Many thanks to Maygin and Vanessa for being such awesome betas! Nothing of Supernatural, or any cartoon characters are mine.
Chapter 1...Some Serious Coyote Kink Goin' On!
Twisting his upper half to the right, his legs out to the left, Dean Winchester barely missed having his head taken off by flying containers of Caramel Delight yogurt firing in rapid succession at his ear. Who the hell ate caramel flavored yogurt, or any yogurt for that matter? Even Sam didn't eat that crap. He certainly didn't peg construction workers as yogurt gobblers. Hitting the drywall behind him, the containers split open. Their thick, tan innards oozed down, leaving poo-colored streaks and stains in their wake. Dean cringed, huffed "Euuwww."
Throwing himself forward, Dean full body slammed the floor next to the corpse of one Abigail McCarol, dead embezzler, jilted mistress, and probably the yogurt freak, not to mention one pain-in-Dean's-ass pissed off spirit. After sleeping with the boss…he'd discarded her for some other sweet young thing…and when she'd gotten revenge by cleaning out his bank account…maybe don't sleep with your book keeper…he killed her. Charming couple. She'd then taken to tossing construction workers, prospective buyers, and anyone else on the site, right off the highest point she could find. The streets were getting littered up and splattered with messy body parts and blood. So as a favor to a friend of their father's, since they were in the neighborhood (give or take a state or two) he and Sam offered (were conned) to help.
Someday Dean was going to learn what voice mail was for.
"You were probably ugly too!" He shouted to the room.
The small refrigerator once containing the delightful caramel plastic-canned slime shimmied forward, rattling and shaking until its cord pulled free of the socket, careening toward Dean. He barely had time to cover his head before the contents of the appliance vomited all over him. The refrigerator door missed thwanking his head by a whole half inch.
"Missed me, with room to spare, bee-yotch." The sound of scrambling feet just beyond the wall drew Dean's attention. "You okay out there Sammy?" A muffled affirmative was cut short when Dean caught a glimpse of sets of gloves and magazines, flying in a nice attack formation, at what he presumed to be his younger brother.
The mushy sound of something Sam sized hitting the other side of the drywall immediately followed the sound of magazines being swatted to the floor, "Could you hurry up?!"
Rifling through the small bag around his shoulder, Dean's fingers grabbed the can of salt, cap off he let loose a spray of the white stuff over the dead woman's body. Digging in again, hand searching frantically, finally he yanked the bag around to his chest, so he could look inside. "What the—? Sam! Kerosene!"
"Wuuaa—" Sam appeared in the doorway, looking disheveled to say the least, hanging on to the flimsy door jam as something tried shoving him away.
Two sets of eyes fell on the canister of accelerant inches from Sam. In the fray it must have dropped out of Dean's bag. Sam sagged, rolled his eyes, and mumbled, "crap," under his breath. Hooking his foot around the door jam, he flung both outstretched arms at the canister. Grabbing it up and cranking back, Sam sent it flying. At the same instant Sam was sent flying in the opposite direction. Another grunted oommpppfff hit Dean's ears. " 'm okay." Sam answered before Dean could ask. The boy knew him so well.
The canister sailed in a high arc, aim true. Before he could dodge clear, it cracked against Dean's shoulder and dropped to his feet. Drawing in a deep breath and closing his eyes for just a second, chin pushed against his chest, Dean reached for the canister. If the spirit didn't do him in, his little brother surely would.
Shoving to his feet, Dean flipped the top off the canister and liberally dowsed the body. In the next instant he'd dug matches from his pocket, struck one, lit the remainder of the book on fire for good measure, and tossed it at the appropriately salted body. Arm over his eyes, Dean backed away as the flames lapped higher. Normally they wouldn't do this in such a public area, but this way the cheating scoundrel of a boss would be—hopefully—charged with murdering dear Abigail.
Dean sniggered at his own internal joke, backed away farther. The sounds of material scraping up a wall reached him, "Sammy?"
"Good." The rather hoarse reply, accompanied by a hearty groan, came from beyond the drywall.
A clicking, no, more like a rattling drew Dean's attention to the ceiling's lofty heights, or rather where the ceiling would be eventually. Some familiar sound sluiced through the thin pipes. He gazed up in wonder, mesmerized by how they jiggled, how the sprayer at the end sort of bounced. It was kind of cool. Barely having time to wonder what the whoosh was, his brain clicked in a split second too late.
Dean watched as water droplets spewed out of the sprinklers, hit him and bounced to the ground, merrily washing the few feet of flooring around him. Pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, chin dropped and tucked against his chest, Dean heaved a sigh, shook his head slightly and did the only thing that came to mind.
The sound of Sam scrambling to his feet then pounding toward the room, to Dean, came to an abrupt halt. Turning far enough to see his brother, Dean watched as Sam bolted through the door. He grabbed the jamb for balance, skidded to a halt, eyes trailing up, jaw falling down. His mouth twitched, turning to a face splitting grin. When laughter bubbled from the kid's chest he at least had the decency to quickly bring one hand up and cover said offensive mouth. Which didn't really impede the sound any. Finally giving up, Sam twisted around, pressed his spine against the door jamb, slid to the floor, cackling like a hyena on hallucinogens.
Dean shrugged and wiped water out of his eyes, which was futile, since more water poured from above to get in his eyes again. He was standing squarely under probably the only working fire sprinkler in the entire construction site. He heaved another long-suffering sigh and ground out between clenched teeth, "Sam."
At least the body wasn't being hosed down too.
Staggering to his feet, Sam gasped between fits of laughter, "I'll get you a towel." He then, wisely, disappeared from sight.
Dean was just nearing the stairs when he heard the water slow, trickle to a stop. Sam must have found the shut-off valve during his mission to retrieve a towel. He stepped clear of the building in time for the aforementioned towel to land over his head. The sound of his brother's voice, snickering, freaking giggling, was somewhere just to his right. "Thank you Sam."
"Uh huh." More swallowed chuckles. "Dean you gotta admit…"
Quirking an eyebrow, pulling the towel down, Dean turned to face Sam, looking him squarely in the eye, silently daring him to finish that statement.
