Disclaimer: I own nothing Supernatural.
Author's Note: Because I work with birds, and they haunt my subconcious.
"Come on Berreta," he says over his shoulder, en route to the door. "Let's fly the coop."
Sam tosses a final smile at the desk worker before picking up the animal carrier and trailing quickly after his brother, long strides closing quickly in. "That's a cockatoo," he says with more than just a hint of know-it-all. They all, brothers and bird, nearly go down, falling like dominoes, when Dean stops short, spinning around to face Sam with a quizzical look. "Berreta had a cockatoo," he says after finding his footing. He holds up the carrier, tiny pinpointed eyes peering out at them. "This is a Grey."
"A gray what?" he asks, climbing into the car.
"Didn't Berreta have a parrot?"
"Yes, a cockatoo."
"This is an African Grey, not a cockatoo."
"But they're both parrots," he says.
"Yeah, but totally different."
"Whatever you say Captain Jack."
"That was a Macaw."
"The bird that pirates are usually depicted with…a Macaw." Sam sets the carrier on the back seat, even stretches the belt through its handle to keep it in place. For safety. He ignores his brother's rolling eyes, which he can actually feel as he finishes settling the bird and climbs in the front.
"Dude, how do you know this?"
"Jess' little sister was really into birds," he says simply, as though that should explain everything. But Dean continues to stare, eyes boring holes in the side of his head, so he goes on. "I had Thanksgiving with her family, we had to eat tofurky."
"Tofu turkey. Amber wouldn't let us eat a real one."
"Okay, whack job."
"She was a kid."
"And let me guess, you spent all night talking to her about her little birdies just to make good with the folks and get into Jess' pants, right?" he asks with a smirk.
"I was already in Jess' pants."
Dean laughs as the engine turns. "Good deal," he says, pulling out of the lot.
"So, now what?" he asks, the obvious and resounding question, as they both sit hunched over the tiny motel table, leering cautiously at the plastic animal carrier. Dean leans in close, squinting, peering with one eye through a hole in the side, seeing only blackness.
"I guess we should let him out," Sam utters, almost a question.
"What if he starts flying all over or something?"
"The lady at the shelter said his wings were clipped," he offers with a shrug.
"Yeah, what, is that like being neutered or something?"
Sam studies him for a moment, decides he is in fact serious, before shaking his head and speaking very slowly, as if to a small child. "No, Dean, it means he can't fly."
"So he has no wings?" he asks, shaking his head back and forth. "Dude, isn't that cruel and unusual punishment or something?"
"They only cut some of the feathers, so they can't fly as well. They'll come back in when he molts." Sam sits a little straighter as he speaks, pleased to seem so knowledgeable despite merely repeating what he was told. After all, he had asked a very similar question to the girl behind the counter earlier.
"When he does what now?"
"He'll lose all his feathers and get new ones. Kind of like a snake shedding its skin. Or that shapeshifter."
Clapping his hands dramatically together, Dean sits up and reaches out for the metal latch, undoes it, and opens the door to the carrier. "Okay," he says to Sam, "go get him Tiger."
"Dean, you can't just reach in and," he starts, but is quickly cut off by the fluttering of heavy wings in his face as the bird leaps from its box and lunges toward him. A chair is overturned in the tussle, Dean having hopped back, plastering himself against the wall as his brother is forced to contend with the angry fowl, long legs, spindly arms and gray feathers all mingling together in cartoon fashion.
Before Sam even realizes fully what is happening, the bird prances frantically up the length of his arm, onto his shoulder. And he stiffens, all wide eyes and long stony limbs, as the gray…thing begins delicately picking at his hair.
"Dude," comes from the corner in a near whisper, "there's a bird on your shoulder."
"I know that Dean," he hisses through clenched teeth, careful not to move a muscle. And, of course, Dean begins to laugh. Hysterically. Incessantly.
And the bird chimes in too, laughing in the exact same tone, mocking him.
"Shut up," he tells the parrot, who immediately stops, craning his neck to glare at Dean with one eye.
"Dean," Sam says, still refusing to effectively move his mouth. "Don't make it angry."
