Winchesters v. Evil
K Hanna Korossy
When the knock came, Dean Winchester was ready.
One gesture at Sam, looking up white-faced from the book he was reading on the couch, and they were both silent as Dean crept up to the window and looked out. Yeah, right on time. He crept back, head down, hand grabbing Sam's bicep as he nodded toward the back of the house. The thirteen-year-old had gotten tall, those last few months, but he was still skinny as a fence slat and Dean's hand could encircle the lean muscle. It wouldn't be like that much longer.
Sam only winced a little as he rose and slipped out after Dean.
There wasn't much to the house they were renting for the month: living room, two bedrooms, bath and kitchen. Their hunting supplies were mostly in their dad's room, and Dean had packed it all away the day before just in case they broke the door down this time and searched the house. He didn't think they would, but you always had to be prepared. If so, he and Sam would be out the window before the first one even set a foot inside the front door. Meanwhile, they sat in their bedroom with the blinds closed, Sam sinking down onto his bed with another grimace, Dean between him and the door, the threat, as always.
"It's my fault," Sam whispered.
"It's not your fault," Dean murmured back, hearing cast forward, attention, behind.
"If Mr. Jefferson hadn't seen my arm—"
"We can't hide everything all the time, Sam. It was bound to happen again."
Another knock finally came, more forceful this time. Dean balanced on the balls of his feet, agile and ready. Sam would be, too, even with his bad arm.
"Dean, what if they—?"
"They're not taking us away from Dad," Dean said flatly. "End of discussion, okay?"
"Okay." No doubt in his voice, only relief.
Dean glanced back at him, saw the slim body bent over in something other than pain. Sam hadn't looked that shaken when the revenant had practically yanked his arm out of its socket. Dean stiffened, but made himself stay there another minute, listening. The knock wasn't repeated, and, after a while, a car started up in front of the house and drove away. Dean moved to the window, delicately separating two slats of the blinds to check, then, relieved, let them drop and turned back to Sam.
He crouched down in front of his brother. "Sam, listen to me. What's next week?"
"Um." Sam's hair was getting long again, the way he seemed to like it, and Dean wondered sometimes what the kid was trying to camouflage. But he could clearly see the puzzled look in the hazel eyes that had gone green with worry. "Your birthday?"
Dean nodded. "And how old am I gonna be?"
A tiny smile curved his little brother's lips. "Eighteen. Won't be jail-bait any longer."
Dean almost smiled back; he'd been playing up that angle a lot. That wasn't what he'd really been looking forward to, though. "I won't be a minor anymore, either—they won't be able to make me leave Dad no matter what."
Sam's smile faltered. "Oh."
Dean flinched. Stupid brilliant little brothers who couldn't see what was in front of their faces. If he thought Dean would just leave him… "Sammy, that means if something happens and they take you away from Dad, I can take you."
Not that stupid: comprehension quickly flooded Sam's face, followed by a slump of the young shoulders as if a weight had just dropped off them. And Dean wondered if Sam would be counting down those last few days now like he had been. He should've said something sooner.
Instead, he just patted Sam's knee. "Yeah, genius. Oh."
Sam took a deep breath, gave him a wobbly smile. "Are they gone?"
"Yup. Now get your gear together. We're going camping until Dad gets back. They won't know where to look for us, and your arm should be better by then, too."
He looked back, expecting one of the smart, mouthy responses Sam had graduated to those last few years as he grew up and Dean became more a brother and less a parent. So the shining eyes threw him a little.
Dean's mouth turned up. "Yeah, yeah. Get your gear, dude."
But the fear was gone from his little brother's eyes, and it felt like the best kill ever.
The funeral was closed-coffin, like so many hunters' funerals.
From across the room, Sam caught his brother's gaze. Dean pantomimed falling asleep, head jerking forward from boredom, and Sam had to cough hastily to hide the laugh. Only Dean.
"…monster. He deserved what was coming to him."
"…didn't even care if he hurt…"
The low conversations drifted over him, and Sam didn't know if the words were about the latest hunt or about the deceased. His gaze drifted over again to the simple wooden coffin. His dad hadn't told him exactly what had happened, not that he talked to his sixteen-year-old much these days, but Sam gathered from what he heard that half of Tom McCready's face was gone. An up-close shotgun blast did that to you.
