Summary: Good thing she wasn't a vain person, because Jess was pretty sure she wouldn't be able to look in a mirror for a good long while.
Jess knew she was scowling as she peeked out of the window. Dean was leaning against the Impala in the parking lot with his cell stuck to his ear. Again.
Jerry Panowski told them he'd gotten Dean's number from John's voicemail and Jess didn't know whether she should be supportive of Dean or angry at John.
She chose to keep her peace.
John was supposed to be some big shot hunter. His journal read like a Stephen King novel. He'd killed almost every kind of monster she could imagine and a few she couldn't. He was, reading between the lines and according to Dean, supposed to be a superhero.
He was also missing in action when his only remaining son needed him the most. Seriously, what kind of a father, first of all, ditched his kid and went radio silent when he had a dangerous job like monster hunting? Second, what kind of a father continued to stay radio silent when that son called to tell him his youngest son was dead? Burned up on the ceiling like his wife.
The doorknob rattled and Jess hurriedly closed the curtain and turned back to the laptop. Dean stepped into the room, met her gaze over the top of the screen and rolled his eyes. Even though she'd never said it, he knew she disapproved, but for the continued harmony of their partnership he graciously ignored it.
They've been huntless for two weeks and Jess could tell Dean was getting antsy. She, on the other hand, could do with a little break. There was only so much monster killing a newbie college girl could take.
Jess sighed and looked back down at the articles she'd pulled up from her keyword searches.
"There's a cattle mutilation -picture looks gross enough to be a cult-, a suspicious suicide –personally I'm betting on the wife-, and a guy got mauled by a yorkie but I'm pretty sure that's just bad luck."
She clicked to the next couple of articles. Tripped on marbles, alien abduction, capuchin escapes from zoo. No, no, nope, maybe but probably not, definitely not, now that's just nasty.
"Yeah, I got nothin'."
Dean was quiet and Jess glanced up from the screen curious. He was just sprawled on his bed propped against his headboard with his arms behind his head and his ankles crossed.
And he was staring at her. With a really suspicious look on his face.
"What?" she asked warily.
He cocked his head to the side like he was measuring her. Sizing her up.
"What? What are you staring at?"
A slow smirk curled up his lips and Jess's eyes widened. That look meant nothing good.
"You know," he drawled, "if you're gonna be in the life," he said it like hunting was the mob, "you're gonna have to learn how to make some dough."
"What do you mean?" She was really wary now. Dean thought he was being sneaky, but she'd noticed the credit cards with fake names on them. Did he think she was stupid? No one was actually named Jack Mehoff.
"I," he stretched and rolled off the bed all fluid grace, "am going to teach you how to hustle some pool."
Her eyebrows went up. "Seriously?"
He grinned. "Seriously."
"I can't hustle pool."
"Not yet, you can't." He sauntered over grabbing his jacket and keys as he went.
Jess stood up and took a step away from him. "No, really, I can't hustle pool. I'm terrible at pool!"
"Course you are." He made it sound like it was a foregone conclusion. She wanted to be insulted if it wasn't so very true.
"I hit Sam in the balls with the pool cue when he tried to teach me."
Amusement flickered in his eyes and he grinned mischievously. "Sam gave our dad a black eye when he was learning so it's good you got that tradition out of the way early."
"Dean, I'm a complete mess with a pool table."
"Good." He grabbed her arm and started towing her to the door stopping only long enough for her to grab her jacket and her little cross-body purse. "That's half the hustle right there."
The bar was sketchy in every sense of the word. The floor was sticky and crunchy and the area around the bar smelled so sour with old spilled rancid alcohol it made her sneeze. The second they walked in Jess felt eyes on them. Every big mean drunk looking dude in the place was looking her up and down.
She turned right back around, but Dean just grabbed her shoulders and spun her around the other way again.
"Not so fast, sweetheart," he murmured quietly enough for just her to hear. "We're doing this if I have to toss you over my shoulder and carry you in here."
He'd do it too.
"Fine." She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest petulantly. He just grinned down at her and led the way to the bar.
He ordered them a couple of beers and pulled a stool out for her all gentlemen like. He wasn't foolin' anyone.
They sat down at the bar and Jess shifted nervously trying not to make eye contact or tip over off her stool. The legs weren't even and the rocking effect was a little dizzying.
There were two pool tables in the place and a corner with a dart board. All three were taken up. Dean leaned back against the bar and threw arm around her waist casually. She almost shrugged him off until he pinched her side and she stiffly settled back. Apparently the touching was part of whatever game Dean had started playing the second they were through the doors.
"See that, darlin'." He nodded toward the pool table with two guys knocking balls around it seemingly at random. "Watch what they're doing. Watch their body language."
Dean rarely said anything without a purpose. When he was this focused it was almost reminiscent of when he was hunting. She paid attention.
The guys were average and working class. They were dressed similar to Dean and neither one of them seemed all that drunk though they both drank from their beers in between turns. She didn't really know what she was supposed to be looking for.
It must have been obvious, but from the look on her face 'cause Dean took pity on her.
"They're serious about it," he said. "They've got money riding on the game and they're gonna play to win."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," she murmured leaning more comfortably against him, getting distracted by the intrigue of the lesson.
"For what we're gonna be doing, yeah, it's bad." He sipped at his beer. "The trick to a good hustle is to be underestimated."
"Okay, explain it to me." Jess remembered they were supposed to be acting casual and took a gulp of her own beer. It was kinda warm and didn't sit well.
"You gotta play mediocre, not good, not too bad, but you gotta be cocky about it." He gestured to the table they were surreptitiously observing. "They're playing a fifty dollar game at most. We," he grinned at her, "are gonna play in the hundreds."