"Umm….'kay…maybe not." Sam scratched at the back of his head, pulled his lips between his teeth, was unable to stop the rattle of his shoulders and fell into step beside Dean.
"Why do I do it Sam? Explain to me why I fall for it every freaking time? Why? Why? Why?" Dean toweled his hair off, wiped his face and hands, glancing sideways at Sam. "Why didn't you tell me you're hurt?" He didn't mean for the demand to sound quite as angry as it did.
Sam blinked at him with the wide-eyed innocent expression guaranteed to bring out Dean's big brother nurturing side, fingers reaching for a spot just above his eyebrow. "I—um—I uh, didn't—"
When Dean's hand clamped around Sam's chin, his brother immediately froze in place, offered him a lopsided grin and a small shrug. Taking the now wet towel, Dean gently dabbed at the cut on Sam's forehead.
"People Magazine." Sam grumbled, but was apparently too busy trying not to laugh to sulk. Small favors Dean reasoned.
"Keep that there, we'll put a bandage on it back at the motel." Dean started to his car again, Sam right beside him. "Why? I want to know why, an explanation?"
"I…um..I…I…I…" Sam shut his mouth fast when Dean's eyes skimmed over him again, offering another small smile and a one shoulder shrug. He obviously found the whole situation less offensive than did Dean. Just to prove it Sam finally found his voice, "It's just water, Dean."
The smoldering glare Dean leveled at him had Sam sidestepping away a few paces. Hungry grizzlies might have been stupid enough to mess with Dean when he was in this sort of mood, but his little brother was one smart kid. Sam sure wouldn't mess with him; Sam knew better. He'd patiently let Dean go on, get it out of his system. All the while he'd be storing up ammunition for whenever he decided chiding Dean was safe again.
At least Sam didn't eat Caramel Delight yogurt.
Pulling another towel from the trunk, and laying it carefully over the seat before slipping behind the Impala's wheel, Dean kept up his monologue. "I mean I fall for it every damn time. Some guy we never heard of that was Dad's best friend ever," Dean's voice rose mocking and squeaky, his head bounced side to side a few times, lips pulled up to a sneer for effect, making Sam choke down more fits of laughter. "Says he's got a problem, and we drive three…"
"One." Sam corrected.
Dean again challenged Sam with his expression, "STATES, three friggin' states all so I can—"
Sam's cell chirped happily. Dean growled. Shaking his head slightly, Sam pulled the phone from his pocket, flipped it open. "Hello? Hi!"
"Is that—what was his name anyway? If that's the guy, tell him I drowned during his friggin' routine salt and burn." Dean groused, started the car, pulled away from the building.
Waving one hand in Dean's direction, probably to shush him, Sam half turned so he faced the passenger side window more than he faced Dean. "How are you? Yeah, we're good…sure we can…"
"Oh, no we can't!" Dean shook an angry finger at Sam.
"Dean, it was just a little water."
"A little—I'm soaked!"
Pulling the phone away from his face, covering it with one hand Sam snapped out, "His name is Mike. It's not him. Now SHUT UP!"
Dean growled, louder this time.
Sam scrunched closer to his door when Dean's eyes slid in his direction, glaring for a few seconds. "Yeah, we'll be here till tomorrow. Sure, okay. Naw, he's fine, just having one of those days." Sam ended the call, stashed his phone in his pocket and ducked the soft punch Dean aimed at his head all in one move.
One of those days? Hell ya he was having one of those days. Problem was he had the feeling it was going to last a few more days, and that Sam was going to need to learn the fine art of using voice mail as well.
"Sam, quit screwing around." Dean's eyes left the road only long enough to give Sam a stern look.
"I'm not." Sam made sure his voice stayed at a lower pitch. Dean wasn't taking him seriously. Not that Sam could honestly blame him.
"Oh come on! First you make me sit a whole extra day in that rat hole of a motel waiting on those files to be delivered 'cause Bobby doesn't do email or fax. Then you try to convince me this shit is real?"
"Uh huh. Do you want to see the police reports?" Sam rifled through the files, dropping some of them to the car floor between his feet. "Listen to this one. An attorney decided to save money and do some repairs to his roof himself, seems he worked as a roofer while in school. To be safe he tied a rope around his waist, put it over the pitch of the roof, then tied it to the back of his SUV while he worked on the far side of the house. So he wouldn't slip off. Apparently his wife needed the vehicle, got in, never noticed the rope or him since he was on the opposite side of the house and drove away." He bit his lip to keep from chuckling.
"He go to Stanford?"
Sam ignored his brother and continued, "A week later a guy decided he wanted to try bungee jumping, but couldn't find anywhere to go, so rigged up his own jump site. Measured the distance from a train trestle to the ground…ah…" quickly turning a page, "…seventy feet below. Guess he couldn't find a proper length of rubber, so he tied a bunch of them together."
Dean started to snicker, wiped one hand over his face looking downright gleeful.
"Seems," Sam stifled a laugh, "that—uh—when he…jumped the cords stretched and he sort of went…"
"Dean that's—" Leaning his elbow against the car door, Sam pressed his thumb against his mouth, caught his breath and steadied his shoulders. "A few days later his neighbor was cleaning his gun, it…um…" Sam seriously had to concentrate to keep the giggle from his voice. "He for some reason used his lighter to look down the barrel."
"Oh now you're making that up. No one does that." Dean's eyes slipped to Sam long enough for him to nod vigorously.
He couldn't hold it in any longer, Sam burst out laughing. "Not twice they don't."
"Ohh..yeaah." Wiping his eyes with the heel of his free hand, Sam gasped for air. "Those were just for last month."
"This isn't a hunt. Bobby sent us to a town full of morons." Hitting the steering wheel with one hand, "Every time, fall for it every damn time. Mark my words, Sammy, this is the last time."
Ignoring the finger shaking in his face, "Uh-huh. Anyway, I think Bobby is onto something. Every one of the victims…"
"Vic—tims had a family, kids, and had recently adopted a pet from the local shelter. It's kids Dean."
