Title: Tonight I Run
Rating: M for language
Summary: Written for spnhalloween, prompt 165. The Winchesters in Detroit for Devil's Night, trying to finish a hunt among the chaos.
Disclaimed: I own nothing, least of all these characters.
Detroit isn't Dean's least favorite city. Phoenix holds that title for reasons he doesn't discuss, but if he had to pick the one place on earth he doesn't want to a couple days before Halloween, well that place would be Detroit. So he's pretty pissed that they're schedule got so screwed up that they're just getting into the city instead of leaving. And it's all Sam's fault.
Just as the opening strains of i When the Levee Breaks /i start leaking out of the speakers Dean hits the eject button with more force than necessary. Normally Led Zeppelin is the only thing Dean and Sam agree on, but Dean's feeling just petty enough to stop the tape just as Sam's favorite song starts. If the look on Sam's face is anything to go by, Sam knows exactly what he's doing. He doesn't say anything though, just presses his lips together and turns to look out the window. Dean should feel guilty, but Sam's non-reaction just galls him even more.
The whole reason they're behind schedule is that a hunt went seriously pear shaped in Minnesota, some goddamn fossegrim damn near drowned Dean in a goddamn lake. Bad enough to go swimming in Minnesota in October, but Sam, instead of finishing the incantation and getting rid of the water spirit, jumped in after Dean and they had to wait three more nights until the fucker showed again. Also, getting lured into the water by a dude playing the violin is pretty lame, even by their standards.
"Last year there were over five hundred recorded fires," Dean says. If possible, Sam's scowl deepens.
"Yes, thank you Dean. I read the same articles you did." Sam says.
"If anything happens to my car…"
"Was I just supposed to let you drown?" Sam demands, voice loud and still staring out the window. Dean hisses in a breath between his teeth and slows down for a red light before glaring over at his brother.
"You were supposed to do your job, Sam." Dean says with forced cheer. He thinks he can hear Sam grinding his teeth, but can't be sure.
"You're a dick," Sam says and shoves the Zeppelin tape back into the stereo. Dean resists the urge to pop the tape back out and taps his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently. Not only home of the Michigan Left, Detroit apparently has the longest red lights in the country.
"What the hell's with all the orange ribbons?" Dean asks after seeing about a dozen pedestrians with decorated lapels.
"Angel's Night. Uh, it's this thing the city started like ten years ago, to try and fight back against Devil's Night." Sam says.
"Does it work?"
"How many fires did you say there were last year?" Sam asks. Dean shrugs in acknowledgement.
"Place is a shithole anyway." He says. They already drove through the old business section where all the plants and office buildings stood decaying in their industrial graveyard. "Where's this place again?"
"Uhh," Sam pulls out his notebook and squints at the passing street signs. "We're on Chene, right? Okay… keep going straight and then we're going to go right onto Lafayette. The cemeteries will be a left off of that."
"Great. Another left," Dean mutters.
Mount Elliott Cemetery and Ellwood Cemetery were directly adjacent to each other; sprawling properties a stone's throw from downtown and the bridge to Belle Isle. That was unfortunate. Whatever they did would have to be fast and dirty or they'd end up trying to explain themselves to the cop's or the local friggin' neighborhood watch. Dean can handle the former, but the latter… those people take themselves way too seriously.
"At least with Devil's Night going on we might not be noticed," Sam says, and it's on the tip of Dean's tongue to ask if Sam's reading his mind. He doesn't, because it's not really a joke and he's fairly certain that Sam can't do that. Or wouldn't if he could.
"Or people will be so paranoid they'll shoot us outright." Dean says. He read stories about homeowners staying awake all night, armed with shotguns incase the arson-fairies tried to pay a visit.
"Maybe they'll shoot you first." Sam says and Dean can't help but grin.
"You can always hope, Sammy-boy," he laughs.
"What are we looking for, exactly?" Sam asks. He's looking out the window, watching the urban landscape roll by with undue interest and Dean wonders what he's really seeing.
"I don't know. Angry spirit? Something is causing those accidents and it seems pretty coincidental that they're happening right next to two boneyards." Dean says.
"If there's anything supernatural about them. From what we've seen so far of Detroit drivers…" Sam lets the sentence trail off when Dean snorts. Twenty minutes later Dean has to slam on the brakes twice in a row to avoid a collision in the marked intersection. Dean spends another twenty minutes bitching about retarded city planners and demonic-inspired intersections. Sam doesn't say anything, but Dean hears the 'I told you so' anyway. Dean insists on some research anyway and when that too yields nothing but poor traffic management Dean is in a worse temper than when they arrived.
