Disclaimer: My thanks to Kripke for creating characters fascinating enough to bury their claws into my imagination and draw forth tales with a need to be told. Still don't own them. More's the pity.
Title is from Days of the New song of the same name.
Aside from some of the locations and the Gaelic spoken in the story, pretty much everything from the bad guys to the resolution is fabricated. To quote Chaucer from A Knight's Tale, "I'm a writer. I give the truth scope."
Spoiler: This takes place right after episode 3.10 Dream a Little Dream of Me. Anything prior to that is fair game.
One of the reasons she enjoyed riding her Indian motorcycle in the Northeast part of the U.S. was the fact that autumn came early and stayed late. It was the best time, she felt, to tear across the blacktop, let the rush of the wind minimize problems that seemed insurmountable when she was still. It was then that she didn't mind no longer having a home, a family, a touchstone. It was then that she was satisfied with just being.
Virgil had been the one to first point out the change to her. A casual mention of the days getting hotter, not cooler, and she realized they were finally in the right place. They had finally found his hide-out. Fifteen years ago, Pennsylvania had suffered a heat wave the likes of which no meteorologist had ever seen.
The heat was dry, almost desert-like. More than an Indian Summer. It was almost a climate shift. Farmers went broke watering dormant fields in hopes of saving the soil for planting; the coal industry was impacted as the winter chill wasn't felt. And then, it all stopped. Six people died, winter returned, and people forgot.
But she knew that it was happening again. It had just started. There would be four more, she knew, and it would just get hotter until he was satisfied. And she planned on staying until she found him. And used him.
Her silver rings clinked against the metal tail-gait where she sat staring across the hotel parking lot. Sweat ran unchecked down the sides of her face and caused the curls of hair that escaped her knot to stick to her neck. Her T-shirt was damp along the line of her spine and pockets of sweat gathered beneath her bra in uncomfortable curves. She felt the skin on the back of her arms tighten as the sun's intensity stroked the tender skin, and she sighed, letting the warmth ease stress-tight muscles.
"There you are."
At the sound, Brenna lifted her head, her fingers tapping an idle tempo on her denim-clad thigh. Virgil had the voice of a rock star after a bender: honey and whiskey poured over gravel.
"I wasn't hiding."
Virgil lifted an eyebrow, the wiry brown hairs disappearing beneath the bill of his red baseball cap he was never without. It covered the premature thinning spot of hair at the back of his head. His bright blue eyes snapped at her.
"You didn't say you were leaving the room," he returned.
Brenna pressed her lips close. "Yeah, I know."
The former paramedic had been her travel companion, guardian, and conscience since her only family had died and her home had burned to the ground. Virgil had followed her without question, without hesitation, and with that same damn hopeful look in his eyes since the day she'd driven away from the only safety she'd ever known.
Away from him.
"Just trying to watch out for you, Brenna," Virgil said quietly.
"Yeah," she sighed, feeling the familiar weight of guilt press down. "I know."
Virgil shifted his hat back on his head, squinting off into the distance. "Got a weird call just now."
"Yeah?" Brenna felt her ears perk up.
"For a Patti Smith."
"What did he say?"
Virgil cocked a brow at her, and Brenna felt her chest tighten. "You did talk to him, right?"
"Why should I? I don't know a Patti Smith."
Brenna smacked his shoulder, hard. "You idiot. That's me!"
"Why're you using alias'? Of female rock stars no less," Virgil returned. "We've been traveling together for months now and you've always used your name. Were proud to use your name."
Brenna blew her bangs from her sweaty forehead. "It's got nothing to do with that. This guy is a hunter, Virge."
"And the fake name?"
"A trick I picked up from… a friend." She shifted her eyes to the side.
Virgil was silent for a moment. "This friend have a thing for black Chevys?"
Brenna lifted her shoulder, hopping from the tailgate and squinting up at Virgil. "So, what did he say?"
"I'm going with you."
"We can discuss that later. Tell me what he said."
Virgil reached out and gripped her bicep, pulling her close enough that her breasts pressed against his chest. She frowned at a button on his shirt, unwilling to meet his eyes.
"This quest, or whatever, of yours has never been dangerous before," Virgil said, his voice sending odd shivers down her spine. "But it's getting that way now. I'm going to keep an eye on you."
