Sam half ran back down the corridor towards the stranded tour group. He could feel the pressure of spirits all around him like he was immersed in some bubbling cauldron of psychic energy. It was times like this he really wished he gone back to Missouri and done a bit of How to be a Freak 101. Although she'd probably clip him around the ear for calling it that even if he didn't say it aloud.
Reflective eyes caught the moonlight from outside.
There wasn't much more than the eyes and an amorphous shape -- a least until it coalesced into a shadowy version of Dean.
"You know, it really did freak him out, appearing to kill himself to save you. Kinda weird and a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Sammy. "
"He's not dead." Sam couldn't help saying that because it was practically a mantra he had to chant to himself. Dean wasn't dead.
"He's died a lot of times. It's only a matter of time before one of them sticks. It amuses me that the one time it was a fake was the one time it was believed genuine," the shapeshifter swirled in front of him.
"Yeah, well. You're dead." As a come back, it lacked a certain snappiness, but Sam was busy backing up. The only thing he could think of was that if even the creatures they had killed were here, they were now bound by the rules that governed spirits. He hoped. He had to get to that salt circle. Put down a few layers of protection if he had a chance.
The shifting visage loomed, eyes cat bright in the moonlight. "Just another skin to wear, Sammy boy."
Sick bastard. "Back off"
"Or what? Whatcha gonna do, Sammy?" It drifted nearer. "I can touch you, but you can't touch me. And I've got a whole load of friends who'd like to meet you and your brother again. You know, we've got a sort of club going on. It's quite big now."
"Growing bigger every damn day," Sam growled at the skinwalker spirit. He still had a handful of salt in his pocket that he scratched together and as it swooped closer, he threw at it, hoping it worked.
Surprisingly, it did, which meant he might get somewhere with iron as well. When he turned and ran for it down the corridor, he grabbed anything that looked remotely iron like on his way, and turned sharply into a room where he could hear shrill voices.
He found the group huddled together, nearly hysterical with... oh hey. The Shtriga, one of his personal favourites lurking around them.
"It's a Dementor!" The young kid who, let's face it, was out way too late, with parents or not, and who was probably the closest to the truth about the creature swooping around them.
A 'Dementor' who had snacked on him enough that he'd felt his life draining away. It snapped around towards him and he didn't have salt handy, so he grabbed for an iron poker on display and swung it just as the creature blurred at him with that intense speed he remembered.
It broke apart into wisps, reforming again even as he lunged at it with the poker and twisted at another shriek from the group behind him. Two more spirits. Woman in White and, standing in a pool of water, the ghostly apparition of the boy from the lake.
He practically dived for the salt circle, watching them watching him. There had to be someone else with ghosts to haunt them. Aside from him.
"Where's your brother?" It was the camera man. "What are those things?"
"I would've thought it was obvious they are ghosts," an older lady said from where she was holding tightly to a couple of very scared kids.
"There's no such thing as ghosts! It's got to be a trick," a teenage boy was saying. Probably to impress his girlfriend or something.
"Do me a favor and just pretend there are if you want to survive," Sam said. "Look, Dean's working on something to shut this down. He knows what he's doing."
God, he really hoped so. He should be the one trying to contact the spirit but he'd decided Dean would be better and Dean hadn't even questioned it.
"How can he... look at them... they're..."
Sam grimaced a little to himself. "They're a Woman in White, a vengeful water spirit, a Shtriga witch spirit... oh, and a shapeshifter."
"I hate to be forgotten, Sammy, it would wound me. It really would. No wait, you've done that to me before," the spirit smiled and rushed at the circle causing a near panic.
"Don't break the circle! It can't get in!" Sam shouted over the shrieks. "You must stay where you are!" Sure enough, it flinched away at the last moment, and that gave him some hope.
There was only one good thing about this situation, and that was if they were here, they weren't hunting Dean.
"Listen to him! He seems to know what he's talking about," the tour guide called out and they calmed down a little.
