Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural, or anything else, for that matter.
Notes: Thanks to Kohadril, who was kind enough to beta for me, and who graciously laughed at all my jokes. You can't ask for more than that.
"'Good and evil are God's prejudices,' said the serpent."
The brothers headed back to their room just before dinner. Their research was moving slowly, and Sam wanted a shower after the cold sweat brought on by his vision.
Sam stood beneath the scalding water, letting it beat down on his aching body. His back felt ridiculously sore, probably from all the tension of the day. He'd always been prone to physically manifesting his stress, so back and shoulder pain was nothing new. Dean half-joked it was from slouching all the time, trying to pass as a normal sized human being instead of a small tree.
"Dude! I already missed lunch for your freak ass, I'm not missing dinner! Finish whacking off and get the hell out here!"
Speak of the devil. "God, Dean, go on ahead if you're that hungry!"
As usual, what they said to each other and what they did were as distinct as midnight and noon. Sam immediately stepped out of the shower and hurried to towel off, knowing all the while that Dean wouldn't go down without him, no matter what he'd said. Dean banged on the door again, no doubt releasing some of the tension from their latest unresolved fight.
Sam rolled his eyes, reaching down too fast to snatch his clean t-shirt off the floor. He gasped as the skin on his back violently protested the movement. Fingers tangled absently in the faded green cotton, he straightened cautiously. His entire body was beginning to feel as though he'd pissed Dean off and then sparred with him. That was a mistake he'd only made once. Using the t-shirt to wipe the steam off the mirror, he turned and looked over his shoulder at his back.
He was black, blue, green, and red from top to bottom. The bruises seemed to darken as he watched. His eyes flicked back and forth across the reflection, and he tried to remember if he'd hit the floor at some point during his vision earlier. There was a deep red-violet line across his shoulder blades, and another six or so inches below it.
Sam had an unwelcome moment of deja-vu, and twisted his left wrist slowly, hoping to prove himself wrong. A sharp pain shot up to his elbow, and his stomach sank, icy dread washing against the heat of bruised skin. Of course he'd recognized the bruise pattern… it was the only one he'd ever had that was photographed as state's evidence. Even if he could have forgotten, he'd seen them on his eight year old self just that afternoon.
And, somehow, they'd followed him back.
"Sam, come on! Are you whacking off in there?"
Sam turned swiftly from the mirror, pulling the damp shirt over his head with a hiss, his wrist and back protesting the hurried movements. His sweatshirt immediately followed despite the heat lingering from the shower. He buckled his belt with his good hand while opening the door gingerly with the other. Dean was leaning against the wall impatiently, arms crossed over his chest and eyebrow arched, so what went on in there, little brother?
"Let me just get my shoes and we'll go." Sam ignored the smirk, slouching down on the bed and grabbing his socks, thinking casual, casual, casual, I'm fine, don't notice me.
"Are you okay, Sammy?"
Crap. Crap crap crap.
Choosing to shove his feet into his sneakers rather than get caught instantly trying to tie them one handed, Sam shook his wet bangs into his eyes, hiding behind the youthful earnestness of needing a haircut. He wasn't sure when he'd decided to hide this from his brother; he was just certain that he couldn't handle another one of Dean's worried stares.
"This isn't another hash brown moment, is it?" He asked, imitating his brother's sarcastic nonchalance. Another law school trick: always know your opponents tactics better than your own.
Dean ran his eyes over his brother, feeling something was off but knowing that there simply hadn't been time for something to happen. He sighed, finally, letting himself be fooled. "Man, you need a haircut."
Sam rolled his eyes again as they checked their weapons and headed out the door. "I'll put it on the list… somewhere between exorcise mansion and short-sheet Dean's bed. How's that?"
Dean glanced at him disappointedly and Sam was struck by the resemblance to their father. He'd never noticed it before. "Short-sheet my bed? Seriously? I'd kick your ass for that but it's mean to hit a twelve-year-old girl who learned all her best pranks at a slumber party."
"I can't believe I'm taking crap from a guy who made two masturbation jokes in a span of ten minutes."
"Ooh, maybe later we can have a pillow fight and paint each other's nails, Samantha."
"I'd pay a lot of money to see that." A third voice entered the conversation.
Both brothers looked up to see several female guests coming down the stairs towards them. Sam immediately flushed straight to his ears at having something so private as teasing overheard. The tourists could never understand was really being said between the insults, but it still felt like an invasion.
Dean, however, smiled gamely at the women. He opened his mouth to reply and Sam could see—just see—Dean's very lewdest gears turning, so he pinched his brother's arm and spoke through his blush.
"Let's go, Dean. I thought you were starving."
Dean managed give the women his later smile before Sam dragged him down the stairs. "Yeah, I am starving, Sam. Starving."
The guests seemed to have their learned their lesson from this afternoon, keeping a fairly respectable distance behind the brothers as they approached the dining room. Sam looked over at his brother, knowing Dean wasn't just talking about hooking up with some random women. When you only talked to one person for days on end, you tended to overcompensate when with others. Dean's flirting was as much about making sure he still existed beyond Sam, Dad, and hunting, as it was getting laid. Flirting was Dean's normal, his one thing that had nothing to do with them and their lives.
