Notes: 2 years ago, I decided to post my first Supernatural fic. Five days ago, I decided I should write something to post on this day. Four days ago, I started said writing. And about 5 minutes ago, I decided it was done. This is the product. (I don't think I've ever written anything this fast, start to finish. So, I don't want to say that it's lacking in quality, but, you know, it's probably, hopefully, still better than that first fic.)
The Towns in Which We've Lived
His head is pounding.
Sam sets his book down on the coffee table and rubs at his forehead, presses his thumb hard into the space where eyebrows and nose meet. The house is deathly quiet, but he can hear the swoosh-whoosh of his own heart in his ears. He stands slowly, stretches, and heads into the kitchen for the bottle of aspirin.
They'd just settled in a week ago. John had gone to the trouble of renting a house with the promise that they'd be here awhile. Big hunt, apparently. All it means to Sam is a little extra time in one school, and that means extra work.
The window is open over the sink in the kitchen. The faded curtains flutter in a cool, southern breeze. Sam downs two aspirin with a glass of water, puts the bottle back in the cupboard, the glass in the sink.
Back in the living room, his book has fluttered shut and he snatches it up. He flips through quickly, trying to find the lost page. He considers taking a break, but he'd promised Dad he would be done by the time he got back from, well, from wherever he'd gone. Man isn't big on details.
Dean is off doing Dad's bidding. And whatever that might entail, Sam isn't sure either.
It isn't often that he gets alone time and he settles back on the dusty couch, props his feet up on the table, and takes a deep breath, listens to the heavy silence.
The front door bangs open and Sam jolts forward. Dean stumbles in, one arm wrapped around his stomach under his coat and kicks the door shut with a bang.
"Dean?" Sam's on his feet, book falling off to the side. "Where'd you go?"
Dean slouches against the wall and gives Sam a bruised wink. "Just a little…work." His nose drips blots of blood onto the carpet. Sam jumps toward him, panic slicing through him like ice.
He reaches Dean in time to help ease him down to his knees. "What happened? Where'd you go?"
"You…you talked to Dad?" Dean coughs.
"What? No." Sam pulls a used tissue out of his jeans pocket and wipes at Dean's nose with it. "What happened?" Dean doesn't answer and Sam frowns, tugs at his coat and checks out his bruises. "Was something for Dad?"
Sam snorts. "Convincing."
Dean takes the tissue from him with clumsy fingers and tilts his head back. "This was just me bein' stupid."
"Right. Where'd he send you?"
"Nowhere, Sam. Jesus. Quit freaking out."
"I'm not--" Sam stops and shakes his head. Dean pushes off from the floor to stand up and Sam leads him over to the couch, sits him down. Sam stands back, arms crossed. "Are you bleeding?"
Dean points to his nose.
"Other than the obvious, genius."
Dean puts a hand to his chest and gives Sam a doleful look. "My heart. It bleeds" He sounds congested.
Sam rolls his eyes and turns for the bathroom, flicking on lights as he goes. The house is bigger than most places they've stayed and all the dark corners and empty spaces still freak him out a little. No matter that he's sixteen. No matter what Dean says.
"For you," Dean croons from the living room. "It bleeds for you."
"Do you need aspirin?" Sam calls back.
"José, if you've got it."
That's a yes to the aspirin, maybe five or six of them at once. Washcloth, paper towels, and hydrogen peroxide in hand, Sam changes course for the kitchen. He swings open the cupboard and reaches for the bottle of aspirin. His palm hits open space though, and he knocks over a lone bottle of cough syrup that rolls all the way to the back of the cupboard.
It's kind of silly, putting their things away like this, like they actually live here. Especially when they just never have enough stuff to fill all the empty spaces.
Sam frowns and heads back into the living room. "Did you get it?"
Dean's sitting the same way he was, one hand holding the tissue to his nose, the other hand over his heart. "Get what?"
