Characters: Sam, Dean
Spoilers: Virtual Season story; VS 2, episode 18
Summary: While taking a break from the action, the brothers run into what they believe to be a werewolf. However, this hunt may prove to be their hardest one yet, their anonimity as hunters being both a blessing and a curse.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
a/n: This story picks up well after the deal Sam made to free Dean from the demon possessing him was thwarted, and is probably the most stand-alone-ish episode of the three I’ve posted. I’d call this one a dark comedy. Or maybe a dramady? Anyway, you decide. It's the last of my Virtual Season stories. I haven’t edited or changed this story from when it was posted on ’s Virtual Seasons site back in September of 2007. I will post a new chapter each day until the story is completed.
...and apparently it's the longest of the VS stories I posted, because I had to break this chapter up into two parts, sorry about that...
Navajo Indian Reservation, Casa del Eco Mesa, dusk
Eyes creased by years and shadowed with knowledge stared calmly into the dancing orange light of a campfire. He’d purposely built the fire just outside of the Joshua Trees, where the surrounding halo would combat the growing darkness. Where he couldn’t see, but could be seen.
Though what he was prepared for was an act of ancient Navajo tradition, he was not dressed in the ceremonial garb of his ancestors. He would meet the fate he’d called up on himself dressed in the denim, flannel, and leather of the white man. He would face it without a weapon, without a fight, and with no remorse in his soul.
As the dark grew, the stars above him snapped and sparkled with their cold light. He lifted his dark eyes to the heavens, his mind carefully blank. He did not want the spirits to doubt his conviction. He simply wanted to see the light from those celestial bodies as they teased the black sky with promises of wishes granted.
He dipped two fingers into the shallow wooden bowl and scooped out some of the red paste he’d made earlier that evening. Whispering the words of his forefathers, he spread the red stain across his cheekbones, under his eyes, the gritty substance sinking immediately into the lines framing his time-worn eyes.
He was ready.
The cry of the screech owl split the darkness and immediately all other night sounds ceased. The world was quiet, still, breath held in anticipation of the moment to come.
From the shadows a boy stepped out and stood at the edge of the firelight. The old man saw his youth, saw his eagerness, and for one brief moment, sadness enveloped him and he felt himself tremble with it. The old man saw himself, fifty years ago, in this boy. The tall, broad-shouldered youth was more a man now than the old man had been when he made this choice. The dark hair was cut short as modern times dictated, not hanging in a plait down his back as the old man’s had been.
But the moment was the same. The inhuman silverfish gleam in the eyes was the same. And the end result would be the same.
“You decide, old man,” the youth said, his deep voice holding none of the respect this moment called for.
The old man’s lips folded down in a frown, the sadness he’d felt before growing stronger. He was too far down the path to change course now, but he knew that once the ceremony was done, the youth would be lost to the hunger and there would be no one in the tribe to stop him.
Sighing, giving in to the inevitable, the old man uttered one word. “Ma’iitsoh.” Wolf.
The youth exhaled, a feral smile twisting his handsome features into a mask of darkness. Without sound, without warning, the young man dropped his head back, his mouth raised to the night sky in a silent scream. The muscles along the flat planes of his stomach and across his shoulders tightened and he thrust his hands from his sides, his tendons straining as if an invisible force was pulling his arms from their sockets.
His hands curled slowly into fists and as the old man watched, he began to shake. The tremors wracked his body so violently the old man felt it travel across the sand and travel up his folded legs into his grieving heart. With a sound like a wine bottle uncorking, the young man’s body snapped backwards, viciously, and he dropped to the ground. He began to writhe, his muscles straining, his face contorted in pain, but he didn’t make a sound.
The old man watched through the fire, his face impassive. With a sickening sound, the young man’s bones began to crack, his arms and legs bending and twisting into an unnatural shape. The old man closed his eyes. He listened to the sound of silent torture, the panting, the resistance. And then he heard the sounds change. The panting became more rhythmic, less pained. The movements were slow, steady, sure.
He opened his eyes to find himself face-to-face with the yellow, untamed eyes of a black wolf. The old man blinked once and whispered, “Ma’iitsoh.”
