Supernatural and its characters do not belong to me.
This takes place immediately after my fic Sensory Deprivation. All suggestions and criticism highly welcome!
Tired and Emotional
"Are you gonna eat that?"
Dean looked up from his rapidly-cooling steak to see his brother looking at him hopefully across the table. He raised his eyebrows. "You've gotta be kidding me. You're still hungry?" He felt the lining of his own stomach creak in protest at the amount of food he'd managed to stuff into it that day. And it was only two in the afternoon.
Sam's eyes flicked down to the steak and back up to Dean. He had the good grace to look slightly embarrassed. "Seriously, man, it's amazing. You should eat it," he offered. Dean's plate wobbled slightly and moved an inch towards Sam.
Dean fought off a grin and slouched back in his seat. "Really," he said. "I should eat it?" Sam's embarrassment was growing, and that was always entertaining.
Sam flushed and looked away. "Sorry," he muttered. "I didn't mean to... you know." The plate wobbled again, and Sam looked mortified.
Dean let the grin break through. Much as he kind of wanted to, he didn't have the heart to torture his brother today. In a couple of days, he knew the novelty of having tastebuds again would have worn off. And then if you come after my steak with your freakish powers, I'll kick your ass, Sammy boy. Silently, he pushed the plate the rest of the way across the table. Sam looked at it, and then gave Dean a quick glance as if to make sure. Seeing the smile on his brother's face, he beamed and started eating.
Dean resisted manfully for as long as he could manage, which was about thirty seconds. Then his magnanimity gave out.
"You know, that's actually pretty gross."
Sam looked up, frozen in mid-chew. He swallowed. "What is?"
"Watching you eat your way through the agricultural surplus of three counties."
Sam rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to the steak.
"I mean it, man. I bet you haven't even considered what the poor families of Fremont are gonna eat in the long, cold winter once you've chowed down on their entire dairy herd."
Sam made a noise through a mouthful of steak that sounded like shut up. Possibly shut up, asshole.
Dean sighed. "You know your problem, Sam? You have no appreciation for rural economics." Then he was distracted by the arrival of the unbelievably hot waitress, who asked them if they'd like anything else. Dean started to say no, but was suddenly aware of a pair of eyes watching him intently from the other side of the table. He sighed. Yup, not every day you get your tastebuds back. Not every day your stomach explodes, either.
He smiled brightly at the waitress. "What do you have for dessert?"
Dean wanted to leave Fremont, Minnesota pretty much more than he'd ever wanted to leave anywhere. The thing in the woods was gone, but the woods themselves were still there, oppressive and shrouded in mist, the soil heavy with the weight of rotted leaves. Since the night they had killed the creature, the weather had turned foggy again, and Dean swore he hadn't seen real sunlight once in the week since. Of course, it was all sunshine and goddamn puppies for Sam, who, with the enthusiasm of the born-again, drank in the murky, pathetic view like it was a topless beach in Honolulu.
"God, Dean, have you ever noticed how many colours there are in raindrops?" Sam asked suddenly, staring at a branch beaded with water.
You have got to be kidding me. "Are you drunk?"
Sam looked up, looked surprised, and then looked embarrassed. This is getting to be something of a habit, Sammy boy. "Uh, um. No."
Dean snorted. Much as he appreciated his brother's new-found enthusiasm for all things sensory, he was not about to indulge it to that degree. "Get in the car."
"So where are we going?" Sam asked once he was settled in the passenger seat of the Impala.
"Away," said Dean, and turned on the music.
Dean drove south, because he thought that the further south he went, the less likely it was to be misty and damp, and even if it was, it probably wouldn't be so cold. The miles fell away beneath the wheels, the endless blacktop that never seemed to change, so that it seemed almost like the car was stationary and the scenery moved around it. The journey was accompanied by a gradual lightening of the air, and by Sam humming along to Master of Puppets.
Which, when Dean thought about, was kind of weird.
Whatever, maybe the thing in the woods gave him some good taste as well as just... taste. Dean grinned to himself. That joke was never going to get old.
Two hundred miles later, Dean had stopped grinning. Twenty miles after that, he leaned forward and shut off the stereo. Sam, who had been staring out of the window, looked round in surprise, but didn't say anything.