"No. And so help me Sam, if you got Bobby to help you set up some stupid practical joke…"
"And puppies. Kids and puppies. Maybe a kitten or two, and a bunny. What if whatever this is starts going after the kids when it's done with the parents?"
"Bet the kids are too smart to fall for that crap."
"Dean, puppies and little kids. Dean?"
When his brother huffed some totally fake disgusted noise, Sam nestled further back into his seat, wriggling around to get comfortable. It was a dirty trick to pull on Dean, all the pleading he knew Dean would never, ever say no to. Being completely honest, Sam was curious, and he knew his brother was too, he'd given into the pleading too quickly not to be just a bit interested.
"Where we headed again?"
"Freaking peachy, Chuck."
Sam decided he didn't want to know why he was being called Chuck.
Dean's suspicions he'd been had were confirmed a few short minutes after passing the Welcome To Coyote Bluffs sign, shaped like a coyote of course. Sam had never quite been able to pull one over on him, even though Dean was man enough to let the kid think he did from time to time. Dean was no idiot, what Sam told him about the shelter, and the fact they'd been 'hired on' for a bit hadn't been included in anything Bobby sent along. You didn't just come up with that information online either.
Damn cell phones.
The simple fact remained. Bobby asked, and Sam seemed interested. It wasn't like they had much else to do just then anyway. The shelter was comprised of a few buildings joined together. The office was a modern day log cabin structure, a larger concrete building Dean took to be the kennel sprawled to the right. Sam cheerfully informed him there was a room in the back for them. Without giving much thought to what 'cover' Sam dreamt up for them, Dean slouched a bit as he trailed a few steps behind Sam.
Woods surrounded the structure; the parking lot to the side was dirt. The entire thing oozed peace and tranquility. Dean sighed when Sam turned and swept a critical gaze over him, straightened, gave Sam another more dramatic sigh. "What?"
"Do you have to look so…so…?"
"Thuggish?" Dean repeated. "Since when do I look thuggish?" He slapped at Sam's hands when they reached for Dean's jacket collar.
"Well, it's just you don't look very…" Sam's second attempt at flattening his brother's collar was a bit more successful.
"What?" Flipping his collar back up, Dean glared a warning at Sam, stalked passed him and up the stairs to the shelter office, this time Sam trailing him. Stopping just inside the door he watched Sam prowl the small office. "No one is home."
"Hello?" Turning in a circle, Sam held his arms out to his sides, shrugged slightly. "She said she'd be here."
Whatever reply Sam opened his mouth for was cut off when a door marked KENNEL opened, a short middle-age woman with short graying mouse brown hair burst into the room. "I'm so sorry, have you boys been waiting long, you're early, or maybe I'm late." She laughed, looking from one to the other. "I'm Marion Siegfried, and you must be—"
Padding behind Marion was a large, white dog, with endearingly floppy ears and mournful eyes that gave Sam's serious competition. The dog looked from one to the other, as if trying to decide. Moving closer to Dean, the creature dropped most of his hundred or so pounds onto Dean's feet, leaned against his legs and scratched hind foot against neck with enough power to nearly knock Dean off balance.
"Dude, seriously." Dean muttered. The dog turned mournful, now wide eyes on him, skittered sideways, coming to a stop against the desk. That earned him a reproachful look from Sam.
Sam stepped forward fast, "Yes, we are. Harriot. I'm Sam Harriot. This is my older brother, Dean Harriot."
Dean narrowed his eyes, leveling a stare at Sam, who shrugged a bit, then turned, following Marion to her desk. The dog—Phoenix, she informed them was his name—peeked around the desk at Sam, thumped his tail once or twice before resting head on paws. Marion spent a minute shuffling papers, then sighed, chuckled, giving them a sheepish look. "I'm sorry I've misplaced my notes. Tell me again why you're qualified for this. Do you know anything about kennel management?" She shoved a small plaque reading "Above all do no harm" to one side, in her search, narrowly avoiding knocking it off the desk.
"Oh, ma'am my brother knows everything…uh about kennels."
Dean smiled weakly; he knew more about bitches than he did kennels, semantics. He opened his mouth, but curiously Sam's voice came out.
"It's been his dream. See our parents were killed, they were keepers at a zoo, the tigers got out, it was tragic, and messy." Taking a few seconds, appearing to compose himself, Sam plunged on, words falling from his mouth in a rush. "Dean, my big brother here, he was in vet school at the time, and had to quit to take care of me." Sam's arm draped across Dean's shoulders.
"Nightmare." Dean muttered just loud enough for Sam to hear, blinked slowly, turning his head to look at Sam. The kid had a stupid grin plastered to his face. Obviously he'd lost his mind, with no hope of retrieval. Maybe Phoenix knows how to fetch.
"Really?" Marion brightened, attention completely on Dean now. He couldn't believe she was buying this load of bull.
"Yep…he's that kind of guy." To Sam's credit, when Dean's elbow connected with his ribs, he barely moved or grunted. "And I've been searching for a way to pay him back all these years."
"Ohio State," Sam piped up immediately.
"Does he talk?"
"Strong, silent type." This time Sam twisted deftly away from Dean's elbow, patting his chest with one hand.
Punching the air anemically, Dean turned on a halfhearted charming smile and grumbled out, "Go Bucks."
"There's an efficiency apartment in the back, behind this office, but with its own entrance. You can stay there. The food locker, the human one…" She laughed again, and really lady, that's not funny. "…is stocked with groceries, help yourself to anything. I'm afraid I can't pay much in the way of cash."
"That's okay, really, just being here, the experience, fulfilling my brother's life long dream…" Sam looked so sincere he almost had Dean convinced. Almost. Deciding it was a talent of some kind, Dean seriously considered knocking his brother out just to shut him up. He made a mental note; Sam never, ever got to come up with the cover story again. EVER.
Sam reached out, snatched their key from Marion before Dean could as much as inhale quickly. "Thank you so much, again." He backed toward the door. "We should get our stuff now." Pointing over his shoulder to the car waiting outside, beyond the door, Sam turned and sprinted down the steps.
