Spoilers: Season 2, set after 2.15, Tall Tales and before 2.16, Roadkill. Anything prior to the first appearance of that darn Trickster is fair game.
Summary: The trickster left the brothers in need of a clean hunt. An explosion turns a routine spirit hunt into anything but clean. Dean must deal with the ramifications, while Sam tries to finish the job and help his brother pick up the pieces.
*music plays on*
Sam dropped into the driver's seat, pulling the door shut and starting the engine. He paused before shifting into reverse, watching Dean look out the side window.
"You could be nicer to him, you know," he said, aware that Dean wouldn't absorb his words. "He's just trying to help."
Dean didn't move. Sighing, Sam pulled from the lot and headed in the direction of the Cooper house, passing the garage where Sadie worked, the bar she mentioned in passing, the police station, the grocery store, the library. The unnatural quiet of the car felt like water pressing down on him, filling his lungs and making breathing a challenge.
"Y'know, Dean," he said, just to reassure himself that he could still speak, that he could still hear himself, that he wasn't lost. "This doesn't have to be all you have. You could have a different life."
He glanced at his brother, who sat stubbornly leaning against the window, lips tight, body clenched. Bobby's words filtered back to him, about being an old married couple. They spent so much time together they knew the rhythm of each other's breath. He knew of no other siblings that lived such a co-dependent lifestyle.
"You could have a different life," he repeated softly, "but you don't want one. Do you?"
The constant threat of death was a factor, as was the manner in which their father had chosen to raise them. Sam sighed, rubbing at the back of his neck as he'd seen Dean do so often. The burden of responsibility came with a high price to the only lives they were ever going to have. And with that consistent proximity to each other, annoyances were easily shifted away and in their wake came an almost telepathic understanding.
Dean could read him. Better than anyone. And in this moment when Dean was cut off from everyone and everything, their link, their comprehension, their brotherhood could bring him peace.
Sam reached over, gently resting his hand on Dean's shoulder so as not to startle him. Dean jerked slightly, but turned his head to face Sam. His eyes seemed to fill his face, his freckles standing out like markers to the truth, his lips tight and serious, his worry evident.
"I'll be careful," he said.
"You bet your ass you will," Dean replied, his voice like that of an old record, scratchy but solid, the music faded but still present. "And don't think I'm gonna make a habit of waiting in the damn car."
"I mean it, Sam."
"I know you do."
"Can't believe I friggin' agreed to this…"
Sam pulled up behind Mike's blue truck; the sight of George's gutted house in the metallic light of mid-day melted the ice of worry into a churning mass of dread in Sam's belly.
"Yeah?" Sam looked at his brother.
"Dad's journal said that the body of a restless spirit can roll over in its grave if its message is… like… not received."
Sam looked back at the burned-out house. "Yeah," he sighed. "That's what I was afraid of."
The brothers stepped out of the car, shutting their doors in unison. Dean moved around the front of the car, leaning against the front quarter panel, tucking his fingers into the front pockets of his pants, and waited. Sam scanned the blackened shards of wood and barely-there walls for any sign of George or Wren.
He turned at the sound of his name, seeing George leading Wren toward them from the garage that still stood, several feet separate from the house.
"Yeah. Hi, George."
"Bring your brother with you?"
"And Mike," Sam nodded at the other man as he climbed out of his truck.
"Wren and me have been trying to save some of our stuff," George said, leading Wren to the truck until she was able to put her hand out and find her parameter. "Not much left, 'cept my memories, I'm afraid."
"George," Mike said, his deep rumble gentle as he tried to help Sam break the news of their real reason for coming. "We need to take a look around inside the house."
George frowned. "For what?"
"Uh… EMF," Sam said.
"Come again?" George tilted his head, confusion plain in his smoky eyes.
"I've been looking in to your problem, and, well," Sam looked at Dean who simply shrugged. He had no idea what Sam was looking for. "I think there might be something in your house that… wants to… hurt you."
George laughed, then sobered when he saw that Sam was serious. "Something in the… house?"
"It's not any crazier than hearing your song, or thinking your wife is haunting you," Sam protested.
"Camy wasn't haunting," George protested. "Don't make it sound… wrong. She was trying to tell me something. Something she never got to tell me that Sunday."
"I think the thing she might've been trying to tell you had something to do with the house," Sam persisted. "It won't take long, I promise."
George studied him carefully for a moment. Sam licked his lips in anticipation. If George didn't go for this, they'd just have to come back in the night and check it out…or…not.
He looked over at Dean, taking in the unnatural stillness of his brother's stance, the disconcerting quiet coming from his normally garrulous brother. It felt wrong to move through this hunt as if Dean had suddenly reverted back to childhood, incapable of searching out facts, defending himself.
Maybe we just leave… let Dean recover. Maybe we don't have to fix this one, he thought.
"Okay," George said finally. "We'll go, but Wren stays out here with your brother."
"Fine," Sam nodded, turning to get the EMF reader from the trunk. Dean followed him, frowning.
"You're going in?" Dean asked, his voice carefully level.
"Yeah," Sam nodded. He looked up. "Wren's staying with you."
"What?" Dean's hand launched out and gripped his arm. "No, Sam, don’t you leave me with her."
Sam pulled his head back in confusion. "What's your problem, Dean? She's just a girl—a blind girl."
"She… no, she's… there's something… she just shows up… and she touched my face…" Dean looked over at where Wren stood, leaning against Mike's truck, her porcelain face serene. "She's… not right."
Sam rolled his eyes, shutting the trunk. "Well, we'll just have to live with that for now. Be good."
"Bite me," Dean growled as Sam walked away.