Sam was watching everything and the sheer volume of spirits seemed to be thickening the air. It was like a surrealist painting where he realized the swirls in the mists that were rising around them were faces and the gaps between them were even more faces bleeding half formed one into another.
The house was a crucible of spirit energy and he remembered reading that many disappearances of houses, villages, ships and towns recorded over the millennia came down to a concentration of energy like this, wrapping portions of the real world inside of itself.
That couldn't happen. He had a horrible feeling if that happened, the nicest thing that could happen to them was death.
"We've got to stay calm and things will be okay," Sam said reassuringly to the other people there.
"Yeah, says the guy who got his ass kicked by me when I was alive," the shapeshifter's eyes gleamed silver.
"And then Dean shot you. So don't forget it," Sam snapped back and was aware of the huddle group staring at him. "It's okay, it's... kinda our job."
Had been 'Dad's job', or Dean's. He was just after the demon, this crap seemed trivial. He just wanted to be rid of the damn thing.
"Anyone wearing anything silver?"
"I've got a necklace. It's not a crucifix or anything though," a teenage girl said pulling it off uncertainly.
"Doesn't have to be. See, my brother killed this thing by shooting it in the heart with a silver bullet. I'm thinking the memory might be a little painful to it." Sam said pooling the pendant and chain in his hand. He was gratified to see the shapeshifter back off a little.
He exhaled a little, his breath billowing in the suddenly chilled air. "We just have to sit tight and wait for Dean."
And just hope he wasn't doing something really stupid.
Who was he kidding? This was Dean he was talking about.
Heading into Sarah Winchester's room had been really, really stupid, Dean decided from the fact he was lying on his back half stunned, watching a maelstrom of objects whirl around above him. He probably had a fucking concussion or something -- at least he thought so until he realized that the air was staying fuzzy and misty and it wasn't just his eyesight.
He cautiously sat up, looking through the gathering mist and ducking to miss something floating past even as he heard a strident voice saying. "Get out! This is my house, and it's bad enough you are here, but this is my room and I will have some peace!"
Hey, so maybe not a really stupid idea because Sarah Winchester seemed to be keeping the other spirits out, although being corporeal in this room had severe disadvantages. He ducked to avoid a box of trinkets followed by the remains of the camera equipment arcing past his head. He was really hoping that the prone figures on the ground were just unconscious and not dead because he didn't want to deal with any more restless spirits.
Okay, there was probably some protocol involved in talking to spirits and this was really Sammy's gig more than his but
"Hey, Sarah? Uh... Sarah Winchester? Ma'am?"
Her diminutive figure turned and coalesced to a bright pair of eyes, and an austere, stern expression of someone who had obviously been beautiful when she had been alive.
"You did not stop them. I told you to."
"Yeah well... kinda in the wrong place ma'am. We're wanting to stop it now because my brother thinks there's a possibility that we'll get stuck here forever." He said that as if it was totally okay. He rubbed the side of his head. Yeah, lump the size of an egg. "It's a nice place but..."
"You will make them leave."
"Yeah, yeah, I will if you tell me how. How do they leave this place? All the spirits?" Dean winced a little and stopped poking at the bump there.
"I told you," Sarah Winchester had little patience with repeating herself. "The opening. Family blood."
"So, let me guess Mindy the tourguide is a long lost descendent or something." Yeah, life like a TV show.
Okay so maybe not. "So how do I pop the cork on this place without family blood?" Dean asked getting frustrated. Sam was stuck in a salt circle with little between him and the bad guys and he was here making chit-chat with the ghost-lady of the fucking manor.
"Winchester blood. To pay for Winchester crimes."
"Winchester, right." Of course it was. "Hey, I'm bleeding right now, I'm not seeing any disappearing spirits" Dean was hoping he was seeing double because he was seeing a lot.
"Jacob's Ladder. I would go there, call upon the good spirits to aid me, and mark each step with a drop of blood." Sarah Winchester was looking at him. "You must hurry. Your brother is in peril."
Of course he was. Sam could fall into peril quicker than those dudes in that Holy Grail film. "Could you tell me where this Jacob's Ladder is?"
