K Hanna Korossy
Sam was turned away, gazing out the window, but Dean could see his smile reflected in the glass. It had become almost a game—he said "Sarah," Sam smiled. Probably didn't even realize he was, but it amused Dean to no end. Especially since it had been a long time since he'd seen Sam that happy.
Sam shrugged, his 6'4" frame always a little too big for the car, and dipped his head sideways to look at Dean through hair that was getting a little long but Sarah probably loved.
"What about her?"
"Worth sticking around for a few more days, huh?"
The smile stretched a little wider, amused at him now. "Yeah, maybe."
"Heh, see?" Dean jabbed him with an elbow. "I told you, she's good for you."
Sam's smile slid into fond exasperation. "Yeah, you're a regular expert on dating and relationships."
"Hey, I know chicks. And you."
Just shy fondness now. "Yeah. You do." Sam looked out the window again, probably in part to hide the light flush of his face. Dean found himself suddenly sorry he'd missed this stage with Jessica, the teasing-your-little-brother-about-his-girl ritual that was the right of every older brother. Sarah could be something serious or just a step in Sam's bouncing back from Jessica's murder, but Jess had been the real deal. Dean often regretted he hadn't had a chance to know her a little better and see her together with Sam.
Dean shrugged. "Anyway, I was thinking, maybe we could find a job in the area. That way you could hang out with Sarah and we could kill two birds or….whatever with one round."
"You mean jobs or, you know, jobs?" Sam turned back, looking interested.
Dean pulled a face. "Dude, I don't do manual labor, you know that."
"Right, you just run chase things through dense forest or dig through six feet of packed earth to salt bones."
"That's our regular gig. I don't have to do that for pay and some pimple-faced boss, too."
Sam looked at him a second. "You already have a job picked out, don't you."
Dean grinned and reached into his pocket for an article, holding it out to Sam.
Sam was smiling again as took it, smoothing it open to read. "'Families sue housing developer, say new home community "haunted."'" He looked up, eyebrows rising. "You think it's for real?"
"One family—who knows? They could just have some screws loose. But six in one community?" Dean shook his head once. "That's a lot of screws, Sam."
"So what do you think, they built on some sort of consecrated or cursed ground, like Oasis Plains?"
"Or could be the building materials, or something connected to the developer. Won't know unless we check it out." He canted his head to look cheerfully slantwise at Sam. "Most importantly, it's about twenty minutes away."
"So we're gonna clean out every ghost in upstate New York, huh?" Sam asked in like vein.
"Why not? We could do worse. Besides, we've got your girlfriend here now to help in case we come across any more haunted furniture and need the prove…" Dean stumbled over the rest.
"…nances," Sam provided. "Dude, what is it with you and that word? If it were a brand of ammo or the name of something we were hunting, you could say it backwards."
"And if it were Latin it might even make sense—it's a stupid word, Sam."
"Why, because it's more than two syllables? I'm not straining your brain with this, am I?"
Dean gave him an exaggeratedly sour look. "Shut up."
Sam laughed. "Whatever. And she's not my girlfriend."
"Right. I bet she sucks face like that with every guy who comes around pretending to be an art dealer."
Sam didn't say anything. But his cheeks were pink again.
Unusually happy, Dean reached over to the turn the music up.
The housing development turned out to be more like a half-hour away in rush hour. They drove around another few minutes before spotting the developer's office. Dean pulled the Impala up in front of it.
"Same story as Oasis Plains?" Sam asked as he reached for the door handle.
"Sure. But if we get the speech about 'race, religion, and sexual orientation' again, I may have to hit somebody."
"Oh, so…I can't call you 'baby' when we're in there, right?"
Dean shot him a dirty look. Sam just grinned and got out.
Five minutes later, they emerged from the office with key and map in hand.
"Well, that was easy."
"They're probably not getting a lot of interested buyers with the lawsuit."
"I barely had a chance to get into character."
Sam rolled his eyes at him. "Come on, Nicholson, let's go."
The key was to the model home by the office, so they left the car and walked. With a glance around to make sure no one was watching, Dean slipped the EMF detector out of his pocket and turned it on, while Sam clutched the duffel with their weapons and supplies a little tighter. They often didn't have much warning before they needed to defend themselves.
But the detector didn't so much as flicker as they climbed the steps to the model house and Dean opened the door.
Sam glanced over his brother's shoulder at the silent device. "Maybe it's only interested in inhabited houses."
"Or maybe it's something that doesn't give off EMF. If it's a cryptid instead of a supernatural—"
"—then they'd probably be calling in animal contol, not telling ghost stories," Sam admonished. He stepped further into the house, gaze sweeping the foyer, the stairs that ascended to an open hallway above, and the living room that opened to the left. He frowned and pulled out a shotgun from the duffel.