Sam sits down next to him, hands him the paper towels to exchange for the tissue. He leans forward to set the hydrogen peroxide on the coffee table and there's the aspirin bottle, setting right next to his book. He grabs it up and glares at Dean. "You're such a liar."
"No, I'm not."
"Whatever." Sam twists off the cap, considers how many to give Dean. "Are you still bleeding?"
Dean taps his fingers over his heart twice and grins. "Only for you, Sammy."
Dean falls asleep right there on the couch. Sam sits for a while next to him, reading, until his eyes get heavy and the words start to blur. He puts the book down and stands, stares at Dean for a minute before just nudging him over to lie down. Sam tucks a pillow beneath his head and picks his feet up one at a time and puts them on the couch. Satisfied, he flicks off the light and heads off to bed himself.
In the house, the rooms with their old, worn-out furniture, gray walls with flaking paint. Its flooding, opaque water washing slowly higher toward the ceiling.
He sloshes through the rooms, steps weighed down by waterlogged boots, hands on the walls for balance. They're all empty. The rushing and whooshing of the water fills his ears.
"Dad?" he calls. The water is up to his waist. He needs to go upstairs, needs to find that door to higher ground.
He gets there, breathing heavy, and pulls the door open against the weight of the water, just enough to slip through. He trips on the first step, flails, and goes under.
The water is warm.
He can't breathe.
Sam wakes in the middle of the night to raised voices, harshly spoken words. His designated bedroom is just off the hall between the living room and kitchen and a sliver of light comes through the partially door.
"---paying attention?" That's Dad. Sam sluggishly brings a hand up to rub at his eyes and peers at his watch.
"The guy didn't know anything." Dean, on the defensive.
"Everybody knows something. You just weren't askin' the right way."
"What about Jamie?"
"He did not know anything, wouldn't matter how I'd asked it."
"Well, the guy got awfully defensive for someone that had nothing to hide."
"Hey, what about Jamie?"
Sam frowns, pressing his face into the pillow. They could at least have the courtesy to talk quietly.
"People don't like being asked questions that they don't know the answers to." Dean, calmer, placating.
A rough sigh, the slap of something—papers? A book?—hitting the table.
"I don't think there's a hunt here, Dad. That's all I'm saying."
Another sigh. "I hear you."
"What about Jamie?"
Sam sits up fast, shoving the covers back. That was not his Dad's voice, and it definitely wasn't Dean. He scrambles out of bed and to the living room, where Dean and John sit on the couch. A single lamp illuminates the room in sharp relief.
They look up, identical frowns in place.
"Hey," Dean says quietly. "Didn't mean to wake you."
Sam frowns, glancing around the room.
"Sam?" John sits up a little straighter.
"What do you mean?" John stands up.
"I mean, who was talking with you? Who was here?"
John frowns deeper and twists to look at Dean, who shrugs and offers a weak grin. "Just you, me, and a barrel of monkeys, Sammy."
John snorts at this and runs a hand over his face. "Were you dreaming, son?"
"No. I don't think so. Who's Jaime?"
John shakes his head slowly, shares another look with Dean. "Nobody I know."
"But, somebody just said--"
"You were sleeping," Dean interrupts. "You were dreaming, which is something I'd like to get back to myself." He stands, stretching stiffened muscles and Sam realizes he'd never moved from the couch at all. He slings an arm over Sam's shoulders and turns him toward the bedroom. "C'mon, dude. I bet you won't even remember this in the morning."
After school the next day, Sam finds Dean in the kitchen making a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He lets his bag, heavy with a new amassment of homework, slide off his shoulder to the floor. "One of those for me?"
Dean pauses, eyeing the sandwiches. He reaches for the bread to pull out two more slices, mumbles, "Only 'cause I like you."
Sam fills a glass with milk and sits down at the table. "Where's Dad?"
"Don't know, I'm not his keeper." Dean glances over at Sam. His face looks like half of a tie-dye shirt, purple and yellow and blue.
Sam tells him so.