"Fuck. What is your problem? You were pissed that we had to be here, now we can leave and you're more pissed." Sam demands after a tense breakfast the next morning. They're back in the motel room, mostly because Dean was shanghaied by the desk clerk into paying two days advance, but also because even if this job fell through, there's got to be something else going on. The odds are in their favor, it's Detroit and Halloween.
"We came all the way here for nothing, is what the fuck my problem is. I thought you'd checked into this before we got here. You know, to make sure we had a legit job." Dean says. He knows he's being unfair but lately they've been on a string of bad luck and he really wanted to kill something bad and ugly, get the blood pumping type of deal.
"Yeah," Sam says, and his voice is so deceptively quiet that Dean almost doesn't pay attention to what he's saying. "You're right. Do you know what else? Devil's Night? Also my fault. The runny eggs you had to eat? My very presence in the diner caused the cook to ruin your breakfast. Come on. If the two of us work together I'm sure that by sundown I'll also be responsible, single-handedly, for world poverty." Sam's voice gets louder until he's damned near yelling.
Dean sits back and says nothing because at this point he can only do one of two things; apologize or antagonize and neither appeals to him. He knows he's being a jerk, he just can't seem to stop. Sam stares at him a minute or two, daring him to open his mouth, but Dean doesn't and Sam goes back to trolling news sites on the laptop.
"Find anything?" Dean asks when he figures a safe amount of time has passed.
"Well," Sam has a pinched look on his face. "There's been some suspicious fires over on Piquette Avenue."
"Fires? At this time of year in Detroit? If you're fucking yanking my chain man I swear to God…"
"Look, would you shut the fuck up for a second? Yes. Fires. With no apparent causes. No accelerants or faulty wiring. The fire marshal says it's like they just sprung out of the floor." Sam had obviously been expecting that reaction because he's got the quote all ready to go like a damned show pony or something.
"Where the hell is Piquette Avenue?" Dean gripes.
"The old industrial district." Sam says. Dean stands and pulls on his leather jacket.
"So let's go," he says.
The EMF meter gives a happy little squeal on the third floor of the abandoned Studebaker Plant and Dean grins. An afternoon of searching had turned up the death of Norman Facey, a maintenance man who'd been killed ten years ago in a fire that started in the basement of the plant.
"Something goin' on."
"Yeah," Sam is turning in a circle and he has his unhappy face on. Dean, cheered by the prospect of an honest-to-God hunt indulges Sam's obvious concerns.
"What is it, Scooby?" he asks.
"I don't know," Sam admits. "Probably nothing."
"Oh yeah? No bells and whistles going off, then?" Dean asks. After all, they are in a potentially haunted plant.
"Yeah, just... the guy died in the basement, right? So why are there fires popping up everywhere but the basement?" Sam is tapping his fingers against his leg and giving Dean his very best earnest expression.
"Who cares? Let's check the place out and then go visit ole Norman's resting place, set a fire of our own." Dean shrugs.
"I care," Sam insists. "What do you think?"
Dean groans, but he's not really that put out. This is what they do; make each other look past the obvious to see what's really going in. It's saved their asses more than once. It took Dean two months of traveling together before he realized that when Sam wasn't jus trying to shit on him when he asked "why do you think that" or "do you think that's really going on". It came of something as a shock to find that Sam wanted Dean's opinions, that he wanted to know what Dean was thinking. Of course, it could be annoying.
"So it's not random. The fires all happened when someone was in the building. All self-contained… could be revenge. Or he's protecting the building. A lot of these old shitholes are in line to be torn down." Dean shrugs. Sometimes it really is just that simple. Dean likes simple.
"Yeah," Sam says, but Dean already knows that he isn't going to let it go. Sam hates simple, takes the easy cases like a personal affront. "But revenge against what? The fire that killed him was an accident."
"I don't know. Maybe the fire could have been prevented. Jesus, Sam," Dean aims his flashlight down the long hallway they've reached. All the windows are boarded up here and only a few slivers of pale October sunlight have filtered through the pieces of plywood.
"Why are you so pissed at me?" Sam ventures into the silence some time later. They've canvassed most of the building already, but nothing but the basement and entrance to the west stairwell on the second floor has caused a reaction to the EMF meter.
"Your timing is always so convenient Sam." Dean says. "Let's keep the deep, emotional stuff until after we get out of the haunted plant." The problem is, Dean's not really pissed, not at Sam anyway, but the approaching anniversary has him on edge and it's not like he can point that out to Sam. Sam hasn't mentioned it and Dean's certainly not going to.