"He's hyperactive." Dean shrugged, smiled, nodded and beat his retreat to their car. Pulling car keys from his pocket, opening the trunk, he gave Sam a sidelong glance. "Harriot?"
"Yeah," Sam grinned mischievously, "He was a writer, wrote—"
"James Harriot, I know what he wrote, there was a whole series of books, All Creatures Great and Small among others." Grinning himself over Sam's surprised expression, "What? I may be thuggish, but I've read a book or two." Pulling their weapons bag out, handing it over to Sam, "At least you picked a school with a decent football team."
"I did?" Sam brightened. "I did! Of course I did. I knew it'd be important to you." Nodding, "I did." Sam barely stopped long enough to inhale, turning suddenly serious and demanding. "When, Dean, when did you do all this reading? The whole time we were growing up I never remembered seeing you with a book that didn't have pictures of cars or naked chicks, so when?"
Resisting the urge to wipe that smug look right off Sam's face with the back of his hand, Dean quirked an eyebrow at his brother. "When you were at Stanford. I had to do something to alleviate the boredom when I wasn't hunting, or picking up women, ya know, between the orgies, since I didn't have my little brother around for entertainment. Tell me, Woody, what is Bucks short for?"
Sam seemed to have taken a sudden interest in the study of trees and their leaves.
"Okay, we do this, find whatever is killing people in the most moronic ways possible, end it, and move along. Agreed?"
Sam nodded enthusiastically, taking another duffel Dean hauled from the trunk.
"Vet school," Dean shook his head, leading the way around the building to the back entrance. "Thuggish. Come on Earle, at least you got us free room and board."
"Why can't you just call me Sam? Who are Chuck, and Woody and Earle?"
Grinning, but ignoring the question, Dean slid the key into the lock, twisted and pushed open the door. Taking a step in, his palm flattened to the wall, searching out the light switch. Having to turn back toward Sam to find it, flipping it up, the room was illuminated in a soft, cheerful glow. So was Sam's suddenly horrified expression. When the kid gasped, dropped his duffel, Dean spun on his toes, ready to face down whatever evil must have been coming at them. Hand firmly planted against Sam's chest now, Dean shoved him back a half step, completely startled when Sam moved without resistance.
Dean's own gasp left his mouth; his duffel dropped to the floor beside Sam's. Drawing in a deep breath, "Sammy, this is—"
"Hideous. And we've stayed in some real dives, but this…this!" Sam waved expansively at the room, stepping up to Dean's side.
"You'd think people who loved animals wouldn't stuff, preserve them, and hang them on the walls."
Directly opposite the door, mounted on the wall near the ceiling was a moose head. On either side of that were ducks. Two beds were shoved against the adjacent wall to the right. Over each was an elk head. The wall facing the beds sported a collection of smaller animal heads, bobcat, a wolf, raccoon, several large fish, with the head of a bear centered over the group, but high enough even Sam could sit at the table there without hitting his head on it.
Free standing in the middle of the room was a stuffed coyote, Dean wasn't surprised. Its lips pulled up in some sort of eternal, and frankly creepy, snarl. The tip of its tongue peaked out from a set of impressive teeth. The hair stood on end along its back, its legs positioned in what Dean supposed was meant to look as if it were walking.
"Curious choice of eyes for it." Sam's voice was barely above a whisper.
"That's just wrong, on so many levels." Bright, beady, eyes complete with small pupils and glowing bright yellow irises assessed the brothers. "Definitely, solve this case and get the hell gone. Maybe we can wrap it up and be gone tomorrow."
Sam nodded and swallowed, "Yeah." He shrugged a bit, "At least it's free, and not a Wendigo lair."
"Oh, yeah, that would be much worse." Dean rolled his eyes, tossed his duffel onto the nearest bed; they could always put salt rings around their beds.
"Who puts yellow beady eyes on a coyote anyway?" Dean wasn't whining, not at all, at least that's what he'd say if Sam called him on it. So Sam didn't call him on it, life was easier that way.
Shrugging, "I dunno. A taxidermist?" Sam pointed to a side street off the main drag, "That's the street."
"Twenty-two-seventeen, on your side." Sam twisted in his seat so he could see out the back window as Dean cruised slowly beyond the house, found a parking spot near the end of the street and cut the engine. Vaguely registering the sound of Dean's door opening, his brother shifting around to get out of the car, Sam jumped when Dean's fingers tapped his shoulder.
"Sam, what are you gawking…" Dean's voice trailed off as he turned to look in the direction Sam's eyes fixated on. "Sweet Jesus! That's—"
"Awful." Sam finished.
Nestled between two houses, only visible once they'd driven beyond the house was a large stone fountain in the shape of two coyotes. One had water squirting from its nose to land in a bowl formed by the head of the facing canine. They were reared up on hind legs to box one another with front paws.
"Freaks." Dean grumbled. Sam was inclined to agree.
As they walked up the street, toward the house, Sam took in the neighborhood, could see by the expression on Dean's face he was doing the same, and with pretty much the same mental results. The bizarre coyote statue wasn't the only thing on the street paying homage to the small canine critter. Several houses had flags with a likeness of a coyote dangling from their front porches. Two, including the house they headed for had coyote shaped address numbers. The six was sort of obscene, Sam decided. One house had a stained glass front window—snout raised skyward, coyote, howling of course.
"It seems the good town of Coyote Bluffs takes their coyotes seriously." Dean gave him a sidelong glance and chuckled. His fingers reached for the bell next to the front door, hand yanked away as soon as the chime sounded. "What the—?"
Sam was speechless, literally. Instead of a soft, cheery bell, their arrival was announced by the howling of a coyote. Shrugging at Dean, he'd barely recovered when the door opened. Offering up what he hoped was a sufficiently sympathetic smile, "Mrs. Hayes?"