Ten minutes later, he started humming again.
Dean cursed and pulled over in a screech of tires, turning to glare at his brother. Sam looked back, all innocence. "Dude, what?"
"You were humming."
Sam frowned. "So?"
Dean clenched his teeth. "You were humming Metallica."
"Was I?" Sam seemed to think about this, then shrugged. "Well, I guess they've got a couple of good songs."
"You just hummed three whole albums. And by the way, Creeping Death does not benefit from an acoustic rendition."
Sam looked slightly hurt. "Hey, it's your music. What's your problem, anyway?"
What was his problem? To be honest, Dean wasn't really sure. "It's just... Dude, humming."
"I'm just happy, that's all."
And there it was, right there. "Well that's freakin weird for a start."
Sam froze and stared at him. "What did you say?"
Dean wished he hadn't said anything now, but it was too late to take it back. "Nothing." He started the engine again.
"I'm serious, Dean, what did you say?" Sam sounded calm, in a kind of I'm-just-about-to-eat-your-face way.
Dean sighed. "It's just not like you is all. It's no big deal."
Sam glowered. "You don't want me to be happy?"
"I didn't... Look, forget I said anything, OK?"
Sam opened his mouth to argue, but Dean raised a hand, not taking his eyes off the road. "I mean it, Sam. I'm not going to get into this with you now." He eyed the stereo longingly: normally at this point in an argument he would put it on full blast to cut off any further protests. Not really an option this time.
Sam subsided, slouching in his seat and glaring at the road ahead. After a long, tense silence, he started, very deliberately, to hum Ride the Lightning.
To a jazz beat.
Oh, that's it. We are so getting off the road at the next town.
"Find anything?" Dean asked, dropping down into the seat opposite Sam and handing him a coffee.
"Mmm," Sam said, still scanning the paper he had in front of him. He took a swig from his cup. "Good coffee."
"Yeah, if you like tar," Dean replied. Sam didn't seem to notice.
"Poltergeist," he said, handing the paper over to his brother. Dean skimmed the article. Renovations of an old house – objects moving by themselves – mysterious accidents. Textbook case.
"OK, where is it?" he asked.
"Madison Falls. Next town over. Ten miles, give or take."
Dean watched Sam out of the corner of his eye. His brother was acting kind of terse, but that was pretty normal given the argument they'd had. At least he stopped with the goddamn humming. But Dean felt a sense of shame, because if Sam really had just been happy, then somehow he had managed to ruin it.
"So we going or what?"
Dean let his reflections slip away. They would wait for another time. "Sure. Let's do this thing."
Madison Falls turned out to be not so much a town as handful of houses scattered through a stretch of farmland. It was the sort of place where the neighbours all knew each other and people left their back doors unlocked at night. Which was pretty idiotic, because really, this was the kind of territory that things in the dark loved the most. Jeez, did nobody watch horror movies any more?
There was also no motel, and by the time they found one several miles up the road, twilight had settled over the rural landscape, softening edges and masking danger. Poltergeist hunting was going to have to wait till morning.
Dean turned off the engine of the Impala and took a deep breath. Sam and he were brothers, and they had always argued, and the arguments were usually forgotten after a few miles and a beer or two. This one was different though; Dean felt like the atmosphere had changed, become slightly heavier, it seemed to cling to him like clay. They needed to clear the air, but Dean didn't know how to start.
Dean looked over at his brother, who was watching him with that look on his face, the solemn, cautious look that made him look like he was nine years old again. Dean felt the urge to ask him what he was talking about, to deny that he had even noticed that anything was wrong. But he didn't, he just held Sam's gaze until the younger man looked away.
"It just feels so good, you know. To be normal again." Sam said softly. "I didn't mean to freak you out."
Dean almost laughed. Things had to be pretty bad if his brother being happy for a few hours was enough to freak him out. Oh yeah, and
"Sam, you are about as far from normal as the love-child of Michael Jackson and Liza Minelli. Now get out there and get us a room."
Sam opened the door and unfolded himself out of the car, but he shot Dean a grin as he left, and Dean knew they were OK again. And I didn't even have to say a word.