"You don't have to," she said, pushing roughly away from his chest. "I can take care of myself."
"Yeah, well," Virgil tipped his head to the side. "I made a promise."
"You made that promise to a ghost," she replied, dismayed at the bitter regret that seeped around every word.
"He's still out there somewhere," Virgil replied. "You know that better than anyone."
Brenna sighed, closing her eyes and hoping she didn't see memories. She knew he was still out there. She had been inside of him as surely as he'd been inside of her. She had seen things he'd never let anyone see, and she'd buried them deep, drawing them out only when she felt most alone. She would know if he'd died, if he'd left her, if he'd denied her the promise of someday.
"Fine. You can come with me. Not like I've been able to shake you so far," Brenna grumbled, a wiry half-grin cresting her mouth.
Virgil nodded, then pulled out a piece of paper from the motel stationary. "Said to meet him at some truck stop diner place outside of Toby."
"Toby it is," Brenna started toward her bike. "See you there, Sinatra."
Virgil glared at her, then turned and opened his driver's side door. He swung up into the cab, twisted the keys in the ignition and nodded at her. Brenna swung a leg over her bike, kicked started the motor, then turned it in a tight circle, heading for the highway.
The road was open before her, and she was, for all intents and purposes, free. But she felt his eyes on her the whole way.
The conversation called for beer, and lots of it.
Dean had insisted, and Sam had ordered food and picked up drinks while Dean cleaned up. It was a slow process; the simple act of breathing was labor-intensive and wreaked havoc on the task of asking his limbs to move. After a few attempts to balance under the spray of water and spare his wounded body the beating, Dean ended up sitting on the edge of the tub, naked, the porcelain of the top cool against his backside, the hot water from the faucet sluicing over his feet and calves.
Bending carefully, feeling his damaged skin stretch with reluctance, Dean soaked a rag with hot water, scrubbed it across the bar of white soap, then stroked a quick pattern of suds down his neck, across his bruised chest, and over his scarred belly. Scooping water in the palm of his hand, he rinsed the film of soap from his body, avoiding his bandaged back and sighing as the water coated his aching muscles. He let the heat and the liquid offer him the solace he'd once sought under the sound-canceling rhythm of the shower.
Sam returned with beer just as Dean exited the bathroom, a white towel wrapped around his waist. They simply looked at each other a moment, exhaustion like thick cobwebs hanging between them. Silently, Sam took his turn in the shower while Dean dressed. He pulled on socks, boxers, and jeans, but left the top buttons open, and decided against the T-shirt. It would hurt too much to pull over his head.
He heard the shower shut off as he used his ring to pop the cap off of his first bottle of beer. The taste of barley and hops hit the back of his tongue and slid like liquid gold down his throat pulling a sigh of satisfaction from deep in his belly. He was about to swallow more when a knock at the door startled him.
"Large pizza for, uh… Steve Perry?"
Dean grinned. "That's me."
"Hey, dude," the fresh-faced delivery boy said, light dawning in his eyes. "You any relation to that singer guy?"
Dean took the pizza. "He's my cousin," he replied, then closed the door. "Sam! Grub!"
"Comin'," Sam called from the bathroom, emerging almost fully-clothed, his large bare feet padding across the carpet as he made a bee-line for the pepperoni, his wet hair dripping on his T-shirt-clad shoulders. "God, I am starving."
"We're lucky they deliver at…" Dean craned his neck to look at the clock. "11:00 in the morning."
Sam flopped down on the edge of the bed, reaching for another slice. "You wanna go first?"
Dean took another swallow of beer, sinking slowly onto the bed and tucking one foot under the opposite leg. "I don't wanna go at all."
Sam finished his second piece, then looked over at Dean. "Fine. I'll go."
He took a breath, wiping his fingers across his greasy lips. The room was quiet save for the hum of the air unit and a dog barking from somewhere outside. Dean waited, his heartbeat loud in his ears. Sam grabbed a beer, held it out to Dean to open, then took it back and swallowed a gulp before sitting at the chair opposite Dean.
"I killed Jeremy."
Dean nodded. "I know that already."
Sam shook his head. "No… no you don't." He stood up and ran his hand through his wet hair. Dean followed the motion, eyes catching on the ragged marks on Sam's wrists.
"Dude!" He sat forward. "What happened to your wrists?"
