"I'm just sayin' Sammy, of all the places we could've been headed, this is probably the furthest you could've picked."
"And we know whose fault that is." Sam had his knee crooked up as if that was really helping him keep his notes steady when Dean drove. He'd been reading the things and scribbling for the past couple hundred miles.
The unjustness of the comment made Dean blink.
"Dude, he was in the middle of extracting that one brain cell you've got out through your third eye or whatever the hell it was," Dean protested. "Excuse me if that was inconvenient to you."
Sam glanced over at him. "You didn't have to shoot him."
"Well, no, I guess not, but I figured you had little enough brains as it was without possessed psychic shaman guy snacking on them," Dean replied and then half smirked as a thought occurred to him. "Guy might've had such slim pickin's he'd need seconds."
"You would've been safe then," Sam replied, scribbling another note before looking up. "Dean, if you're wanting a break, just say so, okay?"
Dean held the smirk, even if the light feeling faded. He was getting predictable and that was bad. His brother knew him too well. He wasn't up to fighting trim yet even if he faked it well enough, and coming out and telling Sam he wasn't dealing with the whole thing about Dad had pretty much ruined whatever image he had going.
"Hell, no, the day I can't drive my baby is the day..." His words faded off as his thoughts derailed into memories of pain and the metallic tang of blood. "...is the day some asshole crashes it into a eighteen wheeler." He still couldn't put anything like real feeling into the words and his brother knew it. And he knew, he knew it, which made it all pointless, but road trips were pretty much like that and if he didn't talk, it was a long journey to have in silence.
Sam smiled and shook his head and carried on with his notes. "Whatever, Dean."
Sometimes having a brother who watched too much daytime TV and had a touch of the shining sucked ass. It was becoming increasingly difficult to hide things from him, and he had this whole tolerance thing going on since he'd pulled over the car and apologized for being an asshole. It was damn annoying, now that he came to think about it, but at least it had stopped Sam from going on and on and making everything he said or did, or didn't do something to do with him having some sort of breakdown over Dad. Truth was, it had been a lot easier to face his own death than deal with Dad or Sam dying and he wasn't telling his brother that just in case he saw it as some sort of death-wish or weird psychosis. That psych class had a helluva lot to answer for. One day he was going to swing past Stanford again and look up that professor and give him a respectful black eye for all the touchy-feely crap he'd had to put up with over the last year or so.
"If we have to go to California, there are a lot of places that are better than, uh..."
"One day you're actually going to listen to a word I say, Dean," Sam said losing a hint of that artificial patience. "Then I'll probably die of shock and haunt your ass."
"I'm so not asking why it's my ass you want to haunt, Sammy," Dean replied automatically as the Impala ate up the miles. "Seriously."
"It's where you keep your brains, bro," Sam replied easily enough and he preferred that banter to the Gandhi-like acceptance of all things that his brother had been hitting him around the head with. In a very passive, non-violent kind of way. "Look, pull over. I'll drive. Few more hours and we'll be close enough to stop and still hit the Winchester House for the Halloween special."
"Spooking the kiddies. Jesus," Dean exhaled but he didn't pull over. Not just then. That would be a little like admitting that Sam was right on the money. "I still don't get why we have to go there."
"Ash sent us to the shaman because his research said he had summoned the spirit of Sam Colt and he knew he had taken notes about the various weapons he'd made," Sam said.
"And said shaman turned out to have bitten off more than he could chew. The guy was practically rotting away when he was talking to us. I still can't believe you couldn't smell that," Dean replied. Few more miles and he'd find an unrelated reason to make Sam drive.
"I caught a cold, hanging around waiting for you to get your lazy butt out of bed," Sam said calmly, and damn this whole new tolerance thing was really starting to get on his nerves.
He couldn't find the rhythm again, how they worked or nearly worked, occasionally exploded or whatever it was that passed for normal. Truth was, he didn't think about it too much, he just lived it. And yeah, maybe that caused a few problems, but it solved a hell of a lot of them, too. It meant that he kept an eye on the important stuff and didn't clutter it up with his own crap.
Ever since the demon, the hospital, his close encounter with death and successfully scaring the pants off of Sammy, their dad dying in what he knew was no fucking coincidence, and his roadside confession, his brother had this whole Dean can't piss me off Zen thing going on. It was damn annoying because it was hard to get back to normal without Sam snapping back like he was used to.
He bantered, but there was no sting to it. Knowing his luck. Sammy'd probably made some weird pact that he'd never be nasty to him ever again. So far he was doing pretty good, but that was probably because he hadn't hit his stride yet. He was working on the principle that if he got annoying enough, Sam would have to start reacting.
"Hey, I was having a dream, finally found where they've been keeping all the hot chicks," Dean replied with a shrug, because it wasn't true. His dreams had been nothing but nightmares.
"Yeah well, you shot the evil undead shaman."
"Soul-sucking, you forgot that."
"Soul-sucking undead shaman."
"Zombie shaman gotta have the zombie in there."
"Dean, seriously, zombies are different to the undead. I know you've read that book," Sam said and there was a glimmer of irritation and Dean smirked a little. A little bit of genuine reaction was all he asked for.
"Tell that to Angela. Okay, so I shot him, incidentally saving your life Sammy, and this was apparently a screw up?" Dean asked. Next gas station, he was pulling over. Sometimes his bones ached as if they were all bruised on the inside. Not that he was telling his brother about that little side effect. Hadn't really slowed him up any, he could still take out a zombie shaman guy by swinging his Winchester up and letting rip with one hand. A guy had to have muscles for that.
"Dude, if you'd screwed up any more, your dick would be sprouting wings," Sam replied. "We needed that guy. We needed to know about how the Colt or the bullets were made so we could get some more done, or find out if there was another gun. Something useful. Ash reckoned he'd be our best bet of finding out. I mean, I have the shaman's notes, but they don't make much sense."
"There's a surprise from a guy with worms in his head." Dean drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. "So because I shot him with a Winchester gun, we can go to this Winchester house and get hold of the spirit and ask it a few questions, right?"
"I knew you were listening," Sam replied, glancing over at him. "Yeah, that's about the size of it."
"I was listening but that's different to believing. I mean come on... Winchester House? What are the odds?" Dean scoffed. He wasn't entirely convinced this wasn't some joke of his brother's, although if he really had driven across country for a hoax, he was going to be so pissed Sam wouldn't know what hit him.
"Pretty high. Look, it was designed as a spirit trap, Dean. It's like a massive spirit waystation or bottleneck, and legend has it anyone or anything killed by a Winchester gun filters through the place."
"Place'll be full of Bambi's mother then," Dean pointed out.
"You referenced Disney?"
"Had to show you something when you were a kid." Dean said defensively. "And you cried like a big wuss."
"No look, Disney? Really, Disney?"
"Scarred you for life, Sammy. You were never the same," Dean shook his head. His brother wasn't going to let that drop. Maybe he could make it to the next gas station after all.
