still think she knows."
"She sure knows something," Dean muttered. "What did you find in that book back there?"
Sam threw out the bloody rags and gathered the supplies to clean Dean's hand. "It was a necromancer spell."
Dean pulled his brows together. "There's a spell for having sex with dead people?"
Sam shot him a look. "That's necrophilia."
"I thought that was when you fall asleep all the time."
Shaking his head and unwrapping Dean's hand, Sam said, "That's narcolepsy. Just shut up and listen."
"Sorry," Dean rolled his eyes and sat back on the bed, holding his hand still for Sam to clean and wrap. He hissed when the hydrogen peroxide hit the open wound and bubbled around the tiny piece of glass that Sam removed with tweezers.
"Think a couple of stitches should do it," Sam said. "Keep your hand flat."
"I know the drill, Sam," Dean grumbled tiredly.
"The necromancer spell brings back the dead," Sam explained. "But… not like… like this. Not a spirit. More like…"
"What, full-on zombie action?"
Sam nodded, then glanced up once at Dean's face, watching the shadowed expression hover in his brother's eyes. For a moment, Sam vividly recalled the actual shadows that he'd once been able to see wrapping around and clinging to his brother like a smothering blanket of doubt and fear. As he stitched Dean's hand, he felt a pit dig into his stomach. Just because he couldn't see them anymore didn't mean they weren't there.
"Why do you think he's doing it?" he asked, needing the conversation to pull his thoughts away from those of darkness and shadows.
Sam nodded. "He was such a good guy, you know? Loved the town, loved his daughter… and for three years, y'know, nothing really bad and now suddenly…"
Dean sighed, his shoulders bowing a bit as Sam applied more burn cream on the back of his hand and then wrapped clean, white gauze around it.
"Maybe he just got tired of being a spirit."
"Come again?" Sam glanced at him, not really aware that he was still holding his brother's hand.
Dean kept his eyes down. "Maybe doing the same damn thing every day, not able to affect the outcome, or to make a difference, having to watch people he loves suffer… maybe that just finally drove him crazy…"
Sam swallowed. "Dean, I—"
Dean’s cell rang, startling them both. Pulling his hand away from Sam and digging the phone out of his pocket, Dean looked at the number. "It's Frank," he said. Flipping it open he barked a quick, "This is Dean," into the receiver.
Sam watched as Dean nodded, his jaw tightening. "Sorry to hear that, man." He paused again, and Sam watched his green eyes turn flinty. "Yeah, well… maybe you should have thought of that when you withheld infor—" Dean's lips pressed thin, and without another word, he clapped the phone closed with one hand, fisting his fingers around the phone and pounding it once against his forehead.
"What was that all about?"
"Larry's been at it again," Dean said, standing up. "There's a railroad museum in town. Bunch of tourists got stuck in a boxcar, couldn't get the doors open..." He pulled off his coffee-stained green shirt and exchanged it for a black and tan flannel. "By the time they did, three people had died."
"What… they suffocated?"
Dean nodded. Turning to regard Sam with guarded eyes he asked, "You think Reed is controlling the spirit?"
Sam lifted a shoulder. "Maybe. She had the necromancer spell. Not like she isn't open to the idea." He chewed on his lower lip, shifting his eyes rapidly in thought.
"Sammy, you're gonna sprain something," Dean said. "Spill it."
"I got an idea."
Surveyor's Office, late afternoon
"I still don't see why a map is going to do us any good," Dean said, pulling up in front of Reed's office and shutting off the engine.
"Just, trust me on this, okay?" Sam shut the car door and hurried up to the office. There was a sign turned to 'closed' in the window, but he ignored it and slapped his hand on the doorframe, yelling for Reed. "Open up, it's Sam and Dean!"
In moments, Reed's pale face and dark eyes peered out at them. Dean heard the lock click and she opened the door, stepping back to let them in. Dean followed Sam inside and looked down at Reed as he passed. She met his eyes and held them a moment. He wasn't able to interpret her expression; she had once again pulled inside of herself.
"I have to go help my uncle with the situation at the museum," she said by way of greeting. Closing the door behind them, she flicked the lock once more. "You can poke around as long as you want."
"You okay?" Dean asked.
She shook her head. "I… I just can't believe it's him. I can't believe he's doing this. I—"
"What?" Dean prompted when she didn't continue.
"Nothing, I guess…" Reed rubbed trembling fingers over her mouth, shifting her eyes between Dean and Sam. "It's just that… I was supposed to be with that group. I run tours at the museum, too. I just wasn't because I was with you guys."
Dean looked over at Sam, who returned his look with a raised eyebrow.
"Go help Frank," Sam said. "We'll be okay."
Reed nodded her thanks, grabbed a bag and her keys, and left via the back door. The door had barely closed when Sam was turning to the long, flat drawers full of maps. Dean watched him for a moment. Sam with an idea of how to solve the unsolvable was always fun to watch. And usually, there wasn't much for Dean to do that wouldn't get in the way.
He began to canvas the office, running his fingers along the spines of books lining the shelves, poking in desk drawers and through stacks of papers. After a moment, he realized he was humming. He stopped when he recognized the tune: Suffocate. Dean shook himself. Creepy, Larry, downright creepy. Stay outta my head…
Sam was moving again, and Dean watched as his brother grabbed a ruler and a pencil, then returned to the map he'd pulled from the top drawer. As Dean wandered closer to Sam, his eyes caught on the books that Reed had carried from the police station the night before.
He picked up the one on top: Elemental Witch: Fire, Air, Water, Earth; Discover your Natural Affinity. Thumbing through the text, he paused at a familiar illustration of a pentagram. Tracing his finger over the lines, he remembered the window back at the Jessup house. He blinked… a pentagram… elements… a spirit haunting a town, and not just a house… Wiccan books…
"Holy shit," he breathed, hearing Sam's voice saying the same thing. He turned to face his brother, seeing Sam had spun to face him. "Sam…"
"Dude, you gotta look at this," Sam said, pointing behind him. Dean crossed over to look down at the map.
It was a topographical map of Ellicott City. Surrounding the town was a pentagram, and connecting each point of the star was either a geographical or man-made symbol of the elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. Sam swallowed audibly, then pointed to the center of the pentagram.
"That's Crest Lawns Memorial Garden, Dean."
Dean's eyes roamed the map. He shook his head. The points of the geographical pentagram were separated by at least five miles each.
"Well," Dean breathed. "I think we might've found the pieces of the Larry jigsaw puzzle."
a/n: Thanks for reading! Part 3 http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/45754.html>