His eyes moved on, picking Jonesy out of a loose knot of people by the door. Funny he would show up here, at the wake of the man he'd killed, but there was a matter-of-factness about his presence, and about how the others treated him, that sent a shiver down Sam's back.
He'd felt Dean's approach even if he hadn't looked. Sam didn't turn to him, eyes remaining on Jonesy. "Yeah."
"Doesn't even sound like they're talking about Tom, does it? I mean, I know he was kind of rough around the edges—"
Sam smiled. "Dean, Dad was scared of him."
"Uh-uh," Dean answered instantly. "Dad's not scared of anybody. He just…respected him."
"Yeah, by never arguing with him. Can you think of anybody else Dad hasn't argued with?"
Dean's silence was his answer. Sam himself certainly didn't make that list. All they seemed to do lately was fight. Dean chewed on his lip, changed the subject like Sam thought he would. "Is the way they're talking about him how you remember Tom?"
Sam didn't have to think about it long. He shook his head. "No."
They found themselves over by the coffin, and Sam couldn't help sliding a finger over the rough wood, feeling the prick of splinters. Dean, ever the protector, pulled his hand back, but gently. "Remember that candy he always used to give us when we were kids?" Sam asked.
"Yeah, uh, what was it?"
"Right, horehound." Dean's head tilted. "Kinda makes you wonder what was in it, huh?"
Sam elbowed him in the ribs, and got a poke back. "It was good, though. He was always nice to me."
"I think he missed his kids."
Sam blinked in surprise at his brother. "He had kids?"
"Yeah, you didn't know that? Girl and a boy. His wife took them away when he, you know."
"Started hunting," Sam said quietly.
They stared at the coffin in silence.
"Dean…what he did…"
"He had to be stopped, Sam. When you cross the line, start killing people—that's not what we do."
"I know." He did. Most of the time. "It's just…Jonesy just shot him."
Dean's eyes were unusually deep. "You think locking him up would've been better? He would've been dead in a week. That's not mercy, Sammy."
"I know, but…he was human, too."
Sam winced. Stared hard at the wooden box. "Dean, if Dad…"
"It's not gonna happen, Sam."
"No." Dean's voice could have drilled concrete. "Don't even think about it."
Sam shut up. But he couldn't help thinking about it.
Dean's hand curled around his shoulder, gentle where he'd been sharp a moment before. "C'mon, man, let's find Dad and get out of here."
He let himself be pulled away, let Dean distract him with some anecdote he'd heard from Bobby, let himself stop thinking about the wooden box and the man inside it who'd always been kind to him. But the lines between good and evil blurred a little that day, and Sam didn't let the lesson go.
"Dean! Get out here!"
Sam's strained, shaking words had him dashing out of the bathroom completely oblivious to his state of dress, or rather, undress. At the sight of Sam sitting whole and healthy on the edge of the bed, staring at the TV, Dean cursed and lunged back into the bathroom to grab a towel. He wrapped it around his still-wet hips as he stormed over to his brother. "Don't ever do that again. What's so important you—"
And then he saw the smoke pouring out of one of the towers of the World Trade Center on the TV screen.
Dean sank down on the bed next to his brother, heedless of the cold morning air on his wet skin. "What the—?"
"I don't know, it's just…they think a small plane flew into it."
Dean grimaced. "And you wonder why we don't ever fly?"
Sam was shaking his head. "All those people. You think—Oh, God!"
Dean's spine tingled with the familiar awareness of danger, of needing to do something, but could only watch in disbelief as a second plane, and no small aircraft this one, slammed into the second tower. The realization, when it came, was clear and certain. "We're under attack."
"What?" Sam's eyes, huge and wet, turned to him. "What? We're…"
"Not us, we. The country, we. Somebody just declared war," Dean said tonelessly. The hunter in him struggled to put pieces, a plan of attack, some sort of response together, but they were halfway across the country and this wasn't the kind of enemy they knew. At least, he didn't think so. A possessed pilot was always possible, maybe, or even a plane…
The motel room door opened, and even as Dean coiled to lunge for his knife on the other bed, their dad walked in, face pale and stern. Dean had no doubt he knew.
"You're watching?" John asked gruffly.