Dean raised an eyebrow. "You picking up something?"
"Care to be a little more specific?"
"No. I don't know, it's just like…can you feel that?"
Dean stepped closer to him, also looking around them as he went. Gooseflesh prickled his skin and unease tightened his gut. "Yeah…like there's something—"
"—here," Sam finished in chorus with him. "But no EMF?"
Dean consulted the modified walkman again, and shook his head as he put it away. "No."
"Okay, well…maybe it's a curse then, something intangible. We didn't pick up any EMF at Oasis Plains, either, but there's definitely something here."
"Or maybe…" Dean trailed off, frowning at the walls as he did a slow three-sixty.
"I don't know, it just…it reminds me of something. Something like…" He turned back to Sam. "You ever hear of infrasound?"
"Uh, low-frequency sounds? Lower than the human ear can detect, right?"
"Yeah. You can't hear it but you can feel it—fear, anxiety, the whole haunting ball of wax minus the haunting."
Sam frowned. "I don't know, Dean—doesn't infrasound usually have natural causes? It wouldn't make sense for it to be limited like this to a community or inside the house."
"Unless the source is inside the house. Dad and I were called in for a 'haunting' once that turned out to be some old junker the guy was tinkering with out in the garage."
"Except, nobody lives here. The house is empty, man. I still think it's a curse or something tied to the land. I'm gonna go do some research, okay?"
"Yeah, sure, knock yourself out. I'm gonna look around in here."
Sam hesitated. "You sure? I could stay—we don't know there isn't something here waiting for one of us to be alone."
Dean pulled the shotgun out of his grip, and grinned at him. "That's why I'm not gonna be alone."
Sam shook his head with a smile. "You do realize not everything can be resolved by shooting at it?"
Dean just shrugged. "It's a place to start."
Two hours—he'd been gone longer than he'd expected, but the library was a disorganized mess and it had been hard to find what he was looking for. One call to Dean midway through had relieved Sam's anxiety a little—his brother hadn't been eaten, sucked into anything, or knocked unconscious, and was still gamely searching the house—but Sam never liked leaving his brother's back unprotected long when they were facing the unknown.
And unknown it still was. His research hadn't turned up anything, not on the land, the developer, or the history of the town. Even the closest cemetery was located a good distance away. Sam didn't really buy his brother's infrasound theory—and since when was Dean science-guy, anyway?—but he didn't have a better explanation yet to offer.
Sam pulled up in front of the model home and jogged up.
The door was locked.
"Dean?" He knocked on it, then banged on it, but there was no answer. Peering through the nearest windows revealed only empty rooms.
Sam opened cell phone and breathed anxiety out with a whoosh as he hit speed dial. Even so, he sighed with relief when Dean answered on the second ring.
"Where are you?" Okay, a little sharper than he'd intended.
"Next door to the model home. You back already?"
"Yes, and I'm here banging on the door with you not answering and nowhere in sight."
"Sorry."At least Dean had the grace to sound a little sheepish. "Had to check something over here. Come on over. It's to the left, 11126."
Sam craned his neck, just catching the glinting gold numbers by the door. "All right," he said, and cut the connection. One of those days he was going to put a tracking device on Dean.
He ran down the steps and over to the neighboring house. Dean didn't sound particularly concerned or urgent, but Sam would be happier when he could see for himself. He'd been tricked into believing it was Dean on the phone before.
The door of 11126 was ajar, the lock no doubt picked, because this house was bought and furnished and definitely not one they'd been given a key to. Sam moved cautiously over the rich carpet in the foyer, past the gilded furniture, and was reminded suddenly of the Blake's auction house and SarahHe'd called her from the library, and she was available for dinner. If he wasn't busy carting Dean to the hospital or wrapping his own injuries back in their room, both very possible for them, he could think about Sarah to his heart's content that evening. With Dean's blessing—how weird was that? When he wasn't busy being an obnoxious older brother, Dean made a darn fine supportive one.
But Sam was the back-up this time, and where was Dean, anyway? Sam didn't usually believe in barging into the unknown bellowing for all to hear, but the crawl of his skin was getting unbearable and Sam needed to see his brother now. "Dean!" he called, and then stopped and listened.
"Down here," came the reply that sounded faint due to distance. "Hold on a minute."
Sam frowned but held his position, eyes seeking out the way downstairs while he waited. Probably that door right by the kitchen, he finally decided, muscles twitching to go that way, when suddenly…
The uneasiness, the shiver down his spine, the itch of his skin melted away like frost in the sun. The house was just a house again, and Dean was just downstairs doing something, not missing or in danger, his steps already creaking on the stairs. Sam crossed the foyer to meet him, frowning at his brother when he came into sight.
Dean's eyebrows went up. "Feel any different?"
