TITLE: Chercher la Mort
SUMMARY: Set after 'Simon Said'. Still reeling from recent events, Sam and Dean travel to Penoke, Washington to clean up after an aquaintance. Things go badly, in more ways than one.
RATING/WARNINGS: M, for distrubing imagry, violence, and language. SEASON 2 SPOILERS UP TO SIMON SAID, so don't read unless you want to be spoiled. Also, very minor character death (not Sam or Dean). I don't think anyone will be too broken up about it. :)
A/N: I've been wanting to address the way Dean's been treating Sam this season (the punch, the little jabs and undermining comments, the distance, ect) and then the idea for a baddie came to me and this fic sort of coalesced. I'm hoping to post again next week. In the meantime, I appreciate any feedback you feel like giving. It keeps me goin'. :)
Whitney Birch knew that today was going to be a good day. He'd hit every traffic light the right way going to work, green all the way. As a result, he had gotten to the office early enough to snag one of the Boston crème donuts that always seemed to be gone by the time he arrived. The boss had chosen his pitch for the new company TV ad, going so far as to openly compliment him during the meeting. The look on Mark Jenkin's face alone was absolutely priceless.
Now, on his way home to his gorgeous wife, Whitney knew things were looking up for him. Celia had promised him pork chops for dinner, sex for dessert, and he was sure he had broken several traffic laws getting home after work.
Luckily, his good fortune seemed to be holding. No one pulled him over, and in record time he was unlocking the front door.
"Celia," he called cheerfully, stepping inside and setting his briefcase by the door. There was no response. Whitney inhaled deeply, expecting the herby, enticing scent of Celia's pork chops. Instead, he smelled a sharp, coppery tang, more like… raw meat than anything else.
Must be getting a late start on dinner, he thought wryly. Wonder if that means I get an early start on dessert?
"Baby, I'm home," he called again, loosening his tie as he walked toward the kitchen.
Still no answer, and now he was inexplicably nervous.
His foot slipped a little in the entryway to the kitchen, and he paused, pulling his foot back and peering at the floor. A scarlet smear stretched from under his sole, dark against the white tile, and Whitney's heart seized in sudden panic and foreboding.
He staggered into the kitchen, not wanting to see but unable to resist.
Oh, his beautiful, beautiful girl…
His wife was pinned to the kitchen wall, her own chef's knife protruding grotesquely from her throat. Her eyes and mouth were open, staring at Whitney, dried blood staining her chin and her chest. Her blouse had been torn open, her skirt hiked up.
Whitney tried to scream, tried to say her name, but all that came out was a whimper.
Today was supposed to be good day.
The familiar rumble of the Impala vibrated through Sam's bones, and he found a sort of comfort in it. God knew there was precious little of that going around these days – the interior was thick with barely-suppressed discomfort and irritation, Dean having shut him out again as soon as they left the Roadhouse. It was becoming routine for them these days – Dean closing him off, pushing him away, and Sam, pushing back until his brother snapped, both retreating to strained silence.
Sam didn't know how they got this way, and try as he might, he couldn't seem to break the pattern they had settled into. He was barely holding it together as it was – it was too much at once. Their Dad's death, Dean's near-death. The other children chosen by the demon, and the fear of becoming a killer. The fear that he was already a killer, in his own right. And worst of all, Dean was falling apart before him, and yet out of reach.
He knew his brother well enough to expect a certain level of macho posturing and denial before he would break down and let Sam in. But this… this was different. Sam had nearly begged him to open up, had pleadingly told him, outright: "I'm not okay", and Dean had remained unmoved, cold. Worse, he seemed to be lashing out at Sam. When Dean had punched him during the Gordon job, he hadn't pulled his punch at all. Dean had never tried to actually hurt him before. But now…
Sam was beginning to form a terrible, sickening theory – and, as everything bad in their lives seemed to do, it all came back to him. Dean was hiding something. Something big. Something bad. And Sam knew it was about him – about the demon.
"I think we should get some food," Sam ventured, desperate to break the heavy silence that could be felt even under the heavy bass of Metalica. "Maybe stop at a diner?"
Dean shot him a quick look, his expression slightly exasperated – as though Sam were whining like a child instead of making a polite request.
"Fine," he said evenly, turning his attention back to the road. "Whatever."
Sam wanted to say something else, goad his brother into talking again, but there didn't seem to be anything left to say.