Sam nodded, Dean turning back to the screen. At least there wasn't fire, mostly just smoke, but the casualties had to be in the dozens, not to mention those trapped above them and on the plane. If this was something supernatural, it had sure picked a way to cause maximum damage.
Dean licked his dry lips. "Dad, what if—?"
"We don't know, Dean." John's voice was as flat as Dean's. "Jim and a few others are already looking into it."
Dean nodded absently. It took another few seconds to realize that even though he was the one in the wet towel, Sam was shaking. Dean didn't glance over, giving his brother the privacy of his thoughts, but dropped a hand on his neck and kneaded lightly. Stretched-taut muscles slowly eased.
For the rest of the day, for the first time that Dean remembered, they were just like everybody else, glued to the TV, furious and appalled and shaken with the rest of the world. They watched together, Sam flinching, Dean motionless but cold and hollow as the buildings collapsed, as the pieces started coming together, as the first hints of a possible enemy were raised.
Humans. The only creatures he didn't understand. And one he couldn't hunt, even though everything in him screamed to.
Their dad had pulled up a chair on Sam's other side, and Dean noticed his hand rested, unchallenged, on Sam's knee. It only took a few thousand deaths to pull the Winchesters together, he thought with a bitter smirk. And it was in their helplessness they turned to each other, not their strength.
"Dean." It was a murmur. "We need…need to do something."
Dean glanced over at Sam. "You wanna go out and shoot some bottles?"
A numb shake of the head.
Dean sighed, met their dad's eyes over Sam's head. The darkness in them scared even him, and Dean pulled his gaze away, back to Sam. Maybe the world was broken and not making any sense, but this one tiny part of it he understood and could help. He nudged his brother in the side. "How 'bout we go check out the town, see if they're doing some kind of…I don't know, food or blood drive or something. Maybe you can help."
Sam nodded, first tentatively, then more certainly. "Yeah."
Dean didn't even glance at John for permission. There would be no hunting that day. He just reached for his clothes, not retreating to the bathroom to get dressed. He wouldn't be letting Sam out of his sight for a while, nor did he want to be alone.
The world changed that day. Dean Winchester didn't.
But it all made a little less sense than it had before.
"…heart of darkness…banality of evil…"
Sam stopped typing for a moment, checked his notes. "Right," he muttered. "The 'banality of evil.' Nothing more boring than a berserker waiting to rip your throat out or a wendigo wanting to eat you."
To his right, on the other side of the paper-thin walls, a stereo started to blare. Apparently not one of the ones that had been stolen the past week from their dorm. Oh well, the bleed-through of noise was like half the motels he'd stayed in. Sam relegated it to the background, returning to his laptop, the nicest one he could buy on his grant money, and continued to work.
"…evil as a subjective more…literary construct…"
In the hall behind him, light footsteps ran up and down, pausing at the door next to his. Sam shut it out, concentrated on his notes.
"'The literary construct of evil,'" he read under his breath. "'Barthes claims…'"
Another minute, and he started typing again.
"…construction of evil as contrast to…"
The apparently tireless lacrosse player whose room was to the right was entertaining female company again. More than one, by the sound of it. Maybe he'd quit losing t-shirts like he always complained if he didn't have overnight company all the time. The light footsteps hurried on, past Sam's room to another down the hall, then back again. There was a quiet giggle, and a door opened and shut.
Sam shook his head and kept working.
"…despite the Judeo-Christian tradition of American society, evil…"
He couldn't help but smile as he wrote. Most of the rituals they—well, his dad and Dean now—used came from the church, from the exorcism chants to the holy water. Apparently, the things they'd fought hadn't realized they were just postmodernist constructs stemming from a society rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition. Sucked to be them.
The prancing footsteps were back. Sam gritted his teeth and ignored them, went on.
"…banality of good if evil is not…" Sam paused. Created? Constructed? Invented? Invented, he nodded. "…if evil is not invented…"
Sam wondered who would have invented a chupacabra, and if they knew they were just constructs to allow for the concept of good.
Professor Haspel had been so earnest in his lecture. The tweed suit had bunched around his shoulders as he'd waved an arm for emphasis. Evil didn't exist, he'd explained solemnly. Terrorists to one were freedom fighters to another. Thieves who plundered dorm rooms were just those in need taking from those who had enough to spare. Hellhounds were just misunderstood, overgrown puppies.
