This is a sequel to Unseen, unheard. It would probably be better to read that first, but you are welcome to read whatever you like, in whatever order you prefer! The villain of Unseen, unheard, Michael Andover, was much hated by everyone, so I thought I'd bring him back. :D Warnings for… well, violence, gore, and probably some swearing. And for slow updates, because I'm very busy at the moment – sorry.
A window flapped, displaced by quiet winds. The town was shrouded in thick, tepid air, choked by woods, clinging like parasites to the edges of the settlement. It was a summer night, warm and humid, so much so that even outside, the air didn't taste fresh. Between stray dogs' pads, the damp earth seemed to putrefy. It was a town in decay.
Residents rolled awkwardly in their sleep, sweating into sticky blankets, which twisted and constricted around their feet. A howl wracked the silence, but it was a half-hearted one, muted quickly, caught in the heavy air.
Watching a strip of yellow moonlight crawl along the floor of his impersonal bedroom, Michael Andover lay awake. He hadn't slept in weeks – it could have been months. He rolled over and stared absently at the obscure shapes on the ceiling, watching shadows move, without seeing them.
He was thinking about weeks of police questioning, cells, bail, more questions.
He was thinking about everything he had lost – the shallow half-trust of his classmates, the empty half-love of his guardian.
He was thinking about the opportunity for a purpose and a family, ripped from him when he'd had it so close that he could feel a new life tingling at his fingertips.
He was thinking about his psychic abilities, feeble and vague since the disaster, like he had been cut off from his source of power. For a short time, he had been a god; now, he was fumbling in the dark for a candle-flicker of energy. He was nothing, now, just a sad child, alone in the world.
Floating in such dismal thoughts, it was surprising that Michael was buzzing with a sort of cold elation. He had read about strange happenings in a town two counties away, and then – faint and hazy, mirage like – he had seen it. An image, flickering in front of him. He knew where the Winchesters were.
And he had a purpose now.
Paul Hartshorne felt his body wracked by an involuntary shudder, though the night was warm. He swallowed, so hard his throat felt bruised with the effort, and steeled himself. There really was no need to be this nervous. Carelessly, he brought his car to a graceless, shuddering halt, some distance from the curb. His damp fingers checked once more that the painstakingly wrapped little packet was resting safe in his inner pocket. He took great care not to crush it as he stood and stumbled over the neat lawn to the white door. Bathed in the warm golden glow falling from the windows, he felt jittery, exposed, a rabbit in headlights. He checked his reflection one final time in the dark glass of the door. He looked somewhat better than he felt. He shuddered again as he knocked.
When she opened the door, he jerked clumsily, startled. She grinned at him, shyly amused by his antics. He managed a sickly smile, inwardly cursing her. She looked so delicate, like a flower in the morning, young and unblemished and beautiful. It made this so much harder – his throat constricted, and his eyes burned with the effort of not choking.
Maybe she took his awkwardness for disinterest, maybe for passion, but she seemed embarrassed by it. She bowed her head slightly, and regarded him uncertainly through her eyelashes.
'I'm ready, then,' she said. 'Shall we go?'
He smiled, and answered hoarsely. 'Yeah, sure,' he croaked. He swallowed again, then pressed on. 'I bought something for you…' he said. There, he'd said it. Now, he had to go through with it.
'Oh!' she said. Her lips almost made a perfect circle when she did that, he noticed. Her eyes lit from the inside with genuine surprise and pleasure. 'Paul, honestly, you don't have to do that… you'll spoil me!' she added, laughing gently. She was breathless, too.
He tried to grin. In the half-light filtering through the window-blinds, it might have looked like a smile. He reached into his jacket and closed his fingers around the packet, careful not to brush aside the paper or to touch the precious gift enclosed within. He held it out to her. The weight of it leaving his fingers was like a release, he had to prevent himself letting out a sigh of relief. She had taken it. It wasn't in his hands any more.
The words rushed out of him, like a dam had broken. In a way, it had. 'This is an antique – it's not new, it was my mother's, but she told me I should give it to a girl… when I found someone that I – well, you know…'
She paused in her careful unwrapping and looked up at him, smiling tenuously, bright tears shining in her eyes. 'Thank you, Paul…' she said. Her gentle voice rang with gratitude, but he brushed it aside in his impatience.