Truth was, Sam was still pretty worried about Dean, and about himself come to that. He couldn't shake the feeling that things were going to head to the inevitable really unpleasant ending, and he'd begun to think that he knew how their Dad had felt about things. Stuck on a pathway that lead directly to dying, win or lose.
It was pretty ironic, really, because he'd always pegged Dean as the Winchester-most-likely
Most likely to die doing something ridiculously heroic. To go in without back-up. To take a hit for someone else.
Now he just wasn't sure enough of what the hell was going on to be able to tell him he'd help and make things better.
He glanced across every now and then at Dean's sleeping expression. Dean had scared the crap out of him. By nearly dying -- not just having a foot in the door but pretty much moving in on the other side before his 'miracle' cure -- by then just becoming all the things that he hated about their dad. Obsessive, closed off, a simmering ball of anger and rage. Strangely, he hadn't let himself think about it, about what Dean coming back meant aside from what it meant to him. It meant not being alone. Still having someone there. Being able to move on somehow.
For a brief moment, he'd glimpsed a little of what Dean seemed to be reaching for. Nothing too much aside from just not being alone, which shouldn't be too much to ask for anyone, but for his brother it seemed to be an impossible dream. As far away as his fading ambitions for a normal life. Truth was, he thought about what the demon had said to his brother, and he'd seen how it had hit him every single time dead on.
Sitting by Dean's bedside, he'd wondered for the first time what it felt like to be him, to be that person. To spend a life protecting someone who didn't want protecting. Being there for someone who said they didn't want to be there in return. To be the glue, the replacement for so many different people that all people looked at was whatever function he was trying to do that day.
There were a lot of things that he'd planned to say to Dean if he just, please god, woke up and here they were coupla months down the line and...
He hadn't said any of it.
The words had vanished with the shock of losing Dad, Dean working himself back to fitness and piecing himself together along with the Impala. Hell, he knew he'd been a little all over the place himself talking crap and spouting off, "Dad would've," because it was natural to cope that way. It was a different grief to losing Jess. It was like losing roots, whereas Jess had been like losing hope. He'd always felt Dean was lucky not to have to go through that until he realised with a bitter twist of comprehension that his brother didn't have it to lose.
All along, Dean had been thinking clearly, and trying to deal with that and the knowledge that whatever the outcome, his life had been bought at the expense of someone he loved. His worst nightmare, Sam was pretty sure about that. He was pretty sure that sometimes the thought of being last man standing woke Dean up in a cold, fear-soaked sweat.
That fierce obsession had faded to a calmer form of a need to get this job done. Implacable, yeah that was a good word for it. They were implacable now. Driving across country to take a lead on the Colt. Driving back to take a slim chance of intercepting that information before it was lost forever. Driving anywhere there was an answer.
It was all still kinda obsessive, but not in the same way that had Dean transforming into a very human monster before his eyes. There were some things that just weren't worth the price. He'd learned that a little late in the game from Dean himself, but he had learned it in the end.
He looked at the road stretching out in front of him, wanting Dean to wake up and give him some snarky comments just to annoy him. Just to talk to him. Just to be Dean and be alive in the same space as him again.
He looked at the next signpost to San Jose.
If Dean hadn't woken up on his own in a hundred miles, he was putting in one of his tapes. There was no way he'd sleep through that.
Contrary to popular belief, the Impala didn't run on some symbiotic relationship with Dean's state of health, even if Dean felt like he had been rebuilding himself as much as the car.
He hadn't cared about the expense because he'd sharked a bit of pool, paid in cash to Bobby for the bits he couldn't scavenge because it was important. She was his own dark phoenix and a way of proving things could be fixed in a very real, tangible way. He found the purr of her engine on the open road every bit as good as a lullaby. A damn sight easier to sleep in her rather than in a motel room with silence playing background to secrets that wouldn't shut the hell up. The Secret, complete with capital letters in his head, in case he ever forgot it was that important.
That was pretty weird because considering he had been in an accident that nearly killed him in the car, he had no problem with that. He was at home here, or as near to home as he got with his brother driving and the Impala complaining at having to hold back on town streets.
And somewhere along the line, Sammy had changed his tapes.
"Sammy, you're playing Coldplay in my car?"he mumbled opening his eyes. "That's like... dude, I'll find a circle of unholy deafness."
"House rules, Dean," Sam said with a smirk. "Didn't you tell me that?"
"Yeah, but Coldplay." He'd have to get some sort of emo-repelling amulet. Visit that voodoo chick and make sure there were no lingering vibes. Have the car blessed and smudged with sage. He made a mental note to pick some out of the next herb garden where he saw it.
"It's in your brain now. Subliminal messages," Sam replied sounding way too smug. "Besides, we're here. San Jose."
"Think we blew through here once when we were kids," Dean said, trying not to flinch from the memory. Him, Dad, Sammy being about six in a hot summer and a succubus prowling the streets looking for virgin prey. He didn't have time to do that. Didn't have a gap in his life for weakness.
"I'm surprised Dad didn't stop and show you this place," Sam said as they followed the signs to what was obviously a big draw.
"Hey, you were there, too, Sammy," Dean replied absently looking around and catching sight of the Winchester House for the first time.
He wasn't sure what he had been expecting, some semi-mansion effect place, maybe, but not this.
"Jesus, Sam, its Barbie's dream house on crack!"
"You know, man, I'm getting really worried about you, Dean. First Disney and now Barbie." Sam contrived to look a bit smug and Dean just gave him a look.
"I was thinking the typical haunted rundown place," Dean replied looking back at the Winchester House. "You have got to be kidding me. This is a full on tourist attraction, Sammy."
"Sam. And at least it'll be a piece of cake getting in," his brother replied. "The website says they do special flashlight tours... which I managed to get us on the list for."
"Got a feelin' they might be a little put out about the rifles tucked under the coat," Dean pointed out. "A flashlight tour in a Haunted House? Haven't these guys ever watched.any horror movie ever made?"
"It's good business, and I don't think they're too late. Look, Dean," Sam leaned towards him. "We go in there, slip away from the tour, cast a quick protective circle, get out a ouija board and just ask old Frederick 'Owl-heart' Jones all about the Colt then hook back up with the tour and get out. "
"You make it sound so simple, Sammy." Things generally did when Sam was running a plan. Usually there was the need for some improvising on the fly, and that was his area of expertise.
"It's Sam. And yes, it should be simple. It's Halloween, we shouldn't have any difficulties getting through. All you need with a ouija board is someone in the room with touch of talent -- not a rifle, Dean."
"And that's why I bring Sam 'The Shining' Winchester wherever I go," Dean said wryly as he opened the door. "Dude, I've got the picture, but pardon me if I work out a way to get some sort of protection in there with us."
"You go ahead. Stick the rifle down your pants. No one will know." Sam sounded disapproving but Dean just smiled, letting slip his dazzling charm.
"From you, Sammy, I'll take that as a compliment."
Still smiling, he turned and left Sam's indignant spluttering in his wake.