"Best compliment I've had all day." Dean drops a sandwich on a paper towel in front of Sam and sits down with his own lunch.
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"Shut up. I'm just saying."
"Well." Dean shrugs. "You might not have to get too used to it. Could be moving out of here pretty quick."
"What?" Sam puts down his sandwich. "Why? Dad said--"
"Dad said." Dean holds out one hand, palm up. "Dad does." The other hand. "Plus, there's nothing here. No hunt. We screwed up."
"I thought…people died or something."
"I'm pretty sure that was just other people being crazy."
Sam nods, takes that in, watches Dean chew carefully. "So, where'd you go last night?"
"Went to get some info on the non-hunt."
"So, it was Dad's fault?"
Dean stops eating. "No, Sam. It was the crazy people's fault. Are you trying to clarify just so you can decide whether to be ticked at him or not? 'Cause he had nothing to do with it, you got me?"
"Okay. Good." Dean wolfs down the rest of his meal and stands to rinse his hands off in the sink. "You got homework?"
"Only a few day's worth."
"Good. Go do it." Dean nods at him sharply and turns away to the living room. After a few moments, Sam hears the radio click on, the soft hum of a song, and then the creak of couch springs as Dean lies down.
In a hospital, a small, dark room. He stares down at his brother, lying flat on a cot. There's a mass of bandages and tape on his chest, his neck, his face, tubes snaking over and through it all. Pneumonia, his brain supplies, irrationally. Asthma. Bronchitis. That's what it is.
He stares as his chest begins to heave under the mess of gauze, eyes wide, hands scrabbling. He can't breathe.
He can't breathe.
Sam blinks once, twice. Numbers and letters blur before his eyes in black and white and after a moment he realizes he's staring at his math textbook, in fact, using it as a pillow. He eases himself up and glances at his watch. Seven 'o'clock. His stomach growls harshly.
He levers himself up off the bed and wanders out to the kitchen. It's dark now, but the radio plays on in the living room, a muted tune, half static and half song. When Sam flicks on the kitchen light, he can just barely make out the form of his brother through the arched doorway, asleep on the couch.
Heavy footsteps scrape across the floor overhead. Dad's home.
Sam opens the fridge, but there's nothing inside worth making a meal out of. Chinese sounds pretty good, in fact, and there's a place just a little ways south. He goes into the living room, hoping Dean will be awake, so he can get his approval on the food matter.
On the radio, there's what Sam thinks to be some Lynyrd Skynyrd. Now that he's this close he can hear Dean just barely humming along. "Hey Dean?" he asks quietly, looking out the front window to the empty, graveled driveway.
Dean sighs roughly. "Yep?"
Sam steps closer to the window and pushes back the curtain. No car. He turns back to Dean. "Where's the car?"
"Probably with Dad."
Dean still hasn't opened his eyes. "I don't think so, Sammy."
Sam staggers out of the room, Dean calling after him, "What's the matter?"
The door to the upstairs is in the kitchen, right next to the closet. Sam can count on one hand the number of times he's been up there since they'd gotten here. There was only a bathroom, an attic space, and a small bedroom where John had been sleeping.
Now, he turns on the light and pulls the door open, peers up into the narrow stairwell. "Dad?"
A shuffling of feet. The creak of the bedroom door.
Sam starts up the stairs, a hand on either wall for balance. At the top of the stairs, he reaches for the hall light switch. The bedroom is at the end, the door closed but for a crack. Sam edges toward it.
He slides his hand into the narrow opening of the door to turn on the light.
"Sammy," Dean yells sharply, his voice echoing up the stairwell.
Sam winces and opens his eyes. The bedroom is empty. The single bed sits alone, sheets rumpled and pushed back.
"What're you doing?" Dean yells again.
Sam retreats, turning lights off behind him.
Dean stands at the bottom of the steps, holding onto the doorframe. "Everything okay?" He frowns.
"Fine." Sam nods, starting down the stairs. "Just thought I heard something."