The woman nodded, her strawberry blonde hair moving across her shoulders. Her face had the bloated from exhaustion look to it, skin pale. Eyes as green as his brother's met his, but they had none of Dean's spark, life to them. She radiated sadness, Sam immediately felt sorry for her. Genuinely, completely sorry for her. "I…um…my name's Sam Harriot, this is my brother, Dean." He felt Dean shift next to him, knowing his brother nodded to the woman. "We just started over at the shelter, and Marion asked us to come by, make sure you're okay."
That was pretty much all it took. Grabbing onto Sam's jacket the woman yanked him inside, he hardly had the opportunity to fling a desperate look at Dean, who sort of smirked at him, and wandered casually along after them, grumbling something sounding suspiciously like 'thuggish.' A small sausage shaped dog wiggled first around his feet, then headed for Dean's, getting a few pats from each man. Through a window on the far side of the house, Sam saw two children playing in the yard. Twenty minutes later, and barely a word in edgewise, Sam had gotten the whole story of how her husband, experienced in the handling of firearms managed to blow his face off while cleaning one of his prized weapons. She supposed the six pack of beer he'd drunk earlier might have contributed to his carelessness.
The entire time Dean seemed to pay little attention, looking at pictures, moving casually about the room. He lingered for a bit at the mural covering one wall, a pleasant desert scene complete with coyotes. Sam knew better, Dean was getting every word she said, probably picking up on more than Sam was, storing it away for further sorting and use later. It sort of creeped him out, how Dean did that, seemed oblivious and ended up knowing twice the details as anyone else in the room.
Just as they were leaving, Dean picked up a small, stuffy toy in the shape of a coyote, with a collar around its neck. He tossed the toy for the dog, who scurried after it, prancing back a moment later, proud of her 'catch.'
Once the door was shut, as they made their way down the steps, to the sidewalk Dean leaned over, whispered to Sam, "The stuffed toy was from the shelter."
"How do you know that?"
"The collar around its neck had the shelter name printed on it."
The second house wasn't nearly as informative. The woman there mostly just sobbed on Sam's shoulder, leaving a large wet patch on his jacket. Dean wandered the house, then the yard, coming up with the same information as they had at the first one. Less than a week after their pet, in this case a large orange cat that sat and stared a little too calmly at Sam the entire time, was brought home, the family's father met with his untimely and rather ridiculous end. Leaving after about a half an hour, Sam sidestepped the large cat with the calm eyes and twitching tail, feeling stupid at the wave of relief slipping through him when he was standing safely beside Dean again. The third house they visited produced pretty much the same bits of information. The front door of that house had outlines of coyotes burnt into the wood. As they left Dean snagged a toy off the floor, standing behind the woman Sam spoke to, waggling the toy so Sam had a good view of it. Coyote.
"These people have a serious coyote kink going on. But don't you think it's odd the house of every victim has one of those stuffed toys?"
"Yeah, serious kink." Dean agreed, "It's like the whole town is a cult. There're coyotes everywhere. I don't know if the toys mean anything."
"What do you know about cults? Oh, wait read a book while I was at Stanford?"
"Naaa…they showed a movie on it at Ohio State." Unlocking the car door for Sam before heading to the driver's side, "Maybe there's something to it?"
Sam rolled his eyes, folding into the car. "I think you're right about these people being abnormally careless. But a cult? " He shrugged.
"It's a bit freaky, you got to admit that. Maybe it's not a cult, and maybe not attack of the vengeful stuffy toys, but maybe something." Dean sat, fingers of his right hand hooked around the keys in the ignition, not moving, staring out the window.
"The car runs better if you turn that thingy you put the keys in." Sam motioned to the ignition, then poked Dean's side.
"I was thinking."
"Ooohhh…don't hurt anything." Sam slid down in his seat, head leaning back, he stared up at the roof of the car. Fingers laced together, hands resting in his lap, twirling his thumbs over one another. He started to whistle.
"That's so annoying."
"Hmm?" Sam turned, arched an eyebrow for a second at his brother, resumed staring at the ceiling of the car, whistling.
"Could you at least do that in tune, actually whistle a song?"
Shaking his head side to side, indicating No, Sam smirked, making it difficult to whistle. He ignored Dean moving around, reaching under the front seat for something, probably food related. A second later his mouth was stuffed full of something fuzzy, foul smelling and tasted like—yuck! It was slightly damp, and nasty, and—Sam pulled it away, stared at it.
"You stuffed a sock in my mouth?!" Why did his voice crack when he least wanted it to?
"No, Sammy, I stuffed one of my worn, dirty socks in your mouth." Dean ducked as the sock hit the window beside him, slid down between the seat and the door.
"I don't know what's worse, you have that under the seat or you stuck it over my face."
"If you'd stopped whistling…"
"You mean like this?" Sam whistled, then threw one arm out to stop his tumble to the floor between the seat and dash. "Dean!"
Snickering…freaking snickering! Dean started the car, put it in gear and did a U-turn at a higher rate of speed than Sam thought really necessary. "Thirsty? Hungry? We passed a little eatery on the way here. My treat."
"We have free food back at the shelter."
"Eh, Sammy but we don't have all the potential information. Where as stopping by to have a bite, a drink, we can get information too." Dean grinned at him until Sam glared and pointed out the front window. "What? There are no other cars around."
Sam started to whistle, immediately the car swerved wildly, tossing him into the passenger door. Dean tapped his thumbs merrily against the steering wheel, stealing a sidelong glance in Sam's direction. Not giving Dean the satisfaction of thinking he'd won, Sam huffed, folded his arms over his chest and glared out his window. It was sorta difficult to beat the guy driving the car.
"Sam, we've been in some interesting places but this, this is just…"
"Tacky." Sam finished his sentence, which was starting to make Dean feel slightly uneasy. Sam did that way too well. It was unnatural."What?"
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Like what?" Dean found an empty booth, slid in, Sam across the table from him.
"Like there's something wrong with me."
"Because there is something wrong with you. Stop finishing everything I start to say."
Sam grinned, then chuckled. "I've been doing that since I was six and you've just now noticed?"