The door swung open. He took that as a no.
"There's got to be something," Sam was saying getting frustrated as he quizzed Mindy on details of the house. "It was built to be a spirit trap, there has to be away out."
"Not one they've told me about," Mindy said helplessly. They were freezing in the room and he'd had to donate his jacket to one of the kids.
"No... doors, that seem to go nowhere? Or corridors? Hatches? Steps?" Sam asked pressing the point.
"Wait... wait, there's a staircase that goes right into the ceiling," Mindy said urgently. "It's one of the stops on the tour."
"Great, great" Finally! A break. "Where is it?"
"It was on from the room, Sarah Winchesters room... we call it that because it was the one she was in when she died," Mindy said still shivering.
"I've got to get to Dean," Sam muttered, looking out of their circle. The spirits were very restless, shifting and swirling in the localised mist that lay over the floor like a sheet of liquid seething air. So far, the salt circle was holding, reinforced with some hasty protective wards drawn with one of the lipsticks he had scavenged, the iron objects and what silver he could muster on cardinal points of a pentacle.
Maybe they could hold out long enough
He watched the door fly open roughly and winced. Then again, maybe not. Poltergeist. Not the one from Lawrence, but a nasty little bastard he remembered from before who'd cracked his wrist and tossed Dean down a flight of stairs and had a tendency to throw... yeah, pretty much everything.
"Get ready to duck, but don't leave the circle." He ordered curtly causing a fresh wave of panic. The spirits couldn't cross the threshhold but things they affected, physical things could. They were sitting ducks.
He ducked the candlestick, but the man behind him wasn't so lucky. There was a bellow of surprise and pain and then a veritable rain of small high velocity missiles headed their way. He ended up turning his back, hunching over one of the kids, feeling each object hit his back like a ball popped out of a pitching machine.
At least the poltergeist hadn't progressed to throwing glass shards or something, although that wouldn't be long coming unless he could get them out of here.
It was also obvious that it was him it was after -- and he really needed to get to Dean, tell him about the stairway. They seemed to have the idea about staying in the circle and if he led the worst of the ghosts away then they would be fine. He hoped.
"Look... I'm going to lead them away, okay?" he whispered. "I'm going to find Dean, tell him about the staircase."
"It's... there's more than one, and those doors going nowhere," Mindy pointed out.
Fucking great. "Well maybe one of them will be enough," he said and stood up. He took half of the left over salt, his gun and a necklace of silver. "Wish me luck."
Dean better be okay out there. Before anyone could change his mind, he took a deep breath, threw a handful of salt out ahead of him and while the spirits scattered he ran like hell towards the door.
Okay, he didn't remember shooting Dr. Sanford but the guy was turning out to be a real pain in the ass.
In fact, he distinctly remembered being the one shot but... maybe that girl had fired on him or something. For the last five minutes, Dean had been trying to fight the damn spirit off, had used half his salt in the process and had resorted to running for it. He rounded the corner, pausing for a moment to try and catch his breath. Maybe he'd finally given Dr. Angry the slip.
"Well, boy, looks like I get to hunt you an' your brother after all."
A light flared in the darkness, firebright lighting up the crazed eyes and distorted features of Pa Bender, the man who had proved to Dean that evil didn't just mean supernatural.
"Oh you've got to be kiddin' me!"
"Now why would I do tha' boy? Since your bitch friend went and shot me... and me already down."
There was a choking cold grip around his throat and he was shoved back.
"Fuck you," Dean choked out succinctly, reaching desperately for a weapon or something and then he felt the sear of the burn scar flare up under his shirt as if the redhot metal was pressing against skin.
"Put my mark on you, boy," the backwoodsman said with a seriously worrying tone. "Been a long time without a hunt."
"Yeah, well, it's going to be even longer," Dean said grabbing one of his sanctified blades and slicing out at the oppressive presence. It gave him a gap long enough to start running. Again.