She looked skeptical.
"Come on." He stood up and held a hand out to her. "I'll show you."
And he did.
It was almost scary how he conned those men out of their paychecks. Like he seriously had them eating out of the palm of his hand. The game started when he grabbed the free table and insisted in a voice loud enough to be overheard but not obviously so, that he was going to teach his girl how to play pool.
"You'll do great, honey." He patted her on the butt and she was so going to get him back for that.
She, as predicted, did abysmally. Dean, however, was not deterred. He just shifted the con accordingly. There was something about the way he was teaching her that didn't ring true. He did a lot more touching than was appropriate, but that went with the girlfriend cover and she was used to following his lead by then so she just went with it.
The weirdness was how incomprehensible his instructions were. They contradicted each other and lacked the finesse he'd displayed in every other lesson he'd taught her. It was startlingly out of character and she had to try nearly as hard not to give up the con as she did at not injuring him with her cue.
Regardless of his horrible teaching technique she did improve enough to at least hit a quarter of the balls she shot at into the pockets.
When she'd gotten that far, he'd grinned at her wide and fake and smacked a sloppy kiss on her cheek.
"That's great, sugar! You're almost as good as me."
Jess didn't believe that for a second, but apparently one of the almost drunk but not quite guys watching her bend over believed it enough for the both of them.
The rest of the night was enlightening.
She'd known Dean could play a con long enough to get information, past security, or keep them from getting arrested, but watching him con this guy through three losing games was a new level of talent.
Dean won the last game with a shot so freakishly difficult Jess was pretty sure he'd just bent the laws of physics. In the end they made a hasty exit with four hundred dollars in their pockets and a light buzz.
"I'll never be that good, Dean," Jess said as they drove back to the motel.
"Yeah, you will. Tomorrow I'll take you to a different bar and really teach you."
He pulled into the parking spot and cut the engine. "What did you think of the actual hustle?"
"It's mostly strategy," she responded thinking about the way he played that guy, the carefully botched shots, and the masterful manipulation. "Manipulation and strategy. Everything you did from the moment you stepped in the door was calculated."
He grinned and threw an arm around her shoulders shaking her companionably, still a little buzzed. "Got it in one, Jessie."
She huffed good-naturedly and shrugged out from under his arm. "Good thing I'm good at chess then. It's all strategy."
"Not sure it compares, but okay, let's go with that."
The lesson the next night was a lot more helpful and by the time they left the bar, mostly drunk, in the wee hours of the morning, Jess was pretty sure she could give Dean a run for his money. She'd never be able to beat him, but she'd be able to hustle the average Joe Schmoe and that was the point.
Dean took her out to the back of the motel the next morning, unsympathetic to her hangover. Setting up a small plywood bullseye target about ten feet away, he handed her a rolled up leather satchel.
Inside were two rows of gleaming razor sharp knives. Jess looked from the knives to the target and back again.
"Oh come on."
"Gotta learn as many skills as you can, Jess. You never know." Dean slid a knife from its place next to the others and casually flicked his wrist.
It hit dead center.
Jess swallowed. "This seems like a recipe for disaster."
"Don't know until you try." He handed her a knife hilt first. "Just don't hit me and we're golden."
It took her three hours with a break for lunch before she made it anywhere near the center of the target.
"Well." Dean tugged the knives from the plywood and slipped them back in the leather. "Not bad for a first try."
"There's going to be a second one?" She whined. Her wrist hurt.
"Until you hit the bullseye nine times out of ten we're not stopping," he said and just tugged her back to the motel completely deaf to her complaints.
They spent a nice long week just hanging around in the same town. Jess got to practice pool. Dean made her practice darts as well 'cause apparently you can hustle anything. And one night Dean blew fifty bucks on replenishing the alcohol stash in the trunk of the car.
"Seriously, this stuff is crap." Jess took another chug and passed the bottle back.
They were parked out in a field sprawled out across the hood and staring up at the night sky. It was beautiful in a dizzying fall upward kind of way. Especially as tipsy as they were.
Dean passed the bottle back to her quite a bit lighter. "Me and Sam used to do this."
"What? Get drunk in the dark?"
"No." He smirked fleetingly. "We used to just find a field and sit on the Impala and stare at the sky."
Jess slowly lowered the bottle into her lap and looked at him. He was leaned back against the windshield with hazy eyes just staring blankly up at the stars. It suddenly occurred to her that since that night in Stanford she'd been doing most of the crying between the two of them.
"Will you tell me more about him?" she asked quietly, leaning back next to him turning her head so she could watch his expression.
He snorted. "You probably knew him better than I did."
"At Stanford, yeah." She didn't bother trying to disagree. They both knew it was true. "But I didn't know Sammy. I didn't know your little brother."
He was quiet for a long time. Long enough Jess thought he wasn't going to respond at all, but finally he spoke.
"Sam hated being called Sammy," he said. "Would pitch a fit every time I said it after he turned twelve."
She smiled. "Yeah, he made the funniest bitch face every time someone called him that."
"God, yeah." Dean chuckled. "His bitch face was freaking epic."
Jess handed him the bottle and he drank some more. She figured he probably needed the courage if he was going to keep remembering.
"Kid loved school," he said like it was a foreign concept. "I mean loved it. Never missed a day when we were in a place long enough to go. When he was little he'd bring me all his homework to proof read."
Jess met his wistful gaze with a small smile. "You ever have to correct him?"
Dean snorted. "Not one goddamn time."
He went on. They finished the bottle and Jess listened eagerly, adding commentary here and there. But mostly Dean just talked and she soaked it all up like she was starving for it.