"Whatever." Dean puffed out a breath. "Just stop it." He pulled two menus from the holder tucked against the wall, shoved one across to Sam.
"I could whistle." Sam offered.
"No wonder everything wants to strangle you."
Glancing up because Sam had gone uncharacteristically quiet and still, Dean wondered for a second if something had swiped him right out of the booth. Nope, Sam, right there where Dean left him. Except he was staring wide-eyed at the menu. Wondering what hidden sigils Sam might have found on the menu, Dean took a closer look at his. At first glance it just seemed an ordinary menu, the same one they saw in diners all over the country.
"Dean, this is, I don't, I mean—"
"What?" Dean squinted at the menu. "Sam it's just…ohh…eeuuwww. Coyote shaped—? Call me dull and old fashioned but I like my French toast square."
Sam reached across, finger tapping the other side of the opened menu. "Check out the burger section."
Straightening, pulling away from the table, Dean slammed the menu down on the table. "That's just—"
"Wrong. You don't think they really…?"
Dean opened his mouth to respond, but a distinctly feminine voice was what he heard.
A glass of water appeared in front of each of them. "What can I get you boys?"
Without thinking about it, and apparently Sam didn't either, they both chimed in together. "Chicken salad sandwich."
"You sure neither of you wants to try our—"
"No." Again Sam's voice joined Dean's. Turning a warm smile in her direction, he added, "No thanks. Had the worst craving for chicken salad all day, both of us. Um…Bru…" Dean wasn't sure he was reading her name tag correctly.
"Yes, Bruce. My name is Bruce. Daddy wanted boys."
"He certainly didn't get one," Sam mumbled, then shot Dean a glare, retaliating Dean's kick to his shins with one of his own.
Bruce may have had a boy's name, but she was anything but. Long, wavy brown hair was pulled back. She had dark, deep brown eyes and possibly the longest legs Dean had ever seen on a girl. Long, muscular, shapely legs.
"Awww, well aren't you just the sweetest thing." Bruce reached out and tapped Sam's shoulder with her pencil. Watching the blush spread from somewhere around his ears to completely under his shirt collar was entertaining, as always. "You boys here long?"
"We're working at the shelter for a bit," Sam offered.
"See, I was right, you are just the sweetest thing." Bruce seemed far more interested in offering up comments on Sam's sweetness than any information Dean tried prying out of her.
Once their food arrived, Dean waited until his brother had a big mouthful of chicken salad and was unable to argue. Reaching across the table, Dean thumped the top of Sam's head, producing the expected indignant muffled squawk. "Whu dat fr?" Sam nearly choked trying to sound pissed off and chew at the same time.
"You big, dumb doofus. She did everything but take off her clothes and climb on your lap. Do you bother to use that to garner maybe a bit or two of information that might help us? Noooooo."
Sam blinked and gulped down his food. "She said she didn't know anything."
"How old are you? How long have you been doing this? They never know anything until we point out they do. Oh, and not to mention you might have gotten laid for once. You get girls in bed, they talk Sam. They never shut up." Holding up two fingers, "Two birds, one stone."
"Apparently once you're fed, neither do you." Sam wadded a piece of the paper placemat into a small ball, swirled it around on his tongue for a few seconds and stuck it in his straw. He blew out, grinning when the bit of spit covered paper bounced off the end of Dean's nose. "That was for the sock."
Dean shoved the key in the lock, twisted away from Sam's finger poking his side, which annoyed Sam even more. Having to back down the stairs quick to avoid Dean's elbow under his ribs, Sam got one final shove with his shoulder against his brother's back just as the door decided to open.Dean grumbled then growled, tripped over his own feet, and staggered into the room, dropping gracelessly onto the bed.
"Very funny Sam."
Sam's smile turned to full blown laughter when Dean leveled a seriously treacherous stare at the stuffed coyote. The coyote, completely unbothered by his brother the big, bad hunter, simply stared back in silence. When Dean's eyes drifted to Sam, he licked one finger, making a hash mark in the air. "Dude, you got beat in a staring contest by a stuffed, dead thing."
"I don't have staring contests with anything, dead or alive." Pushing off the bed, Dean seemed unable to resist hooking his foot around Sam's ankle, tugging with enough force Sam stumbled into the wall. "I need a shower."
Sam didn't miss, as he settled at the table, arranging notes and laptop to do some work, the warm glint in Dean's eyes, his fond smile. Sam knew his brother mourned the loss of a childhood for each of them. It hurt Dean more Sam didn't get the chance to be a kid much. Being able to goof off, just be brothers and mess with one another, made Dean happy. Sam felt good when he made Dean happy, even if it was something as simple as shooting spit wads and exchanging pokes and prods.
Engrossed in a far more abundant amount of information in Bobby's files and his internet sources than what they'd gotten from the town itself, Sam barely paid attention to Dean when he wandered from the bathroom. Peripherally he registered the sounds of Dean in the room, his humming, hopping on one foot to pull socks on, toweling his hair then throwing the towel at the bathroom. Whether or not the towel hit the bathroom Sam had no idea, would find out later when he headed in that direction.
It took Sam's brain, content and relaxed, deep inside his world of research, a few seconds to realize the Dean part of the room was suddenly still and quiet. Looking up, Sam wasn't sure what he was looking for, why relaxed became at once anxious. He glanced around the small apartment, eyes finally landing on his brother. Sam sighed, relieved, the sudden onslaught of tenseness oozed out as quickly as it slithered in. It was almost immediately replaced with curiosity, then mirth.
Dean stood in the middle of the room, coffee cup in hand, held at waist height, clad in nothing but a pair of sweat pants. Damp rolled down the side of Dean's neck, over his arms and chest, but he seemed totally oblivious. "You are ugleeee." Dean was talking to the stuffed coyote.
"I think I found something."
"It's watching me." Dean glared at the stuffed coyote, it stared back.
"You're standing in front of it, and it's not WATCHINGyou, it's just aimed in your direction."
Sidestepping, Dean never took his eyes off the thing. "It's watching me, it moved. Wile E's eyes are following me."