"Can't run from me, boy! Lots of people have tried. Got 'em all in th'end"
"Yeah well" Huh. Bet he shot them too. With a rifle. Odds were it was a Winchester.
With a sudden inspiration Dean called out. "Hey! Hey, anyone there who wants a personal one on one with this psycho Bender guy? Like some of the people he shot?"
As he was running away, he saw shapes running towards him, and tried not to flinch as they rushed through him and there was an incoherent yell from behind him.
It bought him a little time, but his shoulder still damn well hurt. He hoped that they made the bastard pay.
He made it around the around and collided with Sam running the other way.
"Jesus, Sam! I thought I told you to..."
"No time -- poltergeist, shapechanger, Woman in White and couple of other following behind," Sam managed to get out.
"Just great. Pa Bender, Dr. Sanford, and couple of others that way," he gestured.
"This way then," Sam said and they jogged. "You talk to Sarah?"
"Yeah. Got to find 'Jacob's Ladder, whatever the hell that is," Dean said. He didn't say anything about blood. Sam would freak.
"Well that I can help you with," Sam managed. "'cause Mindy says there's a staircase around here somewhere that goes into the ceiling."
Well that fit the bill well enough. "Okay, let's find it and get this spirit escalator turned on." He ducked automatically as objects started pelting from the darkness.
"Just move... shoot the damn rock salt so we can get to the stairway."
In the end, that's what Sam had to do. They rounded the corner and there was the stairway ending in the dark of the ceiling. And right in front of it, Bloody Mary reflected from the silvered sheen of thirteen windows.
"Dean..." Sam said warningly.
"Keep them off my back. Sarah told me what to do, and I can take her," Dean replied.
"You're the one with the gun, Sammy, make it count," he said and stepped towards the glowing figure.
She looked up at him, her eyes dark and glistening as congealed blood. "I know your secret," she said and the pain began in his head, in his eyes.
"Yeah, I know" he replied, and blood tracks from his eyes dripped to the step as he moved forward. Glistening blood soaking into the wood as he staggered up each one, advancing on her, either dripping blood drops or smearing his hands as he pulled himself up. He gritted his teeth and dumped the last of his salt up and down the stairs forcing Mary to dissipate and recoalesce, and he kept on going. Until he reached the top.
Why wasn't it working? He heard the explosion of Sam's last shotgun blast as Mary advanced on him and the pain in his head was so much he couldn't think straight. What had he forgotten? Blood on every step, Winchester blood... oh... calling the good spirits for their aid. He wasn't good at that. Not used to the concept.
It showed in his hesitant address. "Uh, anyone who'd like to help out here, Sam and I would appreciate it.I mean, if you're a good guy or gal. Don't mind... just... got a situation here, could really use your help. Please."
Lamest ritual petitioning of the spirits ever. But even as he thought his brain was going to explode instead it seemed that the staircase did as well into a searing white light that engulfed him and Sam and pushed upwards with the sound of hundreds of voices tangled together
When he opened his eyes, everything was light, steps of gleaming white, except for the mirror image of himself who was sitting on a step above him watching him.
"Ah, man, don't tell me I've got the shape shifter again," he grumbled looking around. Light bleaching out colour all around him. "Where's Sammy?"
"Probably trying to deal with a house full of spirits rushing through him on the way back where they belong," the figure that looked like him said. Did he really sound like that? Weird.
"Shit, really? I've gotta help him. How do I... wow.." There was an infinite space below him, and above him. Stars above, fires below, day and night moving seemingly from one to the other and steps going up and up
"Where the hell am I?"
"Well, nowhere in hell, Dean, I can tell you that."
"Okay, this is freaking me out. Who are you?" Dean asked finally.
"You don't recognise help when it shows up do you?" the other Dean said looking down at himself and spreading his hands. "Say's a lot about you that you only expect help from yourself, even now."
"Yeah, well there's Sammy. He's got my back," Dean replied after a moment staring at the whiteness and shapes around him.
"But you don't expect it. You're grateful for it, but since he left you, you don't count on it," the other Dean said. "And then there's the secret. It's eating you alive isn't it?"