Sarah Winchester was, in his own words, 'one whacked out bitch'. And Dean thought he was being pretty charitable when he said that. After they had paid -- paid ferchristsake -- for something to eat down the road that was cashing in on the tourist trade, and drifted around for a few hours because Sam had neglect to mention that 'their' candlelight tour was one of the ones coming up to midnight around eleven, Dean was pretty sure he could recite the Sarah Winchester story in his sleep. And probably would.
That was why he was yawning a little too obviously as their terrible perky tourguide tried to infect their select group of about fifteen with spookish enthusiasm for the bizarre building.
"After the death of not only her infant daughter, but her husband as well, Sarah Winchester was devastated. She inherited a staggering $20 million and back in 1881 that must've seemed like an impossible sum. But Sarah was convinced that she was plagued by misfortune and at the prompting of a friend, she visited a renowned spiritualist in the hope of receiving some comfort or guidance."
Dean snorted quietly and murmured quietly, "Should've visited Missouri. She would've told her to suck it up and get on with it."
Sam grinned a little but didn't speak; he had his attentive listening face on.
The tourguide, who Dean mentally called in his head Hi-please-call-me-Mindy seemed oblivious to what he was saying and continued, dropping into an approximation of thrilling tones.
"Much to Sarah Winchester's horror, the séance did not bring her the comfort she had been seeking. No, it was there that the spirits had a very grave message for her."
Dean saw the moment that she pressed a discrete remote and the lights around them started to glow in a mysterious and yeah, to the sort of people who'd scream at a spider in the bath tub, a pretty spooky fashion.
"The spirits told her that she had been cursed!"
Dean was impressed. "Nice use of reverb on the mike there," he commented and Sam elbowed him. "What?"
"Dean, shut up. Don't spoil it." Score one for Dean against Zen Sam.
Spooky music accompanied their tour guide's dramatic recitation and Dean tried really hard not to laugh.
"Sarah Winchester became convinced that this information was true. That, as the spiritualist medium had declared, she was doomed to be haunted by the spirits of those who had been shot by the Winchester Rifle." Hi-please-call-me-Mindy looked around at them all. "Imagine if you can the feeling of constantly being hunted, of fearing the supernatural death prophesised to come to you. Imagine being alone in the dark and wondering if the night would reach out.and take you!"
"It's a struggle, but I'm imagining," Dean murmured dryly.
"Shush, Sam, I'm empathizing. They'd have to be a pretty hot spirit before I'd let them 'take' me," Dean said, deliberately provoking his brother some more. This had to be the lamest hunt in the history of hunting. There was probably a list of them up somewhere in the Roadhouse tacked up in the restroom -- Hunts that Sucked the Most Rotten Ass. This would be up in the top five.
He made a mental note to start that list the next time they swung back there.
"Dean." Yeah, a Sammy-growl of doom. Things were looking up.
"Sarah Winchester was told she had one hope. To move West and then build a home where the restless spirits would wander before finding their way onwards and to never stop building the house because she had been told in no uncertain terms that if she ever completed the house she would die. So she built and built and built the house, filling it with rooms, passageways, plans inspired by sessions with the spirits for over thirty-eight continuous years." Hi-please-call-me-Mindy, smiled in a way Dean knew she was doing to up her tip, and then said. "Some say that the spirits that wander the house make this the most haunted house in America. Certainly we have had a lot of psychics confirm the presence of spirits. In fact, tonight in what used to be Sarah Winchester's bedroom they are filming for a live Ghosthunter special for Halloween. We may get to peek in on our tour around, see if the renowned psychics have managed to get anything from the restless spirits purported to be constantly roaming the house. It is Halloween after all."
There was a ripple of chuckling and interested murmuring they finally appeared ready to move on. Finally.
"The rooms in the front of the house were boarded up by Sarah Winchester after the great Earthquake in 1906 to prevent the angry spirits from destroying any more of the house. Sarah was fascinated by occult ideas and you will see repetitions of certain motifs around the house. The number thirteen fascinated her, and the house has many incidences of..."
Blah, blah, blah. Like he said, he could've repeated the story in his sleep. Fact was, right now the house wasn't feeling particularly haunted. A little freaky but not haunted. He'd been in enough to know the difference; that moment where something slid from the air and coalesced just there, ice cold and eyes glittering with untold years of hatred.
Slightly more disturbing than the fact that there were thirteen panels of glass in the windows.
He shifted slightly so his sawed off shotgun didn't stick out noticeably. His leather jacket was the best at covering weaponry and he'd secreted a few odds and ends in various pockets. It really would've been like going out naked to be wandering around like Sammy was with only an ouija board and some kitchen salt under his jacket.
"So uh... when are we." He jerked his head to indicate his growing need to ditch this group and get on with the hunt rather than listen in mock awe about how freakishly amazing it was that no one had ever counted the same amount of rooms twice in the Winchester House and removal men had gotten so lost that it had taken six weeks to move things out.
"In a minute. We'll try one of those boarded off rooms at the front," Sam murmured back. "We won't need long."
"Great because, man... this is boring the hell out of me." And he ached even though he'd slept on the journey. Hunters were either out on Halloween kicking serious ass, or holed up with a shitload of protection around them. And here he was taking a thirty-five dollar tour of an architectural nightmare that looked like that dude Escher had been tampering with the blueprints.
Except the blueprints were on napkins and tablecloths and sheets apparently. Dictated by spirits at nightly séances. Go figure.
The group had strung out ,and Dean waited until he saw Hi-please-call-me-Mindy do her unobtrusive headcount and then turned to use her flashlight to point out the next set of fascinating features. He tugged at Sam and then melted back into the darkness behind them, not needing the flashlight to work out where they were going.
"Dude, you moving in the dark creeps me out," Sam murmured as they rounded the previous corner.
"Practice, Sammy. Got a few years of experience on you." It was a standard reply, but every now and then he realized it was true. He'd started early. Earlier than they had with Sam, and he had an additional four years of solos after Sam had gone to Stanford. That came to... best part of a decade more and in hunting, that was a lot of time. Sam though... Sam was freakishly good at some things. And of course there was that handy-dandy psychic thing.
Of course then he chose a moment to stand on a creaky floorboard but yeah.
"Here. Here will do," Sam said pushing open one of the doors that had only a nominal amount of boarding. Easy to get under.
The room was like any other and Dean watched as his brother hastily drew out a circle of protection in salt, muttering Latin under his breath that made him smile because he was pretty sure the Church wouldn't be impressed with the mixing and matching that was going on. But whatever got the job done.
The ouija board was out, and Sam sat crosslegged on the floor in the circle, looking up at him expectantly.
"Oh come on," Dean said as he realised that Sam wanted him to play the séance game, too. "Can't you use it on your own? I hate these things."
"You've used it before. Pretty recently." Sam looked at him and gave that head tilt thing that really made him think he studied puppies to get that innocent look going on.
"Yeah, well, not that I remember," Dean said kneeling down. Quicker get up if there was trouble. "On account of being, well, pretty much dead."