Dean and the bird both eye each other, neither looking away, tiny pinpointed eyes meeting hazy green ones in a battle for the top. Dean continues to stare, never breaking contact as he rights the chair and takes a seat across form Sam and his shoulder ornament. "So," he drawls out, long and conspiratorily, "what did you see?"
Sam tenses even more, every muscle going rigid with the innate desire to beat the crap out of his idiot brother. Because this was all his idea in the first place. Finding this bird, somehow talking with it, all to try and figure out how its family – its human family that is – died. "Dean," he says, mouth still tight.
"Aw come on," he continues, still facing off with the bird, "you must have seen something. Whole family ripped apart like that, right in front of you." He makes a slight tsk, tsk, tsk, causing the parrot's head to swivel, pupils go wide.
Which in turn, makes Sam panic. "What's he doing?" he asks frantically. "He's moving. What's he doing?"
"Relax Jack Hanna, he's not doing anything. Just keep your cool there, little brother. Don't want him to get all jittery from those crazy vibes you're throwing out."
"I do not have crazy vibes," he spits out so quickly, so smashed between his pressed lips that Dean can't help but giggle like a little girl. "Shut up," he hisses.
"Shut up," the bird mimics, this time in the voice of someone else, a little boy. "Shut it, 'tard," he sings out, emphasizing the last word.
"Look," Dean starts, newly serious, "Bird…"
"His name is Ray."
"What are you making friends with it now?"
"No," he says, voice a bit looser, muscles beginning to relax. "I'm just saying, that's his name."
"Whatever, just remember Sammy, birds are to be eaten, not trusted."
"Dude, don't say that while he's on my shoulder."
"Yeah, you should really do something about that. You know before he pecks your eyes out."
"He's not gonna – "
"Why do you think all those parrot toting pirates wear patches over one eye, eh?" Sam goes rigid once more, face blanching, and it's all Dean can do to keep in the huge guffaws that ache to burst out of him at his brother's expense. "Now then," he continues, a hint of glee to his voice, "as I was saying, Ray, what happened to your family?"
"Are you really expecting him to answer you?"
"It would make my life easier, that's for sure."
"Your life? I'm the one with a strange, pecking bird on my shoulder."
"Yeah, and it's really distracting for me," Dean says, ignoring his brother's glare. "I've never had to question a witness when his mouth was full of your hair."
"Maybe," Sam says, a newly brave hand cautiously inching up toward the bird. "Maybe we should use their names or something…instead of 'family'."
"Okay," Dean hums, eyes watching intently as the bird lifts its foot, readying itself to step up on Sam's hand. Sam, being too scared to turn his head, too worried it may in fact peck out his eye, to notice. Until the tiny clawed foot makes contact, wrapping itself around one of Sam's long fingers that he had been using to try and shoo the bird away from his hair.
"Ahhh!" he lets out, more a yelp than anything, flinging his hand and the bird with it, towards the floor. "Jesus, shit," he pants, cradling his entirely unaffected hand, as the parrot plops down in an unceremonious tangle of wings and legs.
"Fuck, Sam," chides Dean, as he reaches down, holds his hand out for Ray to climb onto. "For someone who knows so much about birds, you sure have a way with them."
"I spent a night going through books with a nine-year-old. Nine, Dean. They all had pictures. That's the extent of my knowledge. What they look like. And I've never even seen one in person."
"Yeah," he says, lifting his bird heavy hand up in front of him. "Obviously."
"Fine then, do it your way. Go on, Dean, get him to talk."
"Fine," the bird shouts out.
Dean smiles, wide and coy. "Eh? See," he says, eyes bouncing back and forth between Sam and Ray. "Got him to talk."
"Yeah you're a regular bird whisper," he mumbles, one hand still protectively curled around the other.
Rolling his eyes, Dean moves the bird over to the table, manages to get him to hop up onto it, and proceeds to rifle through all their accumulated paperwork. "Okay," he mutters, hands and eyes dancing quickly over all the research. "Ryan and Mia," he says, reading the names of two of the victims.
The bird does not react.
"I thought parrots were supposed to be smart. He doesn't even know the names of his owners?"