The wolf raised its head, howling at the half moon cresting the horizon in the infant stages of night. An eerie, desperate, wild sound, it traversed the silence of the mesa, filtered through the Joshua Trees, and sent the desert animals searching for safety and shelter.
As he stared into the animal’s eyes, the old man knew that the wolf remembered. The eyes were knowing, aware. And the old man smiled.
The wolf howled once more. The old man sighed. It was time.
The wolf’s mouth descended from beseeching the heavens and in one quick swipe of teeth, it tore the old man’s throat out. The killing didn’t take long. With blood saturating its muzzle, the wolf slashed the delicate tissues of the old man’s chest and devoured the heart as it beat its last. Satiated, the wolf, coated in the blood of its first kill, moved into the darkness, leaving the body of the old man staring with sightless eyes at the night sky.
Soon, there was nothing but the wind and the sounds of the desert as it slowly returned to life. The campfire crackled and sparked, fading orange embers danced up on the zephyr and died. And then another man, younger than the old man, older than the young man, stepped out from the shadows of the Joshua Trees, carrying a shovel. He paused next to the body, staring down at the gore surrounding the old man.
“Happy now, Azhé'é?” His voice was choked with horror and emotion as he regarded his father. “He became what you believed him to be. And now I am alone.”
The blade of his shovel buried into the ground like a judge’s gavel.
Middle of Nowhere, Utah, one month later, night
“Just admit it.”
“Quit pouting. I’m not lost.”
Sam shook his head, the useless road map crumpled in his fist. “We haven’t seen a road sign… or a building… or a light in like… an hour, Dean.”
“I know where we are, Sam,” Dean snapped.
“Arizona. Or, uh, New Mexico… maybe,” Dean shifted his eyes to the side, checking his mirror. No lights behind them. No lights in front of them. It was as if the desert had swallowed the Impala.
“Swell,” Sam rested his elbow on the sill of the window and tipped his head into his hand. “Somewhere in the Southwest, USA.”
“Exactly,” Dean nodded, glancing at Sam with a forced smile.
Sam rubbed his head on the heel of his hand, not lifting it from the support. “Dean… it’s only been like three days since we left Alyssa.”
“I just,” Sam pulled his bottom lip in, unsure how to frame this next statement. “You haven’t had a lot of time to… get back to yourself.”
“I’m fine, Sam,” Dean stated flatly, his mantra of denial smoothly masking any doubts he may have had about residual effects of the whammy Alyssa had placed on him. “Hitting on all eight cylinders. Promise.”
Sam lifted an eyebrow. “Dude, even before the white light of doom you weren’t hitting on eight cylinders.”
“Says you,” Dean scoffed good-naturedly. “I’m actually rather proud of my cylinders.”
Sam rolled his eyes, leaning forward to stuff the map into the glove box, careful of any random knives that may or may not be stored there. “I’m sure you are.”
Dean reached over and turned up the music when the familiar sounds of AC/DC’s Hells Bells reached his ears.
“It’s about time we picked up a radio station,” he muttered.
“I’m telling you, we’re lost,” Sam grumbled, watching Dean’s hand travel from the radio back to the steering wheel. “We took a wrong turn back there at—“
“Sam,” Dean interrupted, exasperation plain in his tone. “We don’t even know where the hell we’re going, how could we have taken a wrong turn?”
“Dean, last time we didn’t know where the hell we were going we ended up in the town that time forgot,” Sam twisted in the seat to stare at his brother, his lips pursed.
Dean frowned, “First of all, that wasn’t a wrong turn. That was a detour.” He glanced over at Sam. “Second of all… how was I supposed to know that it would lead to the religious cult from Hell?”
Stretching his arms out in front of him, grasping his right hand with his left, Sam let out a soft sigh. He rolled his shoulders, working the kinks of the ride from his upper body. He glanced over at Dean. “I just don’t want you to… y’know, push yourself.”
“Dude, enough already,” Dean shot him a look. “I. Am. Fine. I am me, I remember you, I’m eating, I’m sleeping… the whole nine yards.”