"Right. Okay." Dean looks hard at him and then seems to shake it off and grins. "Hey, how about some Chinese?"
When John gets home later, he stops and stands in the kitchen, taking in the mess of take-out containers on the counter.
Sam watches him from the kitchen table while he grumbles at the mess and makes room to set his things down. He turns to the window above the sink and shoves it open further. "It's like a steam room in here."
"Hey, Dad," Sam tries.
John frowns at him and then at the clock on the wall. "Shouldn't you be sleeping?"
"Um…" Sam shrugs. "Yeah, I guess so. I was just trying to finish up some homework."
"Huh." John inspects the take-out containers, finding one box still half full of fried rice.
"Hey, Sam." John slouches against the counter and shoves a forkful of rice in his mouth.
A flicker of a smile crosses Sam's face. "Dean was just saying that, uh, that there's no hunt here?"
John shrugs. "I'm looking into it."
"But, uh, we just moved in here."
"That we did." John nods and pulls open the fridge for a beer. He sits down at the table opposite Sam.
"When are we leaving?"
"I'm looking into it," John says again. "Don't worry about it."
Sam frowns, nods.
"You should get some sleep."
"Okay." Sam closes his books and stacks them up, calculator and pencils on top. "G'night."
John nods vaguely, intense gaze fixed on nothing at all.
In a bed, the blankets tangled over his head. He swats at them, pulls, pushes, only traps himself further, arms stuck at his sides. The air is damp and warm inside the cocoon. He breathes his own breath again.
Something presses down over him, soft and oppressive. The blanket cavern is flattened. He can't see and can't hardly move.
He can't breathe.
When Sam gets home from school the next day, Dean is passed out on the couch, which seems to be what he does these days when not out 'working.' Sam takes the opportunity to look at him up close, inspecting the fading bruises under the soft, late afternoon light. They look all right to him.
Dean snuffles and turns his face away, so Sam takes his cue that everything's fine and leaves him alone.
It starts to rain a little later. The sky gets dark and heavy. Sam puts on a baseball cap and a windbreaker to walk down a couple blocks to a burger joint for some dinner. He gets enough for everyone, just in case, and trudges back, food growing cold in his hands.
When he wakes Dean up, Dean actually says, "Thanks."
"You're…welcome?" Sam shrugs.
"I've got to be somewhere at eight." Dean stands and stretches, shakes his arms out.
Sam leads the way into the kitchen. "Where're you going?" He digs through the bag of food, handing Dean a sandwich.
Dean waits until he has a mouthful of food to answer. "Got an…appointment."
"With Mr. Rob Van Aileman."
"…Okay. Who's that?" Sam picks at his sandwich, eyeing his brother warily.
"Someone I have already danced with." Dean grins.
Sam frowns and gives up on eating altogether. "Danced? You mean…" He holds up a fist and shakes it.
"Wait…not the guy from the other night, right? You lost that one, Dean. You lost bad and he didn't even know anything."
Dean just shrugs.
Another shrug. "Nothin' better to do."
"You'll lose," Sam says louder. "You know it. You will."
"Maybe." Dean finishes off his sandwich and wipes his hands on his jeans. "Maybe not."
"Don't you even care?"
"Of course I care. It's just, if he's better, he'll win. If I'm better, I win. That's that."
Sam just shakes his head. "I won't come get you. I won't fix you up. I won't talk to you."
"Yes, you will." Dean stands and reaches over to flick at the brim of Sam's cap. "See you later, dude."
Sam doesn't look at him, waiting until the front door slams shut to move.
Dean was the only person Sam knew that liked a fight, just to see if he could win.
The house is quiet. So engrossed in his book, Sam doesn't even realize the absolute silence until it changes.
Something hits the floor upstairs. Sam nearly jumps out of his skin.
He waits a minute there, not moving, trying to figure out if he imagined it or not.
A door thuds shut.
Okay. Sam stands up. Definitely not imagining it.