"Maybe," Sam starts, leaning forward with squinted, deep in thought, eyes. "Maybe, he'd know the kids names." Pulling the newspaper article from Dean's hand he reads off, "Sara and Sean."
"Sara!" the bird hollers out, tone and texture identical to that of a young woman's voice. "Sean! Time to get up!" His pupils continue to contract wildly as the two brothers stare at one another above the his tiny gray head.
"That was creepy," Dean says, barely a whisper.
"Some birds are really good at mimicking."
"Sara!" he shouts again, same voice as before. "Leave your brother alone!"
"Okay, quit it. You're freaking me out," Dean booms at the bird.
Then, in the same little voice as earlier, presumably one of the children, Ray sings out yet again, "Tard!" Over and over. "Tard, tard, tard, tard!"
And he can't help it, bird or no, nobody gets away with calling Dean Winchester a tard. "I'm gonna ring your little neck, you pathetic excuse for a chicken," he exclaims, Ray still prattling on in front of him.
"I'll cook you for dinner!"
"You little bitch!"
"Jerkface!" he shoots out of his parted beak.
"What did you call me?"
"C'mere!" he shouts, loud enough to drown out Sam's unabashed laughter, as he lunges at Ray.
The bird will have none of it though, no stranger to rough play being from a house with kids, and knowing full well how to recognize danger, what with being born prey, he puffs up his feathers and cranes his neck, head lurching awkwardly as he begins to fly/run across the table.
Sam dives out of his chair, rolling to hide behind it, as the bird collides, hard, with Dean's outstretched hand. "Ahh," he screams, pulling back fast and hard enough to actually feel a chunk of his flesh come away, off his finger. Ray opens his beak and sputters as the bits of skin and blood fall and fling across the table. "Son of a bitch!"
"Ray's a good bird!" he offers, feathers still fluffed, pupils pinpoints.
"Son of a bitch!" he lets out, louder and more forceful as he tries to actually throw himself on top of the bird. Sam jumps up and grabs a hold of his brother just as Ray frantically begins flapping his wings and hopping around the room. First to the lamp, which teeters and falls with a crash under his weight. Then to the headboard, which he can't quite grasp. Slipping, falling, still maniacally flapping, he tumbles to the bed, backs up quickly, unaware of where it ends, and slips off the edge. And just out of sight.
Both brothers turn from the sight of the felled bird to one another, a mixture of confusion, amusement, fear, and absolute anger flitting back and forth between them amid the shared gaze. It takes only a moment for them to catch their breath, only a moment before the blessed new peace is pocked by, "Help," coming soft and shy, from the space between the two beds. "Help me."
Dean holds tight to his still bleeding hand and turns to Sam, looks of shock and bewilderment playing on both their faces. Dean cocks his head to the side, an invitation, an order, go get him. And Sam's eyes go wide in that have you lost your mind sort of way.
"Help," rings out again, and they both stretch their bodies a bit, lean out and over the bed to try and catch a glimpse. They see nothing. "You're not real," comes next, sounding like the young woman's voice, Mia, they assume, mother and wife. "You're dead."
Sam and Dean both look at each other, realization framing their features. He knows. What happened that night. He may only be a bird, but he was there and he knows. And he's playing it back for them now. They both sit, careful not to make any noise, at the table, eyes perusing the papers spread in front of them, ears still perked to any bird mumblings that might occur.
"Dead, dead, dead," the bird issues out in chilling sing-song.
Frantically, Sam and Dean shuffle through the papers, looking closely, quickly for anything they might have missed. Finding nothing, Sam opens the laptop and begins typing away, searching the family's name, the house's address, anything and everything he can think of that they may not have covered completely.
Dean, giving up on finding anything new amid the piles of paperwork, turns his attention toward the bed, on which the coverlet begins to move, inching closer and closer to the edge as if being pulled to the floor. A dark beak and two tiny dinosaur like feet eventually work their way up, Ray climbing and hoisting himself onto the bed.
Once there he stands, mouth open, little black tongue waggling up and down as he gasps to retrieve his breath. Dean's eyes narrow for a moment, taking in the menace across the room, his frazzled demeanor, disheveled feathers. It takes a moment for him to gather himself, the bird that is, and once he does, his voice, or that of what sounds like a small child, can barely be heard over the pounding of keys as Sam ventures on.