Words felt hollow.
Sam felt hollow.
Twenty minutes later, they were seated in a small, greasy diner, trying to avoid eye contact while eating two equally messy burgers. Dean was pretending to read the paper, spread out on the table before him, and Sam was contemplating rather or not his brother hated him.
His mind went unerringly to the memory of Dean under Andy's control.
'Cause you're all part of something terrible…
The more he learned about his connection to the demon, the more afraid he became. The more Dean learned, the more distant he became. Whatever was going on here was bad, and they could both sense it.
…I hope to hell that he's wrong, but I'm starting to get a little scared that he might be right.
"Holy fucking Christ," Dean said sharply, causing Sam to jump and the older couple in the booth behind him to turn disapprovingly. Sam lifted an eyebrow questioningly, and Dean thumped the paper with two fingers.
"Double homicide in Washington."
"Walter Gordon was one of the victims."
Sam blinked in surprise, leaning back and considering. He'd detested the man, but still… he was one of them, a hunter, and it hit a little close to home.
"What happened? Was it a job?"
"Looks that way. Says here, 'Whitney Birch, of Penoke, Washington, and an unidentified black male were found dead Tuesday morning in the Penoke Westinghouse Paper Mill. Birch, 38, appears to have been tortured before being stabbed to death with a ceremonial knife, found at the scene. The unidentified man, approximately 30 years of age, was beaten before being impaled on machinery in the mill. Police have yet to determine the second victim's identity, or why he was with Birch at the mill, but have discovered an unusual amount of odd weaponry in the deceased's vehicle. Birch had briefly been a suspect in his wife Celia's rape and murder in August, but was cleared of all charges due to DNA evidence. At this time, there do not appear to be any suspects.'"
Dean spun the paper around and slid it towards Sam, tapping a police sketch of the unidentified victim. Sam lifted the paper and stared intently at the drawing. It was Gordon, alright. Had there been any doubt, the mention of 'odd weaponry' would have been enough to dispel it.
"Shit," Sam said, unsure what his reaction should be. Dean had been so unpredictable lately – Sam walked into every conversation blind and unsure.
"We need to go to Washington," Dean said, swallowing the last of his burger and signaling the waitress for the check. He clearly meant now.
"What? Wait –"
"Sam, something took out a seasoned hunter and an innocent victim. If Gordon kicked it, he obviously didn't get the fucker. We gotta go kill it."
"Aren't you rushing into this a little fast," Sam asked, watching his brother count out enough cash to cover the meal and tip.
"Why, you have somewhere to be, Sam? Hot date? Geek convention?"
Dean stood, fished his keys from his pocket, and moved toward the door without waiting for a reply, and Sam knew he had to hustle or get left behind.
Dean smelled blood, and lately that seemed to be the one thing that made him happy. It was a thought that scared Sam more than the idea of his brother hating him, more than the idea of becoming a monster.
Sam wouldn't be able to stop him now that he was on the hunt. Didn't even want to think about what would happen if he tried.
Dean was obscenely grateful that Sam had stopped trying to talk to him. It had been a long drive to Washington, and Dean didn't think he could have handled the twelve hour car ride with little brother breathing down his neck.
The only word to describe how he felt was raw. Everything hurt – the whole fucking world one big reminder of his failures as a son and as a brother. Every day, a day without half of his family.
Dean was a soldier and a soldier's son – raised to react to pain with violence and retribution. Rage boiled in his gut in a constant heat, a simmering fire that ached for fuel. And now he had a target for it. Find this thing in Washington, tear it apart and send the fucker back to hell.
God, he hoped that whatever it was could bleed.
But then Sam would give him that look, like he did when Dean had decapitated the vampire. His face like a physical blow of fear, sadness, and disgust. It made Dean want to hit him, sometimes, before he remembered that it was Sam. Sometimes, even that wasn't enough. For the first time in his life, Dean had hit Sam with the intention of hurting him. He'd hit Sam with enough force to make him stagger, and his brother could take one hell of a punch.
That one, he'd felt bad for.
But it was hard not to be angry with Sam. Dean had no one left to be angry at. And his Dad… if he'd been alive, Dean would have punched him. But as it was, his mind could not allow him to be angry with John. In death, a deeply flawed father had become a sort of personal saint to both boys. Dean couldn't help but want to hate Sam for it. He had no right. He was the one who had always been loyal, always followed directions. The good son. The good soldier. And yet, John had left him with the terrible secret of Sam's connection to the demon, to be his burden alone.