Sam shot a look back over his shoulder, the image of Dean leaning against the black skin of the Impala, arms crossed, face dark with frustrated anger, seared into the backs of his eyes.
I'm so going to get his ass kicked for this one.
They crossed the lawn three abreast, George between them, stepping over mangled pieces from his house, blackened from the blast, soggy from the attempts to assuage the blaze. Sam recognized picture frames, dishes, pieces of books, lamps, burned remains of Wren's wind chimes. He stepped carefully across the entrance, heeding George's warning about the weak boards, and moved into the skeleton of the home.
The smell of wet ash permeated his nostrils as he made his way through the chaos. With each step, Sam swore he heard odd echoes of voices, memories of times spent in the house. Another smell assaulted him as he reached the back of the house: death and rot. It was an odor he was unfortunately familiar with and would not soon forget.
The back of the house remained oddly intact. The kitchen had been located at the front, blowing out the main room and some of the upper floor, but leaving the back bedrooms, the mudroom, and George's den. Mike and George spoke quietly about the destruction they were seeing; Sam let their voices fall to background noise as he moved the EMF meter through the house, eyes intent on the gauge.
As he reached the den, the meter spiked, its harsh scream drawing the attention of Mike and George.
"What the hell?" Mike hurried over. "Is it… dying?"
"There's some supernatural activity around here," Sam explained, following the strength of the reading to the far, upper corner of the room. "What's above us?"
"Bedrooms," George said in a dreamy voice, the broken body of a carved bird from the wind chimes held delicately in his hands.
"I need to get up there." Sam turned and pushed past Mike to exit the room.
"Sam, wait!" Mike called. "The stairs are gone."
"Then, I'll climb up."
"With that hand?" Mike shook his head, grabbing Sam's shoulder. "I don't want to stitch it again."
Sam rolled his eyes. "My hand is fine. Just… boost me up."
Mike lifted an eyebrow. "Boost you up. You do realize you're about four inches taller than me."
"You boost me up," Mike countered.
They both looked up at the bottom of the landing hovering about a foot over Sam's head. Sam sighed. He needed to get up there and check out the rooms—explaining the EMF meter to Mike wasn't a viable option for him right now.
"Listen, I need to see what's causing this reading," Sam explained. "Just help me up, I'll check it out, and we can go."
"I'm coming with you," Mike declared.
"I swear, you're as stubborn as my brother," Sam muttered, joining Mike in looking around for something to stand on.
"Yeah? Well, I think I'll take that as a compliment," Mike grabbed a chair. "George, hold this thing."
George moved over as if in slow motion, his eyes distant. "You hear that?"
Sam and Mike looked at him quickly. "What?" they asked in unison.
"The music. It's her, it's Camy," George looked slowly around the ravaged room, humming.
"George…" Mike stepped up to him, snapping his fingers in front of George's eyes. "Hey, George, you with me?"
"I'm standing right here, aren't I?"
"I don't hear anything, man," Mike said softly, placing a hand on George's shoulder.
George looked at his friend's face, his sadness suddenly so palpable that Sam took a step back. He felt instantly swamped by grief, his limbs pulled low, heavy with loss. His heart slowed, pounding out a tattoo of regret, his skin ached with the need to be touched, the knowledge that it was never going to happen again. A voice in his head wept.
"We are spirits clad in veils…"
Mike shot a look over to him, his black eyes snapping with anger born of confusion. "What was that?"
George, too, blinked, dropping the broken wooden bird, staring at Sam. "What was that?"
Sam felt his knees give way as the room spun in a lazy circle around him, his breath returning in a great rush, sparks dancing at the corners of his eyes. "What. The. Hell?"
He blinked, clearing his vision. His stomach rolled slightly and he clamped his lips tight against the threat of sickness.
"What was that about… veils?" Mike asked, moving toward him.
"You heard it, too?" Sam asked, pushing himself carefully to his feet and resting his back on what was left of the wall.
"Heard it?" George stepped forward, reaching for Sam's arm. "You said it, Son."
"I said it?" Sam squeaked.
Mike nodded. "Right after you went about three shades of gray."
Sam shivered. "We gotta get up there," he declared. He pushed away from the wall, wavering. "In a second."
"What was that you said, though?" Mike persisted.
"How the hell should I know?" Sam shot back.
"It's the inscription on Wren's locket," George revealed.
Sam and Mike looked at him. "Huh?"
"When Wren came to us, she had been staying at a group home since the accident. The only things she brought with her were the clothes on her back and a locket. It was empty inside, except for that inscription."
"What does it mean?" Sam asked, looking down at the broken glass and pieces of charcoaled wood beneath his feet. The knees of his jeans were dusty black from the soot.
"She said she didn't know," George shrugged. "Talking about her family and the accident always upset her, so Camy and I just let it go."
Mike looked at Sam, who returned his look. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"
Sam lifted an eyebrow. If the rich-voiced PA standing in front of him had been a bow-legged, green-eyed hunter with a smirk to match the cocky expression in his eyes, Sam's answer would have been an unequivocal yes. "Well, that depends. You thinking we need to check out those rooms?"
Mike frowned. "Well, yeah, but… I was also thinking that Camilla knew something about Wren's parents—she said she had something to tell George right?"
"Don't jump to conclusions," Sam advised. "Dean's always doing that. We can't just act on gut instinct alone—we need to check stuff out, first."
He climbed up on the chair, releasing his hold on the wooden furniture when he felt George balance the rungs.
"Oh, so you're Scully and he's Mulder, that it?" Mike said, supporting Sam's legs as he reached for the ledge.