"Near only counts in--"
"Yeah, yeah... c'mon Sammy, we've got to do this and get back before someone realizes we've ditched the tour." It made him uncomfortable to think about because it brought it all crashing down on him again how it was that he managed to survive. He never asked to have his life bought for him. Bartered. It made him feel owned. Not his own person, and Sammy probably wouldn't understand how wrong that was. His brother wanted to be normal after all.
"Right. Man, okay let me just uh..." Sam cleared his throat, dark eyes refocusing on the ouija board. "Put your fingers on the, yeah, like that. I'd like to contact the spirit of Frederick Jones also know as Owl-heart. Is he here?"
"Dude, you sound like you are trying to call collect," Dean said as he waited.
"Kinda am," Sam replied with a grin and then looked startled when the pointer moved over to the 'Yes'.
"Hey, it's working!"
Dean was less ecstatic, as he could feel the weirdly magnetic sensation under his fingers that sparked a feeling of familiarity that he really didn't want to think about.
"Right well, let's get on with it. Ask about the Colt, if there are other bullets or whatever"
"Right right, Frederick. Does the demon that killed our mother have the Colt and the bullet?~
Dean grimaced a little but Sam wasn't looking, but asking questions.
"Is there another Colt?"
"Damn. There goes that plan." Dean said, his fingertips buzzing now with the energy.
"Are there more bullets for the Colt, or can some more be made?"
"You confused him," Dean said as the pointer darted back and forth. "Break it down."
Sam exhaled. "Okay. Are there more bullets?"
"Can more be made?~
"See? Simple," Dean said nonchalantly but there was a feeling of sudden anticipation that maybe this hadn't been a waste of time. Maybe he would buy Ash a drink when they got back after all. If he had a weapon, there was nothing he wouldn't face. Hell, he'd face them without, but he stood a better chance of walking away if he had a weapon.
"How? How are they made?"
The next bit seemed to go on forever and his arms were killing him by the end of it, jerked around as if the spirit was trying to get tumbling words out. He lost track of the words but it felt a little like he could feel Frederick "Owl-heart" Jones standing behind him and an echo of words he couldn't focus on. Sam seemed to be hearing it too so he hadn't gone completely nuts. Well not yet.
"Holy Metal. Alchemy. Nagari. Full Moon. Seal of St Michael. That's it." Sam said aloud.
"Not very specific," Dean commented. He recognised some of it. Nagari was alchemy as well. Something to do with the destruction and creation.
"Specific enough. I've heard of some of these things. There's a lot of work involved in each thing. I should've guessed it was alchemy based." Sam turned and scribbled a note leaving Dean with his fingers on the pointer.
"Well yeah, because then we wouldn't be having an impromptu séance on Halloween in a nuthouse if you had known," Dean said and then frowned a little.
His fingers quivered and he looked down at them in surprise. "What the..."
The pointer started moving, his fingers going numb with sudden cold and he looked up at Sam in sudden alarm. "Sam?"
"Dude, are you channelling?" Sam said incredulously.
"Sam, if you're using that mindwhammy thing of yours, so help me..." His hands... his hands were prickling and like ice and the pointer moved with jerky desperate movements. "S.T.O"
"This is so not funny, Sam," Dean said and he didn't care that his voice was a little high with strain. His hands felt like he'd plunged them into ice water. "I can't stop it!"
"Not a good idea to interrupt a spirit when it's got something important to pass on," Sam said noting the letters that were flying under his fingers up to the point there was a gust of wind and the door to the room flew open and Dean fell backwards with the mother of all pins and needles in his hands.
"Never allowing you to talk me into this again," he complained shaking out his hands. "What was that all about?"
Sam was frowning looking at the paper. "Well... uh..."
Dean took the paper from him and frowned a little.
"Not much on grammar or punctuation, these dead guys," Dean commented. "Stop what? Opening? Who's opening what? No one would be stupid enough to do anything like an opening or summoning ceremony at Halloween in a Haunted House would they?"
Sam looked at him and he had the realisation at the same time.
"The fucking TV show!"
"If they don't complete the circles exactly right, this is going to be..."
"Dude, we had to practice for months before we could get that damn thing right. You think they had that?" Dean replied scrambling to his feet. "Live TV or not, they're in for a hell of time if they open the door into a purposely built spirit focus."
They didn't even wait to pick up the ouija board and he followed Sam in a half jog up the twisty corridors. He didn't even question that Sam seemed to know where he was going even when he was usually the one on point.
"We should be in time. Not that far from..." Sam stopped as they seemed about to plough into a group of people stuck in the dark and babbling hysterically.
"It's part of the tour, isn't it? Mom? They made all the flashlights die because of the tour, right?" The young girl's voice sounded shrill and nervous.
"Of course, honey. It's just something to spook us a little more."
"It's working, too," an older man's voice said with a bit of self-depreciating humour.
"If everyone could just stay together," Hi-please-call-me-Mindy sounded very nervous. "I'm sure this is just temporary."
There was a scream from somewhere further up in the darkness and Dean started forward. That wasn't someone messing around, that was someone screaming in terror.
"What... who was that?" an older lady asked. "Miss? This is part of the show right?"
"I'm, uh, I'm afraid not. But I'm sure, um..."
"Maybe it's part of the TV show?" one of the kids piped up. "Like, like they're filming us and you know, it's like a hidden camera."
"Got to be," Dean said thanking god for cynical kids. "Hey, um... Mindy right? Mindy, how about my brother and I take a look see up at where they're doing the filming and get them to turn of whatever EMP device they've got shutting down all our lights."
"Yeah," Sam added. "It's not hard to do. Just need an EMP generator and you can knock out lights... classic ghost effect stuff."
Dean really, really hoped nobody thought about it too hard because they might realise a device that could knock out flashlights for a TV program would also knock out the cameras used to film the damn thing. Slight logic loophole there, but everyone was so glad to have some sort of explanation their clutching at straws was palpable.
"Would you mind?" Mindy said and Dean felt a little sorry for her. She was pretty young herself and probably working holidays because she needed the cash.
"You leave it to us." Dean smiled in the dim light and he and Sam set off in the direction of the scream.
It occurred to him there was a lot that could be said about people who instinctively set off in the direction of a scream, but he wasn't going to be the one to say it.
As they took the set of stairs up to Sarah Winchester's room -- thank god it was clearly signposted -- Dean felt the atmosphere change right at the moment that Sam wincing and pressed his hand to his head.
"Sammy? Sam? What is it?"
"You feel that?" Sam bowed over a moment. "Jesus... it's likemassive pressure. We're too late. They're coming through."
"They?" Dean reached inside his jacket and pull out his shotgun. "You able to focus to fire this thing?"
That earned him Sammy's 'you have got to be kidding me' look which he guessed he deserved. He passed it over even as Sam said. "Dean, some of this feels familiar. Very familiar."
"Things shot or killed by a Winchester right?" Dean said thinking quickly. "I've shot and killed a fair few things. So have you. Pretty much gonna have some old friends turn up."