Dean's stories just kept on coming like a flood. Like the dam had finally broken and he could spill all those memories to make them stop hurting so much. Lance the wound they'd left behind. It was comforting to her to hear them and cathartic for Dean to finally talk about the brother he'd raised from an infant into a good man.
"He gave me this amulet for Christmas one year."
"First time he came on a ghost hunt he shot me full of rock salt instead of the ghost."
"The night he found out about the supernatural was one of the worst nights of my life."
"Kid wasn't that great at hustling pool, but man he was an ace at hustling video games. You wouldn't believe how much cash collage boys will throw around over Mrs. Pac-Man."
"Sammy loved Lucky Charms. Always had to have the last bowl, but he always gave me the prize."
"He had a thing for She-Ra from Thundercats. Caught him jerking it to the Saturday morning cartoons one time when he was fourteen."
"When I was seventeen we bought a butt load of fireworks for the fourth of July and set them off in an empty field. We almost set the field on fire, but it was one of the best nights of my life."
Jess listened to every story. She laughed when she could and stayed quiet when she couldn't. When Dean's voice grew hoarse and the sky was lightening, she took his hand in hers and pressed them comfortingly against her chest.
"When he was six months old, my dad shoved him in my arms and told me take him outside." His voice caught and she squeezed his hand hard. She thought he could feel her heart beating.
"I remember thinking he was too heavy. That I was gonna drop him. He was crying and wigglin' so hard I was sure I was gonna drop him."
Abruptly Jess rolled toward him. She wrapped an arm around him pulling and grasping until he was huddled against her his face buried in her shoulder. His entire body jerked like he was electrocuted and he made a sound like he was dying.
"I thought I was- but I didn't." He gasped, struggling to get the words out. Jess felt him wrap an arm around her waist and fist his hand in her shirt pulling her so tight against him she was afraid he couldn't breathe.
"I didn't drop him." He sobbed. "I got him out. I didn't drop him."
Jess felt his tears soak her shirt and her skin. His face was pressed painfully into her collarbone and his fingers were going to leave bruises on her back. She just tightened her hold and buried her face in his hair. She couldn't say anything, her throat was too tight.
They stayed like that wrapped around each other, until Dean's agonized sobs turned into to gasps turned into shuddering breaths. Jess didn't move an inch, just held him wrapped around her blocking out the world so he could grieve the way he hadn't allowed himself before.
The sun had fully risen in the sky and the morning felt humid and warm. Dean's body had stopped shaking against her and his grip on her had eased. He was breathing like he actually could now and he pulled back enough that Jess felt cold where their bodies had been pressed together.
They didn't say anything. Still holding each other they didn't move for a long moment. Finally Dean completely uncurled himself and Jess sat up surreptitiously rubbing the feeling back in the arm he'd been laying on. He rubbed a rough hand over his face erasing hint of his tears, but not his bloodshot eyes.
Clearing his throat awkwardly he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She held his gaze steady not a hint of pity or embarrassment reflected back at him.
"Thanks," he murmured, waving vaguely back toward the windshield. "For, you know."
She smiled at him. "You don't have to thank me. I wanted to be there."
Dean sighed, a reluctant smile turning up his mouth. "Thanks all the same. I- I needed it."
Her smile widened turned happier and she hopped off the hood. "Anytime, Dean. I mean it."
Huffing at her, trying to seem long suffering, he slid to the ground too and bent to pick of their empty whiskey bottle.
"I know you mean it. Now let's get breakfast. I'm freaking starving."
Jess grinned and flopped into the passenger seat. "Let's hit that diner near the motel. The sign said they have the best pie in the county."
"Woman after my own heart." Grinning, he revving the engine and spun around in the field leaving dust and tire tracks in his wake.
They hit blacktop and sped back toward town. Jess looked over at Dean and thought, lit by the sun, he looked like the shadow had finally lifted.
Dean decided to take it upon himself to teach Jess how to play poker.
"Poker is mostly bluffing and strategy, playing the guy as much as the game," he explained as he dealt them each two cards at their crappy Formica kitchenette table. "Having a good hand it great, being able to bluff the guy with the good hand is how you win."
Jess nodded intently and waited for instruction after he'd dealt cards face up in the middle.
"This doesn't look like normal poker."
"That's right." Dean nodded setting aside the rest of the deck. "This is Texas Hold'em."
"Okay." She peeked at her cards without flipping them over then looked up at Dean curiously. "What do we do now?"
"Now," he grinned, "I teach you how to win."
He slid a pile of silver, iron, and lead bullets toward her to act as their chips. "Okay, here's what you do…"
They sat for the next twenty minutes, Dean walking Jess through a practice game then when it was over and he was sure she got the basic rules, he pointed out her tells.
"Need to get rid of those if you're going to be playing for money."
"Okay." She nodded solemnly and watched him deal them a new hand. "Remind me again, how many cards will there be in the middle at the end?"
They played a hand, Jess losing most of her bullets and Dean winning the round. But she did better than in the practice round.
"You're getting better." He smirked while dragging the pot back to his pile of bullets. "Next round."
They played two more hands each time Jess getting better, but still not great.
"I think I got the hang of it now." She smiled and shuffled around her considerably smaller pile of bullets.
"Sure." Dean nodded. "Let's go with that."
They played the next round and Jess took Dean for every bullet he had.
He blinked down the cards laid out on the table then blinked at her. She grinned and started delicately sorting his bullets into her now massive pile.
"You just beat me."
"But, you scrunch your nose when you…."
She scrunched her nose still grinning. "Yep."
"And you tapped your finger when you…"
She tapper her finger on the table top. "Yep."
"You hustled me," he muttered in disbelief.