"Why is that the first place everyone goes?" Sam wondered aloud, his voice straining as he stretched with his good hand to reach for the ledge and pull himself up.
"You gotta admit," Mike said, working to boost Sam's bulk upward, puffing along with Sam as he leveled his chest on the landing and wiggled up and over. "Your job's just not mainstream."
Sam took a breath, then leaned over to reach down for Mike's hand. "Mainstream like…" he grunted as he worked to pull the solidly built man up next to him. "A black cowboy that works as a PA and a Justin Healer?"
Mike rolled to his back to catch his breath. "Yeah," he panted. "Mainstream like that."
"You ready for this?"
"Dude, only Bill Murray would be ready for this," Mike pushed himself to his feet.
Sam chuckled. "Too bad Dean can't hear you," he commented. "He'd like you."
"He'll be okay, Sam," Mike assured, his caretaker instincts taking over as Sam felt the frown deepen on his face. "Some things just take time."
"Right," Sam breathed, wrinkling his nose against the stench that hit them from all sides as they moved precariously down the tattered hall. "Hey, George!"
"You guys have any pets?"
"Pets? No… no pets."
"You smell that?" Sam asked Mike, his answer obvious in the grimace on Mike's face. "Something died up here."
The EMF reader bounced a bit as they moved forward, spiking suddenly in front of the first relatively unmarked door. Sam turned to face the door, watching the needle bury itself in the red. He lifted an eyebrow in Mike's direction.
"You know whose room this is?"
Mike shrugged. "You got me."
Sam tried the handle. Locked. He dug into his coat pocket and brought out a lock-pick kit.
"Why don't you just kick it open?" Mike wondered.
"Okay, now you're starting to scare me," Sam mumbled, pick held tight in his lips. "We don't know what's on the other side of this door—think maybe kicking it in might send the wrong message?" He lifted his eyes to Mike, watching him shrug in response.
The click of the lock triggered Sam's nod of satisfaction. He tucked away the kit, then stood, squaring his shoulders. He glanced sideways at Mike, suddenly wishing desperately that the eyes that met his were green, not dark brown. The family business meant both of them, no matter how much they annoyed each other, no matter what promises they were forced to make, no matter what future might be waiting for either of them.
They had to be in this together, or not at all.
"Here goes nothing," Sam said, turning the handle and opening the door carefully.
The smell of death wafted out and around them like a live thing, causing them to gag and cover their mouths. Sam's eyes watered as he pushed the door all the way open. The room was sparsely decorated: bed with a white eyelet cover, dresser, empty desk. The windows were curtainless, the closet stood open, only a few pairs of pants were hanging on the hangers.
And covering the floor were the bodies of dozens of dead birds.
Dean watched Sam disappear into the house, trying to pin his gaze to his brother's blue shirt.
This is wrong. All of it. I need to be in there…
He could smell the ash from the extinguished fire, the dirt embedded in the tires of the vehicle beneath him, the distinctive scent of fresh-mown grass from somewhere nearby. When he focused, he realized he could even smell grease, motor oil, the tang of WD-40… and, he swore that the stench of manure wafted from the back of Mike's truck.
Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Wren slide slowly along the bed of the truck, her hands spread out to feel her way toward him. He felt his body tighten in response—and not in the places he usually found himself responding to women. There was something about her hands, her touch, something about how she'd traced his face that had curled the edges of his heart, collapsing his lungs against his ribs.
He didn't want her to touch him again. Watching her advance, he moved as quietly as possible toward the trunk of the Impala, away from her. He didn't register the stick he cracked until it rolled under his foot. Looking down, he cursed.
Wren's mouth moved, as if she were calling to him. He sighed. The pressure behind his ears grew and he rubbed carefully at his jaw, trying to soothe the ache.
"I'm right here. Let's just… hang out okay?"
Translation, you stay with your truck, I'll stay with my car. We'll… just stay nice and… aw, shit, you're gonna come closer, aren't you?
Wren cautiously crossed the short empty space between the vehicles, her doll-like fingers dancing along the edges of the Impala's black shell in a soft staccato beat, searching for him. Dean forced himself to hold still, to not back away from a slip of a girl who was just searching for a way not to be alone in the darkness that surrounded her.
A small piece of him yearned to reach back to her, to tell her that he was starting to understand what it felt like to have a piece of himself cut off, to feel removed from his life, from his world, from the only things that mattered to him. He wanted to tell her that he, too, knew loss and loneliness.
But the part of him that worked overtime to protect those he loved from the serrated edge of his real feelings refused to back down. He turned guarded eyes to her sightless ones, pulling himself close, drawing in his belly, separating himself without moving.
"Listen, Wren… I, uh, I know this has gotta be hard for you and everything, but," he paused as she stiffened, her mouth moving hesitantly.
He focused on her lips, trying to draw in what she was saying as he seemed to so easily be able to do with Sam. It was simply movement without meaning. He comprehended nothing.
She continued to talk, though, her hands flitting from her sides like faerie wings, conveying something he was sure she found important. He felt a throb in one of the cuts on his forehead as a soft wind picked up, tossing the scent of sweat and death his way. He frowned, looking over at the house at the same time as Wren.
The trio that had disappeared inside the house had yet to reappear. He wanted to call out to his brother, to check on him, but knew it was a wasted effort as anything Sam said back would be lost to him. Tightening his lips against his teeth, he kicked at the ground, digging the toe of his boot into the grass.
Friggin' waste of time… I should be doing something. Anything.
His eyes roamed the outside of the house, following the line of damage from the blast. It was as if the structure had exhaled, blowing bits of itself across the yard like a bad Animal House, John Belushi imitation. Oddly, there were flowers intact along the side of the house that remained standing. White flowers, tall with a lily-like bud.