"He's—it's not." Sam's head dropped until his chin bounced off his chest.
Circling the thing, Dean pointed, finger shaking at the coyote. "Did you see that? It moved. The head moved, the lips twitched."
"Dean," deep sigh, be patient, "it…did…not…move. Now do you want to hear what I found or not?"
Pointing a finger at the coyote, "Don't mess with me."
"Dean! It's dead."
"When has being dead ever stopped anything before?"
"Will you LISTEN?!" Sam turned the laptop to get Dean's attention focused off the stupid coyote. "You were right, I think."
"You think? Of course I was right. I'm always right." Dean's eyes went from the coyote to Sam and back again. "Um…'bout what?"
"The coyote stuffy toys. There are legends, mythology, from nearly every American Indian culture, and some Meso and South American ones too about a lesser demon, a trickster that disguises itself as a—" Sam cleared his throat, tried not looking at their stuffed friend. "As a, um, coyote." This time Sam's gaze slipped along with Dean's to 'their' coyote. Wile E stood in stoic silence.
"Okay, so we hit the library tomorrow, check out the land's history." Shifting from one foot to the other, Dean edged closer to Sam, glanced over his shoulder at the laptop screen. "Maybe we are dealing with the attack of the vengeful stuffy toys? Freaky town and their freaky weird coyote fetish. It's like some freaky club. Ya know, when I get my hands on the genius who put yellow eyes on that ugly, ratty piece of road kill, I'm going to beat him. Who puts yellow eyes on a stuffed animal? That's just…"
"Asking for it." Sam couldn't help the grin. "The coyote toys are the only common denominator so far." Standing, clasping his hands high over his head, Sam stretched. "You hunt around for more info for a bit. I'm taking a shower."
Twenty minutes later Sam exited the bathroom to a mostly dark main room. Dean had apparently given up with the computer, shut it down and gone to bed, leaving the small light in the kitchenette on. Clicking it off on his way by, Sam bounced onto his own bed. It had been a long day. Kicking the blankets and sheet back, wriggling his legs under them, he pulled them up, plumped the pillow a few times and settled in for the night.
Opening one eye, what was that noise? Sam ventured a glance at Wile E. "Imagination." He muttered to the dark room, the thing's eyes were NOT glow-in-the-dark. They weren't. Nope not even close. A sliver of light moved just inside the reach of his vision, too fast to focus on. Did something move? Dean. It was Dean, just rolling over. Sam lurched to his side, back to the stuffed coyote. Something moved. He could feel its eyes boring into him. It's not watching me. He just knew if he turned to look he'd see it had turned. Nothing moved. Just Dean and me in here. Was no longer aimed away from the beds, but staring right at him. No, it's not!Huffing a breath, he was being silly; it was a stuffed animal, a glorified toy, not a flipping vampire. Pushing up on his arms Sam slugged his pillow, admittedly harder than necessary.
Not the pillow's fault. He gave the pillow another shove, darn thing just wasn't comfortable. Rolling to his other side, facing Dean's bed. See Wile E is right where he was all along. The pillow got another hit. Something moved, I know it. Sam's eyes skimmed the room. For a split second yellow glinted from the coyote. Yanking the useless pillow out from under his head, he pushed his nose against the mattress. Yeah, this is comfortable, will get a dandy night's sleep this way. He burrowed under the stupid, too hard pillow, hands covering his head.
Sam nearly jumped out of his skin when a deep voice rumbled through the room at him.
"It's just a dead, stuffed thing, Sammy." Dean didn't even try to keep the smirk off his face, or the snicker out of his voice. He bit back an honest laugh when Sam jumped nearly high enough to clear the bed at the sound of his voice.
"Not funny!" Sam snapped. He flipped over again, beat the poor, innocent pillow against the bed, and pulled the sheet and blanket over his head. If he kept that up, he'd kill the pillow and the bed before the night was through.
"Will you stop thrashing around like a gargantuan guppy that jumped out of its water bowl?"
"I am NOT a guppy." Sam squirmed around under the blankets imitating some kind of over grown worble looking to lay eggs and chew its way to freedom.
"Fine, gold fish, tadpole, black eyed molly, neon tetra, pick whatever you want, just lay still and GO TO SLEEP!" Dean actually felt his blood pressure rise.
Sam grumbled, mostly into the mattress. "It's your fault." Then he growled some completely unintelligible sound, tossed his entire body around to land on his stomach (which was a pretty impressive move), hit the pillow again. Dean was quite certain the words damn, bastard, insensitive and something obscene were mixed up in that sound, probably accompanied by a rather rude gesture hidden by the fact Sam's hands were under the obviously highly offensive, and much abused pillow.
Heaving a sigh, Dean knew defeat when it whapped him over the head. Tossing back his own bed covers, shivering slightly at the chill assaulting him, he gave his warm, comfortable bed a wistful glance before marching across the room. "This is why I never let you watch scary movies when you were a kid."
Yanking Sam's button down shirt from the back of the chair where it'd been neatly hung, Dean flung it over Wile E's head. The shirt was large enough to cover most the coyote. The quick intake of breath heralded another protest from Sam, he was sure. So he cut it off before it could start. "Shut it."
Slamming himself around again, making the bed creak from side to side, Sam snorted, then huffed, snorted louder, but didn't further comment. Dean resettled in his bed. He'd been out of it long enough the nice warm spot he'd created was gone. Now he had to start over. "G'night Sammy." It was a huge accomplishment, keeping the sarcasm from his words.
"Rank—oo." The pillow was talking to him.
Dean grinned, rolled on his side, propped up on one elbow. "What was that Sammy? Speak up, didn't hear you."
Flopping onto his back with such force Dean wondered how it was possible Sam didn't pull a muscle, he jerked the pillow out from behind his head, dropped it to his middle, heaved a considerable sigh. "I said," he cleared his throat, coughed. "Um, I was saying…"
"You're welcome." Lying back down, "Now go to sleep." Dean pulled the blankets closer, letting his body heat re-create a warm cocoon to sleep in. The night was pleasant; they'd left the windows cracked. Crickets chirped, lulling him. Drifting in that twilight place between sleep and awake, Dean's body relaxed, muscles loose, warm, he was comfortable. Moonlight filtered through the window, the gentle breeze rustled through the trees outside.