"There's nothing going on right now. And I'm not being deep or emotional. I'm just asking you a question. Ever since the fossegrim you've been a complete asshole. I know you're pissed that we had to wait around a couple days, but this is ridiculous."
"If you know so much why don't you tell me what's going on?" Dean frowns, but mostly it's for himself. He can't seem to shut himself up. He'll be damn lucky if Sam doesn't pop him one. Sam doesn't pop him one, he just turns and flashes his light in Dean's eyes.
"Fuck you," he says and continues down the hallway. Dean loses sight of him for a moment, but before he can panic he hears Sam tap his boot against a metal door. "That's all for this floor, man. This doesn't make any sense. Why would the EMF go off up here, at the top of a stairwell that doesn't even connect to the basement?"
Dean wants to dismiss Sam's words as his usual bitchery, but it is weird and Dean doesn't like to mess with ghosts who cause fires. He comes alongside Sam and taps his knuckles against the door. Dead end. He doesn't like it.
"Let's get out of here," Dean says, and tries not to let his sudden anxiety bleed into his voice. Sam looks at him closely, clearly not fooled, but only nods his agreement. They're halfway down the hallway and the only warning they get is the sudden, high pitched shrieking of the EMF. For a second Dean thinks maybe a bomb has gone off as he staggers back from some unseen force. The hallway seems to expand and contract and the air turns hazy. He reaches to grab at Sam but his fingers slide through the air and it takes him a moment to realize that he's fallen to the floor. He opens his mouth, but he can't breathe and he can't see Sam and all he can think is i Sam, Sam, Sam /i until he doesn't think anything at all.
Dean comes to in stages. The first thing he knows is that he's sitting up, followed by the sounds of the Impalas engine and the feeling of being safe. Sam's reaching across the seat, a handful of Dean's jacket clutched in his hand, his knuckles brushing against Dean's ribs. His heads rolls against the back of the seat, he's slouched down with his knees knocking against the dashboard. The radio's on and Dean's tongue feels swollen and dry in his mouth as he listens to reports of a raging fire at the Studebaker Plant. No less than five fire engines, the announcer says gravely, and it doesn't look like the building will be saved.
"Wuh?" he says, staring out the window with bleary eyes. It's full on dark and he just makes out a sign that tells him they're westbound on 96 before they speed by.
"Dean?" Sam releases the jacket and reaches up to brush his fingertips against Dean's temple. "Shit, thank God. I was starting to think you needed a hospital." Sam exhales noisily and Dean shifts until he's facing his brother.
"What," he swallows and nods in gratitude when Sam grabs a bottled water from a grocery bag on the seat between them. It seems like days have passed since they'd hit the Safeway that morning. He takes several long gulps before wiping his mouth on the back of his hand and twisting the white cap back on with shaking fingers. "What happened?" He has a few ideas, obviously ole' Norman came for a visit but all the past fires were small and contained and right now the plant seems to be a blazing inferno.
"I don't know. Fuck. You just… you just went down, man and then there was a fire and fuck, you were completely out of it." Sam grips the steering wheel with undue force and stares intently out the windshield. Dean doesn't say anything immediately, he tries to think about the last thing he remembers, tries to process what little information he's gleaned so far, but it's hard to think about anything when Sam is so obviously barely keeping it together three feet away from him. Right, so first things first.
"Are you hurt?" he says, his voice sharper than he intended. Sam's gaze flits between Dean and the windshield and his shoulders twitch in an almost-shrug.
"I'm okay," he says. His knuckles are white on the steering wheel, but Dean doesn't bother to contradict the obvious lie. There doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong, and anything else can wait until Dean's head decides to rejoin the rest of his body.
"Where are we going?" Dean asks, suddenly realizing that westbound on 96 means they're leaving the city, have in fact already left the city.
"Away from here," Sam's shoulders do the twitch thing again and Dean's starting to reconsider his previous evaluation. He can't see any blood, any burned skin or cloth but the more cognizant he becomes the more he realizes that Sam is definitely not okay.
"What the hell happened, Sam?" he demands.
"I told you, you passed out and a fire started." Sam pinches the bridge of his nose. "I don't know. I think I saw him, Norman Facey, but once the fire started it spread pretty damn fast. I mean, it was like… it was like it was chasing us," Sam stops, his voice almost expressionless now and his stare is a little too vacant for Dean's liking.
"Hey, are you okay to be driving?" Dean asks.
"We're getting the hell out of here, and you can't drive," Sam says, and it's not what Dean asked but it seems pointless to argue. As a rule, Sam doesn't freak out and he doesn't scare easy so things must have gone pretty pear-shaped to get him in this state. Despite this their untimely flight from Detroit doesn't sit well with Dean, feels too much like they're bailing on a job.