Sam looked at his arm, frowning. "He staked me out—tied me up to these wooden spikes. And he worked me over with a bat. On the legs."
"Son of a…"
"I thought he was gonna kill me, man. I really did. I screamed, I called out for you—I mean, we were in your dream… I figured you couldn't be far."
"But, it turned out that I didn't need you," Sam said, dropping his arm and turning to face Dean. He opened his mouth, closed it quickly, then took a quick drink. "I remembered that I'd taken the dream root, too… that I could take control. So, I summoned his Dad… and while he was distracted, I grabbed the bat."
Dean blinked. "You… hit him?"
"I kept hitting him until he didn't move. Until we woke up in the car."
Dean was quiet. He felt Sam waiting for him to say something—anything—but he wasn’t sure what the right thing to say would be. Thank you? I'm sorry? You did good? That's too bad?
"I think you saved me, Sam," he rasped, surprising himself with his word choice.
"What?" Sam sat down.
Dean looked down at the bruising on his chest, then rested his eyes on the middle distance, seeing once again the room, the eerie mirror-image of the back of his own head, the liquid black eyes above a cocky smile so familiar it made him sweat.
"You woke us up, and… if you hadn't…" He shook his head helplessly. "When we got split up, I, uh… I ended up back in the motel room." He rolled his bottom lip against his teeth. "I thought it was Jeremy there, but… it was me."
Sam's brows pulled close. "I'm not following you."
"I was…" he huffed out a helpless laugh. "I was talking to myself. The real me."
"You are the real you," Sam argued.
"Yeah, but," Dean pushed himself up with a grunt of pain, moving to stand in front of the curtained window, his back toward Sam. "This me was saying stuff… stuff I would never say out loud. Stuff about me… about Dad…"
"Stuff like… how you feel dead inside?" Sam asked hesitantly.
Dean looked at him over his shoulder, his skin tight with embarrassed surprise. "How'd you know that?"
"You were dreaming when we first got here."
Closing his eyes quickly, Dean shook his head, then looked back through the narrow slit between the curtains. "Yeah, stuff like that. He… I… pushed me. Pushed me, and taunted me and pulled out this… anger I had inside about Dad. About this deal. About… about hell."
"Where did the bruises come from, Dean?" Sam asked, his voice carefully level.
"Me. Kinda. I, uh… shot myself—the other me. Blasted right through me. Blood everywhere. I just had to stop it… I couldn't take it anymore."
Dean looked down. He'd heard Sam's sharp intake of breath and wasn't able to face him as he confessed the next part. "He—I, the other me—sat up, though. Face all splattered with blood. Chest mangled. He sat up and his eyes, Sam… his eyes were black."
Dean turned and looked at his brother. "My eyes were black. Demon black. I'm gonna die, Sam. And that's what I'm gonna become."
"No," Sam shook his head.
"We may as well face it, man."
"No!" Sam shouted, throwing his half-finished beer into the small plastic trash can, amber-colored liquid splashing up onto the paisley-patterned wallpaper. "You're not going to become a demon. You're not going to Hell."
"Shut up!" Sam stepped forward, stopping only when he was inches away from Dean. He pointed at the bruises on Dean's chest. "You. Are. Not. Going. To. Hell."
Dean felt his jaw twitch as tears burned the backs of his eyes. He wanted to believe. He wanted to trust. He silently stared up at his brother, the bottle of beer the only solid thing in his grasp at the moment.
"That's why we're here," Sam reminded him, short of breath as emotions raged through him. "We got Dad's stuff here, Dean. We'll go through it… we'll find something…"
Dean swallowed, recognizing the moment for what it was. Recognizing that this search was more about Sam's hope than his own salvation. And that was okay. Because he was nothing without Sam, and his brother was nothing without hope.
"Okay, man. But, if we don't—"
"Don't say that!" Sam interjected, voice trembling.
"Sam!" Dean reached out, grabbing his brother's shirt and shaking him. "Listen to me! If we don't find anything in these boxes, it doesn't mean we have to give up, okay? I am in this. I'm in this with you."
Sam blinked and Dean felt his heart kick against his ribs as tears swam in his little brother's eyes.
"You promise?" Sam said, sounding all of two.
"'Course I promise." Dean pushed Sam playfully away. "Can I have some of that pizza now?"