He tilted his head, frowning. A memory skittered along the back of his mind, teasing him. Images from his father's journal, flashes of voices from his past, teaching him, showing him, warning him. He stared harder and realized belatedly that the voices he thought were memories seemed to be getting louder, echoing in the hollow space inside his ears, reverberating harshly in the damaged acoustics within.
He flinched, looking away from the flowers, leaning on the Impala. The voices grew in strength, blending, twisting, spiking. He groaned, pressing his hands flat against his ears, futilely trying to block out a sound that came from within. The ache grew until his neck cracked from the pressure, until his groan turned into a helpless cry of pain, until he felt the small pebbles of the driveway dig into the knees of his jeans as he collapsed.
A cool hand caressed his forehead.
"We are spirits clad in veils…"
"Son of a bitch!" Dean jerked away from Wren, stumbling, falling to his rear and pushing gravel into tiny piles with the heels of his boots as he moved back.
Wren advanced, her face fisted in what could, to Dean, be either worry or regret. She reached for him, her mouth moving. Dean glanced to the house, his eyes catching on the flowers again, and suddenly, he knew.
"Get back," he panted, swallowing the taste of tin and salt that seemed to flood his mouth. "You just… just get the hell away from me."
Wren stepped closer, a smile quaking at the corner of her small, pink mouth. Desperate, Dean licked the sweat from his upper lip and scrambled back further, reaching with a clumsy grip for his back waistband.
"Get back," he shouted, pulling his gun and aiming it at Wren's chest. She froze as the muzzle touched her, lifting her graceful fingers to the weapon, sliding them along the barrel, then back toward his grip.
"I'll fuckin' do it, I swear to God," Dean said, his voice dangerously low.
Wren's lips tipped down into a frown, and as Dean watched, she shifted her eyes, looking directly at him, all blankness gone. He gasped at the unexpected sensation of being seen.
"Enosis," she said, and Dean felt the word slip from her lips and bury itself in his wounded ears before all sound, all meaning, all balance was lost.
All that was left was pain.
He thought the birds were horrifying, until he emerged to see his brother pressing the barrel of his gun against a blind girl's chest.
His shout went unnoticed—even by Wren. Breaking away from the shocked faces of George and Mike, Sam loped across the yard. He reached the pair just as Wren spoke.
"Enosis," she said.
Sam skidded to a halt, feeling himself reel. He was overwhelmed by a sudden sensation of floating—not unlike the spell in the house—and was smacked with vertigo. One moment he was standing next to Dean and the next he felt himself step aside, riding on the high of the dizzying sensation. He wanted to breathe, knew that was what he should do, but the rush was too much.
A cry of pain shook through him as effectively as if someone had grabbed his shirt and wrenched him free from darkness. He staggered forward, his unbalanced weight hitting his brother and knocking him into the side of the car, the .45 tumbling free of Dean's grasp.
"Dean," Sam gasped, realizing the strangled scream had come from his brother. "Hey, take it easy," he tucked his wounded hand under Dean's bicep, wrapping his other arm around his brother's back, and pulled him away from Wren.
"What the hell is going on?" George demanded, gathering up a now-trembling Wren. "Why was he pointing a gun at you?"
Wren turned to face George, the tracks of her tears reflecting in the dying light of the late afternoon sun.
"I-I don't… I don't know…" she sobbed. "I just wanted him to know… know he wasn't alone…"
Dean struggled out of Sam's grasp. "Get off me," he growled, keeping a hand pressed to his head. "Let me go, Sam!"
Sam fell back, no match for Dean's will. He grabbed the gun quickly and shoved it in his waistband before Dean could, meeting his brother's stone-faced stare squarely.
"I want an explanation for all of this!" George demanded.
Sam sighed, tenting his knees, and dropping his hands in the empty space between his legs. "I know you do," he said. "But I don't have one right now."
"I mean… Camy's song, dead birds in Wren's room, my house is gone…"
George's voice cracked as the weight of his loss began to crush him.
"C'mon, George," Mike spoke up. "Let me get you and Wren back to the hotel, rest up a bit."
"Not until I find out why he," George pointed a shaking, age-spotted finger at Dean, "was pointing a gun at my girl."
Dean was staring at Sam, his back to the Impala's door, unnaturally still. Sam looked from George to Dean, then back. The unanswered questions swirled around them like a miasma of guilt and frustration, secrets slicing through the fog and twisting truth into lies.
"I'll talk to him," Sam promised. "I'll find out."
"When you do," George said, reaching into his pocket. "You come get me." He tossed a key at Sam, who plucked it from the air. "I want a goddamn explanation."
Sam nodded, then pushed slowly to his feet. He met Mike's eyes. There was something lingering in his gaze. "What?" Sam asked.
"He knows something," Mike said softly, not looking at Dean, but it was clear to Sam who he was referring to. "Doesn't he?"
Sam lifted a shoulder, looking back at the house. "I sure hope so."
"You call me if you, uh," he glanced at Dean, then back to Sam. "If you need anything, okay?"
Sam nodded, shaking Mike's hand. He stood still as George and Wren climbed into Mike's truck. As Mike fired up the big diesel engine, George turned in his seat. The look in his eyes was like a knife in Sam's heart.
"I need a beer," Dean said from his perch on the ground next to the Impala.
Sam glanced down, shaking his head. "You need to start talking," he said, making sure Dean 'heard' him.
"First things first, man," Dean sighed, using the Chevy to stand. "Don't argue. Just drive."
He looked at Sam a moment longer, long enough for Sam to sigh tiredly and admit to himself that it had been a helluva day.