Jess chuckled and reached over patting his hand. "It's okay. It's not like you knew my dad taught me to play as a kid or that I won our college dorm tournament two years in a row or anything."
His scowled darkly. "You hustled me."
"Well," she shrugged. "You didn't ask if I knew how to play you just assumed. And you know what assuming does to people."
He huffed and crossed his arms petulantly. "Shut up."
Dean was in a growly mood the rest of the night and Jess decided not to make it worse by gloating. Too much.
His ego may have been bruised, but that didn't mean Dean didn't know an opportunity when he saw one. The next night Jess found herself at a sticky table in a bar with grumpy scowly men on either side of her. She looked at Dean over her shoulder and glared. He just grinned.
"Just do it exactly like I taught you, honey. You'll do great."
Oh, Jess decided, she was going to win but she wasn't going to share a single red cent with Dean.
She walked out of the bar six hundred dollars richer with a smirking Dean following in her wake.
They'd spent another night at the bar, this time just messing around enjoying their impromptu downtime. Jess woke the next morning feeling like the sun was stabbing her in the eyes and a dwarf was hammering on her brain. She didn't know why she kept trying to match Dean drink for drink. The guy drank like a fish and rarely had a hangover. It just wasn't fair.
Dean had gotten coffee and she'd awoken so the smell of it sitting on her bedside table. It did a good job of dampening some of her nausea. The sight of Dean standing out in the parking lot with his phone stuck to his head did less so.
She'd thought he had stopped banging his head against that particular brick wall. John Winchester was an obstinate bullheaded man and if he didn't want to talk to his only living son, no amount of Dean blowing up his voicemail was going to change his mind.
The disappointed look Dean failed to hide every time he hung up made Jess simultaneously hurt for him and want to beat his father upside the head.
Dean needed a distraction. The downtime, teaching Jess the morally ambiguous financial side of the business, wasn't distracting him enough. He needed a job and, truthfully, Jess could probably use one too. She knew it probably wasn't a good thing, but the adrenaline of killing monsters was a little bit addictive.
Google was a marvelous thing and it only took her as long as it took Dean to grab lunch before she found a case.
An obituary about a guy that died from exploding eyeballs. Perfect.
Dean didn't even try to hide his relief when Jess told him about the case. They were in Toledo the next morning.
Never having been to a morgue before Jess had envisioned it grimy and morbid and smelling like the dead. In reality it smelled like industrial strength cleaning chemicals and you could probably eat off the tables it was so clean.
Following the tech down the hall to the bodies, Dean made known his displeasure at having to shell out a hundred bucks in bribes.
"Why didn't you just use your feminine wiles on him?"
"'Cause it wasn't my wiles he was checking out."
Dean looked at her blankly so Jess ran her eyes up and down his body pointedly.
It took a second but he eventually got there.
"What? No, he wasn't!" Dean sputtered, scandalized.
Jess had to suppress a grin. "Whatever you say."
Steven Shoemaker's body was pale and cold and Jess had a hard time looking at him without making a face. They were supposed to be med students and she didn't think med students turned green around dead bodies.
Then again, she glanced at the gaping holes in his head where his eyes should be. Maybe it wouldn't be so weird if she asked for a trashcan.
"You see a lot of bloodshot eyes in stroke victims, but not that amount of intense cerebral bleeding," the tech said, looking way too fascinated while he was standing over a dead body. "Then again I'm not the doctor."
"Hm." Dean tilted his head and leaned a little closer to examine the damage. He was clearly not bothered by the sight of exploded eyeball sockets.
"Any chance we can see the police report?"
The tech flashed Dean a coy look. "I'm not supposed to show you that."
Jess pulled out her wallet and forked over another fifty bucks before Dean's uncomfortable fidgeting lost them their chance.
Because Jess was thorough, or just more conscientious, she made Dean get a motel room and change into his fed suit before they crashed Shoemaker's wake. She didn't think they'd get much of an accommodating welcome if they showed up in muddy boots and a Wonder Woman t-shirt.
Walking up to the Shoemaker house, Jess shifted her toes around in her new semi-formal boots. She didn't think they'd have to do any running this time, but it was better safe than sorry. Plus she'd used her kitten heels for knife throwing practice. It had been very satisfying.
Donna Shoemaker was predictably surrounded by other teenage girls, all of them dressed in black.
As always Jess let Dean provide the cover. Though, if she'd known what the cover was she might not have. Day traders, seriously? She didn't think Dean even knew was a day trader was.
It was Donna's little sister that put a darker spin on the interview.
"It happened because of me." Lily looked like she was about to cry.
Jess knelt down beside her and placed a comforting hand on her arm. "Why would you say that, Lily?"
Lily sniffled. "Right before he died, I said it."
"What did you say?"
"I said 'Blood Mary' three times in the bathroom mirror and she took his eyes. That's what she does."
A shiver went up Jess's spine, but she tamped it down. She really had to break herself of that reaction.
"But your dad didn't say it, did he?" Dean had that tone of voice he used when he was trying to placate the civilians.
"Well, no. I don't think so," Lily murmured still hunched in on herself staring down at her hands.
Jess ducked her head to meet Lily's sad eyes. "See?" She smiled sympathetically. "It couldn't have been Bloody Mary. It's not your fault."
Staring down at the blood stained marble bathroom floor, Jess swallowed thickly.
"So, Bloody Mary." She looked at Dean as he studied the bathroom mirror. "Please tell me that's just an urban legend."
"It does sound like Bloody Mary." Dean popped open the medicine cabinet and poked through the contents. "But I don't get it."
"Kids have been playing that game for decades and as far as I know no one's actually died from it."
"Yeah." Jess chuckled nervously. "Pretty sure my eyes would have been scratched out at the Sarah Miller's fifth grade birthday party if you-know-who was actually real."