It was so unjust.
Sam had never trusted John the way he had. Sam couldn't understand what losing him had done to Dean. And his little brother's constant demand to talk, to share, was too much.
Sam thought he was saving Dean from drowning, but he was pushing him under instead.
The brother in question was asleep in the passenger seat, long frame tucked awkwardly up against the door. His posture looked slightly defeated even in sleep, and Dean felt a surge of mingled fear and anger. Sam was all he had left, his whole life dependant on one person – a person who had come close to dying more times than he could count. He was unaccountably angry at Sam for making him vulnerable to more grief. He couldn't take any more. Couldn't take what he had already.
Pulling into the motel parking lot, Dean stopped more abruptly than necessary, ignoring the surprised grunt from Sam as his head bounced off the window. Tossing the keys at his slightly disoriented brother, Dean opened the door and moved stiffly out of the car.
"I'm going to check us in. Get our shit together, will you?"
Sam nodded and yawned, but Dean was already halfway to the office. Inside, he halfheartedly flirted with the girl behind the counter before checking them into two adjacent rooms, rather than their usual single room, double bed arrangement.
Sam would undoubtedly be upset – would read too much into it.
Dean couldn't find the energy to care.
Back outside, he snatched his bag and the Impala's keys from Sam, tossing him one of the room keys.
"You're in 7B, I'm in 8B," he said blankly.
The expected look of bewildered hurt flitted briefly across Sam's face, but was quickly supplanted by a carefully schooled mask of indifference.
Dean grunted a goodnight and forced himself to walk casually to his room, step inside, and close the door behind him before he let himself relax. Dropping his bag just inside the door, he slumped on the dingy bed with his head in his hands.
He stayed that way almost an hour.
Just until the shaking stopped.
2 am and he was still awake. There were bugs crawling in his veins, making him restless and edgy.
Giving up on sleep, Dean got up, strapped on his boots, and left his room as quietly as he could. He could get in a little pre-dawn reconnaissance before Sam realized he had gone, scope out the lay of the land and get a head's up on the job. If he were being honest with himself, he almost hoped he would encounter the thing so he could kill it on his own.
The night air was cool and damp, and Dean shrugged deeper into his leather jacket, crunching softly across the gravel parking lot. He was nearly to his car when a soft, accusatory voice stopped him.
"Where the hell are you going, Dean?"
"None a' you're damn business, Sam."
"You're slinking off in the night, armed, alone. Don't give me that shit."
Sam moved toward him, coming out of the shadow of the motel building.
"You're going on a hunt, aren't you?"
"And if I am?"
Dean couldn't help the challenging tone in his voice, and he saw Sam bristle.
"I can't believe you're doing this," Sam protested with a twinge of hysteria. "This has gotta stop, Dean."
"Yeah," Dean ground out, the need to hurt something pounding through his veins, "You're right. You've gotta stop breathing down my neck like some sort of hormonal freak."
Sam flinched at the use of the word 'freak'.
"Fuck you, Dean."
And just like that, Dean had a new target.
Sam had tossed restlessly for a few hours before resigning himself to the fact that he wouldn't be getting any sleep tonight. His brain wouldn't shut the hell up, torturing him with his failures as a son and a brother, combing through all his recent interactions with Dean for some sign that his brother still cared.
Feeling claustrophobic in his room, he had stepped outside for some air, leaning against the building and breathing in the damp, earthy smell around him.
He had been ready to go inside and do some research when Dean's door snicked open softly and his brother slipped outside.
What the hell?
Dean was fully dressed, boots and all. Sam caught the glint of a handgun under his jacket, and knew with sudden certainty what his brother was up to.
You stupid, selfish, arrogant son of a bitch, Sam thought venomously. Biting down on the insult, he called softly to his brother instead.
"Where the hell are you going, Dean?"
Dean turned slowly, a smug, defensive look on his face.
"None a' you're damn business, Sam."
Anger and disbelief churned in his chest.
"You're slinking off in the night, armed, alone. Don't give me that shit," he said lowly.
Moving away from the building, he unconsciously advanced on his brother.
"You're going on a hunt, aren't you?"
"And if I am?"
Sam's hands clenched and he took a deep, steadying breath through his nose. Couldn't Dean see what he was doing to him?