By the time he gets to the top of the stairs, he's turned nearly every light in the house on. The bedroom door is closed, but when he tries it, it swings open easily.
The blankets have all fallen off the foot of the bed and the pillow lies square in the middle of the floor. He's never known Dad to be sloppy about things like this. Sam straightens the bed up, tugging and tucking the sheets in roughly.
He's nearly done when there's the distinctive click of the door at the bottom of the stairs being closed.
Breathless, heart suddenly pounding, Sam nearly runs down the stairs. The doorknob won't turn, not even locked, just stuck, cool metal slipping through his fist. There's someone just there, in the kitchen. The old floorboards creak under their feet.
Sam sinks down onto a stair, paralyzed, listening with every quivering bit of nerve.
They, whoever, moves from the sink to the table and back again. Pacing.
Wind whistles under the door. No, not wind. Words. Soft and shifting in a way that makes it seem like they're not really there at all.
"I don't like this. I don't like this. Jamie? I don't like this."
Sam finds himself leaning forward to hear, hands clutching the step beneath him.
"I don't like this, Jamie. I don't like it. I don't."
Hand trembling, Sam reaches for the doorknob again. The metal is cool in his hand and he twists it hard.
The door flies open.
Sam is not very proud of the screechy noise he makes, especially since Dean is there to witness it.
"What the hell are you doing?" Dean gawks at him.
"I…I…" Sam gives up on the words and tries to see past Dean into the kitchen.
Sam realizes how much he's shaking when Dean's steady hands grasp his shoulders and pull him up.
"C'mon, dude. What the hell?"
"I…I think this house is haunted."
Dean gets them settled on the couch and hands Sam a glass of water. "I'm pretty sure I'd know if we were living in a haunted house," he tells Sam.
Sam gulps down some water. "I'm not making it up."
"I know, I know. I'm just thinking. I haven't seen anything and Dad hasn't said anything." He shrugs. "Sorry, but I'd kind of like some proof, you know, see it with my own eyes."
Sam actually looks at him then, realizes he looks just the same as when he left. "What happened with your 'appointment'?"
"Aileman didn't show. Waste of a night anyway. I think we're going to go again Friday." Dean sits up straight. "Hey, you're not worrying about this are you? Worrying about school or something?"
"I'm not having stress-induced hallucinations, if that's what you're asking."
"Yeah, huh. That's what I was asking." Dean slouches back into the couch, chewing on his lip. "I'll check it out if you want, Sam. I just, I really don't think…"
"It's fine." Sam sets the glass of water on the coffee table. "We're not staying here anyway, right?"
"Yeah. Dad's looking into some stuff. Thinks maybe it's some kind of serial killer, instead of a demon. He thinks he's got a different angle on it. Maybe he can tip someone off."
"So, it might be awhile?"
"Maybe. Maybe not."
Sam slouches back next to Dean. He glances around the living room, dim, sparsely furnished. Dingy, but normal. He'd like to think he would know if a house was haunted, too, on instinct alone. He doesn't trust himself, though. Considers that maybe all the big, empty, dark spaces of the house are freaking him out after all.
"Hey, have you been sleeping okay?" Dean rolls his head to face him.
"Yeah." Sam shrugs.
"No sleepwalking? Nightmares?"
"Hallucinations?" Sam asks dryly.
"Yeah, sorry." Dean sighs. "I didn't mean it like that. Been having some whoppers myself." He's quiet for a long moment and Sam turns his head to see him. "Keep dreaming I can't breathe," he says. "What do you think that means?"
Sam stares at him, shakes his head slowly. "I don't know…I don't know."
At school the following day, Sam skips lunch and goes to the library. On the county registrar's website there are housing records. He finds their house, currently listed under the landlord's name. Before that, three years prior, a Mr. James Mathews owned the house.
Sam stares at the name.
They have a ghost.
John's actually home when Sam gets home that afternoon. He's seated at the kitchen table, papers spread out before him, speaking roughly into the phone. Sam goes and puts his things down and then comes back to sit across the table from him.