Dean closed the medicine cabinet and turned back to Jess. "But here, it is real."
The sound of kitten heels on wood floors made them both try to skitter away from the bathroom. Unfortunately, the long haired teenage girl walked a little faster than they did.
"Who are you guys?" She frowned at them and crossed her arms sternly. Jess wanted to say it was kind of adorable if she wasn't worried about the girl turning them in.
Dean tried to grin at her. "Like we said, we worked with Donna's-"
"He was a day trader, he worked by himself." Her frown deepened and she cocked a hip unimpressed.
He opened his mouth to try and spin it some more, but Jess elbowed him in the ribs.
"I'm Jess and this is Dean. We're investigating his death. We don't think he actually died of a stroke."
The girl's frown turned from stern to nervous. "What do you mean?"
"Stroke victims don't bleed from their eyes." She gestured to the stain on the bathroom floor.
The girl swallowed and looked back them wary. "So, are you guys cops or something?"
"We look into unusual deaths." Jess figured if the girl was smart enough to sniff out the lie in their cover she was smart enough not to believe they were really cops. She also didn't seem to think the stroke explanation was all that believable either.
"If it wasn't a stroke, then what was it?"
Jess glanced at Dean a question in her eyes. What do you think? He shrugged and nodded. Your call.
"Here." Jess reached into her purse and pulled out the note pad she took interview notes on. Tearing out a sheet she jotted down the number for the cell Dean gave her and held it out for the girl.
"If you can think of anything strange or notice anything weird happening call us. We'll help."
The girl took the number and stared down at it warily. "Okay."
"Thank you." Jess smiled at her and stepped around her tugging Dean along by his jacket sleeve.
Back in their jeans and t-shirts, Dean drove them to the library.
"There are a ton of different versions of Bloody Mary." Jess tapped her thigh in thought trying to think back to her childhood. "The only common theme is the scratched out eyeballs."
"Yeah and here is the only place people are actually dying." Dean pulled into the parking lot. "Maybe this is where the legend started."
Jess bit her lip. "I don't know. We'll have to check the deaths going back decades."
"Yeah, and who knows how long the legend's actually been around," Dean grumbled as they got out of the car and started up the steps. "This is gonna be a pain in the ass."
A huge pain in the ass, as it turns out. The computers in the library were down so Jess and Dean had to tote at least five record books back to their motel. It was like slogging through mush it was so slow going and staring at tiny print for hours, eventually your vision starts to swim and you go temporarily blind.
Or at least you get so frustrated you want toss one of the massive books through the window.
"That's it! I'm done." Jess shoved her book away and abandoned Dean to the abyss in favor of the laptop.
What she found there was even less helpful.
"The Bloody Mary legend has been around for at least a hundred years." Jess dropped her chin in one hand and rubbed at her eyes with the other. "She didn't even scratch your eyes out in the beginning. She was supposedly a spirit that showed you your future husband."
She scrubbed at her face some more and hoped the burning in her eyes was just from the computer screen and not from oncoming eyeball bleeding.
"You come up with anything?"
Dean snapped his book shut with a sigh. "A Laura and a Catherin committed suicide in front of a mirror and a giant mirror fell on a guy named Dave, but no Mary."
"And that's just in the area?"
"Yeah, in a three county radius."
Jess's hunter cell started ringing and she snapped it open thankful for the reprieve.
"Um, Jess?" The voice was young and hesitant. Jess glanced up at Dean and he raised an eyebrow.
"I'm Charlie. You gave me your number."
"Is something wrong?"
There was a long pause and all Jess could hear was Charlie's hitched breathing.
"My friend, Jill, is dead."
Two hours later Jess and Dean were crouched on Jill's roof right outside her window waiting for Charlie to open it for them.
"Night vision?" Jess whispered.
Dean nodded keeping his voice low too. "Yeah, it picks up more infrared and ultraviolet than our eyes."
"Like visible EMF."
Charlie appeared in the window and slid it open. They crawled through into Jill's room as quietly as possible.
"I hate lying to Jill's mom." Charlie looked a little red around the eyes as she pressed a hand to forehead.
"It's alright." Jess patted her on the arm. "This will help us figure out what happened to Jill."
Charlie took a deep breath then nodded. "What do you need me to do?"
"Hit the lights." Dean handed Jess the digital video camera and snapped the night vision filter on.
Jess was fiddling with the settings trying to get the hang of it when she noticed Dean on the flip out screen. He had his butt pushed out and was looking at the camera over his shoulder.
"Do I look like Paris Hilton?"
"Your butt's too big," Jess deadpanned.
Dean looked mildly insulted. "Your butt's too big," he muttered.
She raised an eyebrow at him and he seemed to realize what he just said. He stuttered trying to backtrack.
Jess smirked at him. "Gotcha."
Charlie muffled a giggle behind her hand and Dean huffed pouting.
The night vision was different. Everything was in shades of neon green and Jess wasn't quite sure what she was supposed to be looking for.
"What's this spirit after anyway?" Jess asked as she moved on to the bathroom from the closet mirror. "One summoned her and the other didn't."
"I want to know why Jill said it in the first place." Dean shot Charlie a stern look.
She shifted nervously and hunched her shoulders. "It was just a joke."
"Well, someone's gonna say it again eventually and someone else is gonna die."
Jess felt sorry for Charlie. Dean's disapproving scowl was kind of intimidating.
She glanced back down at the digital camera and spotted a white-green drip of something that definitely wasn't paint.
"Dean, I think I found something."
Dean and Charlie came and looked over her shoulder to see the screen.
"What's that?" Charlie looked from Jess to Dean curiously.