A morning's research informed them that nothing bad had happened in Madison Falls in the last thirty years. No-one had been kidnapped, no-one had been killed, no-one had even got a freakin parking ticket. But thirty-two years before, a drifter had passed through town on his way from nothing to nowhere, and a teenage girl had disappeared. The state police had caught the guy before he crossed over into Nebraska, but the girl's body had never been found, and he had never told anyone where it was.
"Yeah, OK," Dean said, "but she lived clear across town." Which in this town wasn't saying much. "Why would she be haunting that house?"
Sam looked up from his laptop, his grin slightly blue in the glow. "Guess when the house was built?"
"Wait, you're saying he dumped the body at the construction site?"
Sam shrugged. "No-one's ever going to look under a house."
Dean was silent for a moment, thinking things through. "Great," he said finally. "Let's go."
"We're gonna need a pick-axe."
Dean looked at Sam quizzically, and Sam shrugged. "Lot of basements have concrete floors," he explained.
Dean sighed. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned graveyards?
"OK," Sam said, dropping back into the passenger seat of the Impala. "Looks like the family went away for a while after the little boy fell down the stairs. The place is empty."
Dean looked out at the house. "Family away, nearest neighbours out of ear-shot," he said. "This is gonna be the easiest job ever."
Sam snorted. "Yeah, if digging up a concrete floor in a haunted house is your idea of easy."
"Hey, don't knock it, Sammy boy," Dean said, opening the car door. "Maybe Casper won't even show."
"It's Sam," said Sam, and followed him.
Inside the house it was quiet, though it was obvious that it had not always been so. Furniture lay overturned on the living room carpet, the kitchen was liberally scattered with cutlery and fragments of ceramics, and a large mirror lay smashed on the floor of the hall. Dean stirred the shards of glass with his toe. "Poltergeists are the worst house-guests," he observed.
Sam grunted and headed for the door to the basement.
"I mean, they leave wet towels all over the bathroom floor..."
"They drink all the OJ and forget to tell you..."
"They try to stab you in the head..."
"What?" Dean stopped at the top of the staircase. Sam was halfway down, turning on his flashlight. Dean reached for the light switch, flipped it a couple of times. Nothing. Great. So much for actually getting to do the haunted house thing in the daylight for once.
"Something's here," said Sam.
Dean flipped on his flashlight and readied his shotgun. "You see something?"
Sam shook his head. "I've just got this feeling."
Dean checked the shotgun again, and followed his brother to the bottom of the stairs.
The basement was big, but looked pretty ordinary in the wavering beams of the flashlights. A work bench, a few pieces of discarded wood, a washing machine, a row of tools hanging on the wall... Huh, Dean thought, eyeing the latter nervously. That could be a problem. "Sam?"
Sam was looking around carefully. He shook his head. "I think it's gone."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "That some freaky sixth sense thing? Or are we up to seven now?"
"I don't know. Something was just wrong."
Dean scanned the basement again. "Well, let's make it right." He slung the pick-axe off his shoulder and tossed it to Sam. "Time's a-wastin, college boy."
They took turns, one digging and the other holding the flashlight and the shotgun. The concrete was loose and kind of crumbly, which suited Dean very well, since they had no clue where under the floor the body was buried, and anything that made the job go faster was good with him. When he was on his third round of keeping watch, and they had destroyed half of the floor, he began to relax, thinking maybe the poltergeist really wouldn't show. Yeah, easiest job ever.
That was, until Sam stopped digging suddenly and said Dean, and before he could respond Dean felt something strike him in the chest, and he flew backwards through the air and crashed into the wall, the impact jarring what felt like every bone in his body. The shotgun jolted out of his nerveless fingers and clattered onto the floor, where it slid to the opposite corner of the room as if someone was pushing it.
Sam had already dropped the pick-axe and was headed for the gun when Dean struggled to his feet. He started forward too, but a short, thick piece of wood rose from the floor and smacked him hard in the face. Pain shot through his jaw, and he dropped to the ground again, looking for something to defend himself with.
The shotgun skittered out of Sam's reach and flew across to the other side of the room. Sam cursed and changed trajectory. That was the least of Dean's worries right now though, because the pick-axe had just risen from the ground and was headed his way. He ducked behind the workbench, going through his pockets for the carton of salt he kept there. A moment later, he looked up to see the pick-axe hanging above him and swinging back. There was no time, no time.