Sam was suddenly contrite. "Sorry, man."
Dean paused as they reached the dinner buffet, studying Sam for a moment. "You think too much," he said at length, grabbing a plate and dismissing Sam's guilt in a single casual movement. "If I really wanted to get laid, I could. Easy. Dean Winchester, Ghost Hunter. How often do we get to use that line?"
Sam coughed in a way that sounded suspiciously like 'cocktail waitress, Tulsa, November of '99,' as he grabbed his own plate and followed Dean down the line.
"I'm not even going to ask how you remembered that, freak boy."
After they'd eaten, and shot down the repeated suggestion of a séance, much to silk shawl's disappointment, they decided to return to the third floor, to revisit the Bennets' bedroom and the library. Both Dean and Sam were at a loss as to what to do with the guests for the night. They didn't want to expose them to too much, and they couldn't get to the bottom of this with out buckling down for a while. As long as they had the guests with them, they were restricted to weapons they could easily conceal, which meant only blades and small caliber guns. As a compromise, they figured they'd walk the mansion for about three hours, until ten, and then send the tourists to bed. After that they could get some work done.
From their earlier reading they'd found out that Laura had indeed been heavily involved in the occult. That had been part of the reason for the miner's riot—they'd believed she was a witch and was responsible for the numerous deaths and cave-ins in the nearby mines. They'd also found out that she'd been six months pregnant at the time of her death. Her words had come back to Sam, then. Dean gave him a sharp, worried glance as he whispered them aloud.
"It's always that one more precious thing than you can stand to lose."
Wrapped in white silk and an ivory ribbon on the shelf next to the journal had been a set of tarot cards. Sam had refused to touch them after Dean had unwrapped them, earning him another concerned look and the offer to rest and clean up before dinner. They had left their argument simmering in the background, in true Winchester fashion, agreeing to violently disagree for the moment.
They resumed their pattern from the afternoon, with Dean leading the group with the EMF, and Sam trailing with the camcorder. It was turned to night-vision mode, and Dean had, mercifully, foregone his traditional Paris Hilton joke. Walker had joined the group in spite of the extremely cold reception he'd received from Dean upon the suggestion. Sam had to keep reminding himself to watch the monitor and not just stare suspiciously at Walker's back. The man's large form was also blocking his view of Dean, which was agitating him. From the way Dean was moving uncharacteristically back and forth across the hallway, the blocked line of sight was annoying him as well.
"Witch! Whore of the Devil!"
Sam jerked around, looking for the source of rough, scarred voice. Glancing down the hall, he cursed Walker under his breath. He couldn't see whether Dean had reacted to that. The crowd kept moving uninterrupted, so maybe it had just been him. He noted the time and location and kept walking, trying not to tense his bruised shoulders.
"Burn in hell, witch!"
The painful, grit choked voice was directly over his shoulder, and Sam swung around, going for his blade with his good hand. His hand closed around the hilt at the same second he registered the still empty hallway. Not even an orb appeared on the camcorder screen. The crowd continued, only the very last few guests even noticing his sudden movement. The EMF was silent, as far as he could tell from this distance.
Sam wished he could make eye contact with Dean.
"Do not suffer a witch to live!"
Suddenly, Sam could feel eyes on him, watching from all sides. The weight of their cruel malice danced light and icy across his skin.
He refused to shudder.
Reaching his hand again towards his blade, he brushed over his cell phone. His cell… of course. He flicked it open, typing in a single word and hitting send.
At the front of the line, Dean was trying to see how many ways he could come up with to kill Walker using only the tools he was carrying on him. There were a lot more than fifty ways. A lot. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was almost ten. Thank God.
He took an extra step and a half to left, ignoring the memory of his father's voice saying he was wasting energy over-traveling the hall like that. He threw a quick glance over his shoulder, but could only just make out Sam's head above the crowd.
The thought of his brother was followed immediately by the vibration of his cell in his jacket pocket. Glancing at the screen, he stopped in his tracks. The text read, 'voices.' It was from Sam.
Voices? Dean glanced over his shoulder again, trying to catch Sam's eyes. The EMF hadn't read a thing the entire evening, but then the afternoon had started slow, too, and look where that ended up. He started walking again, typing quickly with his thumb.
A second later, 'Miners.'
Dean noted the time on his phone and the continued silence of the EMF. 'Pain?'
'No.' The reply was quick enough that he knew Sam wasn't lying. Sam always hesitated before lying to Dean, weighing his options, and it always got him caught.
'OK,' he sent, and shut his phone, gripping it in his hand to know immediately if Sam called again. He took another three steps down the hall, and then stopped. The meter in his hand came alive, buzzing up to its highest register.
He looked up at the windows and then counted the doors back to where he was standing. Six on the left and six on the right… but…
Dean shoved the phone back in his pocket, turned, and yelled straight back to his brother, causing the guests to jump in surprise and the artificial fear amplified by the situation.
"Sam! How many doors on this floor?"
Sam had started moving towards him as soon as the meter sounded, and was pushing through the crowd when he replied. "Fifty. Twenty-four in each wing, twelve on the left and twelve on the right, plus the master suite and the library on either end. Why?"