Sam turned and grabbed a slice, shoving it toward Dean while he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. They decided to leave the pictures until later. With a silent nod, they agreed that seeing their family through John's eyes was more than they could handle at the moment.
Sam grabbed the box marked Weapons while Dean began to file through the one marked Spells.
"You know what I think this is?" Dean said after a moment. "It's stuff he never got around to adding to his journal."
Sam nodded. "Yeah—he's got lists here. Lists of names of weapons… who made them, what they do… I think he was looking for the Colt."
"Here is a whole stack of information on witches, man. Coulda used this a time or two," Dean flipped through napkins and scraps of paper and torn out sections of menus. "He's got maps drawn here to covens and… damn, man, this looks like actual spells. Like the real black magic shit."
"Why wouldn't he put that in the journal?" Sam lifted his head, eyes puzzled.
Dean shrugged. "Some of it's not in his handwriting," he said. "Maybe he wasn't sure of the spells’ powers or something."
They continued to look in silence until Sam whistled. "Dean… Dad knew about Ruby's knife."
"What?" Dean brought his head up sharply.
"Well, he knew about the knife she has. Here, listen," Sam leaned forward, a collection of papers in one hand, the other grasping what looked like a page from a book, a section highlighted. "…blade of silver, treated with amethyst and forged with Holy Water blessed by the Pope, this knife will dispatch both host and demon, immediately damning the demon to return from whence it came and allowing the hosts' soul to escape to the heavenly plane."
"Well, that's nice of it," Dean muttered. "So, it was there the whole time?"
"Looks like—wonder what made him decide to go after the Colt and not the knife?"
Dean shrugged. "Maybe because a human protected the Colt and a demon protected the knife. He probably figured he'd have to have the Colt in order to get the knife in the first place."
"Dad would freak if he knew we were working with Ruby," Sam said quietly.
"Hey," Dean snapped, eyebrows arched in inverted V's. "We're not working with her. You're working with her. I’m just not killing her."
Sam rolled his eyes, looking back at the list of weapons. Dean tossed the pages of spells back into the box and rolled his neck tiredly. He wasn't getting anywhere and his body was so weary it was practically weeping.
"I'm cooked, man," he finally admitted. "I'm just gonna rest for a little bit; check into more later."
"What about you?" Dean yanked down the covers from his bed, looking at Sam.
"You gotta be as beat as me," Dean said.
"Yeah, I'll rest here in a little bit. Just wanna read a little more."
Shaking his head at his brother's unswayable focus, Dean shimmied out of his jeans, then slid between the cool sheets, burying his face in his pillow. His back thrummed with a familiar tempo of pain, aching and stinging, but his chest felt strangely better. He forced himself to breathe slowly and hoped that this time when he closed his eyes, he wouldn't see himself staring back, eyes black as night, smile knowing and scared.
At first he was aware only that nothing surrounded him. He was calm, at peace, floating. Being aware that he was dreaming was something he'd always dreaded. He so rarely felt rested as he watched the subconscious story unfold, knowing that logic did not hold sway in dreams. It was a relief, therefore, when the next sensation he was conscious of was the silken dance of skin sliding across his, lips pressed to the pulse at his throat, perfumed hair nestled near his mouth.
He gladly filled his arms with woman, not knowing or caring if she had a face, a presence. It only mattered that she was here, she was holding him, and she asked for nothing he wasn't willing to give. Memories of faces past swam up, some images with names, and many without. The touch was familiar, the rhythm wanted, the sighs satisfied and he wanted only to stay, safe and whole in her embrace.
When he opened his eyes once more, he heard Sam snoring softly in the bed next to him. He rolled over to his back, wincing as his sensitive skin came in protesting contact with the sheets. He was surprised to find it dark behind the curtains. He'd slept the entire day. Sam lay sprawled on his back, long legs tangled in his sheets, one arm flopping off the edge of the bed, mouth hanging open in complete relaxation. Dean suppressed a chuckle.
He rolled to his elbow, pushing himself up and swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. He was starving, and hoped Too Tall Winchester hadn't eaten the last of the pizza. Easing to his feet, Dean shuffled across the stuffy room, light from the digital clock and Sam's laptop his only guides, and found the pizza box. He flipped it open and smiled with relief to see several pieces left. Popping open another beer, he grabbed a slice and sat down in front of Sam's computer.