Dean stared. "What do you know about that?"
"I know a lot of things. I know that to save your brother, you'd do anything." He inclined his head and Dean could see a figure dangling from the stairway over that infinite drop.
"Sam?" He moved without thinking and the other Dean stood to bar his way. "Get out of my way dude. I said... look..."
He tried to get past him and the Other Dean pushed him back and man, that was bad thing, because he was swinging a punch then, and the other Dean was laughing and swinging back and they were rolling down the stairs, crawling up them. Tripping each other up, lunging towards Sam, dragged back, wrestling with no holds barred and damn, every dirty trick he knew, the other guy knew something better.
But he couldn't give up because Sammy was there and no matter what, he had to save him because...
"You're never going to give up are you?" the Other Dean said and twisted his arm back in a bone cracking hold. "Even knowing what you know."
"It won't happen to him," Dean spat out, try to twist.
"Then you're committed to facing it."
"Always have been, man, now get the fuck off of me, Sammy... needs..." He looked up and found that Sam had hauled himself back to safety and had started walking away. Upwards. Without him.
That hit him harder than any blow and he stopped.
"And if that's the outcome?" the other Dean said in a low voice.
"Yeah, well, no one said happy ever afters had to be for everyone." And he watched as the image shimmered and vanished and the being reached down and took his hand.
"I like you, Dean. You and I are of the same kind, which ain't always a good thing, but when it comes to kicking ass and getting things done, in the end it's us." His eyes changed then to a deep vivid green. "You and I have similar jobs ahead of us and I've been at it a lot longer than you have. So here's the deal. Don't get too hung up on remaking bullets and all that shit. You have a think about what it is about something that makes it work."
Dean wasn't stupid. He knew what it was. "It's holy. Blessed. But look , I can't be a monk or... in a state of grace or whatever. That's not me. That ain't gonna work."
The other Dean, who was shifting slightly in appearance before his eyes, laughed. "Humans have pretty strange ideas about what it means to be holy. Anyway. That's the weapon. There's plenty of things out there, and people who will be on your side, but here's the thing. Good guys have to be asked, where the bad guys possess. It's the free will deal. You remember this, Dean, even if you don't remember much else when you get back into your body. Next time you face this demon, try asking for a little help before it rips you up."
"Ask who? What's your name?" Dean asked wondering how he was going to get back to the house, back to Sam.
"I've been known to answer to Michael," the other Dean with green eyes and light bleeding away details of his features. "Time for you to go back. But a pop-quiz before you go."
And something lifted him and tossed him from the stairway, and he was falling, falling, clouds streaming past and it was like the freedom of the open road, the acceleration for a glorious moment before he could see fires and blackness, and abyss beneath and... if he fell there, he'd never save Sammy.
He flailed a little helplessly with the panic and adrenaline of danger seizing him until he remembered and yelled out, "Michael!"
And there were wings in the tumbling dark and, shadow and light. Feather light emerald shards of light, burning on his hands.
Sometimes those who are falling all their life learn how to fly, Dean.
And there was a jolt and everything when black.
Dean had to stop doing this to him. He swore that when his brother woke up -- and he would despite the lump on the back of his head and mess of blood all over his face -- he would either tear him a new one for doing something so crazy, or maybe get around to telling him some of that stuff he'd been meaning to say like it or not.
He'd felt more than seen the moment when Dean opened up the stairway, pulled the plug, popped the cork or whatever the technical term was. The stream of spirits had twined and thickened into a spear of roiling energy that had flown right through him.
For a long moment, endless moment, he had felt them pass through him as if he was part of the gateway. Bright motes of emotion flared in his head; rage, bitterness, tainted lust, sorrow that had been sharpened to a piercing needle and pushed straight through him. He felt like he was pointing directions, up, down, over there, your family waiting, walk the desert, climb the stairway, drop into darkness, and it made him feel like his mind had been scrubbed raw.