Okay, so Sam had come up with that last one. Maybe he should introduce the professor to one of his "constructs."
The footsteps, now a pair, tripped up the hallway toward the bathrooms, still giggling.
Sam rolled his eyes and rubbed his forehead, just imagining what Dean's reaction would have been to Professor Haspel. Amusement or disbelief? He tried to decide. Probably amusement. Dean didn't suffer fools gladly, but they sure entertained the heck out of him.
Sam's smile faltered, faded as he reread the last few lines he'd written. "…'the construct of evil,'" he murmured again.
There were a few times, though, when he didn't want to picture what Dean would think.
Setting his jaw, Sam started typing again.
"…when we deconstruct the 'evil' in the passage, we find…"
There were now three sets of footsteps traipsing down the hall, and the giggle had turned into a malicious laugh.
Sam took a deep breath, staring hard at the computer screen. One more laugh behind him and he suddenly flung himself off the chair. His hand flicked under the mattress for the curve-bladed axe he kept there, and he slid off his flip-flops for stealth. One glance at his roommate, still sacked out since stumbling home from the kegger, and Sam slipped out the door.
Five minutes later, he slipped back in. A stray t-shirt found in their laundry was draped over one chair, and Sam used it to clean the red-black imp ichor off his blade, then tossed it in the trash. The axe disappeared back under his mattress, and he dropped again into his chair.
The lacrosse player was still going at it with full enthusiasm. The stereo was playing Aerosmith, and Sam squashed a pang of homesickness. The footsteps were gone and wouldn't return, nor would the thefts. His roommate snored on, much like Dean did when sleeping off a hangover.
Sam sighed, read through his notes again, and rested his fingers on the keyboard for a moment before finally continuing to type.
"…therefore, evil cannot exist because…"
Dean hated walls.
Okay, so not really. The stained and garish walls of motel rooms they stayed in were comforting, protecting his family within, keeping the bad things out. A layer of salt around the doors and windows and it was almost safe, almost home.
Then Sam had left, and taken home with him.
That was when Dean had started preferring sleeping in the Impala, especially when his dad took off on jobs of his own and left Dean alone. The walls just kept inside the solitude and silence. He didn't care too much for them, even though he usually still went through the motions: hit town, rent a room, go hunting, come back and clean up and sack out and forget. He could tolerate those walls.
But these… His gaze traveled the hardwood surface, the small window up high, the bars that completed the décor. These were starting to get to him.
"Hey!" he called again, because it was something to keep him from thinking too much. "Can't keep me in here forever."
"You ready to make your call yet?" a bored voice yelled back.
Dean stumbled and sat down on the cot behind him, not answering. No.
No, he wasn't.
He'd almost accepted the offer of a call when the fat deputy had refused to take his cuffs off, pointing out he could use the phone just as well with them on. Effectively killing Dean's number one escape plan. With the small, empty, suffocating cell in the corner of his vision, he'd almost reached for the phone then. Even if Dad didn't get the message right away, he'd come as soon as he could, and Dean desperately wanted out.
But then he'd stalled.
Dad would come. Probably. If he wasn't in the middle of a hunt. If he wasn't too disgusted with Dean. If he wasn't drunk because he missed Sam so much, even though they never, ever talked about it. He'd probably come. Some time.
Sam would come right away. Dean knew that just as surely. And he had the number memorized, even though he'd dialed it only a half-dozen times in the last two years. Sam would come if Dean asked. He probably wouldn't even say a word. He'd just look disappointed. Hurt. Accusing. Why are you still doing this? Why do you keep blindly following Dad?
His kid brother's disapproval hurt even worse than his father's. Dean closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall. No, calling Sam had too high a price. Besides, he'd already made clear where his priorities lay, and Dean hated to drag him away from something important.
But Dad… Dean sighed. Why bother? Why bother with any of it?
"Innocent man shouldn't need a phone call," he argued halfheartedly with the faceless voice down the hall.
"Dude, I swear. The guy was already laid out like that when I got there." Being jumped—or rather, fallen on—by a zombie, did that to you. The victim would back him up when—if—he woke up.