It was only then that he realized his chest no longer hurt. Furrowing his brow in confusion, he glanced down, his mouth falling open in surprise.
The bruises had faded to almost nothing.
He straightened his shoulders quickly to look once more and was harshly reminded that the wounds on his back hadn’t been caused by a dream gun.
"Well, I'll be damned," he whispered.
Standing, he went to the bathroom and turned on the light, double checking to make sure. The deep purple that had clustered around his sternum was nothing but faded green and yellow, leaving only his protection tattoo and old scars to stand out in the harsh light. Satisfied, he left the bathroom light on and moved over to Sam's sleeping form. No bruises or welts were visible on his legs, and his raw wrists were healed.
Son of a bitch. I guess confession is good for more than the soul, he mused.
Peering closer, he saw a scrap of paper clutched in Sam's left hand, the one not hanging off of the bed. He leaned over and carefully plucked it from his brother's fingers. Sam smacked his lips together sleepily, mumbling incoherently, then rolled over to his side, narrowly missing clocking Dean across the ear in the process.
Retreating back to the safety of the table and laptop, Dean examined the paper. It was another page torn from a book, lines drawn beneath the words to emphasize importance. He frowned at the name: Kestrel dagger. It plucked something deep in his memory, something he felt he'd dealt with once before, but couldn't quite place.
Sam's screen saver rotated and caught Dean's eye. Running his finger over the touch pad, Dean brought up the last screen Sam had been looking at. It was a web site with information on the dagger. Dean skimmed the article quickly until his gaze was snagged by the words exchange of souls.
Reading on, he found that the Kestrel Dagger had been forged by monks in early 15th century. It was named for the bird of prey that hovers in the air, looking for their kill. The blade was forged from pyrite and silver, the edge made from diamonds, and the hilt embedded with amethyst crystals. Inscribed on the blade was the Latin phrase Ex is vita ut tunc.
"From this life to the next," Dean whispered.
He jumped at the sudden sound of Sam's voice. "Dude, yawn or something."
"Sorry," Sam yawned. "Time is it?"
"Uhh…" Dean looked at the clock on the computer. "Five in the morning."
"Hey, I figure sixteen hours of sleep is decent."
"What are you looking at?" Sam sat up in the bed and hitched his way back to lean against the headboard.
"How do your legs feel?" Dean asked instead of answering him.
Dean rotated so that his brother could see him in the light from the bathroom. "'Cause my chest feels kinda awesome."
Sam gaped at him, then looked down at his legs. "What… how…"
Dean shrugged. "Dream wounds… maybe they were more… y'know in our heads than anything."
"So… we got rid of them by… talking about them?" Sam asked, incredulous.
"Hey, Dude, you're always the one saying that we don't talk enough. Maybe there's something to this sharing, caring shit."
Sam laughed. "Maybe."
"You remember if Bobby had any marks on him? After, y'know… fighting with his wife?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't remember."
"I think I’m gonna call him. Check in."
"I'd wait until a little later, if I were you," Sam pointed out, rubbing his eyes. "Not sure if Bobby's all that keen on getting up before dawn."
"Good point. I'm just reading about this diamond dagger you were looking up," Dean pointed to the computer screen. "What's going on in that head of yours, Sammy?"
Sam shrugged. "I was just… well, I was thinking that there might be something to this whole soul exchange bit."
"What, put my soul into a different body?" Dean pulled his head back in disgust.
"Or… give Hell another soul…"
"What?!" Dean stood quickly. "That's crazy."
"Not just any soul, man," Sam reassured, standing with his hands up and out, placating Dean with the motion of his fingers. "A demon's."
"Wait… what?" Dean cocked his head to the side. "You're assuming they have a soul."
"Okay, so maybe I'm making a loose interpretation of the word soul. It's essentially your essence. The thing that makes you you, right? The black smoke of the demon… it's their… well, their soul."
"Pretty thin, Sammy," Dean shook his head. "I think you're reaching for rainbows and unicorns here."
"The dagger doesn't just work one way, Dean," Sam explained. "It's controlled by the will, or the power, or whatever, of the person who owns it. And you have to full-on own it. Either kill the person who has it now, or, purchase it outright."