And then he heard Sam yell his name, and the pick-axe suddenly flung itself against the wall, and the shotgun flew out of the corner and into Sam's hand. There was a loud report, and Dean felt particles of hot salt falling into his hair.
Sam was beside him in an instant, looking concerned. "You OK?" he asked. "You're bleeding."
Dean cleared his throat and wiped the blood off his lips with the back of his hand. "What'd I tell you," he said, grinning and feeling his ribs to see if they were broken. "Easiest job ever."
Sam rolled his eyes and went to retrieve the pick-axe. "Let's just get this over with."
Dean clambered to his feet, supporting himself for a moment against the bench. He wasn't too badly off, he decided, but some of the bruises would take a little while to fade. "You know, that was pretty freakin cool," he pointed out. "These new superpowers of yours are kinda handy. Should have sent you off into the woods on your own years ago, could have saved us all a lot of bruises." He picked up the flashlight from where he had dropped it on the floor.
Sam didn't say anything.
When Dean woke up, it was dark and quiet, except for the sound of Sam breathing evenly in the next bed. There was nothing alarming going on, nothing out of the ordinary. But here he was, awake, with his hand under his pillow clutching the handle of his hunting knife. Something must have woken him up.
He sat up carefully, scanning the motel room, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He couldn't see anything strange, but the room seemed somehow too quiet, the silence pressing on his eardrums and making the hairs stand up on the back of his hands. He brought the knife out in front of him and thought about whether he should wake Sam.
He heard an odd sort of shuffling noise, and a moment later something smashed against the wall above his head, and he covered his face with his arms as a shower of glass rained down. There was a second crash moments after the first, and Dean rolled off the bed and onto the floor, thinking fast. Goddamn poltergeist. What, isn't salting and burning enough for you people any more? Time to wake Sam.
"Sam," he muttered, reaching up to tug on his brother's arm. Sam muttered something and turned over. A tea cup exploded overhead, and Dean ducked. "Sam," he said, louder now. Jesus, Sammy, when has it ever been this hard to wake you up?
But Sam was still sleeping soundly, and Dean was not about to put his head up above the parapet to give him a proper shake. The damn ghost seemed to be gunning for him, which was good, because that meant it was leaving his brother alone.
Except that he was next to his brother, and that was going to cause some problems.
Dean dropped his knife (not much use on a ghost anyway) and crawled under his bed towards the door. The shotguns were locked in the back of the car, which was damn stupid and shouldn't have happened, but there was no use crying over it now. Everything seemed to have gone quiet, and he was pretty sure the ghost was waiting for him to show himself again. Well, it wouldn't have to wait long.
Taking a deep breath, he raced the last few feet to the door, grabbing the handle and pulling.
Nothing happened. The door was stuck fast. Damn.
Dean turned, and saw something that made him forget all thoughts of shotguns and doors. Every loose item in the motel room, with the exception of the beds, was hanging about five feet off the floor, rotating slowly. And Sam was lying in the middle of it all, helpless and asleep.
As Dean watched, a chair went hurtling across the room and bounced off the wall, narrowly missing Sam's bed on the rebound. That was all he needed to see, and there was only one thing left to do now. He flung himself across the room, bounding over his own bed, and landed, hard, on top of his brother, covering Sam's head with his arms and feeling his bruised ribs complain at the impact.
All the air went out of Sam in a whoosh, and he grunted and opened his eyes. "Dean?" Everything in the room crashed to the floor as if some cosmic puppet master had just cut all the strings.
Sam was looking up at him, a sheen of sweat on his face. "Dean? What's going on?"
Dean stared at him, then looked around at the devastation that had been their motel room. A disturbing thought was forming in his mind. "Sam, did you just have a nightmare?"
Sam shook his head as if to clear the sleep away. "What? Dean, why are you on top of me?"
Dean cleared his throat and dragged himself off Sam. "Just answer the question."
"Uh." Sam sat up and scrubbed his hands over his face. "Yeah, I guess so." He paused, taking in the destruction surrounding him. "What happened?"
Dean looked from his brother's confused face to the broken and twisted furniture. Oh, this is so not good.