But until then, Dean swore the walls were starting to shrink on him. Sam would have laughed at him for his runaway imagination.
Dean jumped up, crossed swiftly to the bars, and rattled them with a hard lurch of muscle. Not budging. They were going to keep him in there until he went crazy.
"You want your phone ca—?"
"Shut up," Dean growled back, and dragged a hand through his hair. So not fair. He saves the guy's life and gets arrested for assaulting him. Whose side were the cops on, anyway?
Okay, he was on his own. He could do this. Fake an injury, maybe, or ask to make the call and then run for it, cuffs or no. He had a blade in his shoe they hadn't found. Or…
Dean's eyes darted back up to the small window near the ceiling. Maybe.
Ten minutes later, the voice drifted back from the front room. "You finally settle down back there? We're not the bad guys here, you know."
But there was no one there to hear it, just a pile of sawdust on the floor and a gaping window above an empty room.
Sam swallowed hard, stared at the tiled ceiling, and tried not to lose it completely.
Dean was coming. Dean had to be coming. They couldn't stop him from at least…visiting, right? Even if he couldn't stay. Even if he couldn't get Sam out of there until…
Oh, God. He was going to throw up.
Sam gulped again, eyes burning from the bright panel lights, or maybe something else. His head was still swimming from the book that had clipped it, his throat raw from yelling as they… He flexed his arms automatically, panic ratcheting up a notch at the feel of the bindings that held his arms down. Padded and humane and they won't hurt you if you don't struggle. Right. Why would he struggle? They said they'd drug him if he didn't settle down.
His throat hurt. He wanted his brother.
Voices rose in the hallway outside. A familiar female voice, clipped and quiet, that sent the shards of panic zinging around his nervous system. And a far more familiar male voice, hard and dangerous, conversely relaxing all Sam's muscles. Filling his eyes with stupid tears he couldn't even dash away.
And then the door was flung open, and Sam could tilt his head just far enough to see a pair of jeans and boots striding close. Only when they reached the bed could he see the rest.
Dean looked…not happy.
"Dean." It came out as a pathetic whisper. Sam cleared his throat. "They think—"
"I know." Dean's eyes glinted darkly for a second, then softened as he dropped a hand on Sam's stomach. "It's okay."
Being touched, touching, was as unnerving as it was a relief, but it seemed to calm Sam's thundering heart. He shook his head, throat all closed up. "No," he groaned. "I can't…Dean, I can't stay here for three days."
A smile flickered across Dean's face. "Dude, who said anything about three days?" He reached for the nearest binding.
Fear that powerful tended to cloud your thinking. It took Sam a moment to focus and realize what Dean was doing. "They're…they're letting me go?"
"I'm letting you go. They can go to Hell." The green-gold eyes swung back to him with a hint of humor. "Unless you want to stay here at Chez Crazy."
His face twisted. "No. God, no. Please, Dean…"
Dean's face instantly crinkled with remorse. "Take it easy, Sammy," he said more softly. "We'll get you out of here in a minute."
He tried not to struggle, to tear himself free from the binding as he felt it loosen and release. Dean turned his arm critically both ways, making sure the padded leather hadn't chafed. He squeezed Sam's fingers before setting them down and reaching across him to the other binding.
"How's your wrist?" he asked almost conversationally as he worked, gentler with this one as his knuckles brushed gauze.
"It's fine," Sam managed. "It didn't cut deep." No, the glass the poltergeist had thrown around had sliced across his wrist just enough to bleed messily. And to give the impression he'd been earnestly trying to kill himself. It was serious enough that Dean hadn't been able to take care of it, but they'd never expected the doctor's reaction, even when they'd asked Dean to wait outside and rolled Sam away, upstairs. Eighth floor: psychiatric ward.
"I'm all right, just…get me out of here, Dean, please."
"Okay, okay. Almost done."
The second binding fell away, and Sam jackknifed up in the bed, startling his brother. Dean quickly grabbed his arm to steady him, eyes searching his. Sam looked away.
"I just have to get your feet. Hang on a minute, okay?"
He nodded dumbly. Automatically took the pile of clothing Dean thrust at him, before realizing with another shot of relief it was a sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers. He quickly pulled the gown off and wrapped himself in the sweatshirt's soft warmth.