Sam clenched his jaw. “Fine.”
In the distance, a faint, yellowish glow of lights caught their attention and Sam sat forward eagerly.
“Do you see that?”
“It’s either a town or a space ship,” Dean nodded, peering through the windshield into the night. “Where’s Area 51?”
As they approached the lights, the Impala’s beams caught a sign at the side of the road.
Bluff, Utah. Population 340
“Utah!” Sam exclaimed.
“Good,” Dean nodded, tapping his ring on the steering wheel. “Not enough people to cause trouble.”
“We’re in Utah,” Sam said.
Dean glanced over at him. “What’s with you? Some kind of Mormon-phobia I should know about?”
“I just… I always wanted to see Utah,” Sam said, an almost boyish smile on his face as he settled back against the seat. “Y’know, Monument Valley, the Four Corners…”
Dean grinned. “Check you out.”
“You’re all... like a kid on his way to Disneyland.”
Sam reached out and shoved at Dean’s shoulder. “Shut up.”
Dean frowned as the radio succumbed once more to static. He reached over and turned it down, glancing once at the box of CDs that they had listened to one too many times in the last year. He looked over at Sam, still leaning slightly forward, looking out into the darkness as if he hoped the starlight would reveal some of the wonders of the desert to his prying eyes.
Dean felt a slight pang for the kid that Sam used to be, the childhood that he’d tried so hard to allow Sam to have. His little brother had been through hell in the last year.
“Hey, Sam,” Dean said, clearing his throat. “Maybe we should… take a break. See the sights.”
Sam tilted his head, thinking. “We just took a break not too long ago.”
Dean barked out a quick laugh. “Sammy, I’m not so sure a romp in the Louisiana swamp dodging black magic voodoo snakes qualifies as a break.”
Sam grinned in agreement. “Yeah, maybe that’s not the best example of a vacation.”
“I guess we just don’t… do vacations, Sam,” Dean said, squinting slightly as they passed under a streetlight, his eyes unaccustomed to anything but the dim interior of the Impala and the complete darkness of the desert night. “Our lives are…”
“Weird,” Sam concluded.
“You can say that again.” He slid his eyes over to Sam, catching the hesitant hope on his brother’s face. “Still… even bad-ass demon hunters deserve to sightsee now and again.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Sam nodded, his shoulders relaxing at the idea.
Dean scanned the sparse street, looking for anything that might resemble a good place to stop. “You hungry?”
“I could eat.”
“Cottonwood Steakhouse, beware,” Dean said, rotating the wheel with the flat of his hand and pulling into a parking spot near the front door of the restaurant. “The Winchesters have arrived.”
“Steak sounds good,” Sam nodded, gripping the door handle.
“Mmmm… and pie,” Dean said stepping out of the car and shutting the door with a creak of the old hinge.
“You’re impossible,” Sam shook his head, walking around the front of the car to join his brother.
“Easy to please, Sammy,” Dean said, clapping a hand on his brother’s shoulder as they approached the door. “I’m just easy to please.”
Sam pulled the door open and stepped back as Dean walked through, thinking about how true that statement was. Give Dean his car, his music, the open road… and me, Sam thought, and Dean was happy. The last few days of aimless driving after the events in Phoenix had shown Sam a softer side of his brother. A Dean content to simply be alive, breathing, waking up every morning and going to sleep every night.
He’d actually seen his brother smile — a true, unguarded, genuine smile — yesterday.
As they stepped into the Cottonwood Steakhouse, however, it was not a smile that graced Dean’s features. It was a grimace of misery as the sounds of steel guitars and pure country twang ran sideways across their ears. Dean glanced back at him, his expression pained.
“Take it easy, Dude,” Sam laughed. “Steak and pie, remember?”
“Right,” Dean said in a strained whisper. “Steak and pie. And beer.”
“Help you?” A middle-aged woman with a large white dishtowel tied neatly around her waist stepped up to them. Her faded brown hair was pulled up in a short ponytail and her eyes were soft as she let her gaze touch on each of them briefly.
“Uh, yeah,” Sam smiled disarmingly at her. “Two, please.”