Everything was quiet, peaceful, perfect for a good night's sleep.
Dean's brain oozed farther to slumber, then slammed awake with such force he had to think to figure out where he was. The abrupt movement from the general direction of his brother's bed brought the dark world into focus immediately. Tensing, assessing the situation, moving nothing but his eyes, Dean readied for attack. Squinting, he drew a deep, calming breath, pushed up onto his elbows, taking a few seconds for the picture before him to make sense.
Sam sat bolt upright, fingers of both hands drumming the bed on either side of his legs impatiently. Bathed in moonlight, he was scowling at his shirt, and presumably the stuffed coyote underneath.
Tossing his arms in the air, letting them drop on either side of him, Dean ground out, "Oh for the love of—Sam it's STUFFED!"
Turning nothing but his head Sam scowled at Dean for a few beats, then his face softened to more of a pout. Picking at the blanket edge with one hand, Sam looked at him, pulled one corner of his mouth up, let it drop just as fast, looked down at his knees, wiggled his toes under the blanket, looked back at Dean, then up at the bear head on the wall. When his eyes slipped in Dean's direction again, Sam sighed softly, almost inaudibly.
Dean could just wait until his brother unraveled the blanket, but then he'd have to give Sam his, and he'd be cold again. Grumbling, he dramatically threw off his blanket, grabbed his boots, yanked them on and stalked across the room. Wrapping both arms around the coyote's middle, Dean snarled, "Outside you go with the rest of the vermin."
"Dean, my shir—"
The glare Dean leveled at Sam stopped his voice, made him slouch down a bit, blinking like a chastised five-year-old. He blew out a breath, making his bangs flop around.
Wile E didn't budge. Dean yanked, grunted, "Damn, stupid, freaking thing, come loose!" Groaned…nothing, not so much as a nano-inch of movement. Sam turned into a flurry of activity, out of bed, shoes on, out the door, leaving Dean to tangle with the stupid, creepy, stuffed, bolted-to-the-floor coyote. How nice. When a crow bar appeared under his nose Dean looked up.
Sam smiled, "Maybe this will work?"
"Maybe." Nodding. "Yeah, I think so. You push from that side, I'll pull on it."
Sliding the crowbar end between the coyote's base and the floor, Sam grouched and puffed, leaning his weight down against the tool. Creaking and groaning, with Sam pushing down on the crowbar, and Dean pulling up on the stuffed statue, it took no more than a few minutes for it to come free. Dean staggered back a few steps, regaining his balance, grinning broadly with the stuffed coyote clutched to his chest.
A few long strides, one good shot put toss and the coyote sailed out the door, across the steps, landing between them and the woods. Sam's shirt fluttered to rest at the bottom of the steps. Retrieving it, Dean balled it up, threw it at Sam's head. Catching it out of the air, Sam put it back over the chair, gave Dean a sheepish grin, eyes traveling around the room.
Sam stood at the end of his bed watching as Dean crossed the room. "Uh, Dean…um…" He looked down at his knees, bumping them against the mattress.
"Yeah, yeah, just can I go to sleep now?" Boots off Dean was back in bed, finding the warm little bubble under the blankets. Releasing a deep sigh, Dean began to drift, soothed into slumber by the soft sounds of his brother's breathing and laying still. He was almost there, and…
"Get your own goddamn drink of water."
"Did you hear that? Outside?"
"There's nothing outside." Dean swallowed the rather insistent impulse to beat his brother into unconsciousness.
"Dude, there's always something outside." Sam's whisper was urgent, and not very quiet.
Dean's tongue ran around the outside of his teeth, then he gritted his teeth. Maybe being an only child wouldn't be such a bad thing after all? He'd never have to share his milk shakes, always have hot water in the shower, the laptop would be his, and he might just get some sleep at night. There were a lot of woods around here he could hide the body. Hell, no one would notice Sam was gone for months, maybe years if he played it right. Okay, Bobby might get suspicious, but if Dean was cool, did just right…
"Dean I swear to you, I heard something outside. In the bushes."
"Sammy, there is nothing out there that—where are you going?"
"To look outside." Sam had his shoes back on, was moving purposefully through the room, to the door.
"Goddamn, of all the stupid…after what he sees every damn day…freaking stuffed coyote…freaking freaky town with their cults, clubs, whatever…" Dean muttered, yanked his boots back on, stormed out the door.
Sam stood on the steps, glancing between Wile E on the ground and Dean. Stomping by Sam, down the steps, Dean stopped a few feet from Wile E, pointing. "It's right where it landed." The coyote was on its side, mounting board aimed skyward now.
"You threw it over there." Sam pointed to a spot ten or so feet away.
"No, I threw it right where it is." Rubbing the back of his neck, Dean's eyes went from one spot to the other. "I think."
"Whatever Sam." Crossing the damp ground, Dean grabbed up the coyote, swung it around and flung it as far into the woods as he could. "There, happy now?"
"No." Sam jogged down the steps, headed straight for the Impala. Trunk open, he dove inside, popped back up, smiling victoriously, holding a shovel like some prize for Dean to see. "Be right back."
"Where are you going? Sammy!"
A few mere steps behind Sam, by the time Dean caught up his brother had a respectable hole dug in the soft, moist soil. Dean dropped the coyote into the shallow grave, took Sam's shovel and filled the dirt over it. He beat the freshly moved earth a few times for good measure.
Ten minutes later Dean was once again in that warm, cozy spot not really awake, not really asleep. Blissfully there was nothing but quiet, soft breathing coming from the direction of Sam's bed. Just as he was about to succumb to the soft pillow, warm bed, tired body, he was wrenched back.
"Dean? You want something to drink?"
Dean's boot sailed in a perfect arc, flying true, hitting its target with a satisfactory whuummp. Which was followed by Sam's annoyed, "Owwww!"