Dean drops his hand onto Sam's to silence his search, causing both sets of eyes to creep back over to Ray. But he says no more, suddenly shy, seemingly recovered. He simply stares back at them for a moment before ruffling his feathers and beginning to preen.
They wait for what seems like forever for the bird to speak some more, but he just…won't. "Hey, Ray," Dean tries finally, a bit too much hostility framing his words. But Ray ignores him completely. "Say something or I'll kill ya," he offers with an insincere smile. And he can almost swear he hears the bird laugh. But nothing else.
"Here," Sam says suddenly, bringing his brother's attention to the computer screen. "Check it out." He points to the archived news article in front of him. "The Monroe's had another child. Timothy. He was kidnapped and murdered two years ago. All they ever found was part of his jaw."
"Only five years old."
"Take me home," comes from the bed, small and sweet, and terribly creepy. When they turn to look they find Ray in the same position as before, head bent around his back, mouth full of feathers. Upon returning to the screen however, they hear once more, "Take me home."
"I am going to kill that creepy ass thing," Dean mutters between clenched teeth.
Shaking his head distractedly, Sam says simply, "No, you're not," followed quickly by, "A spirit not at rest."
"Huh?" Dean cranes his head briefly as if consumed by thought.
"Like the Woman in White. That's what she said. Take me home."
"Oh," he says, perking up, everything suddenly making sense. Until it doesn't. "Wait, why would this kid's spirit want to kill its parents? And its siblings?"
"You've never wanted to kill me?" It's a passing comment, a rhetorical question that he expects to be met with something along the lines of, only every day. But instead he gets a long, uncomfortable silence.
The room is still and quiet for some time, nothing but the sound of gentle breathing, heavy typing, and the occasional rustle of feathers being shaken out. It's so quiet in fact, that Dean's even more taken aback when he hears, in a tone that could only be called pathetically apologetic, "Tard."
He looks to the bird, all small gray fluff and deep feeling eyes, and says, "I'm not talking to you." He doesn't see, but Sam's lips curl at the edges into a lopsided grin.
A chuckle escapes Sam, quick and unheeded, and swiftly swatted away by his brother's hand at the back of his head. "Ow," he complains, "I didn't say it."
"You don't need to say to anything. Just keep looking."
"I am looking."
"Tard," same soft, newly sweet voice.
"I think he's got a new nickname for you," he says, fingers still flying over the keyboard.
"Shut it, String Bean."
"Hey, what did I do? He's the one calling you a tard."
Dean turns swiftly, fast enough to startle the bird, and spits out, "I'm not a tard, you're a tard!" Finishing with a barely audible, "Tard."
Sam, still giggling through the research, manages, "Dude, that's just sad."
"Well, it's true."
"Okay," he says placating. His smile gets even wider when he turns to his brother and finds him positively sulking in his seat, half-heartedly staring down the vicious fowl. Who's now gone back to preening.
"Here it is," he says with a sigh, finally, a good twenty or thirty minutes later. "A myling."
"What's that?" Dean asks, scooting in closer. "I've heard of that."
"Spirit of unbaptised or murdered children. Also known as an Utburd."
"Says they typically were babies abandoned to die. They try to get people to bring them to hallowed ground so they can have a proper burial."
"Which Timothy Monroe never had, seeing as only his jawbone was found."
"Why'd he kill the whole family?" Dean nods. "Apparently if the person asked to take them home isn't able, they kill them."
"Damn," he starts, rising to pace. "Only thing worse than a kid getting murdered is that kid's spirit not being at rest and going around killing everybody who can't give him a proper burial." Sam shoots him a perplexed glance, causing a shrug and "I guess," to fall from his lips.
"Only problem is, if the cops only ever found his jaw, how are we supposed to find the rest of him to bury?"
"So I guess we'll have to go back through all the articles and police reports and everything."
"And the reports, we won't be able to get until the morning."
"And since the animal shelter's probably about to close too, I guess that means we'll be taking care of Ray for awhile."