“This way,” the woman grabbed two menus and turned, leading them past several tables filled with couples enjoying plates filled with steak and potatoes. She motioned to a booth in the far back corner.
They slid into the seats, accepting the menus with nods of thanks.
“Busy place,” Dean commented, glancing back over his shoulder through the small restaurant to the front door as someone else entered.
The waitress shrugged. “When you have two restaurants in town, people don’t get much of a choice. Plus we get a lot of tourism traffic.”
Dean flicked his eyebrows at Sam. “Sightseers,” he said in a stage whisper.
Sam nodded with a small grin.
“Get you something to drink?” The woman pulled out a pad of paper and flipped the top sheet over, then reached up and pulled a stub of a pencil out from behind her ear.
“Two beers,” Dean said.
“Got local brew on tap or bottles of Coors and Heineken.”
Dean glanced at Sam who shrugged in return. “Whatever you got on tap is fine,” Dean said, offering the lady a smile, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
“Be right back, Sweetie,” the woman said, suddenly tapping the back of Dean’s hand lightly and turning from their table.
Dean blinked in surprise at her retreating form, then looked over at Sam. “What was that about?”
Sam just grinned. “Maybe you looked like a sweetie to her.”
Dean shook his head, looking over the menu. “Whatever, Dude. You’re the motherless lad, I’m the bad boy.”
“Hey, I’ve worked long and hard on this rep,” Dean lifted an eyebrow. “Have to say it has some distinct advantages.”
The waitress returned with their beers and took their orders. As she stepped away, the music shifted to a George Strait song and Dean winced.
“Dad absolutely hates this song,” he said.
“Yeah?” Sam asked, intrigued.
Dean nodded. “You want to hear that man swear like a sailor in a whore house, just turn on some George Strait.”
Sam chuckled. “I don’t think I ever noticed that.”
Dean shrugged, not wanting to dig too deep into the battle lines that often separated Sam and John. “Y’know how he always had music playing, wherever we went?”
“He’d listen to anything… dude, anything… even that Top 40 crap. One day I’m flippin’ channels on this little radio in some motel and this song comes on,” Dean pointed up, indicating the invisible speakers that filtered the sad, mellow tones of loneliness and love gone wrong down to their table.
Dean’s face relaxed in a slight smile. “Dad… he launches himself across the room, pulls the cord friggin’ out of the wall trying to turn the music off. Then he goes into a litany of words even I would never use.”
“Why does he hate it so much?” Sam laughed, watching Dean remember.
“You got me,” Dean said, his fingers tipping up in a shrug of his hands. “I think I was too afraid to ask after that.”
Sam nodded. For all of his obvious love for his sons, John Winchester could be a scary individual when provoked.
“Mom had a favorite song, though.” Dean continued. “She’d play it over and over… I think it was an album, actually.”
“Yeah?” Sam sat back as their plates of food were set in front of them, then leaned forward once more, eager for Dean to keep talking. He didn’t know where this was coming from—this infusion of words, this explosion of memory—but he didn’t want it to go away.
“Yeah, I remember it had this… scratchy sound, y’know?”
“What was the song?”
“Night Moves,” Dean replied around a mouthful of steak.
“Mom liked Bob Segar?”
“Yup,” Dean nodded, washing the food down with a gulp of beer. “They used to dance in the kitchen.”
“Dude, how do you remember this stuff?” Sam said, cutting his steak and laying the knife across the top of his plate.
Dean shrugged, “I don’t know, man. I don’t always. Sometimes it just… y’know flashes clear like I saw it yesterday.”
“Think it’s a… side effect of Alyssa’s… powers?”
“Nah,” Dean shook his head, shoveling potatoes into his mouth. “It just happens once in awhile. Always has.”
Sam paused, thinking, his eyes on Dean’s hands as they moved food around his plate and up to his mouth. This was not an easy life they lived. On either of them. But more so, Sam thought, on Dean. It was good to see his brother eating. Good to hear his voice. Good to simply be around him.
