All Our Mothers (or Devil in the House of the Rising Son)
It took Dean two tries to get his key to unlock the motel room door, even though he'd figured out the first time they'd entered that you sort of had to jiggle and lift. He blamed the lapse on a lack of sleep and gave the heavy door a hard push when the tumblers finally clicked.
Sam's head lifted, half his face catching the swing of afternoon sun that spilled over Dean's shoulder. It lit the slump of Sam's spine, the forced easiness bricked under his lashes, and his covert attempt to gage Dean's mood.
Dean closed the door, sighed, rubbed his face and stepped over to his brother, stopping when his knees bumped the bed Sam was sitting on and his sleeve brushed Sam's elbow.
"There's not much more here than we had yesterday," Sam explained, cross-legged and bent over, notebook near his knee, pen in his hand. "And by not much, I mean nothing." Two long fingers popped as he stretched his hand to show Dean what he hadn't found. "Nothing that helps us, anyway."
Dean locked his knees against the bed and leaned forward. He saw copies of housing deeds and rental agreements, housing plans and a neighborhood street layout. "Tenant history?" he asked.
Dean sniffed. He caught Sam's shoulder in a joggling grip and gave his back a smooth pat. "Good thinking," he said tiredly. He stepped back and shrugged off his jacket, tossed it to the other bed and walked straight into the bathroom.
Sam followed. "Yeah," he said, hitching a shoulder against the doorjamb, voice breathy with frustration. "Good thinking except, there's just nothing. The house was built in 1917. Remodeled in 1952. Again in '84. Three residents died while living there: Two women, one man. None of them were violent deaths and none of them fit the description the boys gave us. And from what you found earlier, nothing remotely traumatic has happened in the house or even in the vicinity. No burial grounds, no wars, feuds, ritual sacrifice, rumors of evil covens… nothing."
Dean stooped over and splashed cold water on his face, sipping a palmful before turning off the faucet. He pressed his face into a blue towel as Sam stepped back to let him out.
"Okay," he said, dropping the towel on the nightstand. "It's not a former tenant, but it's gotta be something." He thumbed his forehead, added his index finger and pinched the skin between his eyes. "I mean, broken chairs, broken lamps." He dropped his hand, waving at Sam. "You smelled the ozone as well as I did. Hell, there were even residual cold spots in the bedroom and kitchen, and that was three days after the last reported sighting. Classic haunting."
Sam came forward, sitting across from him, loose limbed and open. The bedsprings sang bouncily under his weight. "I don't know, Dean, there's just nothing."
Dean picked up the courtesy motel pencil from the nightstand and tapped it against his knee. "Maybe something happened there that no one knows about. Something that didn't make the papers, or the history books."
Sam leaned back, stretched across the bed to snag his notebook. "I thought about that," he said as he sat back up. "While you were still at the library I was making phone calls—all the old tenants I could locate." He turned the notebook around, showed Dean the list. "None of them had any problems in that house. None of them heard weird noises, saw intruders, had phantom rats, bad electricity, or weird leaks."
Dean grunted, rubbing at his nose. A dull, weary throb persisted behind his eyes. "Alright, Research King, you have any ideas about what else it could be?"
Sam sighed, shoulders rolling forward. "I'm not saying it's not a haunting. I just can't tell where it's coming from."
Dean closed his mouth. He resumed the absent tapping of the pencil on his knee. "What if it's not the house?" he pulled. "What if it's the family? They've only lived there a year. It could be something haunting them."
"Right, but we asked, remember? Janine told us nothing like this has ever happened before. She said she had no idea why anyone would target them, dead or alive. Most recent deaths in the family were her grandmother, six months ago—heart failure—and her husband, a year and a half ago—work accident. Hardly vengeful spirit material. Besides, this all started only six weeks ago. If something's haunting the family, why now?"
Dean closed his eyes. He felt drained, like a vampire had fanged into him and sucked all his energy. He kicked his legs up and leaned back against the bed's dingy pillows. "Okay, six weeks ago, let's look at that. What happened six weeks ago?"
He heard Sam stand, heard his feet drag across the carpet, the click of his computer opening. "Your guess is as good as mine. We can ask Janine again, but I think we're going to get the same answer: Nothing."
Dean dug his fingers into his eyelids. Tiny blue sparks appeared in the blackness when he let go.
"You think whatever Caleb wants to tell us will help?" Sam asked.
Dean opened his eyes. The blue sparks stayed in his vision. "Maybe, but I don't want to sit around and wait for him to crack this for us. He's waiting to see if he can trust us and that may take awhile."
"You could ask him."
Dean looked across at his brother, noting his wary eyes and cautious expression. He sighed. "I could ask, but if I'm reading him right, he's not going to tell us until he's ready. We can't push him."
Sam dragged a finger over his eyebrow, looked out through the curtain and rocked back in his chair. A sliver of sun splashed onto his hair. "What if he's never ready to talk?" His eyes flashed furtively at Dean.
"Then we find other ways to figure this out."
Sam paused, opening his mouth like he wanted to say something. He closed his lips and nodded instead. He arched his spine and popped his neck to the side. Dean figured Sam had to have the neck-crick from hell after the way he'd zonked at the table.
Sam straightened and checked his watch. "Alright, we have a few hours yet." His eyes settled on Dean. "I'm going to check a few more things, but, you should…" He waved a hand in Dean's direction. "You should get some sleep." His voice soft with an edge of compassion Dean didn't want to think about. The same tone Sam used when he was four, tugging on Dean's sleeve and asking quietly, Why don't we have a mom?
Dean squinted back at Sam, thumbed his forehead more and, rubbed his eyes. "You sure? You didn't exactly get a full eight hours yourself."
"I got more than you," Sam shot. He smiled briefly, adding a nod. "I'm sure." He gestured at his computer, the books and stacks of papers. "I got this. You just…" He stopped himself, shook his head, darted his eyes at Dean then focused back on his computer. "Just get some sleep."
Dean gave Sam a sidelong glance, turned away and slumped back on his pillows. A moment later he flipped to his side and dragged his jacket over his face. He tried to pull Zeppelin into his mind, but it wouldn't come.
"You know," Sam said, a moment later, voice toeing around eggshells. "It's times like this I wish Dad were here. He'd have this figured out already."
Dean felt a prickle down his spine but didn't comment. He wasn't sure if Sam was waiting for him to or not and he didn't want to drag the jacket off his face to find out.
It was one of those things Sam just said sometimes. It could mean something or nothing, an awkward olive branch or another trap—the kind of trap Sam had laid out all over the place after Dad died. It felt out of place now, an odd statement, thrown like a blanket over Sam's earlier question about Mom, pressing down on Dean's head.
When Dean finally fell asleep, he dreamed of it, and her, watched her face overlay John's in his memories and it felt like betrayal. The space inside him that'd been hollow since he was four twisted a little, bending out of shape.
He dreamed of carrying Sam out of the house and no parent following them at all.
He dreamed of sitting next to his sleeping baby brother, late at night, two weeks after the fire, imagined his mother still with them, as he had back then, imagined her talking about angels and reaching out as if to touch their hair.
He dreamed of Caleb and Epper staring at Janine on the ceiling while her stomach bled out and flames licked around her. Caleb looked straight at Dean, closed his mouth tight and put his hands over his eyes. Stop, he whispered.
Dean woke, gasping jaggedly into Sam's rough shake.