John talks for a while into the phone about locations and victims. Sam listens to the sound of his voice under the words, gruff but polite, droning on.
When he hangs up, he focuses on Sam expectantly. "Yeah?"
"I think this house is haunted," Sam says in one rushed exhale.
"That's funny, Sam." John turns his attention to his papers, picks out a list of addresses.
"I'm…I'm serious. There's weird noises and stuff moves…" He trails off, watching as John bends over to dig through his bag. He pulls out the EMF, sets it on the edge of the table and flicks it on.
John raises an eyebrow.
"Well, okay, maybe not right this second, but something's here."
"I'm working on it."
John sighs and shrugs, an okay, whatever gesture. "You think there's a malevolent spirit here. Go ahead. Knock yourself out."
"It's not malevolent. It's not bad…I don't think."
"So, what would you do about it, then?"
Sam hadn't really thought about that. "Let it move on. Let him move on."
"So, it's a him?"
Sam nods. "Yeah, that's what it sounds like."
"You've talked to it?"
Sam doesn't appreciate that his father looks so amused. He lets his gaze fall to the table. "Not really, but I've heard him. A couple times."
"Alright. Okay." John nods, rubs at his jaw. "Write it up for me." He holds Sam's eye. "Make it fact."
"Okay." Sam nods, slipping out of his chair. "I can do that."
It's easy once he sits down in front of a computer. James Mathews turns up hundreds of results. News of the house being sold comes first. And then, so easy it seems too much so, there are articles on top of articles about James Mathews and the death of his cousin, Ryan Mathews.
Sam skims through a few of them, but the general facts are the same.
James had been Ryan's legal guardian. Even after he'd turned eighteen, Ryan had stayed with James there, in the house, until his death at the age of twenty-three. No sign of break in. No sign of struggle. Yet, Ryan Mathews had been murdered in his own bed, while James slept peacefully below on the first floor.
The upstairs bedroom. Sam wonders why his Dad hadn't looked into this, though it's not like he could be expected to research every place they moved into.
James had sold the house shortly after and moved out of state.
Though some suspects were identified, the ID of the murderer had never been found.
Sam prints out the pages and tucks them into his backpack.
John's not home when Sam gets there, but his papers are still spread out across the table and Sam takes that to mean he'll be back soon.
He wanders upstairs, out of curiosity or fear or the need for certainty, maybe. Leans back against the wall in the hall and slides down to the floor. And waits.
It's not the most time-effective method, but a true summoning seems like overkill. Here, in their own house, its shared space. There doesn't seem a need to call Ryan up or force him out.
The sun slants through the windows and slides lower. Shadows grow longer and deeper in the corners of the hall.
Sam rests his chin on his bent knees and imagines that another person is there with him. He closes his eyes and pictures the hall and the room, the various furniture, where he sits and then where Ryan might be, how tall, how heavy. Imagines the creaking pop the floor makes when a person moves across it.
When he opens his eyes, the light in the bedroom is on. It's hard to tell at first, and Sam thinks that maybe the sun has just hit the right angle, but when he gets up to look, the pillow from the bed is halfway across the room, lying in front of the window.
No sign of a struggle.
He was in bed, sleeping.
It was quiet. It was fast.
Sam looks at the pillow again. He only knows of one way to kill somebody with it.
The front door slams downstairs. Sam hears the distinctive shuffle of his father's boots across the floor. He looks at the pillow, thinks about the light and what it proves. In his father's eyes, probably nothing.
Sam fixes the room and hurries down the steps.
John stands by the sink, Styrofoam cup of coffee in hand. "Hey, Sam," he drawls. "How was school?"
"Fine." Sam answers without thinking and straightens his shoulders. "I got some proof for you."
"Here." Sam moves over to the table and sits down. After a moment, John shuffles over to join him. Sam pulls out the best article he could find and lays it on top. "Ryan Mathews was murdered in this house three years ago." He waits a beat. "In your bedroom."