"Sadie's place," Dean replied.
Dean rolled his eyes slightly. "Don't you ever listen? Judo. That club she works at." He moved around to the passenger side of the car muttering with a shake of his head, "The garage…"
Lifting his lips in a sassy snarl, Sam mimicked Dean's words, then dropped into the driver's seat.
"What do you—" he started, turning to face Dean.
Dean ignored him, looking out of the window.
"Fine," Sam snapped, flipping the car around in a spray of gravel and heading for the bar.
Thoughts pin balled in Sam's head hard and fast, making his eyes ache and his jaw tight. He was tired from what, to him, felt like carrying the hunt and caring for his brother. Glancing at Dean, Sam felt guilty for his thoughts the moment they surfaced, knowing that if the situation was reversed, Dean would shoulder the responsibility without complaint.
It was simply what he did.
The noise of the bar fell around Sam like a blanket of protection, giving them space to talk alone in a crowd of people. He didn't recognize the song blaring loud enough to be heard over the dozens of conversations creating a buzz in the room, but he knew the voice. Someone was an Alice In Chains fan. He was only sorry Dean couldn't hear it. His habit of tapping his fingers against his leg to the beat of a song inside or outside of him as a way to focus his thoughts had always driven Sam crazy.
Until it was gone.
"As of now I bet you've got me wrong, so unsure you run from something strong…"
Sam plucked Dean's sleeve, leading him through the crowd of tattooed bikers with bandanas covering their graying hair, college-aged pool hustlers, business men with loosened ties and unbuttoned collars, and lonely women with too-short skirts and too-low tops.
They settled side-by-side at the bar, leaning their elbows on the edge and curling their shoulders forward in unison. Sam ordered two beers from the white-haired bartender who looked like he'd missed one meal too many. Sam found himself scanning the man's waist for weapons, then glanced at Dean to see he was doing the same.
With pints in hand, the brothers turned to face each other.
"Wren's not what you think she is."
"She's not a blind girl who lost her parents?" Sam frowned, noting the what not who in Dean's statement.
"No," Dean sipped his beer, looking quickly around the bar as if searching for someone.
Sadie, Sam realized. Wounded or not, Dean was not one to pass up an opportunity like that.
"What do you think enosis means?" Sam asked suddenly, watching Dean's eyes widen.
"You heard that?" Dean asked.
Sam nodded. "Something weird happened in the house, too," he turned back to the bar, lost in thought. He almost began talking again before Dean tugged on his arm, pulling him back around. "Sorry," he sighed, then, careful to speak slowly and clearly, folding his lips around every word, he told Dean about the birds and what he'd apparently said while exploring the house.
"Dude," Dean said, rubbing his forehead. "I've heard that twice now."
"Yeah, heard it. Like a… a voice inside my head. Both times when Wren touched me."
Dean folded his hands up in a shrug. "There's something else."
"Of course there is."
"Someone planted oleander around the house."
Sam choked on his beer. "What?"
"Oleander—it's a flower, Sam."
"I know what it is," Sam replied, wiping his upper lip with the back of his hand. "Question is, how do you know what it is?"
"What? I can't have layers?" Dean rubbed harder at his head, then rolled his neck. "The friggin' thing's poisonous, Sam. Witches use it. Think Dad wouldn't have taught me how to recognize it?"
Sam had to give him that, frowning as Dean's effort to rub his pain away started to leave red marks on his skin and pulled at the cuts on his face. He wanted to push Dean's hand away.
"So… oleander," Sam dipped his chin to catch Dean's eyes. "What are you thinking?"
"I think someone poisoned the old lady," Dean sighed. "Triggered that heart attack."
"You think it was Wren?"
Dean's eyebrows raised in inverted V's. "Who else, Sam? She just… shows up and four weeks later, Camilla dies? The same day she told George she had something to tell him?"
"That could have been anything, Dean," Sam hissed, turning away again.
"Why are you so hot to defend this girl, man?"
Sam faced him. "Why do you want to crucify her?" He snapped on a heated breath. "She's been traumatized, Dean. She watched her parents die. That does something to you."
Dean's eyes darkened and a wall slammed between them so fast Sam almost gasped.
"No kidding," Dean replied.
Sam began to rub his own head, the direction of the conversation building pressure behind his eyes. "I just don't think it's her, is all. I just… I get a feeling about her."
"Me too," Dean snapped. "And maybe my feeling isn't influenced by her damsel-in-distress act that seems to be doing a pretty good number on you."
"Maybe your feeling is colored by the fact that she's dealing with her issues and you can't," Sam returned, regretting it the moment it was out of his mouth, but unable to pull it back.
Dean stared at him a moment, then turned away. Sam put a hand on his shoulder, but Dean shrugged it off.
Sam turned at the female voice.
"Hey," Sadie grinned. "I wondered if you two would show up!" She shimmied up to the bar on the other side of Dean, drawing his eyes and an automatic grin.
"Hey there," he said, finally noticing her.
"Damn! What happened to you?" She frowned, her large eyes taking in the cuts and bruises on Dean's face. Sam saw her run her tongue across her bottom lip in an unconscious gesture, as if the sight of his brother's wounds made her mouth dry.
"We were caught in that explosion at the Cooper's," Sam explained.
"Oh, no way!" Sadie shot her eyes to Sam, then back to Dean. "Oh, man, that's awful!"
"Yeah," Sam nodded, sipping his beer. "Dean got a pretty back concussion… can't really hear things all that well right now."
Sadie reached up and traced a finger down the edge of Dean's ear, her lips dipping in an attractive pout. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
Sam was surprised. Part of him expected her to yell. She kept her eyes on Dean and Sam saw his brother's grin turn slightly feral as he watched her.