"Dunno." Dean stepped back and headed for the window again. "I'm gonna get the black light in the trunk."
"Huh." Jess didn't know they had a black light in the trunk.
The presumably bloody handprint and finger-painted name on the back of the mirror just made everything a little creepier and a little more mysterious. Some digging into Gary Bryman didn't clear up any of their questions either.
That is until Charlie's eyes widened and she paled. "Oh my God. Jill drove that car."
Crouching on the blood stained floor in Steve Shoemaker's bathroom staring at the name of his dead wife on the back of a mirror Jess felt her stomach twist. There was a pattern, a very horrible pattern.
"Do you really think Donna's dad could've really killed her Mom?"
"That would be my bet." Dean ushered them toward the front door eager to leave before Donna decided to call the cops.
"So the pattern is people with a secret where someone died." Jess sighed. "That makes finding any possible victims pretty much impossible."
"That's why we need to find out who Mary is and stop her before anyone else thinks it's a good idea to play scary kids' games."
Charlie stuck her head between them from the backseat biting her lip nervously. "I think I should stick around."
Dean thought for a moment then glanced at her. "Alright, but whatever you do don't-"
"Believe me." Charlie sat back her eyes still a little wide as she shook her head. "I won't."
Doing a nationwide search for a Mary that died in front of a mirror sounds daunting. You'd think there would be dozens of deaths you'd have to eliminate. But, nope, Mary Worthington from Fort Wayne, Indiana was almost too easy to find.
"How is she traveling through mirrors?" Jess contemplated as they drove to Fort Wayne to talk to the investigating detective. "Why mirrors to begin with?"
"Well, she did die in front of a mirror." Dean propped his left elbow up against the window and relaxed in his seat.
Jess frowned, that couldn't be all it was. A vague memory from a cultural history class she took her sophomore year floated to the surface. "People used to cover up mirrors in houses where people died. They thought it would keep their spirit from being caught in them."
"Right. Mirrors are supposed to reflect your soul or something like that. That's why it's bad luck to break them."
"If Mary's summoned she sees your soul, your secrets and then she punishes you." Jess felt a twisting in her gut. After this is over it'll be a long time before she'll be able to look in a mirror without glancing over her should.
The detective that worked on Mary's case was retired and shadowed in a way that said he'd seen some stuff.
"I've been on the job for thirty-five years. Everyone packs it in with a few loose ends, but the Mary Worthington case. That one still gets me."
Jess felt she understood too well why it would haunt this man. Mary had been nineteen and ambitious and beautiful. There had never been an arrest and no really viable suspects. She'd had her eyes cut out and she never had the chance to get justice.
"Sir, what do you think happened?" Jess asked, watching the detective's face as it went grim.
"See the T-R-E." Right under the bloody handprint, it was hard to miss. "I think Mary was trying to spell out the name of her killer."
"Who was it?"
"I always thought it was a local surgeon, Trevor Sampson." Jess looked at the picture of a middle aged man wearing sunglasses inside and dressed like a mobster. Yeah, he wasn't sketchy at all.
"I think he cut her up good."
Dean was scowling down at the picture. "Why would he do that?"
"Mary was having an affair with a married man. In her journal she called him by the initial 'T'." He shook his head. "In her last entry she mentioned she was going to tell T's wife about them."
Silly, naïve Mary. Jess sighed, her heart aching for her.
"The way her eyes were cut out," the detective frowned, "it was almost professional."
"You could never prove it." Dean's expression was solemn, sympathetic. Jess knew he could relate.
"No prints, no witnesses. He was meticulous." The detective leaned back in his chair looking up at them, tired and grave. "Mary spent her last living moments trying to expose this guy's secret, but she never could."
Mary's mirror had been given back to her family and they sold it. It was now in Toledo and Mary was killing people with secrets.
"How are we supposed to stop her?" Jess popped the antenna on her cell up and down nervously. "There's no body to burn and she moves through mirrors."
"I say we smash the mirror."
"Yeah, but if she's not actually in the mirror when we smash it, what good's that gonna do?"
Dean frowned in thought for a long moment. "We have to summon her to her mirror."
Jess got a bad feeling about this. "Who's going to summon her?"
He was quite for a long moment and Jess really didn't like the look on his face.
"No." She shook her head. "No, no, absolutely not."
"Don't!" she snapped. "You're not summoning her because you don't have a secret. You already told me about that night. I know everything so it's not a secret."
Dean grimaced and opened his mouth, but he was saved by the cell.
Jess flipped it open sharply and answered with a curt, "Yes."
"Jess!" Charlie was crying, sobbing and gasping for breath.
"Charlie?" Jess straightened in her seat. "Charlie, what's wrong?"
Charlie's voice quivered as she tried to speak through her fear. "Donna said it and now she's after me!"
"Okay, we're on our way. Just stay where you are." Jess snapped the phone shut.
"Dean, drive faster."
Their motel was dark and gloomy. Charlie was huddle on Dean's bed rocking back and forth with her face hidden against her knees. Jess sat next to her, rubbed her back soothingly and listened to her secret.
"I had this boyfriend." Charlie's tears were still falling but her voice was steady. "I loved him, but he scared me too."
He scared her and she's been carrying guilt over his death for a long time. Until Mary saw it in the mirror and chased her into the dark.
"It's not your fault," Jess murmured still rubbing her hand up and down the girl's back trying to comfort her. "It wasn't ever your fault."
A secret where someone died.
Jess had been trying not to think about it and at the same time couldn't stop. The memory of Sam burning on the ceiling was forever etched into her mind and reappeared in her dreams. Dean had seen it too. He knew what tormented her at night.
But he didn't know her secret. She never told him.