John's eyes flicker up to meet his, before dropping to the paper in front of him.
Sam watches the trail of his eyes, back and forth across the page. "The pillow in your room moves. I think he was smothered."
"Keep dreaming I can't breathe…what do you think that means?"
Sam shakes his head, rephrases himself. "I know it."
John puts the paper down. "Holy shit."
"I…I don't think it's that bad."
"Hang on, Sam." John holds up a hand to quiet him. "Let me look at this." He shuffles through the papers, eyes dark and focused.
John doesn't acknowledge the question, setting the papers aside to dig through his own stacks. "Ryan Mathews." He jabs a finger at a name on a page. "I've got him on my list."
"List of what?"
John's shuffling again, squinting at words. "Smothered, you think?"
Sam blinks at him. "Yeah, I mean, it's always the pillow that moves in your room, and it had to be quiet, and…and not…" He searches for a less gruesome word. "Messy?" He hesitates to share more, especially when John says nothing. And because he says nothing, Sam presses on. "Plus, Dean said…Dean said he was having dreams that he couldn't breathe and maybe, I don't know, that's kind of weird, so maybe he was picking up on the energy or something." Sam shrugs.
"No weapon," John mumbles, looking into the air over Sam's head. "It fits." He shakes his head, eyes sliding left and right over the walls and ceiling. "We're living here."
Sam shrugs, doesn't know what to say.
John focuses on his work again. He squints at a page. "Sam," he asks after a moment. "Were you messing with my stuff?"
Sam frowns. "No."
John holds up a sheet of notebook paper, names and addresses in fine black ink. A damp outline circles the last name. "Don't set your cups on my work."
"I didn't." Sam sits up straighter.
John frowns and looks at the page, hard, rubs at his jaw. "No weapon," he says again. He blinks, like he can't quite believe it. "I think that's our guy."
Sam leans forward, to see the name inside the circle. Rob Van Aileman.
"C'mon." John's on his feet and shrugging on his jacket. "Let's go. You can help."
Sam hurries to grab his own coat. "What about Dean?" he asks, trailing his father through the living room.
John spares him a glance over his shoulder. "Said he had an appointment."
Sam stops dead. "I think...I think it's with Aileman."
They're in an alley between two apartment complexes. Dean's bleeding, but so is Aileman.
The sun cuts out like flipping a switch as they slide into the shadows along the wall. Sam watches his father move further into the alley, separated from Dean by a bulky, blue dumpster.
Dean throws a right hook that rocks Aileman's jaw and Sam is reminded that this is supposedly fun for him. Dean, who neurotically believes that he will never lose, even when he does.
Aileman bobs and weaves like a pro and comes back with his own hook that splatters the blood from Dean's nose and gets John moving.
John motions for Sam to stay put and draws a weapon from inside his jacket.
It goes fast. Later, Sam will realize John had only been carrying a little pocket pistol, and had never been worried at all. But, when he jumps out from behind the dumpster and Dean jumps in surprise, Aileman gets in a sucker shot. Dean falls and John literally, jerks.
Aileman comes at John like it's nothing at all, and it isn't, not for John. One, two, three and Rob Van Aileman is out for the count on the muddy cement.
Sam and John stand Dean up between them.
John says, "You know you were fighting' a serial killer?"
"What?" Dean mumbles woozily. "That guy?"
"No other. Your little brother figured it out."
"Yep." John nods, leading them out of the mouth of the alley.
As they step out onto the sidewalk and into the sun, John flips Sam a quarter and gestures to a pay phone at the end of the block. "You want to call in the tip, champ?"
Sam catches the quarter in one hand and smiling, goes to make the call.
At the house that night, everything is quiet. Nothing moves, no voices, no sounds. There is peace.
John sleeps on the couch, boots hanging over one end.
Sam and Dean roll out sleeping bags on the floor.
They move out the next day.