"I'll, um… go… over, uh, yeah, there," Sam turned on his stool and found the jukebox with his eyes. "Gotta be something other than AIC on that thing, right?"
"Don't bet on it," Sadie said, not taking her eyes from Dean's face.
Sam tugged Dean's sleeve. "You gonna be okay?"
Dean lifted a brow. "Some things don't require words, Sammy."
Sam sighed, then ambled toward the jukebox. Leaning his forearm on the clear glass cover, Sam scanned the CDs in Judo's collection. Sadie had been right. Sighing, Sam continued to click through, searching for something he recognized, something that didn't make him think of Dean behind the wheel of the Impala screaming lyrics at the top of his lungs while he beat time against his legs. Something that gave him some idea how they were going to move forward from this point.
"Curtis, you dick!"
Sadie's infuriated scream grabbed his attention just as he finished selecting the Eagles' Seven Bridges Road. He whirled, scanning the suddenly quiet crowd for the brunette's small frame, and, more importantly, the location of his brother.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Sadie continued.
Where is Dean? Sam's heart cried out. The lack of his brother's commanding voice echoing Sadie's sentiments turned him cold and he began pushing through the crowd to get back to where he had been.
"Yer mine, Sadie," another voice slurred. "E'body knows that."
"Dean?" Sadie said, and Sam broke into a sprint, shoving two large bikers aside.
"Oh, shit," Sam breathed when he broke upon the scene. Dean lay on the ground, face-down, blood covering his right shoulder and neck. "Dean?"
Sam went to his knees next to his brother, avoiding what looked like broken glass and spilled beer, rolling him over carefully. "Oh, man," he breathed. He looked up at Sadie. "What happened?"
Sadie was crying, wiping at her nose with the back of her hand. "Stupid asshole," she looked up at the stocky man weaving unsteadily above them. "Thinks I'm his freakin' girlfriend which I'm not!" She yelled up at Curtis. "Came at Dean with a bottle, broke it across his neck. Dean didn't even hear him coming."
"Dammit," Sam cursed himself. He pressed his hand against the cuts on the back of Dean's neck, staunching the warm spill of blood, trying not to move him too much. Patting his brother's cheek, he called his name, his heart climbing slowly up in his throat at the paleness of Dean's features.
"Aw, God," Dean groaned, his face fisting with pain. "What the hell…"
"Take it easy, man," Sam said, though Dean's eyes were closed. "You got some pretty bad cuts here."
"All I did was kiss the girl," Dean muttered weakly, blinking bleary eyes up at Sam. "Did… did she… hit me?"
"No!" Sadie exclaimed.
Sam shook his head, encompassing both Sadie and Dean with the motion. "Forget it. Let's get you out of here."
"You can't move him!" Sadie protested. "I'm going to call an ambulance."
"No!" Sam echoed her earlier vehemence. "I'll, uh, I got him. We know a doctor."
"Sam." Dean's voice was strained. "Feel… sick."
"Hang on, man," Sam whispered, gathering Dean up against his chest and bracing his feet. "Just hang in there." Dean was limp, almost dead weight in his arms.
Rising to an unsteady stance, his brother's blood staining his hand and running down his arm and Dean's back, Sam gripped his brother tightly and moved them forward, Dean's feet dragging sluggishly with every other step.
"Sam?" Sadie called back uncertainly.
"We'll be fine," he replied tightly as they stepped into the cool of the night.
"You jerk," Sam heard Sadie snarl at Curtis.
"The beads represent the Trinity. You know what the Trinity is, Dean?"
I shrug, clueless. "Some witches coven?"
Pastor Jim closes his eyes briefly and I recognize the measured look of patience that Dad often gives to Sam. I frown.
"Don't make me guess," I say.
"It's the Holy Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Three parts of one," Jim replies.
"Huh," I say. "Like Dad, Sammy, and me."
Jim chuckles. "Yeah, kinda like that. These three beads represent three parts of a whole. All are needed to be complete; without one, the other two are weakened, or are forced to change in order to balance."
I nod, waiting. Stringing the beads into the dream catcher is the last step. And Dad is ready to leave. He doesn't know how to stop moving and we've made him wait long enough.
"You got it?" Jim asks me.
"I got it," I reply, tying the knots as he has shown me, breathing a silent hope for peace into the contraption. I wonder if I'll recognize peace. If I'll ever know if the dream catcher is working.
"I'm gonna miss you boys," Jim says softly, his eyes lifting to the car and Dad checking the engine while Sam spins the end of a wrench around his fingers. They don't see us from where they're standing.
"I know," I reply, not returning the sentiment. Not able to. It would betray Dad to admit that somewhere other than the road and the Impala could ever be home to me.
"You're going to be okay, Dean," Jim says, giving in and letting his hand rest on my shoulder this time.
"I know," I say, my lie so white it is almost see through.
Shivers of heat slammed through him, shaking him against the bed, jarring him to a gasping awareness, light dancing at the corners of his eyes, limbs trembling, fingers searching.
A hand reached back, grasping his, anchoring him. A hand not Sam's. Dean felt strength and calluses where Sam's hands were smooth. He felt a ring. Sam didn't wear a ring. Dean tried to focus on whose touch was holding him in the now, keeping him present, but the heat… the heat threatened to swamp him, pulling him low with a tide of pain and triggering darkness to combat the light around his eyes.
He felt a cool rag on his face and groaned, leaning into it with closed eyes. The weight of the hand holding the rag on his forehead was heavier than Sam's. His brother knew how much pressure to apply to keep him still and offer him comfort. This hand just kept him still and he wanted to move, wanted to roll his neck, wanted to stop the pain in his head.