"You're not summoning Mary to her mirror because I am."
Dean slammed on the breaks and jerked the car onto the shoulder. "Hell no!"
"You're not doing it because it's not a secret Jess." He glared at her. "I know all about it."
She stared ahead then stared at her hands. "Not everything. You don't know everything."
The silence was stifling. She could almost feel the angry heat of his gaze on her.
He turned away from her restarting the engine. "It's not happening. I won't let you."
"You can't stop me, Dean."
"Bullshit I can't." He scowled at her even as he turned the corner onto the antique shop's street. "You're not doing it because I'm going to do it."
Jess hissed in frustration. "This is ridiculous! One of us has to do it. And it's not going to be you, 'cause I won't let you."
Dean braked too hard and slammed the gear into park. "Damn it, Jess, I don't want to lose you too!"
Their harsh angry breathing filled the car, both of them tense and a heartbeat from fighting again. Suddenly Dean blew out a harsh breath and deflated.
"Fine. Neither of us will do it alone, we'll do it together." He looked at her and Jess looked back in surprise. "We summon her together."
"Okay," she breathed. "Okay. We'll do it together."
The antique shop was, unfortunately, filled to the brim with mirrors. It would be creepy if it wasn't so freaking frustrating.
"Jesus, it's like a needle in a stack of reflective needles."
Dean snorted and held out one of their crowbars to her. "Yell if you find it." He looked at her sternly. "We'll do it together."
She nodded seriously. "Yeah."
Their flashlights reflected like prisms and it would have been fun to play around if they weren't going to smash one of them to destroy the spirit of a murdered girl. The round and oval mirrors were discounted right off the bat and most of the mirrors were too small to be Mary's mirror. Jess made it to the back of the shop, but it was Dean that found it.
She came up next to him and stared at it.
"Man, that thing's creepy even if it wasn't full of vengeful spirit."
Jess had to agree. The baroque frame had an austere look to it. It wouldn't have looked out of place in a gothic mansion.
"How are we going to do this?"
Dean lifted his crowbar and readied his stance. He met her gaze in the mirror and she nodded. "Together."
"Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary."
A second later and nothing happened. Jess glanced at Dean in confusion. He shrugged. Then the shop suddenly lit up with the reflections of headlights.
"Shit," Dean cursed.
"Go." Jess nodded toward the front door. "I'll be fine."
"I'm not leaving you alone."
She shoved him with her elbow. "You gotta stop them from coming in here. I'll smash anything that moves. Go."
He growled under his breath, but turned toward the front. "I'm serious, Jess, anything that moves."
"Got it. Go."
He disappeared and Jess turned back to the mirror. It wasn't a blink later and she was swinging to her right taking out an oval mirror almost as tall as her. Movement to the left and a standing dressing mirror shattered.
Her heart was pounding, and her grip on the crowbar felt kinda sweaty. "Come into this one. Come on. I need you in this one."
She smashed a small square mirror and looked back at Mary's mirror only to see her reflection smirk at her. It tilted its head and Jess felt sharp throbbing pain lance up her neck into her eye sockets.
"You killed him. You saw it."
She groaned and struggled to stay upright her head was pounding so hard.
"You opened the door. You let it into your house."
Where was Dean? She needed Dean. Her arms were shaking and she could feel the hot blood streaming down her face.
"You killed Sam!"
She screamed and swung with all of her might praying she kept her shaky sweaty grip on the crowbar. The sharp forked end of the bar hit the mirror and it shattered into a thousand pieces. The reverberation of impact loosened her grip and she dropped it.
She stood there shaking and gasping, but she knew something was wrong. Her eyes were still bleeding and the pain in her head was getting worse. Movement in the mirror frame caught her attention and she looked down into Mary's pale eyeless face.
Jess had time to suck in a sharp gasp then Mary lunged at her. Their bodies impacted and the air was knocked out of Jess's lungs when she hit the floor with Mary's entire weight on top of her. She had a stray thought that Mary was freakishly solid for a ghost then Jess was too busy trying to keep her from actually scratching her eyes out.
"You killed him!" Mary shrieked scoring Jess's cheek with jagged nails. "It was your fault!"
"No!" She gasped, trying to suck in air and struggling against the ghost with failing strength as her brain practically liquefied. "Dean!"
The ghost's head jerked up just in time for Dean slam his crowbar into her head like a baseball bat. Mary went flying slamming into a display of mirrors before scurrying like a beetle back onto her hands and knees.
Jess rolled herself to the side toward Dean and scrambled backward until her back hit his shins. He stepped over her and Jess looked up to see his entire body was trembling, sweat was dotting his forehead and blood was smeared across his cheeks.
"Come on, bitch! I dare you!"
Mary sneered, her empty eyes pointed unerringly at him and she lunged again. Dean swung and hit her in the shoulder. It knocked her off course, but she caught his shoulder with her clawing jagged nails and took him down with her.
Jess's eyes darted around, frantically looking for her crowbar, and spotted it tossed clear across the room.
"Fuck!" She scrambled to her feet but tripped on numb legs and fell back to the mirror shard covered floor.
"You knew what day it was! And you still left him!"
"Jess!" Dean had his forearm barred across Mary's throat trying to get his feet between them to kick her off. "A mirror! Get a mirror!"
Dean finally shoved a boot in her gut and she went flying again. He jumped unsteadily to his feet and braced himself.
Jess grabbed the first mirror she could get her hands on, a sterling silver hand mirror, and tossed it at him. Catching it in blood slicked hands Dean flipped it around and pinned in on Mary's face a second before she attacked again.
The ghost went still and stared for a long moment. Jess could just faintly hear a scratchy voice.