"Yeah, completely. What did you do? I didn't hear—"
"I didn't shoot anything, Sam—turns out you can actually switch off the A/C without firearms."
"The A/C?" he repeated, lost.
"Air conditioner? The same system in all the houses, that's what I came over here to check. Except these come with a nasty little extra—infrasound, about twelve hertz."
Sam's jaw felt a little loose. "And you know this because…?"
Dean's stance had all the cockiness of a successful hunt. "I had a meter in the trunk."
"Of course you did," Sam said flatly. "Jimmy Hoffa's probably buried in that trunk."
"Nah, he'd smell. So, you find anything at the library?" It was said with a hint of a grin, and Sam didn't know whether to be ticked off or amused.
"The development's sitting on the site of a major eighteenth century burial ground."
Dean's eyes went wide. "Seriously?"
"No. Let's tell the developers their houses need new air conditioning and get back to the motel. I've got a date tonight."
He ignored his brother utterly when Dean slapped him in the head on the way back to the car.
"No tie this evening?" Dean asked absently as he watched TV from the bed, a bowl of popcorn next to him. He always liked the motels that came with microwaves.
Sam worked to tame his hair in front of the mirror. "Nope. We're just going out for burgers and beer."
"Sounds fun. Maybe we should make it a double. I could call Brandy…"
Sam met his eyes in the mirror. "Maybe you should stay here and check to make sure there aren't any more evil air conditioners invading New York."
"Ooh, touchy. Here I thought finding you a girlfriend would cheer you up."
"She's not my girlfriend, and I'm serious."
"You're just jealous 'cause I figured it out before you did."
Sam's grooming attempts slowed, and his eyes slid sideways over Dean's reflection. Uh-oh. Never, ever a good sign. "Dean…I'm sorry about what I said before."
Dean frowned at him. "What?"
"Making fun of you for your vocabulary. I didn't mean you were stupid or anything."
"'Course you did," Dean said easily.
"No," Sam said way too earnestly, turning to face him. "I didn't."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Dude, I'm not five—you didn't hurt my feelings. Besides, I know you're smarter than I am."
Sam blinked at him. "What? That's not true."
"Sure it is. You always did most of the homework for the hunts, you actually like those three-inch thick books, you went to college." He smirked at Sam. "But I can still wipe the floor with you."
"You wish," Sam said automatically, but his mind seemed elsewhere as he took a step closer to Dean, date-preparations apparently forgotten for the moment. "Smart doesn't always mean books, Dean."
Dean heaved an exasperated sigh. He'd been afraid of this from the moment Sam turned serious. "Would you stop trying to make me feel better? I don't have a problem with you being the brains of the team, Sam." And the heart, but that was another subject. "Leaves the good looks and brawn to me," and Dean preened, inviting Sam in on the joke.
But no, too-serious brother struck again. "So…why don't you?"
That threw him. "Why don't I what?"
"Have a problem with it, if that were even true? I've seen you charm your way through high society before, but at the Blakes it was like you were trying to get us kicked out. Sometimes it just seems like you don't even care what people think about you."
Dean shrugged. "I don't. Not people like Blake, anyway. What do they know?" There were only two people alive, and one dead, whose good opinion he craved, and if Sam couldn't figure that one out, Dean wasn't about to tell him. He clicked the TV off and leaned forward. "Look, Sam, who taught you to read?"
Sam reared back an inch in surprise at the apparent non sequitur. "You."
"Yeah, and I also took you to school, made sure you finished your homework, got to the library, had all your supplies, right?"
"Yes," Sam said quietly.
Dean leaned back against the padded headboard. "So, I've got a right to be proud of how smart you turned out—I don't have anything to prove."
Sam stared at him a moment, then he laughed softly, shaking his head. "You know, you are pretty smart yourself, Dean."
That actually meant a lot, coming from Sam. But Dean had just about reached his tolerance level for sappiness for the year, and Sam had Sarah to take up the slack that evening if he wasn't done. "Isn't Sarah expecting you?" he asked pointedly
Sam took a breath, snapping out of the mushy haze he sometimes fell into. "Yeah. I should go."
"So, I shouldn't wait up for you tonight?"
Sam, looking around for his jacket, paused a moment to glare at him. "You're really crude, you know that?"
"Dude, it's called being a guy. You should look into it."
"And your sense of humor's stuck in sixth grade." Jacket found, Sam fiddled with his hair one last time, which Dean could have told him was a lost cause. They'd have to scout out a barbershop before they left town.
"You know, you might want to save the insults until after you're done borrowing my car."
Sam stopped at the door. "We're not going to use it much, mostly just the back seat."
Dean's head snapped up, startled. Just in time to catch a flash of white, the self-satisfied gotcha! grin, then Sam was gone.
In the silence he left behind, Dean started to laugh.
Maybe there was hope for the kid yet.