By the time he had blinked his eyes open, he was lying sprawled up the strange stairway and his back felt like it was one big bruise from all the objects the poltergeist had been hurling at it. And Dean was lying face up, his eyes glued together with blood and they should never have come here. Never.
Those moments before he found a pulse were always the worst. He remembered the times when he hadn't. He remembered after the ghoul and the tazer and Dean looking so tired and ill and dying. He remembered his expression when the demon had been ripping around his insides and all those internal lacerations. Too many times but... there was his pulse and it was slowing from a burst of activity. He wiped back some of the blood, lifting a sprawled hand even as images poured into his head.
Green and white feather flashing in the light, falling, falling... and endless stairway and light, so much light.
"Holy crap, my head is killing me" Dean groaned as he tried to sit up. "Why can't I open my eyes?"
"They're stuck together with blood, Dean," Sam replied wondering exactly what secret Dean had for Blood Mary to pull that out of him. He had never asked the first time round, filled with his own guilt over dreaming Jess's death and never telling anyone.
"Huh. Okay, that's annoying. We did it, right? There's no spirits lining up to take a pot shot at the Winchesters?"
"Sure there is, somewhere, but not right here, not now."
"Thank fuck for that." Dean managed to get up. "And this, kids, is why it's not a good idea to play around with a Ouija board on Halloween. Jesus. Let's get the hell out of here."
"What about the others?" Sam said a little unsteady.
"Power's gonna kick in." He tilted his head as lights flickered into life. "Good timing. And if we disappear, we might get our own little urban legend going on." He smirked at Sam, even as he hit at him, more in relief than anything else.
"What? I've always wanted to be an urban legend. And this could make a pretty cool one. Two brothers who disappeared after saving lives in the Winchester House. Also called Winchester. Were they even real to start with? Hero stuff, Sammy. We'll get our own mention on Snopes."
He couldn't help it. It made him laugh as they set off unsteadily, hopelessly lost in about ten seconds flat, but they were walking away from a disaster zone and that was always something to be grateful for. Especially when it was one he had lead them into, and at the end of the day, Dean was right. They'd saved lives and got the information. That had to be a good thing.
They'd gotten what they'd come for, people were saved -- even the stupid ones -- and he might've even spawned an urban legend. Barbie's dreamhouse on crack was behind them and they'd pulled into diner to clean up.
Pretty much an average day for the Winchesters, even if it was Halloween. Dean was sore, in need of some painkillers and his shoulder ached and his eyes looked kinda like he'd been punched out, but not full of blood anymore.
The worse thing was that he felt different and he didn't know why. Not different in body, but different in his head. That was just weird, because it wasn't like any of his big problems had changed. He still had the Secret to deal with and all that had to do with what was going to happen to Sammy and him. He still had the whole guilt to do with his Dad and being alive. He had all of that but he felt like something had changed. He was starting to get a little bit suspicious that maybe he had died or nearly died again because there was a gap there that reminded him of when he woke up in hospital.
He totally believed Sammy when he told him about the ouija board and him communicating, but he couldn't remember any of that except with faint feelings of recognition when someone mentioned something.
That was what it felt like.
"Dean, man, are you coming? Got a room. I'm not sleeping in the car with this back."
"You bitchin' about your back again?" he said almost by habit even as he pulled on his jacket.
"Not doing me any good, though, is it?"
"Nope. Suck it up, little brother," Dean replied, as he pushed his arm through and something white fluttered and dropped to the ground. Instinctively he leant over and picked it up; a feather, warm and with hard edges, like a hawk or a falcon.
Frowning, he turned it in the dim light. A flash of emerald iridescence played over the feather's white surface, and he just stared at it, watching the colors flash as he tilted the quill just a little. When he did that, there was a feeling like a dream he knew he had but could only feel the shape of in his head and for once, it wasn't a nightmare.
"Dean, are you going deaf?" Sam appeared looking around the corner to find him "You comin'?"
Dean made a decision and tucked the feather into his pocket as he turned to leave. "Yeah, Sam. I'm comin'."
That was something that was never going to change.