There was no denying it. He'd been proud of their reputations as hunters and now it was coming to bite them in the ass.
"You got another right?" Sam asked as he checked for rocksalt load.
"Right," Dean lied. There wasn't room for two shotguns under his jacket. Silver blades, handgun and fire would have to do. If it didn't, they were so screwed.
He startled as someone staggered down the corridor towards them.
"Oh my god... oh my god." Blood was streaming down the man's face from his eyes. "My... she's..."
"Like I said, old friends," Dean said glancing at Sam. "Bloody Mary."
"Hey, hey, you okay? What happened in there?" Sam asked in a soothing voice.
"Holy Fuck, they they were doing a summoning ritual... inviting the spirits in. I was filming and it it looked cool, sensational for the TV. Bob... Bob, did a close up... crossed into the circle thing... andthere was... things exploded. Voices... hands... I looked in the mirror they had on set..."
Well at least his eyes hadn't liquefied along with his brain. Unless breaking a circle of protection in a summoning ceremony counted. Actually, it probably did in a supernatural sort of Darwin Award way.
"Yeah, yeah okay, we got that. Figure of a woman, all that."
"There were so many, so many pouring in." The man was shaking. "I think they're dead... all of them... I think..."
"Look, I want you to go to this corridor, take this salt. Get everyone in that group in the hallway standing inside a big unbroken circle of salt okay.? You got that?" Sam said passing over the salt container. "Seriously, man, I'm not joking here."
The camera guy nodded, the blood congealing on his cheeks. "Ookay. I can do that."
Dean shifted a little. "Maybe you should go with him, Sammy, make sure he doesn't fuck it up."
"You're not going up against the Winchesters' greatest kills without me," Sam replied. "Okay? Go... hurry!"
The camera guy hurried off clutching the salt to him like a holy grail.
Dean was getting his weapons to hand, really wishing he had a few more tucked away. Four or five more shotguns for a start.
"Dean, this is a big problem," Sam was saying as they kept on heading onwards. "It's not like we can banish them by salting and burning the bones. We've already done that. We broke Bloody Mary's mirror then showed her her reflection. She was gone."
"And now she's back and she's not dropping in to borrow a cup of sugar," Dean said trying to remember what spirits he had shot. Or Sam had shot.
There were a lot. Various Women in White. Vengeful spirits. Hookman, that weirdass thought form tulpa thing. Damn, that life sucking Shtriga. Shapeshifters, oh and nutso asylum guy. Those were just the most recent.
"Right. Dean, we've got a load of spirits here without a means to kill them."
"So what you're saying is that we should be runnin' for the hills right about now." Dean replied.
"If I thought we could get out... yeah, pretty much." Sam replied. "This place was designed to be a container. The broken circle has pretty much allowed the other side to bleed into here. The whole house is sort of standing across the veil right now, kinda half in their territory, half ours. That's what Halloween is all about and summoning and opening ceremonies are designed to make a pocket of their world here."
"So what? We wait it out?" Dean asked. He hated being told that he couldn't do anything.
"Good chance that by the end of it, the whole house might end up as more their side than ours."
"That doesn't sound good."
"It's not. But this house was designed for this on a lower scale," Sam said earnestly. "There has to be a naturalplug to pull. A release valve. If we can get that..."
"Wait, wait, didn't we have someone try and warn us. Someone on our side?" Dean put in remembering. "A ghost who wasn't too happy about other ghosts being here?"
"Yes." Sam appeared to be thinking. "Yeah, Dean you're right. That's got to be Sarah Winchester. She spent her life worrying about the spirits. She would know. She would know what was built to pull the plug."
He could hear noises up ahead. "You go back, see if you can get hold of her. Dial her up, whatever, I'll go and.."
"Dean, she talked through you. I'm thinking you've got better chance there."
Dean paused. He had a point although Sam was usually their resident psychic. "In that case, you fall back to those people -- protect them. I'll go see if I can have a nice discussion with Sarah Winchester and find out how the hell we're going to get out of here."
It was just amazing how quickly they managed to get themselves up shit creek, with or with out that proverbial paddle.
As he watched Sam head off, he turned back and instead of heading to the room where they left the ouija board, he headed on towards Sarah Winchester's room. Of all the places in the house, she was most likely to be there.
Sam half ran back down the corridor towards the stranded tour group. He could feel the pressure of spirits all around him like he was immersed in some bubbling cauldron of psychic energy. It was times like this he really wished he gone back to Missouri and done a bit of How to be a Freak 101. Although she'd probably clip him around the ear for calling it that even if he didn't say it aloud.
Reflective eyes caught the moonlight from outside.
There wasn't much more than the eyes and an amorphous shape -- a least until it coalesced into a shadowy version of Dean.
"You know, it really did freak him out, appearing to kill himself to save you. Kinda weird and a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Sammy. "
"He's not dead." Sam couldn't help saying that because it was practically a mantra he had to chant to himself. Dean wasn't dead.
"He's died a lot of times. It's only a matter of time before one of them sticks. It amuses me that the one time it was a fake was the one time it was believed genuine," the shapeshifter swirled in front of him.
"Yeah, well. You're dead." As a come back, it lacked a certain snappiness, but Sam was busy backing up. The only thing he could think of was that if even the creatures they had killed were here, they were now bound by the rules that governed spirits. He hoped. He had to get to that salt circle. Put down a few layers of protection if he had a chance.
The shifting visage loomed, eyes cat bright in the moonlight. "Just another skin to wear, Sammy boy."
Sick bastard. "Back off"
"Or what? Whatcha gonna do, Sammy?" It drifted nearer. "I can touch you, but you can't touch me. And I've got a whole load of friends who'd like to meet you and your brother again. You know, we've got a sort of club going on. It's quite big now."
"Growing bigger every damn day," Sam growled at the skinwalker spirit. He still had a handful of salt in his pocket that he scratched together and as it swooped closer, he threw at it, hoping it worked.
Surprisingly, it did, which meant he might get somewhere with iron as well. When he turned and ran for it down the corridor, he grabbed anything that looked remotely iron like on his way, and turned sharply into a room where he could hear shrill voices.
He found the group huddled together, nearly hysterical with... oh hey. The Shtriga, one of his personal favourites lurking around them.
"It's a Dementor!" The young kid who, let's face it, was out way too late, with parents or not, and who was probably the closest to the truth about the creature swooping around them.
A 'Dementor' who had snacked on him enough that he'd felt his life draining away. It snapped around towards him and he didn't have salt handy, so he grabbed for an iron poker on display and swung it just as the creature blurred at him with that intense speed he remembered.
It broke apart into wisps, reforming again even as he lunged at it with the poker and twisted at another shriek from the group behind him. Two more spirits. Woman in White and, standing in a pool of water, the ghostly apparition of the boy from the lake.
He practically dived for the salt circle, watching them watching him. There had to be someone else with ghosts to haunt them. Aside from him.
"Where's your brother?" It was the camera man. "What are those things?"