Dean had called them demon-hunters earlier… but they were more than that. They hunted evil… and Sam had learned over the last two years that evil was everywhere, in everything, and that no matter whom they thought they had defeated, the hunt would never go away. And yet… they’d managed to live their lives around that fact.
“Can’t picture Dad dancing,” Sam said.
“Who do you think taught me?”
“You don’t dance,” Sam scoffed. “Usually…”
“Well, I did once,” Dean lifted his eyebrows, his eyes alight with good memories.
“You remember Megan Jones?”
Sam started to shake his head, then stopped. “Wait, yeah. That dark-haired girl that used to play ball with us… where the hell were we?”
“Somewhere in Ohio… Akron, I think.”
“Right, yeah. You danced with her?”
“Dude, eight grade, she asks me to the spring dance—uh, Stephen Hawking or something.”
“Sadie Hawkins,” Sam corrected, grinning around his food.
Dean pointed at him, “That was it. Anyway, I was scared to death.”
Sam laughed. “Some bad boy. Scared of a girl.”
“I was twelve, man, cut me some slack.”
“So, what happened?”
“Night before the dance, Dad comes home from a hunt, and I told him what I had to do. He gets real serious with me, like he does right before he’s gonna move us, or tell us something big.”
Sam nodded, finishing his plate and picking up his beer.
“Then he tells me that the most important thing is to always keep my hands at her waist, and to watch her eyes.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“Swear to God. I never forgot that. Came in handy, too,” Dean said, reaching for his pie.
“What, in case the bad boy rep didn’t work for you?”
“Aw, that always works, Sammy,” Dean grinned. “Well, y’know, except with your girls.”
Sam quirked his eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
“Sarah hated me when we first met her,” Dean grinned.
“She didn’t… hate you.”
“Well, she was certainly more impressed with your art history shtick.”
Sam smiled softly, thinking of the dark-haired beauty that held a piece of his heart.
“Yeah, well, Jess wouldn’t have gone for the bad boy, either,” Sam agreed.
“See? You got your girls, I got mine. All balances out.”
“Did you kiss her?”
Dean brought his head up quickly. “What?”
“Megan Jones,” Sam said, chuckling at the look of horror that had crossed Dean’s face.
“Oh! Uh… yeah.” Dean nodded, his lips tipping up at the sides, eyes crinkling at the corners.
“Jeeze, you started early,” Sam laughed, nodding his thanks as the waitress brought them more beer.
“You only get this good with practice,” Dean said, bouncing his eyebrows and pushing back his empty pie plate with a satisfied sigh. “Plus, living this life… I guess I kinda figure I have to take what I can get when I can get it.”
“But you didn’t know you’d be living this life in the eighth grade,” Sam protested.
Dean pressed his lips together, shrugging. “Maybe I did.”
“Whatever, man,” Sam shook his head. “You had to have had a different idea about what you wanted to be back then.”
Dean sat back, one arm across the back of the booth, beer in his opposite hand. He looked down at the amber liquid thoughtfully.
“What about you, Sam?” He said, deflecting the attention. “When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?”
Sam sat forward, turning the pint around slowly with the tips of his fingers. “I dunno… I think maybe when I was in high school.”
“What triggered it?”
“Watching you,” Sam said, almost shyly. He flicked his eyes up to Dean’s face, then back to his drink.
“Me? Why me?”
Sam pulled his bottom lip in. “It’s kinda… tangled.”
“I got nothin’ but time, man,” Dean said, relaxing his jaw and keeping a watchful eye on Sam’s bent head.
“Well, I’d watch you take care of me, and Dad, and then I’d watch you go out there and get beat to hell hunting evil… and no one knew about it.”
Dean remained silent.
“You and Dad… and I guess me eventually, only not really until after… after Jess… you never once acted like you should be doing something else, something… safe.”
Dean pushed out his lips, turning the pint of beer around with the tips of his fingers in a mirror image of his brother.
“I just saw you… giving your time to me, and to strangers… and I thought… well, people should know, y'know?”
Dean lifted an eyebrow. “And so you thought… lawyer?”
Sam chuckled softly. “I told you it was tangled.”
Dean took a drink of his beer.