"Dude, are you sure we should be leaving? I mean, we didn't even torch the bastard." Dean says.
"Look, when we left the fucking plant was burning to the ground so there won't be anything left to haunt. I'm not…" Sam trails off. "It's done, okay?"
"Okay," Dean says, because Sam sounds sure.
The motel they pull into hours later looks unfit for rodents but it's got the necessary component, a lit vacancy sign. They both need to get off the road, the car's interior smells like smoke and under the fluorescent sign Dean can see smudges of soot high on Sam's cheek.
"I'll go in," Dean says and Sam nods and taps his fingers against his thighs. The night clerk is suspicious until he sees cash and Dean is in quick possession of a room key and directions to the ice machine, which, what the fuck? Who wants to use the ice machine in the ass end of October in Michigan?
Sam's leaning against the Impala, both their bags at his feet when Dean emerges from the office. Dean holds up the key and indicates a door at the end of the row. Sam nods and hefts the bags up over his shoulder before falling into step behind Dean.
The room is almost too warm after the chill of the late night air and Dean turns on the bedside lamp and shrugs out of his leather jacket quickly. Sam lets the bag fall to the floor and drops down to sit on the edge of the nearest bed. Dean comes to stand in front of him and tips Sam's chin up, finding more soot on the curve of Sam's throat but otherwise nothing so much as a bruise or cut until his gaze moves downward and he sees that the sleeves of Sam's jacket are singed with holes that curl black around the edges.
"What?" He says, reaching down to touch the damaged material. Sam shakes his head.
"The fire started around you, on the floor." He says, almost whispering and deliberately not meeting Dean's eyes. "It wasn't very high, I had to reach over it to pick you up."
Dean curses and pulled the jacket off Sam's shoulders gently. Sam sits quietly, quiescent as Dean moved his arms and rolled up the sleeves of his t-shirt. The skin on the inside of his wrists and forearms is red and dotted with small raw spots, but otherwise he seems unharmed. Dean taps his forehead briefly against Sam's before digging the first aid kit out of his bag. Sam doesn't say anything or even wince when Dean smoothes the salve against his inflamed skin.
"Does it hurt?" Dean asks softly. Sam just shakes his head.
"No," he says, blinks and then wrinkles his nose.
"Bath, not shower," Dean says, reading his actions correctly. Since Jess, Sam can't stand the lingering smell of smoke on his clothes or skin. "Last thing you need is hot water on those arms. Let me have a quick wash, okay, and then I'll run a bath for you."
Sam nods, but he doesn't seem enthused by his prospects. Dean doesn't really blame him, the idea of Sam in a motel-sized bathtub is pretty ridiculous. Dean's trying to keep busy, trying to stay two steps ahead of the thoughts banging around his head. He doesn't need a psychology degree to figure out that seeing him, on the floor and surrounded by flames, is responsible for Sam's current state. Dean's not looking forward to bedtime, although he's hoping that Sam will be suitably exhausted from dragging Dean's ass out of the plant and getting them the hell out town. He doesn't really think Sam won't dream, but he can hope for it nonetheless.
Dean's shower is brief, as promised, and he sits on the edge of the tub, periodically checking the water temperature as the tub fills. Dean had hoped to be fully involved in a hunt for the next couple of days, there's a double significance to the upcoming date this year. Mostly he'd wanted Sam a little distracted, and he definitely hadn't wanted to be anywhere near Detroit for Devil's Night. His tetchiness the past days was a mix of frustration, concern and real anger, only one of which were actually directed at Sam.
Sam is still sitting on the edge of the bed when Dean emerges from the bathroom, he takes the proffered towels from Dean's hands and steps past him into the small, steam filled room. Dean putters around the main room, placing the bottle of salve on the bedside table. Despite having been unconscious for several hours, Dean is bone tired and he stretches out on top of one of the beds. Sam doesn't take long, coming out dressed in a white t-shirt and pinstriped pajama pants. He stuffs his dirty clothes into the plastic bag from the convenience store and bypasses the empty bed to slide under the covers next to Dean.
"Oh yeah?" Dean says. Drops of water are leaking from Sam's hair onto the pillowcase.
"Yeah. Give me your pillow," Sam says, making a grabbing gesture with his hand. Dean frowns, but hands the pillow over. Sam shoves it under his head and rolls onto his side, facing Dean. "Detroit sucks. Let's not go back, okay?"
"Okay," Dean says and reaches out to turn off the lamp. They lay quietly, and Dean contemplates rising to grab a pillow from the next bed but he doesn't really need one and Sam's quiet breathing is as sure a lullaby as there ever was.