Dean finished with his feet and swung them down, then helped him stand. "Get the rest on and then we're out of this freakin' place."
Sam was regaining his equilibrium along with his feet, and he managed a shaky smile. "Jail break?"
Dean's grin answered him.
Fully clothed and feeling less shaky by the moment, Sam snuck out after his brother, Dean holding on to a fistful of Sam's sweatshirt. He followed Dean's lead as they stopped and started and waited and ran, finally collapsing into the safe comfort of the Impala.
Sam caught his breath. "Thanks, man," he said sincerely.
Dean's eyebrows rose, his grin playful and warm. "Couldn't let Nurse Ratched get you, bro."
Dean would never let anything get him, or at least keep him, no matter the threat. And safe with that knowledge, Sam relaxed into the seat and surrendered to exhaustion.
They stared at the scene before them with voiceless horror.
Dean had his fill first, pushing roughly past Sam, out the door. He barely heard Sam follow him a moment later.
Dean hunched over the hood of the Impala, hands braced against the sun-warmed black metal. "I'm going to kill it," he growled.
"He's not an it, Dean," Sam said softly, his heart not sounding quite in the defense. "He's a person."
"No person does something like that to…" Dean flinched and turned away.
They'd come to the town thinking it was a boogieman or a gremlin or a ghul that was preying on the kids who'd gone missing and were turning up dead. Dean wished it had been. That he could wrap his head around, at least. That they could kill. This…
If Sam gave him that stupid, if we do this, we're as bad as he is line, he would have to hurt his brother. Dean had never believed that, and besides, nothing ever, no matter what, could turn Sam into a monster like that. He liked to believe the same was true of himself, except for the blind rage coursing through his veins that very moment.
Sam turned to lean back against the car and sighed. "Yeah, maybe you're right. Maybe the world would be better off if we did kill him."
Dean peered up at him. Really looked at him for the first time since they'd broken down the door to that nightmare. "What're you talking about?"
Sam raised an eyebrow. "What you just said. He's a monster, too, right? World would be better, safer without him. How is that different from what we normally do?"
"Dude, we can't kill a person."
Dean stared at him a moment, then grimaced, realizing he'd been had. "That's low, man."
"What, you think I don't want to sometimes? What that guy did, Dean…we've seen soulless creatures with more compassion."
"I know," Dean said quietly. He slowly came around the corner of the car, and leaned next to Sam. His brother's warmth was all he could feel.
The silence, so stiff when Sam had first hit the road again with him, was comfortable now, even soothing after what they'd just seen. Dean let it soak in and loosen a little of the dark rage inside him. This wasn't the healthy kind of anger he could channel into killing something. This just ate at his soul, and he'd lost enough of it already while Sam was gone.
Sam took a deep breath. "So, what are we going to do? We can't just let him get away with this."
"We're not," Dean said firmly, shifting his stance. "With all the evidence he's got all over the place? Even the cops won't be able to screw this one up. The guy's not gonna spend another night breathing free air."
Sam looked at him, then at the ground, nodding. Dean didn't know how much he remembered from their childhood, but they'd run into a few human monsters over the years, and developed ways to deal with them. Non-lethal, not as satisfying, but the best they could do against this kind of enemy.
But they didn't move, leaning against the car, each other.
"Well, I'll tell you one thing," Sam finally said.
Dean looked over at him, questioning.
Sam met his eyes. "Something like this, it makes what we hunt seem not so bad."
Dean looked at him a long moment, the still too-long hair, the tiny, knowing smile, the dark brown eyes that saw into places nobody else did. And Dean pried free his last clinging grip on his rage. "Dude, quit trying to butter me up."
Sam's eyes lightened a little. "I'm not trying to butter you up."
"You so are." Dean bumped him in the side. "Next thing you'll be telling me, you're looking forward to blowing town and finding something else to kill."
Sam dipped his head. "Now that you mention it…"
Dean groaned, pushed away from the car. "Cut it out before I start looking for pods under the seats."
Sam glanced back at the house. "Dean…"
Dean, halfway around the car, stopped and looked at him, at where he was looking. "Let's make a call and get out of here."
Sam nodded and climbed into the car.
They hit the road again.