Just stop. Just make it all stop.
The hand gripping his squeezed and Dean opened his eyes again, this time concentrating on the blurred figure looming over him. A dark face, lines of concern framing a wide mouth, deep-set eyes focused intently on him. He smelled stale sweat and the unfamiliar odor of a stranger's breath.
"Mike?" Dean rasped. "Where's… Sam?"
He lacked the strength to read what Mike said back, and felt himself sink a bit into the bed, closing his eyes against the spinning world, searching for oblivion. The hand released his and he tried not to feel adrift. The bed jostled when Mike returned and Dean opened his eyes once more. A large pad of paper was held before his eyes. For a moment the words swam as he swallowed a groan, trying to focus, wanting not to see what the paper said.
"Gone? Gone where?" Dean felt his voice climb up his chest and launch from his mouth as if his heart had turned to lava and was trying to escape. His neck and shoulder burned, a sharp, slicing pain that curled his lips inward.
Sam left? When he was burning? When he was alone in a foreign world of silence?
Mike wrote something else.
"What do you mean he's with Wren?" Dean snapped, trying in vain to sit up. Mike easily pushed him back down on the bed. Only then did Dean pick up the tang of Mike's skin, the spicy smell of alfalfa mixed with antiseptic. "Guh…" He groaned, trying to move away from the heat, the pain, unable to escape. "Son of a… what… happened?"
He was having trouble piecing together the last moments of consciousness. He remembered Sadie's lips, how she smelled of sugar and cinnamon. How soft she was and how he'd wanted to literally climb inside of her and hide right then.
He remembered Sam holding him, pain, and sickness. Pulling the Impala over to the side of the road as the world spun and his beer made a second appearance, leaving him spinning. He remembered Sam's hands on his back and at his side. He remembered Sam cradling him as he shook.
Mostly, though, he remembered heat.
Mike held up the paper. You were cut in a bar fight and have a fever. I stitched you up and gave you meds.
About 32 hours.
You need to rest.
"I need Sam."
Sam is fine—he's with Wren and George.
"You don’t get it, man. He's not—" Dean gasped as he tried once more to sit up, only to be brought down once more, this time by his own body. "FUCK."
You should be in a hospital, but Sam wouldn't let me take you.
"Damn straight," Dean forced out not caring how loud, not caring how rough, willing the heat to retreat, willing the pain to subside, willing his strength to be enough. "He…" Dean licked his lips, closing his eyes against the fire. "He needs to come back. Now."
He's following a lead. Said you told him.
"Didn't tell him to go by himself," Dean snarled.
Didn't have a choice.
Dean read the words, saw the shrug, looked away. Mike was right. He'd left Sam defenseless and alone. He'd succumbed to the weakness and allowed himself to be taken out of the game again. He's screwed up.
"Oh, man, I screwed up." He felt his failure like bonds tying his limbs to the bed, anchoring him in a sea of disappointment.
Mike caught Dean's eyes and shook his head. Dean looked away. "I screwed up…" he whispered again.
He had nothing left to fight. Sam was out there, fighting the goddamn good fight. Just like John. Just like he should be. And Dean lay still. Bleeding.
"You got more of those… those meds, man?"
Mike frowned, picking up the pad of paper again.
"No, don't…" Dean grabbed the strong wrist, pulling Mike's hand away from the paper. "Don't give me logic. Just… just make this fuckin' heat go away."
Mike watched him for a moment and Dean thought that he almost saw disenchantment in the gaze. He didn't care. His body burned, his neck was tight and swollen. His head had expanded to twice its normal size and he hurt. He hurt and he was useless to his brother without the benefit of his hearing. Sam was better off without him.
Mike moved away and in moments was back with a syringe. Dean felt a sharp sting in his arm and minutes later, darkness engulfed him.
He dreamt about an ocean. Standing on the edge, his pale, bare feet sinking slowly into the soft sand, water sucking at his ankles, pulling at the hairs on his legs, enticing him with coolness and promises of an eternal embrace. He closed his eyes, breathing in the scent of salt and fish and the complete absence of people.
The lonesome cry of a seagull grabbed his attention and he glanced skyward, watching the white-winged bird flit and soar on the wind gusts pushed up from the water. Before his eyes, the angelic white of the seagull began to turn a dull gray, the bird drifting lower as the color darkened. As the gray turned to black, Dean stepped from the surf, tugging his feet from the sucking pull of the tide and backing up on to the drier surface of the hard-packed sand.
The black bird landed next to him, looking up with yellow eyes, its head tilting to the right in a short, jerky motion.
"Spirits," it said.
"What?" Dean gasped, coming to complete awareness with the act of speaking.
He lay on the bed, panting, sweat slicking his face and plastering his shirt to the curves and planes of his chest. Looking down the length of his body, he realized he'd kicked free of the sheets and blankets that someone—presumably Sam—had taken care to tuck around him. His neck and shoulder throbbed with sickening consistency, but he no longer felt the debilitating heat that he remembered wrapping around him before.
"Sam?" he croaked, momentarily caught by how accustomed he was getting to not hearing his own voice.
When no welcoming face immediately loomed over him, he cautiously rolled to his side, facing Sam's bed. Hissing from the burning pain that movement caused in the cuts on his neck, he pushed himself upright on shaking arms. Sam's bed was empty and unmarred by his brother's long-limbed thrashing in sleep.
"Mike?" Dean tried.
Though no sound greeted his tender ears, the room felt empty. Devoid of human presence. Clearing his throat, Dean looked blearily around. The room was dark, not even starlight shining through the uncovered window.