Dean twisted his hands in the air, motioning Sam to continue, his eyes dubious. "Okay…"
"Anyway, say we bought the dagger, right? Okay, so we own it, and all we would have to do is find a demon, stab it, and exchange your soul for theirs when the Hell Hounds come."
"Oh," Dean pressed his lips together. "Well. If that's all…"
"Hey, I didn't say it was perfect—I hadn't really gotten into much reading about it before I took a nap."
Dean took a bite of his cold pizza. "It's a nice idea, Sam," he said around his mouthful, "but it's not gonna work. I mean, were totally ignoring that a demon possesses people. We just gonna kill some innocent person? Besides. We don't even know where this dagger is."
"Yeah, I know," Sam sighed. "But it was something."
Dean nodded, grabbing another piece of pizza, then moved over to sit on his bed. "Wonder what's on TV at five a.m.?"
"That's it?" Sam asked. "Thanks for the thought, I'm gonna watch TV?"
"You got any better ideas?"
"Have you finished looking through the Spells box yet?"
Dean sighed, tossing his pizza on the nightstand. "Fine!"
Sam got up, pulled on his jeans and moved toward the computer as Dean grabbed the box marked Spells and set it up on the bed. After a moment of hesitation, he grabbed Campbell and set it next to Spells.
Unable to handle the quiet of the room, Dean turned on the clock radio between their beds, scrolling the dial until he found WDRF, 97 Rock and listened to the early morning DJ announce it time for an Immigrant Song.
Switching on the lamp between their beds, Dean settled in to look through the boxes, listening to Zeppelin's familiar wail war with the fast tapping of keys on Sam's laptop. There wasn't much else in the box marked Spells. Several notes about the differences between witches and wizards, lists of hex bag contents, and a few more spells written in Latin that Dean didn't have the energy to translate. He pulled the remaining pieces of paper from the box with plans to add it to their journal, and turned his attention to the pictures.
Zeppelin slipped away and was replaced by Boston as Dean fell into the fog of his childhood.
"You'll forget about me after I've been gone, and I'll just take what I can find, I don't want no more… It's just outside your front door…
There were several pictures of Mary, pregnant. Always smiling at the camera, one hand on her belly. There was a picture of a nursery the he knew wasn't Sam's. Sam's nursery would be forever ingrained in his memory. This was his, he realized. This was where they planned for him.
He chuckled at the first few pictures of himself as a baby. He was a funny-looking kid. He started to rifle through the photos even faster as his past was revealed through more shots of him as a boy sitting on John's shoulders, curled in Mary's lap with a book, showing a bandaged finger to the camera, his first missing tooth. The pressure in his chest returned ten-fold, filling his body with longing and searching vainly for a release.
It took him a moment to realize Sam had stopped tapping the keys. He looked up. Sam was watching him with an expression of dread and wonder.
"What?" He asked, guarded.
"'Cause you… you kinda whimpered."
Dean straightened up. "I did not."
"That's what it sounded like," Sam lifted his hands. "What are you looking at?"
"Nothing," Dean muttered, closing the lid. "There's nothing here to help out with the deal, Sam."
"Well… I may not have the deal breaker… but I do have something."
Dean took a swig of his beer, pushing back from the boxes and gingerly resting his bruised back against the headboard once more. "Lay it on me."
"I was doing some searching for the Kestrel dagger—y'know, just in case—and I came across something weird."
"Our kind of weird?"
"Yeah," Sam nodded. "About fifteen years ago, six people were murdered. They were always in pairs, they were always connected somehow—mother and daughter, husband and wife, that kind of thing. One would be sliced up, but the other would bleed out."
"So, wait, the one that was cut up didn't bleed out?"
"Nope—but they died anyway from unknown causes." Sam lifted a brow, his expression leading Dean to believe he didn't buy the explanations offered for the deaths.
"Like I said," Sam nodded, sitting back.
"So, what, you think this dagger doohickey has something to do with those deaths?" Dean tipped his head back against the bed, looking up at the ceiling.
"Well, I didn't at first, but then," Sam turned the computer around to face his brother. "I saw that it's happening again. Same place. Same pattern."
"Huh," Dean leaned forward, interest piqued. "A pattern?"
"A pattern. And if I learned anything from that damned yellow eyed bastard, it's that evil follows patterns."
"Still don't follow how the knife's involved."
Sam chewed on his lip.