“I guess I just thought that there had to be something out there where I could do something that made a difference in people’s lives—and they knew about it.” Sam finished his beer. “Sounds selfish when I say it out loud.”
“Nah,” Dean lifted his mouth in an understanding smile and shook his head. “That’s kinda why I wanted to be a fireman.”
“Those dudes are real heroes, y’know?” Dean rolled his neck, then sat forward. “They charge into the fire, don’t think of themselves, and people love them for it.”
Sam blinked, the image of Dean suddenly standing in his apartment doorway as Jessica’s body burned up the ceiling and heat rained down on him flashing across his vision. Dean hadn’t even paused; he’d simply grabbed Sam up and used his entire body to shove him out of the door and to safety.
And Sam loved him for it.
“Y’know, it’s weird,” Sam said rubbing the heel of his hand against his right eye. “We spend hours in that car and… we never talk like this.”
Dean lifted a shoulder. “Sometimes it’s good to get out of the house once in awhile.”
Sam blinked at him, a surprised laugh filling the space between them in the booth. Dean signaled the waitress for another round and rubbed the back of his neck. He watched as Sam settled comfortably into the corner of the booth. Neither of them were eager to move anytime soon.
“Y’know,” Dean said as they started in on their third pint. “This middle of nowhere thing is good for more than just a break.”
“How do you mean?” Sam tilted his head.
“Gives me a chance to try out my new gun.”
Sam laughed, his dimples showing, and tilted his head back against the wall behind him. “That piece of junk?”
“It’s not a piece of junk! It’s a classic!”
“Classic? Are you serious?”
“I mean, sure, maybe it needs a little TLC, but… that baby has some kick to it, I guarantee you.”
“And you know this how? You’ve never even fired the thing.”
Dean tapped his thumb on the table top. “I got an eye for these things.”
“That guy in Phoenix totally snowed you,” Sam shook his head, rubbing his too-long hair against the wall with the motion. “Classic…”
“Hey, don’t knock it, man,” Dean lifted his chin watching Sam out of hooded eyes. “Steve McQueen carried one just like it in Wanted: Dead or Alive.”
At that a genuine, full-bodied laugh erupted from Sam. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed a hand against his chest as his body shook with the motion. Watching him, Dean couldn’t help but join in. Laughing was a rare occurrence, and when it happened naturally, Dean wanted to freeze the moment, hold it close to him so that nothing broke in and destroyed it.
The cry was dead on the heels of the slam of the restaurant door against the wall as a lanky, dark-haired man in his mid-twenties burst into the room. Sam’s head shot up and Dean twisted in the booth.
“What the hell—“
The man was dressed like a movie extra from a bad western. His Wranglers were so new they looked starched, his white Brush-popper shirt stood out in stark contrast to a tan vest and his shiny black cowboy boots squeaked on the hardwood floor as he threw himself at the nearest table and grabbed a restaurant patron’s arm, wringing it desperately.
All conversation in the restaurant ceased. Everyone was still. The tinny-voiced country singer carried on oblivious to the man’s panicked gasping and eyes that darted frantically behind thick-rimmed glasses. The woman who had been waiting on Sam and Dean broke free of her shocked stupor and approached the man.
Reaching out to lay a gentle hand on the man’s upper arm, she started, “Sir, you need to calm down—“
“I will not calm down!” He snapped back at her, backing away from her hand and turning to the table on his other side. “Please, you gotta help me!”
His hands trembled as he reached for the man sitting at that table and Dean could see from across the restaurant that he was sweating. Chewing on his lower lip, Dean started to push himself free from the booth.
“Dean, no, wait, don’t—“ Sam reached for his brother, but he was too far away. Dean was standing and starting toward the man before Sam could get out of the booth.
Dean approached cautiously, his hands up and open, waist level. “Hey, Dude, take it easy, okay?”
The man whirled away from the table where his grip was currently being dislodged by a diner whose arm he was digging his fingers into and confronted Dean. “You don’t understand! He’s a monster! I saw… I saw him turn into a MONSTER!”
.......Part 1B located here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/46648.html>