How long was I asleep? He swallowed, searching for any sign as to why he'd been left alone. His eyes fell to the pad of paper he remembered Mike using to communicate with him resting on the nightstand between the beds. Gingerly reaching over to turn on the wall-mounted lamps, he picked up the pad and looked at Mike's block-like scrawl.
Went to pick up food. Sam hasn't called. Rest. Everything is okay.
"Okay, my ass," Dean growled, noting that Mike had had the presence of mind to write down the time he left. Glance at the clock, Dean realized that he'd been alone for all of fifteen minutes. Instinct told him the lack of companionship coupled with the absence of heat had triggered his self-preservation, bringing him around to taste the stale air and shiver in the unnatural coolness of the room.
"Sam hasn't called…" he muttered aloud. Flipping through the paper he reminded himself of the 'conversation.'
Sam was with Wren and George. Following up on a hunch.
"More than a hunch," Dean said, grunting as he stiffly rose to his feet, registering that he was still clad in jeans, a clean T-shirt covering the bandages on his neck and shoulder. He reached up carefully to finger the wounds, feeling along the puffed edges of skin exposed under the gauze bandages and medical tape. Shrugging his shoulder, he felt the stinging pull of the stitches Mike had used to pull his skin back together. Suddenly acutely aware of other uncomfortable areas, he shuffled his bare feet across the tightly-woven carpet to the bathroom.
As he moved, he tried to slowly process the fact that he was alone. He was wounded and alone. And his brother was out there, doing the job. The thoughts bounced off of each other as if neurons in his head were misfiring, connections unable to be made.
Without turning on the light, he took care of his bladder, grimacing at how slow and stilted his movements were, feeling the shivers of tight pain that radiated down his arm as he zipped his fly, and noticing that his fingers on his wounded arm weren't working quite right. As he moved past the mirror, his reflection caught his eyes.
"God," he muttered, peering closer. "Death warmed over..."
His eyes were hollow and shadowed with purple smudges, looking enormous in his thinned-out face. His skin was sallow, and held an almost waxy appearance. And his hair was no longer sticking up in spikes but was laying flat against his wounded head.
"At least my ears aren't bleeding," he said, watching his own mouth move in the mirror. His lips were full and almost too red for his face.
Turning from his garish appearance, he moved slowly across the room to the table bearing Sam's laptop.
"My gut is never wrong, Sammy," he said, sitting carefully, wounded arm tucked close to his body, and dropping the pad of paper next to the computer. "You should know that."
Staring at the monitor, watching the screen saver of family pictures Sam had loaded long ago swim across the screen, Dean took a breath. Two heartbeats after the phone picture of Sam asleep in the Impala with a plastic spoon in his mouth came a picture of John, ruefully glancing up at the camera, a reluctant smile on his face, creases around his eyes saying you get away with this once; next time I kick your ass.
He had to do something. He could barely breathe without the cuts on his neck poking back at him. Fighting might not be an option at the moment, but he'd be damned if he was going to sit back and rest like a fucking invalid. He had to do something.
"Enosis," Dean whispered, reaching for the keyboard. "Let's see what your distress is, there, damsel."
As he struck the first key, the screen saver vanished and he realized that the last page Sam had searched was still up. It included facts about oleander poisoning. Dean's eyes drifted to the bottom of the page. Two paragraphs were devoted to oleander triggering heart attacks, being extremely deadly, but also tasteless, odorless, and that the powder made from its sap dissolved instantly in liquid.
"Sometimes I hate being right," he muttered.
Sam was out with George and Wren, either of whom could be killer or victim, though Dean's money was on Wren. A sour taste built in the back of his throat, his mouth suddenly dry. Searching through the last several sites Sam had researched jogged his memory of past discussions.
"Dammit, Dean," he cursed himself. "You're better than this." His memory had always been like flypaper, attracting facts with random obscurity and only needing the right combination of events to pull the information from the depths. But since the explosion, even his grip on that reality had shaken loose. "Get a hold of yourself."
He found the report of Camilla and George taking Wren Demeter in after her parents were killed, reading it over for any sign of hinkiness. The only thing off, it seemed, was that Wren's parents were not named.
"That could just be because the article is about George and Camilla," he argued with himself, playing both good cop and bad cop in Sam's absence.
Sighing, he typed in enosis. Several sites were returned to him, giving him the origin of the word, Greek, and the meaning of the word, union.
"Greek, huh?" Dean muttered, looking back at the tab with the report he'd browsed before. Wren Demeter. "Hell, it's Greek to me."
He typed in Wren's name, pulling up a Wikipedia site for Demeter that spoke of the Greek goddess of grain. Bored within minutes, Dean scrolled, thinking that it wasn't too much to hope for something to jump out at him and just plop the answer in his lap.
And then… it did.
"Whoa, wait," he muttered aloud, scrolling back up the web page.
…According to Ovid (Metamorphoses V, 551), the sirens were the companions of young Persephone and were given wings by Demeter to search for Persephone when she was abducted.
"Oh, shit," he breathed, typing in the word 'siren.'
In Greek mythology, the Sirens (Greek singular: Σειρήν Seirḗn; Greek plural: Σειρῆνες Seirênes) were dangerous bird-women, portrayed as seductresses…
"Dammit, Sam," Dean said, lifting his eyes to the door, having never felt more helpless in his life.
a/n: Thanks for reading! Hope you are enjoying the ride. Two more chapters and this journey's complete.
Got Me Wrong by Alice In Chains
Seven Bridges Road by The Eagles (Best. Harmony. Ever.)
Part 5 (A and B) can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/18752.html