"I can't believe you're doing this. This has gotta stop, Dean."
"Yeah. You're right. You've gotta stop breathing down my neck like some sort of hormonal freak."
Sam couldn't help flinching at the word 'freak, a sharp pang of remorse and anxiety coursing through him.
"Fuck you, Dean."
Dean tensed, his eyes becoming dangerous.
His tone contained a clear threat.
"No, Dean. You don't get it. I know you're hurting, and I know you feel responsible… "
At this, Sam saw Dean's fists clench.
"…but I can't watch you kill yourself over it!"
"So help me God, Sam, if you don't shut the fuck up right now..."
Dean took a menacing step forward.
Sam ignored him, too angry to care.
"Why are you so eager to leave, Dean? Why the hell doesn't anyone care enough to want to stay? You're both so willing to sacrifice yourselves to the fight, to protect me, but I'm the one who's going to be left. Alone. Unprotected. So fuck you, Dean. And fuck Da-"
He got no further, cut off mid-word by his brother's blinding punch to his cheek and a swift, hard follow-up to his gut. He gasped, the hit searing through to his spine, the new pain in his cheek throbbing over the reawakened ache of his last 'talk' with Dean.
His brother grabbed a fistful of Sam's collar and yanked him upright. His face, teeth bared and eyes deadly cold, was inches from Sam's.
Ice water seemed to fill Sam's throbbing gut. Dean was looking at him the same way he looked at the things they killed - the same way he'd looked as he decapitated that vampire.
"You shut up now, Sam, or I will make you - understand? If you ever talk about ..him…"
Dean's voice cracked a little and he blinked hard.
"…that way again...I swear..." Dean trailed off, leaving the unspoken threat hanging in the air between them.
Sam nodded numbly, feeling shocky and hollow. Dean let go of his shirt, more roughly than was necessary, and without another glance stalked to the car, leaving Sam alone to wonder, again, how they had gotten this way, and how they could ever hope to fix it.
Dean parked the Impala in the shadow of the giant paper plant and fished a flashlight and some holy water out of the trunk. Westinghouse Paper Mill had once been the hub of Penoke – now it was a condemned shell, an empty testament to an economy that had died with the plant.
He had left Sam in the motel parking lot, viciously squashing the remorse and guilt that threatened to spill over and incapacitate him. He had warned his brother, told him to back off. He just needed to clear his head, kill something, and then he would apologize, patch things up. Maybe Sam would get the hint, stop pestering him.
Now he just had to find the fucker.
Shouldering the gun, he easily jimmied the padlock on the gate, ignoring the spattering of signs that loudly proclaimed KEEP OUT, PRIVATE PROPERTY.
The yellow police tape was even less of a barrier, and soon he was inside. The building smelled of old chemicals and sawdust – rust, and something sharper and more like… sulfur.
Part of Dean insisted that he should turn back now, get Sam, do some research. Sulfur meant demons, and demons were at least a two man job.
The rest of him thought 'perfect'.
Following the scent of brimstone, Dean ventured further into the mill.
He moved swiftly, silently, ready to kill.
But when he found the scene of the crime, there was nothing there to bleed for him. It was a mostly empty room, windowless, roped off by police tape. Chalk outline showed where a body had sprawled in the back right hand corner, a marker indicating a dark stain below a jutting piece of rebar.
Stepping into the room, Dean swung the torch over the floor, squinting as something drawn faintly on the cement caught his eye. Angling the flashlight more directly, he could make out a pentagram and carefully drawn set of Sumarian symbols. A few drops of blood were spattered in the center.
"Shit, Gordon, what the hell did you get yourself into?"
A sudden skittering sound above him had Dean swinging light and shotgun towards the sky before he could blink. At first, he saw nothing. Then –
Two eyes gleamed dully in the flashlight's glow. When the shadow moved, Dean could make out the shape of a man, arms and legs disturbingly bent as he clung to the ceiling and twisted his terrible face to peer at the hunter. He snarled, seemingly too-large eyes blinking reptilian lids, and Dean decided to get the hell out of Dodge.
A shotgun full of rock salt wasn't going to do this fucker.
He shot it, just the same.
Then he ran, not pausing to judge the shot's effect.
He was oddly thrilled by the enraged, pain-filled shriek echoing behind him
Soon, he promised silently. Soon.