'Open it…' he urged her. 'Put it on…'
She smiled at him, and pulled aside the last of the paper to reveal the pendant, lying in the twists of its gold chain. She held it up, offering it to him so that he could work the catch behind her neck, but he pretended not to notice the gesture, half-turning away from her, then anxiously looking back. She fixed it herself. The pendant swung wildly, and came to rest in the centre of her pale chest.
It was made from some dark metal, and it formed a hollow circle, containing a graceful teardrop shape, bisected by a horizontal line. Paul stood transfixed by it for a few seconds.
'It's beautiful,' she smiled, a light igniting in her eyes.
'Let's go, then…' he said, finally.
Dean Winchester squinted across the car at Sam, killing the Impala's engine.
'I don't know, Sammy… one crazy girl killing her boyfriend. It sounds like one of those mysteries where appearances really aren't all that deceiving…'
'It says she was perfectly sane right up to the point where she went out with him that night…'
'Everyone's perfectly sane until they start acting crazy…' Dean grumbled.
Sam started to say something, and fell silent. Dean turned, shifting in his seat to look at his brother. 'What?'
Sam blinked, shaking himself. 'Nothing…'
Dean glared at him critically. 'Even Michael seemed like a normal person when we first met him,' he added, feigning carelessness, but squinting shrewdly at Sam so he didn't miss the way his brother's face changed.
Sam bit his lip, and carefully avoided his brother's eye.
Dean sighed. 'Sam, you gotta move on, okay? You have nothing to blame yourself for, we're both fine. Forget about that little bastard, and let it go. I'm going to get us some coffee,' he added, in the same quiet, measured tone. He left Sam chewing his lip in the passenger seat.
Waiting in line, he wondered whether his blunt words would be enough to jolt Sam from the brooding he had fallen into since they had left Michael Andover unconscious on the side of the road. Sam had been fine, for the first day or so after they had driven away, but as often happened with him, hindsight's clearer perception had revealed all the flaws which had so nearly led to disaster for both of them.
The way Dean saw it, nothing that had happened could possibly be Sam's fault. Anyway – no harm done, except for some scars which girls found truly disturbing. Nothing he said convinced the last girl he had met that the still-vivid words carved into his skin were anything other than frighteningly bizarre.
Perhaps Sam just needed a hunt to take his mind off everything. He was willing to investigate the shallow evidence of strangeness in this town, if it would make his brother feel better.
He smiled at an attractive young woman who was walking into the coffee shop. She ignored the gesture, hard-faced and wild eyed. Suspicious, or just offended, he followed her with his eyes – she was trembling, but her walk was purposeful. She stopped uncertainly, eyes flashing with a manic light as she spun round.
In a flurry of movement, too fast for rational thought, she had pulled out a handgun and fired it wildly into the ceiling, above the window, close enough for the vibration to shatter it. Reflexively, the queue and the shop's proprietor hit the ground, as though some switch had pulled their legs out from under them.
'I'm a police officer!' cried the armed woman, spinning erratically.
Hunched low on the polished floor, Dean felt his stomach tense with the unhealthy thrill of danger. Now what? She was clearly unstable mentally; any stimulus could be the straw that broke the camel's back, as far as her sanity was concerned. There was a mad light in her eyes; her hair splayed out as she spun, and the round medallion around her neck swung across her chest. Dean swallowed hard, and hurried to get his feet under him so that he could rise slowly, with his hands palm out in front of him. Fast as a frightened rabbit, the girl was facing him, and he found himself staring down the gun barrel, for a few seconds, before the shot rang out, painfully loud in the unnatural silence of the little coffee shop.
Sam glanced up, an answer on his lips as the door slammed behind Dean. He sighed, and then swallowed, balling and flexing his fingers. He knew that he needed to snap out of the melancholy he had fallen into since they had left Michael Andover behind, but somehow it was difficult, especially knowing that Michael was still out there somewhere, not even that far from here.
He wondered why that particular occasion had scared him so badly – Dean had nearly died, but it wasn't the only time that had happened. A part of him knew he was ashamed of his own uselessness – lying asleep while Dean had been injured, leaving him alone in the hospital, so that even with his chest sewn up and tender, it had been Dean who had to rescue Sam in the end. He had been worse than useless.