Dean rubbed the back of his neck as Sam came up beside him. "Yeah, that's what I had, too. See anything wrong?"
Sam looked around, counting the doors, and whistled softly. "The library's missing."
Dean opened the door of the last room on the left, letting it swing wide before peering in. Both brothers were ignoring the tourists, who were whispering excitedly to each other. Sam moved to the door on the right, copying his brother's movement. The room had window along both walls, as though it had always been the last room in the wing. The side stairs should have been there, across from the library doors.
Dean stepped back into the hall, looking up and down the hall critically. This wasn't something they'd ever encountered before. Objects moving, yes, but never architecture.
"The library used to be where the grand staircase is now, in the middle of the building. We doubled the size of the mansion when we renovated, added this whole wing. The library was disassembled and placed at the end of the new construction." Walker had come up behind them, looking spooked but coherent enough to make a genuinely helpful comment. For a minute, Dean almost didn't hate him.
"So, that could be why the library moved, but what about the side stairs?" Dean wondered, trying to make a mental map of the mansion as it was before the renovation.
Walker shrugged, "There didn't used to be any stairs except the center staircase and the servants' stairs, in the back. We added the side flights as fire escapes."
Entering the conversation, Sam nodded towards the crowd. "Mr. Walker, it might be best if you and your guests went back down to the first floor or the lobby for the night. If whole rooms are moving, then this may be more than a simple haunting. Has anything like this ever happened before?"
"Lord, no! Just doors slamming and lights flickering. This—this here has never happened before. Didn't even know it could happen. I'll take everyone to the dining room, have some pillows and blankets brought down. Think the staff should come down, too?" Walker's manipulative façade had disappeared in the light of shifting walls and staircases.
Dean nodded firmly. "Yes, and keep everyone down there. Sam and I will try to figure out what's going on."
Walker considered the two men before him, both alert and deadly, and nodded. They watched him herd his groaning guests down the hall and around the corner. Once alone, they glanced at each other, wariness and reassurance passing at once between them.
"Still hearing the voices?" Dean asked, looking into the changed rooms critically.
"Yeah. All variations on the same theme: kill the witch."
Dean almost smirked. "So, to recap, our beds moved this morning, you channeled Laura Bennet and an episode from our childhood this afternoon, at which point I also had a freak moment, now entire rooms are moving and you're picking up The Wizard of Oz on your psychic FM station? Is that everything?"
Sam thought about his bruises. Not exactly everything. "Sounds like it."
Dean turned on his heel, staring up into Sam's face. "What? What else is there?"
How does he do that? Sam looked innocent. "Nothing, why?"
"You hesitated. You only hesitate when you lie to me. What else is there, Sam?"
Sam sighed. Some things changed, but Dean would never be one of them. "Remember all those bruises I had after the poltergeist when I was eight? From my vision earlier? Well, they kind of… came back. The sprained wrist, too."
Dean looked at him for a moment, wearing the same expression he did when the Impala made a strange noise. "Came back? You mean… you have the bruises now?"
Sam opened his mouth to reply, but Dean was already moving, stepping behind him and pulling up his sweatshirt to see his back, without so much as asking permission or a word of warning.
Dean studied the bruises for a long moment, pressing an especially dark spot briefly, pulling back and lowering the shirt at Sam's flinch. "When were you going to tell me about this, Sam?"
Dean's voice was low and calm, and the lack of obscenities worried Sam more than a little. He opened his mouth to reply, but Dean spoke right over him, still furiously quiet.
"Never mind, we don't have time for that right now. I'd rather know how the hell a vision could cause—cause this," he ran his eyes over the bruises again, raw worry in his gaze. "This happened fourteen years ago!"
Sam looked thoughtful, staring contemplatively at the place where the library used to be. "Maybe it's this house. The library moved back to where it was, or so we assume, anyway, and the stairs disappeared. I'm hearing the voices of the miners during the riot. The past is manifesting itself physically in the present… like the bruises."
Dean looked down at his now silent meter, then glanced up and down the hall before returning his gaze to his younger brother. "That's pretty far-fetched, even for us."
"Compared to a library moving? Not really."
Dean did smirk this time, rubbing the back of his neck wearily. "Well, when you put it that way. Come on, let's go see where the library landed."
Dean moved down the hall, and Sam followed a step behind and a half step to the left, a pattern put down in childhood and never forgotten.
Stopping short, Sam tilted his head, listening intently. He'd been tuning the voices out, but his name had drawn his attention back to the angry cacophony.
"Unnatural! Abomination! What do you See, Samuel? What do you See?"
Sensing his brother's pause, Dean turned around. "Oh, no, now what?" he muttered, seeing the look on Sam's face.
Meeting his older brother eyes, Sam grimaced expressively. "The voices just got personal. They called me Samuel."
Dean frowned, crossing his arms over his chest. "So probably not the miners, then. Or not just the miners. Great. Wonderful. Look, let's just find the library before anything else happens."
Sam nodded softly, following Dean down the hall and trying to block out the dark voices stepping in their shadows.