"I would've thought it was obvious they are ghosts," an older lady said from where she was holding tightly to a couple of very scared kids.
"There's no such thing as ghosts! It's got to be a trick," a teenage boy was saying. Probably to impress his girlfriend or something.
"Do me a favor and just pretend there are if you want to survive," Sam said. "Look, Dean's working on something to shut this down. He knows what he's doing."
God, he really hoped so. He should be the one trying to contact the spirit but he'd decided Dean would be better and Dean hadn't even questioned it.
"How can he... look at them... they're..."
Sam grimaced a little to himself. "They're a Woman in White, a vengeful water spirit, a Shtriga witch spirit... oh, and a shapeshifter."
"I hate to be forgotten, Sammy, it would wound me. It really would. No wait, you've done that to me before," the spirit smiled and rushed at the circle causing a near panic.
"Don't break the circle! It can't get in!" Sam shouted over the shrieks. "You must stay where you are!" Sure enough, it flinched away at the last moment, and that gave him some hope.
There was only one good thing about this situation, and that was if they were here, they weren't hunting Dean.
"Listen to him! He seems to know what he's talking about," the tour guide called out and they calmed down a little.
Sam was watching everything and the sheer volume of spirits seemed to be thickening the air. It was like a surrealist painting where he realized the swirls in the mists that were rising around them were faces and the gaps between them were even more faces bleeding half formed one into another.
The house was a crucible of spirit energy and he remembered reading that many disappearances of houses, villages, ships and towns recorded over the millennia came down to a concentration of energy like this, wrapping portions of the real world inside of itself.
That couldn't happen. He had a horrible feeling if that happened, the nicest thing that could happen to them was death.
"We've got to stay calm and things will be okay," Sam said reassuringly to the other people there.
"Yeah, says the guy who got his ass kicked by me when I was alive," the shapeshifter's eyes gleamed silver.
"And then Dean shot you. So don't forget it," Sam snapped back and was aware of the huddle group staring at him. "It's okay, it's... kinda our job."
Had been 'Dad's job', or Dean's. He was just after the demon, this crap seemed trivial. He just wanted to be rid of the damn thing.
"Anyone wearing anything silver?"
"I've got a necklace. It's not a crucifix or anything though," a teenage girl said pulling it off uncertainly.
"Doesn't have to be. See, my brother killed this thing by shooting it in the heart with a silver bullet. I'm thinking the memory might be a little painful to it." Sam said pooling the pendant and chain in his hand. He was gratified to see the shapeshifter back off a little.
He exhaled a little, his breath billowing in the suddenly chilled air. "We just have to sit tight and wait for Dean."
And just hope he wasn't doing something really stupid.
Who was he kidding? This was Dean he was talking about.
Heading into Sarah Winchester's room had been really, really stupid, Dean decided from the fact he was lying on his back half stunned, watching a maelstrom of objects whirl around above him. He probably had a fucking concussion or something -- at least he thought so until he realized that the air was staying fuzzy and misty and it wasn't just his eyesight.
He cautiously sat up, looking through the gathering mist and ducking to miss something floating past even as he heard a strident voice saying. "Get out! This is my house, and it's bad enough you are here, but this is my room and I will have some peace!"
Hey, so maybe not a really stupid idea because Sarah Winchester seemed to be keeping the other spirits out, although being corporeal in this room had severe disadvantages. He ducked to avoid a box of trinkets followed by the remains of the camera equipment arcing past his head. He was really hoping that the prone figures on the ground were just unconscious and not dead because he didn't want to deal with any more restless spirits.
Okay, there was probably some protocol involved in talking to spirits and this was really Sammy's gig more than his but
"Hey, Sarah? Uh... Sarah Winchester? Ma'am?"
Her diminutive figure turned and coalesced to a bright pair of eyes, and an austere, stern expression of someone who had obviously been beautiful when she had been alive.
"You did not stop them. I told you to."
"Yeah well... kinda in the wrong place ma'am. We're wanting to stop it now because my brother thinks there's a possibility that we'll get stuck here forever." He said that as if it was totally okay. He rubbed the side of his head. Yeah, lump the size of an egg. "It's a nice place but..."
"You will make them leave."
"Yeah, yeah, I will if you tell me how. How do they leave this place? All the spirits?" Dean winced a little and stopped poking at the bump there.
"I told you," Sarah Winchester had little patience with repeating herself. "The opening. Family blood."
"So, let me guess Mindy the tourguide is a long lost descendent or something." Yeah, life like a TV show.
Okay so maybe not. "So how do I pop the cork on this place without family blood?" Dean asked getting frustrated. Sam was stuck in a salt circle with little between him and the bad guys and he was here making chit-chat with the ghost-lady of the fucking manor.
"Winchester blood. To pay for Winchester crimes."
"Winchester, right." Of course it was. "Hey, I'm bleeding right now, I'm not seeing any disappearing spirits" Dean was hoping he was seeing double because he was seeing a lot.
"Jacob's Ladder. I would go there, call upon the good spirits to aid me, and mark each step with a drop of blood." Sarah Winchester was looking at him. "You must hurry. Your brother is in peril."
Of course he was. Sam could fall into peril quicker than those dudes in that Holy Grail film. "Could you tell me where this Jacob's Ladder is?"
The door swung open. He took that as a no.
"There's got to be something," Sam was saying getting frustrated as he quizzed Mindy on details of the house. "It was built to be a spirit trap, there has to be away out."
"Not one they've told me about," Mindy said helplessly. They were freezing in the room and he'd had to donate his jacket to one of the kids.
"No... doors, that seem to go nowhere? Or corridors? Hatches? Steps?" Sam asked pressing the point.
"Wait... wait, there's a staircase that goes right into the ceiling," Mindy said urgently. "It's one of the stops on the tour."
"Great, great" Finally! A break. "Where is it?"
"It was on from the room, Sarah Winchesters room... we call it that because it was the one she was in when she died," Mindy said still shivering.
"I've got to get to Dean," Sam muttered, looking out of their circle. The spirits were very restless, shifting and swirling in the localised mist that lay over the floor like a sheet of liquid seething air. So far, the salt circle was holding, reinforced with some hasty protective wards drawn with one of the lipsticks he had scavenged, the iron objects and what silver he could muster on cardinal points of a pentacle.
Maybe they could hold out long enough
He watched the door fly open roughly and winced. Then again, maybe not. Poltergeist. Not the one from Lawrence, but a nasty little bastard he remembered from before who'd cracked his wrist and tossed Dean down a flight of stairs and had a tendency to throw... yeah, pretty much everything.
"Get ready to duck, but don't leave the circle." He ordered curtly causing a fresh wave of panic. The spirits couldn't cross the threshhold but things they affected, physical things could. They were sitting ducks.
He ducked the candlestick, but the man behind him wasn't so lucky. There was a bellow of surprise and pain and then a veritable rain of small high velocity missiles headed their way. He ended up turning his back, hunching over one of the kids, feeling each object hit his back like a ball popped out of a pitching machine.