"Yeah." He turns suddenly, whipping his head about to glare at Sam. "Wait, what? No."
"We can't exactly just toss him outside."
"Why the hell not?"
Sam cocks an eyebrow at his brother and says nothing, just waits for the stupidity of his comment to be acknowledged. When it's met only with shrug and an I'm serious smirk he sputters. "You can't throw a bird outside in the cold, Dean. He'll die." Again, no response, save a simple and that would be a problem how expression. "No," he says finally, firmly. "He's staying."
"Fine, but you're…dealing with him, Beastmaster."
Sam shakes his head slowly, sadly. "Dude…"
"I know, I know," he says, heading for the bathroom, "couldn't think of anything else. Now get that damn bird off my bed."
It's a day and a half before they 'solve the case', which is to say it takes them just that long to put two and two together. The myling came to its former house nearly two years after Timothy's jaw was found. Two years after the little boy was declared dead. That's a lot of time for a restless spirit to just sit around.
But Sam finds something, an article in the week old paper that had been lain down in Ray's carrier. An article, naturally, covered in copious amounts of green bird shit. An article discussing the recent excavation of an Indian burial ground. And the site, where researchers had been digging up bodies for days, was not more than a block away from where a disgusted bystander pulled a little boy's jawbone out of an old dog's mouth not two years prior.
"So you think whoever killed the kid, buried him there?" Dean asked, not quite believing.
With merely a shrug, Sam answers, "Stranger things have happened."
"It would explain how his spirit could be at rest up until this point."
"Okay," Dean let out with a sigh, handing over yet another peanut to the newly docile Ray. "Let's check it out."
And sure enough, all the authorities needed was a little push, an anonymous tip here, a suggestion from a supposed expert in their field there, in order to discover that one of the bodies found was not quite as ancient as they'd expected.
Only problem was, Timothy Monroe's family was dead. All of them. Made it kind of tough to bury the boy, at least in a timely fashion, before he went out and killed anyone else. So it was up to Sam and Dean, and Ray – because, hey, can't leave the little guy alone in the hotel room all night – to snatch the body and give him a proper burial. Even if it was in someone else's grave. Hallowed ground is hallowed ground, no matter who's name is on the headstone. And to be fair, the site they laid him in, the one with the freshest turned soil, was his brother's. So they couldn't really feel too bad about that.
What they could feel bad about, now that the job was done and remaining townspeople safe, was the poor little orphaned bird that had, somehow, worked his way into their hearts.
"Alright, let's go! Back to the shelter for you, you overgrown pigeon," Dean exclaims with a clap of his hands as they head for the door.
Sam, struggling to walk, talk, and peer softly into the carrier at the same time, grumbles, "Dude, you don't have to be so callous."
"He lost his whole family, you know."
"Yeah, I know." He stops, just short of lowering himself into the car, and stares at his little brother, takes in the sad tilt to his mouth, the rounded puppy dog eyes. "We're not keeping him."
And Sam knows they can't. Hell, Sam doesn't even really want to. He's spent most of the past few days either cowering in fear of the bird, or searching for a safe place in the room to cower should Ray turn vicious and…birdlike again. But still, he felt for him, all sad and alone.
"He'll find a good home," Dean says softly, breaking into his brother's sulk.
"Really, he will," he says again. And Sam can't help but think he's actually reassuring himself. Because, torn finger aside, Dean's been talking to the bird, feeding him peanuts, chastising Sam every opportunity he got – why isn't his water fresh, when are you gonna change those papers, don't keep him locked up in there all day – since they got him.
"Yeah," Sam offers, leaning back into his seat. "He'll find a really good home."
It makes it easier when the girl behind the counter assures them that she'll make sure he does, talking with a wide and open smile about a bird rescue they often work with that has loads of wonderful foster homes.
Sam tells her, as if she doesn't know, that Ray's been through a lot. She tells Sam, "Trust me, I've seen animals who've been through worse, a lot worse. He'll be fine."
They smile and nod and head for the door, open it and brace themselves against the cold blasts that rolled in just hours before, when they hear, slightly drown by the distance between them and the hum and whistle of the wind outside, in a soft, sad voice, "Tard."