"You killed them! All those people! You killed them!"
Mary choked, reached up to clutch at her face then she melted into a splash of blood. It tinkled against the shards of mirror like rain then every trace was gone.
Dean slammed the hand mirror into the floor shattering it too then his knees when out from under him and he collapsed on his butt on the glass covered floor.
Jess managed to stumble toward him before she collapsed too, almost falling into his lap.
"Dean? Is it over?" She leaned heavily against him clutching at his shirt.
"Yeah," he rasped, "Yeah I think it's over."
She went limp. "Thank fuck."
Chuckling roughly, Dean cupped her face in shaky hands and turned it up toward him. "You okay?"
She nodded, her head still aching, but not hemorrhaging anymore she didn't think. "Yeah, you?"
"I'm good." He let her get a hand on his face and try to wipe off some of the blood before he brushed her away. "Come on. We gotta get outta here before the cops wake up."
"Oh God. Don't tell me you knocked out a couple of cops."
He chuckled again then groaned as they tried to use each other as leverage to stand. "Fine, I won't tell you then."
"Shit. One of these days you're going to get me arrested, Dean Winchester." Jess wrapped an arm around his waist while he wrapped one of his around her shoulders.
"It could be like a rite of passage." He smirked as they hobbled their way to the backdoor. "Gank a monster, put a spirit to rest, do some time. You're already two thirds of the way there."
Jess just sighed and concentrated on not making them both face plant in the parking lot.
Jess watched Charlie walk back into her house and couldn't help the small smile. The young girl looked like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. They saved her and now she had a life ahead of her to grieve and rebuild.
It was also another reminder of why the job wasn't so terrible. Why it was worth it to fight an urban legend mirror monster. To save the innocent girl.
Dean pulled away from the curb and turned toward the interstate. They didn't stop driving until it was dinner time and he thought it was time to find a motel.
Jess convinced him to get something other than burgers and now they were sucking MSG flavored noodles out of Chinese takeout boxes. It would have been a relatively normal evening, but Jess couldn't stop the thoughts swirling around in her head.
"My secret." She looked up and met Dean's eyes. "I think I should tell you my secret."
Setting his noodles aside, Dean frowned. "You don't have to."
She swallowed the lump in her throat. "I think I need to."
There was a long moment of quiet with just the shopping channel playing softly in the background. Dean moved to sit next to her on the bed waiting patiently.
"The night Sam died." She took a steadying breath. "Before that thing pinned me to the ceiling I saw it."
Dean stiffened. "What?"
"I was pulling cookies out of the oven and there was a knock on the door." Jess's hands shook but she couldn't stop now. "I thought, maybe he was home early, and I didn't stop to think. He had a key, he wouldn't knock. I opened the door and I saw-"
He squeezed his eyes shut and turned his face away. "Jess…"
"No, I need to finish." She waited for him to turn back and face her.
"It was a man. Or at least man shaped. It was so dark, I guess the porch like was out, so I couldn't see its face, but I saw its eyes." Dean's hands were fisted so tight his knuckles were white, but she didn't stop.
"They were yellow," she whispered and Dean's breath hitched. "Pale yellow."
"My dad," he paused and deliberately unclenched his hands, flexing his fingers. "My dad said the thing that killed my mom had yellow eyes."
"I let it in," Jess choked as her throat suddenly closed up. "It killed your mom, it killed Sam and I opened the door and let it in."
"Stop." Dean gripped her arm almost bruising. "Just stop, Jess."
Her mouth snapped shut, her teeth clacking. She looked at him with wide guilty eyes.
"It would have come in whether you opened the door or not." Dean held her gaze making damn sure she was listening. "Evil like that doesn't need an invitation. No matter what you did or didn't do it would have come inside your house and pinned you to the ceiling just the same."
Jess hitched a sigh. "That doesn't make me feel any better."
He gave her a sad smile. "I didn't think it would. But it's not your fault."
"I'm not sure I can believe that."
"Try." He let go of her arm but the heavy tension in the air didn't dissipate.
"November 2, 1983, on Sam's six month birthday," Dean's voice was a deep resonant rumble and Jess wouldn't have been able to look away even if she wanted to. "My mom died on the ceiling in his nursery."
"I know," Jess said softly.
He shook his head. "When I dropped Sam off at your apartment, I knew what day it was. I saw it on my watch." He looked at her like he was in pain. "I knew what day it was and I still left him."
"But you came back." Jess took his trembling hand in hers and rubbed her thumb over his knuckles. "You came back."
"I shouldn't have left him to begin with," he hissed.
Looking down at their hands, Jess shook her head sadly. "It wouldn't have mattered. He still would have done the same exact thing. It's not your fault, because he would have traded places whether you'd been there or not."
The tension broke and Jess glanced up with a wry grin. "Wasn't he just."
Dean huffed amused and squeezed her hand once before letting go and grabbing his noodles again.
"There was nothing you could'a done. And there was nothing I could'a done and we're just gonna have to try and believe that."
Jess snorted. "Good luck with that. I've barely known you three months and already I know you're an emotionally stunted guiltaholic."
"Don't lie. My emotional constipation's rubbed off on you and you know it."
"God help me," Jess groaned. "I don't want to have the emotional range of a tea spoon."
"Shad up. And pass me the remote. If I have to watch another ShamWow infomercial I'm gonna shoot that fucking tv with buck shot."
Jess laughed and tossed him the remote. The tension was broken, the guilt and grief were once again swept under rug though there was less of it now. They were still far from alright, but at least they were inching toward it.
Munching on salty noodles and watching a re-run of Die Hard with a Vengeance, Dean and Jess leaned against each other and took comfort in the fact that they weren't alone, that they were together.