Boston faded and Dean tuned out the commercials as he focused on his brother's anxious face.
"Spill it," he ordered.
"Well, I don't have any proof," Sam hedged. "But… I think the owner of the knife is killing these people. That he uses their… souls for something."
Sam tipped his hands up in question. "You got me."
Bad Company slipped into the silence as the brothers regarded each other.
"You think this hunch of yours is enough to follow?" Dean asked softly.
Sam stared at him, his eyes heavy with a nameless emotion. Dean felt the weight his brother shouldered and he loathed the fact that he was the cause.
"Here I am, a wayward man, following the light to a distant land. Come tomorrow, without yesterday… fade away…"
"Yeah," Sam said finally. "I do."
Dean sat for another moment, thinking. Sacrifice was a hell of a thing. It was both selfish and selfless. In a strange way, it provides both relief and terror. He had done the only thing he could do, made the only choice that made sense to him when drowning in the hollow of his grief. He had saved Sam. And in the process, he had cursed his brother to eventually feeling that same inconceivable loss, the ache that was deep enough, heavy enough, hard enough to stop his heart.
You win, Sammy.
"Where's this all happening?" Dean asked.
"Some place called Brookville, Pennsylvania. It's near an old coal mining town."
"Back to Pennsylvania, huh?" Dean sighed, eyes straying to the boxes. "Probably shouldn't have left in the first place."
"Yeah, well," Sam muttered, closing his laptop. "We didn't know."
Dean rubbed his face. "When do we leave?"
"You so owe me for this," Dean muttered.
"Hey," Sam protested. "If I'm right… if this works—"
"If this works, I think I might be convinced there is a God." Dean snapped, wiping sweat from his brow. "This is ridiculous, Sam. Where the hell is this guy taking us?"
"To the rail car."
"I know that."
"You asked," Sam shrugged.
Dean was always extra pissy when he was hot. And a wicked wave of heat had slapped them with vengeance the minute they crossed the border into Pennsylvania.
"We were just here two days ago," Dean complained. "It wasn't this hot then."
"It was warmer than Buffalo," Sam offered. But, Dean was right. It felt like the middle of an Arizona summer. Not Pennsylvania in Autumn. "He's turning again."
"I can see that, Sam."
Their arrival in Brookville had not gone as planned. After changing into suits in a service station outside of town—prompting Dean to muse about the convenience of phone booths for Superman—they drove directly to the police station and spoke with Sgt. Guy Ross, who was more than happy to be of service to the FBI, but didn't have much to give them beyond the autopsy report.
He suggested they talk to the coroner, an Adam Carter. Who, unfortunately wouldn't be back until tomorrow. He was in Toby on a job.
"Old man died on a passenger train. Train can't exactly go until the body's been processed," Ross had said.
"Right," Sam had replied. "We'll just check into the motel and come back tomorrow."
"Oh, well, that's gonna be tough," Ross had commented.
"Why's that?" Dean had asked, warily.
"Ain't been a motel in these parts for about ten years now. You could go to the Milton, but it's probably full up," Ross had said.
"Why's that?" Sam had asked.
"Oh, there's a train show in town. Celebrating the history of the coal mines."
Sam felt himself shrink under the heated glare Dean had shot at him. Ross had offered to put them up in the old rail car that had been converted to a guest house.
"No internet out there, though. Cell phone's kinda spotty, I'm afraid."
Dean's forced, "Swell. Sounds perfect," almost broke mid-air with brittle reluctance.
They were soon following an Officer Calhoun away from Brookville's downtown to the rail car, Dean’s glowering displeasure heating up the inside of the car as much as the unseasonable heat.
"How was I supposed to know?" Sam finally burst out.
"No talking," Dean snapped. "You just… just sit there."
They stopped in front of a yellow caboose sitting in the middle of an open field, a small stream running behind it. It was braced on several cement blocks, a stack of firewood balanced against one of the walls.
"I bet we get to wash our clothes in the crick," Dean muttered.
"We've had worse," Sam reminded him.
"You see any food out here, Sam? No? Yeah, me neither. You interested in hunting for real, or what?"
"I'm sorry, okay? I. Didn't. Know."
Dean snarled quietly as they watched Officer Calhoun get out of his car and speak into his walkie-talkie. He motioned to the boys.
"Great," Dean muttered, turning of the engine. "Let's go talk to Opie."