At least the poltergeist hadn't progressed to throwing glass shards or something, although that wouldn't be long coming unless he could get them out of here.
It was also obvious that it was him it was after -- and he really needed to get to Dean, tell him about the stairway. They seemed to have the idea about staying in the circle and if he led the worst of the ghosts away then they would be fine. He hoped.
"Look... I'm going to lead them away, okay?" he whispered. "I'm going to find Dean, tell him about the staircase."
"It's... there's more than one, and those doors going nowhere," Mindy pointed out.
Fucking great. "Well maybe one of them will be enough," he said and stood up. He took half of the left over salt, his gun and a necklace of silver. "Wish me luck."
Dean better be okay out there. Before anyone could change his mind, he took a deep breath, threw a handful of salt out ahead of him and while the spirits scattered he ran like hell towards the door.
Okay, he didn't remember shooting Dr. Sanford but the guy was turning out to be a real pain in the ass.
In fact, he distinctly remembered being the one shot but... maybe that girl had fired on him or something. For the last five minutes, Dean had been trying to fight the damn spirit off, had used half his salt in the process and had resorted to running for it. He rounded the corner, pausing for a moment to try and catch his breath. Maybe he'd finally given Dr. Angry the slip.
"Well, boy, looks like I get to hunt you an' your brother after all."
A light flared in the darkness, firebright lighting up the crazed eyes and distorted features of Pa Bender, the man who had proved to Dean that evil didn't just mean supernatural.
"Oh you've got to be kiddin' me!"
"Now why would I do tha' boy? Since your bitch friend went and shot me... and me already down."
There was a choking cold grip around his throat and he was shoved back.
"Fuck you," Dean choked out succinctly, reaching desperately for a weapon or something and then he felt the sear of the burn scar flare up under his shirt as if the redhot metal was pressing against skin.
"Put my mark on you, boy," the backwoodsman said with a seriously worrying tone. "Been a long time without a hunt."
"Yeah, well, it's going to be even longer," Dean said grabbing one of his sanctified blades and slicing out at the oppressive presence. It gave him a gap long enough to start running. Again.
"Can't run from me, boy! Lots of people have tried. Got 'em all in th'end"
"Yeah well" Huh. Bet he shot them too. With a rifle. Odds were it was a Winchester.
With a sudden inspiration Dean called out. "Hey! Hey, anyone there who wants a personal one on one with this psycho Bender guy? Like some of the people he shot?"
As he was running away, he saw shapes running towards him, and tried not to flinch as they rushed through him and there was an incoherent yell from behind him.
It bought him a little time, but his shoulder still damn well hurt. He hoped that they made the bastard pay.
He made it around the around and collided with Sam running the other way.
"Jesus, Sam! I thought I told you to..."
"No time -- poltergeist, shapechanger, Woman in White and couple of other following behind," Sam managed to get out.
"Just great. Pa Bender, Dr. Sanford, and couple of others that way," he gestured.
"This way then," Sam said and they jogged. "You talk to Sarah?"
"Yeah. Got to find 'Jacob's Ladder, whatever the hell that is," Dean said. He didn't say anything about blood. Sam would freak.
"Well that I can help you with," Sam managed. "'cause Mindy says there's a staircase around here somewhere that goes into the ceiling."
Well that fit the bill well enough. "Okay, let's find it and get this spirit escalator turned on." He ducked automatically as objects started pelting from the darkness.
"Just move... shoot the damn rock salt so we can get to the stairway."
In the end, that's what Sam had to do. They rounded the corner and there was the stairway ending in the dark of the ceiling. And right in front of it, Bloody Mary reflected from the silvered sheen of thirteen windows.
"Dean..." Sam said warningly.
"Keep them off my back. Sarah told me what to do, and I can take her," Dean replied.
"You're the one with the gun, Sammy, make it count," he said and stepped towards the glowing figure.
She looked up at him, her eyes dark and glistening as congealed blood. "I know your secret," she said and the pain began in his head, in his eyes.
"Yeah, I know" he replied, and blood tracks from his eyes dripped to the step as he moved forward. Glistening blood soaking into the wood as he staggered up each one, advancing on her, either dripping blood drops or smearing his hands as he pulled himself up. He gritted his teeth and dumped the last of his salt up and down the stairs forcing Mary to dissipate and recoalesce, and he kept on going. Until he reached the top.
Why wasn't it working? He heard the explosion of Sam's last shotgun blast as Mary advanced on him and the pain in his head was so much he couldn't think straight. What had he forgotten? Blood on every step, Winchester blood... oh... calling the good spirits for their aid. He wasn't good at that. Not used to the concept.
It showed in his hesitant address. "Uh, anyone who'd like to help out here, Sam and I would appreciate it.I mean, if you're a good guy or gal. Don't mind... just... got a situation here, could really use your help. Please."
Lamest ritual petitioning of the spirits ever. But even as he thought his brain was going to explode instead it seemed that the staircase did as well into a searing white light that engulfed him and Sam and pushed upwards with the sound of hundreds of voices tangled together
When he opened his eyes, everything was light, steps of gleaming white, except for the mirror image of himself who was sitting on a step above him watching him.
"Ah, man, don't tell me I've got the shape shifter again," he grumbled looking around. Light bleaching out colour all around him. "Where's Sammy?"
"Probably trying to deal with a house full of spirits rushing through him on the way back where they belong," the figure that looked like him said. Did he really sound like that? Weird.
"Shit, really? I've gotta help him. How do I... wow.." There was an infinite space below him, and above him. Stars above, fires below, day and night moving seemingly from one to the other and steps going up and up
"Where the hell am I?"
"Well, nowhere in hell, Dean, I can tell you that."
"Okay, this is freaking me out. Who are you?" Dean asked finally.
"You don't recognise help when it shows up do you?" the other Dean said looking down at himself and spreading his hands. "Say's a lot about you that you only expect help from yourself, even now."
"Yeah, well there's Sammy. He's got my back," Dean replied after a moment staring at the whiteness and shapes around him.
"But you don't expect it. You're grateful for it, but since he left you, you don't count on it," the other Dean said. "And then there's the secret. It's eating you alive isn't it?"
Dean stared. "What do you know about that?"
"I know a lot of things. I know that to save your brother, you'd do anything." He inclined his head and Dean could see a figure dangling from the stairway over that infinite drop.
"Sam?" He moved without thinking and the other Dean stood to bar his way. "Get out of my way dude. I said... look..."
He tried to get past him and the Other Dean pushed him back and man, that was bad thing, because he was swinging a punch then, and the other Dean was laughing and swinging back and they were rolling down the stairs, crawling up them. Tripping each other up, lunging towards Sam, dragged back, wrestling with no holds barred and damn, every dirty trick he knew, the other guy knew something better.
But he couldn't give up because Sammy was there and no matter what, he had to save him because....
"You're never going to give up are you?" the Other Dean said and twisted his arm back in a bone cracking hold. "Even knowing what you know."
"It won't happen to him," Dean spat out, try to twist.
"Then you're committed to facing it."