Still, he thought, he was only going to enhance that uselessness by brooding, wallowing in self-pity, and, as Dean so helpfully put it, sulking. He took a deep breath and blinked rapidly, trying to physically push the memory away from him.
Blinking, he caught a glimpse of a figure standing maybe twenty feet from the Impala, staring at him. When he opened his eyes again, the figure was gone – no, his back was just disappearing around the corner. Medium height, slender, dark, but moving too quickly to be sure. He told himself – he knew, it was obvious - that he was just being paranoid. He really needed to snap out of this. But, for a moment, he had been certain that he was looking at – well, at Michael.
It took him a full five minutes to tell himself it wasn't him, but eventually he achieved some fragile peace of mind.
A gunshot shattered the quiet of the street, and Sam was out of the car within seconds.
Ice cold and then furnace hot, pain exploded in Dean's upper arm. He was propelled backwards, and the small of his back collided with the counter. He snatched at it wildly to keep himself upright, gasping, feeling shocked eyes following him.
Sam was standing, horrified, in the doorway – he had left the car on hearing the first shot, and the second had assaulted his ears as he seized the door handle. As he spoke, the young woman whirled to see him, fixing the barrel on his chest.
Dean knew too well that this woman had no inhibitions with her trigger finger, Dean threw himself at her, snatching at her hair and using his weight to push her down. The gun cracked aloud for a third time, and the bullet buried itself harmlessly in the floor. Dean bit out a curse, rolling over onto his injured arm. The girl's medallion came away in his hand, and he released it, letting the necklace skitter away across the floor. Breathing heavily, he lay back on the ground, right hand clasped tightly around the top of his left arm. He was aware of the people around him breaking their stillness, hesitantly.
He turned his head, and saw something – a spark – fade from his attacker's eyes. She blinked, and sat up slowly, leaving the gun forgotten at her side. Her jaw was tensed in horror, her eyes wide with disbelief. She stared at him, half reaching out a hand, and snatching it back as though bitten. He met her terrified eyes and noted again the change in them.
'Dean! You ok, man?'
Sam crouched beside him, concern and fading lines of fear written in his face. Dean nodded, shrugged one-armed, sat up with Sam's help, still staring at the girl slumped nearby on the floor.
Activity mounted around them; voices asked if he was okay and offered to call an ambulance. He could see blurred figures hurrying through his peripheral vision, hear muted noise, but he was concentrating too hard to process the information of his senses.
She looked up finally, and met his eyes. The glint of mad energy was gone; there was only fear there, now. 'But, I… I…,' she muttered, looking a question at him. He shook his head, frowning: whatever she was asking, he didn't have an answer to give.
He turned to Sam, nodding. 'I'm ok… Let's get out of here…'
'We should wait for the paramedics, Dean.'
'No way,' Dean replied firmly, staggering to his feet, glad of Sam's supporting hand on his elbow, though he wouldn't say so. 'Sick of hospitals… anyway, it's just a flesh wound – went straight out the other side.'
Sam winced, scrutinising the sleeve of Dean's jacket. There were two holes in it, only two inches apart, so the bullet had at least stayed clear of bone. Even through the leather, he could see an abundance of dark blood welling up through the gap. 'Okay… but if necessary, we'll go to the hospital later on – no, I get to decide,' he added stubbornly, when Dean opened his mouth to protest.
Dean nodded wearily. It was, as he had said, just a flesh wound, but he couldn't help feeling that it would be nice to go a few months without any wounds at all. His left arm hung heavy and useless at his side as they walked back to the car, unheeded in the drama as the police arrived and arrested their stunned colleague. The would throbbed uncomfortably, no doubt pulsing blood out; he could feel it soaking his arm, as well as the tell-tale light-headedness which meant he had already lost more than was wise. Fire and ice seared alternately in his abused flesh. He slumped into the passenger seat of the Impala, cradling his arm in his lap. Those wild, frightened eyes were still bright in his mind's eye.
Nobody noticed a skinny kid retrieving a discarded necklace from the floor of the coffee shop.
Review, please. :D I'm asking so nicely!