He turned to exit the car and Sam saw him pause and flinch and pause as his back protested. Sighing with the knowledge that not only had Dean not been keen on this idea in the first place, but was walking wounded from the last idea Sam had and was grouchy from the oppressive heat, he decided to cut his brother a break.
"I mean, it, Sam. You owe me," Dean growled as he exited the car carefully.
A small break.
"Let's just find out what he wants."
Officer Calhoun stepped up to them. "You boys are going to have to settle yourselves in. I have to head to Toby to help out Carter."
"Isn't that the coroner?" Sam asked.
"Yeah," Calhoun removed his hat and scratched his hairline, then settled his hat back on his sweaty head. "Looks like we got another of those spooky murders."
"Spooky?" Dean asked, pulling his head back with questions in his eyes.
"Well, yeah," Calhoun shrugged. "I mean, this stuff might be what you guys at the bureau deal with all the time, but bleeding with no wounds? Witches and shit? That's always been the stuff of myth to me."
Dean folded his lips down. "Myth is what we call other people's religion," he said.
Sam looked at him in surprise. There were times his brother's depth caught him off-guard.
"Well, whatever you say," Calhoun tossed the keys to the rail car in the air. Sam reached out and caught them. "I still gotta get over there."
"If this is the same type of murder from the other day, we should go with you," Sam offered.
Calhoun shrugged. "Why not?"
"I'll go," Dean said, lightly pushing Sam toward the rail car. "You stay. Get us settled in."
Dean mouthed, You owe me.
Sam set his jaw, looking away with a huff of breath.
"I'll help you unload and then follow Calhoun here back out to Toby," Dean said, his eyes grinning at Sam while his mouth smirked in a queue of innocence. "That work for you, Cal?"
"Long as you hurry."
Dean popped the trunk and grabbed their duffels while Sam tucked two of the grenade boxes under his arm. Calhoun took the keys back from Sam, unlocking the door and sliding it wide. The inside was dark with the curtains pulled, and Sam noticed the distinct scent of moth balls.
"Well," Dean sighed over dramatically, "isn't this homey."
"There's a bathroom down there, and the couch folds out into a bed. There's only one bed in the back bedroom. Kitchen works, but you'll have to bring food in from Brookeville," Calhoun informed them.
"You don't say?" Dean muttered, dropping the duffels on the couch.
"You might want to pick up some water for the Impala, too, while you're at it," Sam suggested. "Just in case she overheats."
"Dude," Dean snapped, insult obvious in his tone. "I know how to take care of my car, okay?"
"I'm just sayin'—"
"Yeah, well," Dean grabbed his .45 from the duffel and started to tuck it into the hollow of his back, hesitated, then slid it into his inside jacket pocket. He turned toward the door. "I think you've said enough."
"Dean," Sam called. Dean turned slightly to look at him over his shoulder. "Just… be careful."
Dean nodded once, then opened the door of the Impala, calling to Calhoun over the roof. "Who got it this time, man?"
Calhoun shrugged. "Not really sure. A man and woman. Carter said they could be lovers, relatives, or just traveling together. Hard to tell until we get there."
Dean nodded, slipping behind the wheel. Sam looked at him through the windshield and thought he caught a quick glimmer of regret at leaving him behind before he turned to tuck his arm across the seat and back out of the barren lot surrounding the rail car. Without a backward glance, Dean followed Calhoun back out onto the road.
It took everything in Sam not to run after him.
a/n: I know it was a bit long, but I actually cut off a good portion from my outline to save for chapter two. If you've gotten this far, I hope you stick with it.
My good friend Tara, LovinJackson/LovinDean, made a pretty kick-ass vid for this story to the song Halos by Under the Flood. Here is the link if you'd like to check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P3uAaUpnMk
And if you're interested, I have two more stories planned that are "brother only" stories. One has pirates (yes, pirates), and one is a western. They are gifts to two very special people in this fandom and I'm excited to write them.
Rock'n Roll Ain't Noise Pollution by AC/DC
Thunderstruck by AC/DC
Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin
Long Time by Boston
Fade Away by Bad Company
Diadhuit = Hello, literally God be with you
Dia is Muire dhuit = Hello (reply), literally God and Mary be with you
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam = May he rest in peace.
Part 2 (A and B) can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/31684.html