"Always have been, man, now get the fuck off of me, Sammy... needs..." He looked up and found that Sam had hauled himself back to safety and had started walking away. Upwards. Without him.
That hit him harder than any blow and he stopped.
"And if that's the outcome?" the other Dean said in a low voice.
"Yeah, well, no one said happy ever afters had to be for everyone." And he watched as the image shimmered and vanished and the being reached down and took his hand.
"I like you, Dean. You and I are of the same kind, which ain't always a good thing, but when it comes to kicking ass and getting things done, in the end it's us." His eyes changed then to a deep vivid green. "You and I have similar jobs ahead of us and I've been at it a lot longer than you have. So here's the deal. Don't get too hung up on remaking bullets and all that shit. You have a think about what it is about something that makes it work."
Dean wasn't stupid. He knew what it was. "It's holy. Blessed. But look , I can't be a monk or... in a state of grace or whatever. That's not me. That ain't gonna work."
The other Dean, who was shifting slightly in appearance before his eyes, laughed. "Humans have pretty strange ideas about what it means to be holy. Anyway. That's the weapon. There's plenty of things out there, and people who will be on your side, but here's the thing. Good guys have to be asked, where the bad guys possess. It's the free will deal. You remember this, Dean, even if you don't remember much else when you get back into your body. Next time you face this demon, try asking for a little help before it rips you up."
"Ask who? What's your name?" Dean asked wondering how he was going to get back to the house, back to Sam.
"I've been known to answer to Michael," the other Dean with green eyes and light bleeding away details of his features. "Time for you to go back. But a pop-quiz before you go."
And something lifted him and tossed him from the stairway, and he was falling, falling, clouds streaming past and it was like the freedom of the open road, the acceleration for a glorious moment before he could see fires and blackness, and abyss beneath and... if he fell there, he'd never save Sammy.
He flailed a little helplessly with the panic and adrenaline of danger seizing him until he remembered and yelled out, "Michael!"
And there were wings in the tumbling dark and, shadow and light. Feather light emerald shards of light, burning on his hands.
~Sometimes those who are falling all their life learn how to fly, Dean.~
And there was a jolt and everything when black.
Dean had to stop doing this to him. He swore that when his brother woke up -- and he would despite the lump on the back of his head and mess of blood all over his face -- he would either tear him a new one for doing something so crazy, or maybe get around to telling him some of that stuff he'd been meaning to say like it or not.
He'd felt more than seen the moment when Dean opened up the stairway, pulled the plug, popped the cork or whatever the technical term was. The stream of spirits had twined and thickened into a spear of roiling energy that had flown right through him.
For a long moment, endless moment, he had felt them pass through him as if he was part of the gateway. Bright motes of emotion flared in his head; rage, bitterness, tainted lust, sorrow that had been sharpened to a piercing needle and pushed straight through him. He felt like he was pointing directions, up, down, over there, your family waiting, walk the desert, climb the stairway, drop into darkness, and it made him feel like his mind had been scrubbed raw.
By the time he had blinked his eyes open, he was lying sprawled up the strange stairway and his back felt like it was one big bruise from all the objects the poltergeist had been hurling at it. And Dean was lying face up, his eyes glued together with blood and they should never have come here. Never.
Those moments before he found a pulse were always the worst. He remembered the times when he hadn't. He remembered after the ghoul and the tazer and Dean looking so tired and ill and dying. He remembered his expression when the demon had been ripping around his insides and all those internal lacerations. Too many times but... there was his pulse and it was slowing from a burst of activity. He wiped back some of the blood, lifting a sprawled hand even as images poured into his head.
Green and white feather flashing in the light, falling, falling... and endless stairway and light, so much light.
"Holy crap, my head is killing me" Dean groaned as he tried to sit up. "Why can't I open my eyes?"
"They're stuck together with blood, Dean," Sam replied wondering exactly what secret Dean had for Blood Mary to pull that out of him. He had never asked the first time round, filled with his own guilt over dreaming Jess's death and never telling anyone.
"Huh. Okay, that's annoying. We did it, right? There's no spirits lining up to take a pot shot at the Winchesters?"
"Sure there is, somewhere, but not right here, not now."
"Thank fuck for that." Dean managed to get up. "And this, kids, is why it's not a good idea to play around with a Ouija board on Halloween. Jesus. Let's get the hell out of here."
"What about the others?" Sam said a little unsteady.
"Power's gonna kick in." He tilted his head as lights flickered into life. "Good timing. And if we disappear, we might get our own little urban legend going on." He smirked at Sam, even as he hit at him, more in relief than anything else.
"What? I've always wanted to be an urban legend. And this could make a pretty cool one. Two brothers who disappeared after saving lives in the Winchester House. Also called Winchester. Were they even real to start with? Hero stuff, Sammy. We'll get our own mention on Snopes."
He couldn't help it. It made him laugh as they set off unsteadily, hopelessly lost in about ten seconds flat, but they were walking away from a disaster zone and that was always something to be grateful for. Especially when it was one he had lead them into, and at the end of the day, Dean was right. They'd saved lives and got the information. That had to be a good thing.
They'd gotten what they'd come for, people were saved -- even the stupid ones -- and he might've even spawned an urban legend. Barbie's dreamhouse on crack was behind them and they'd pulled into diner to clean up.
Pretty much an average day for the Winchesters, even if it was Halloween. Dean was sore, in need of some painkillers and his shoulder ached and his eyes looked kinda like he'd been punched out, but not full of blood anymore.
The worse thing was that he felt different and he didn't know why. Not different in body, but different in his head. That was just weird, because it wasn't like any of his big problems had changed. He still had the Secret to deal with and all that had to do with what was going to happen to Sammy and him. He still had the whole guilt to do with his Dad and being alive. He had all of that but he felt like something had changed. He was starting to get a little bit suspicious that maybe he had died or nearly died again because there was a gap there that reminded him of when he woke up in hospital.
He totally believed Sammy when he told him about the ouija board and him communicating, but he couldn't remember any of that except with faint feelings of recognition when someone mentioned something.
That was what it felt like.
"Dean, man, are you coming? Got a room. I'm not sleeping in the car with this back."
"You bitchin' about your back again?" he said almost by habit even as he pulled on his jacket.
"Not doing me any good, though, is it?"
"Nope. Suck it up, little brother," Dean replied, as he pushed his arm through and something white fluttered and dropped to the ground. Instinctively he leant over and picked it up; a feather, warm and with hard edges, like a hawk or a falcon.
Frowning, he turned it in the dim light. A flash of emerald iridescence played over the feather's white surface, and he just stared at it, watching the colors flash as he tilted the quill just a little. When he did that, there was a feeling like a dream he knew he had but could only feel the shape of in his head and for once, it wasn't a nightmare.
"Dean, are you going deaf?" Sam appeared looking around the corner to find him "You comin'?"
Dean made a decision and tucked the feather into his pocket as he turned to leave. "Yeah, Sam. I'm comin'."
That was something that was never going to change.