Dish It Out
Disclaimer: Property of Kripke and co. Just borrowing for a little while.
Summary: Sam and Dean are roped into working a haunted house that other hunters have been forced to give up on. Post 4.14.
Like everyone else, I'm trying to work through my feelings about this season and where the boys are headed, so bear with me.
Sam sat up on the edge of the bed and stifled a groan. He'd been cooped up in the car all day yesterday and now spent the night on one of the hardest, most uncomfortable beds he could remember. As a result, his back was killing him this morning. The deal might have brought him back from the dead, but the bruising had taken a while to fade and he would always have an aching reminder of that night. He guessed dying was funny that way.
Normally it wasn't a problem, but it happened sometimes when he got too tired, or too stressed. The last few days, weeks really, qualified for both. Between Dean's admission of what had happened in hell, the brutal pace of case after case he'd set, and Sam's covert work with Ruby, he'd had precious little chance for a break. And that was before the siren blew their last bit of peace right out of the water.
Dean had just shut off the shower which meant Sam only had a couple of minutes left to himself. He got up and moved out from between the two beds. He stood up straight and then slowly bent to touch his toes, curling and stretching out his spine, trying to ease the discomfort. He stood up again, and then repeated the process, setting his hands flat against the floor.
"Dude, what's with the human pretzel routine?"
Sam snapped upright, feeling slightly light-headed at the sudden altitude change and annoyed that he hadn't heard Dean come out of the bathroom. His brother was standing in the doorway, a towel around his waist, steam billowing out of the bathroom around him.
"Sam?" Dean asked expectantly.
Dean knew about his back. There was no way he couldn't when they spent as much time together as they did. Still, Sam tried not to mention anything that brought back memories of Cold Oak and the two of them kneeling in the mud. He didn't complain to Dean about his back and he didn't let Dean catch him trying to work out the kinks, especially these days. Complaining about his back when his brother spent forty years in hell? Seemed kinda petty.
"Nothing, man. Just stretching. Mattress is crap."
"Back bothering ya again?"
Sam just shrugged. "S'ok."
Dean rolled his eyes and muttered, "He says while standing on his head." Dean walked to his duffle that was sitting against the wall and began rummaging through it. "Forgot my t-shirt," he said, explaining why he'd come out of the bathroom and caught Sam mid-stretch. He grabbed the shirt and disappeared into the bathroom.
Sam pursed his lips in chagrin. He really didn't know why he put any effort into hiding things from Dean. After all, he had angels snitching on him these days, and that was on top of Dean's natural inclination to watch him like a hawk. Dean had known about the calls to Ruby no matter how stealthy Sam had thought he was being.
Awkward didn't even begin to describe the current state of affairs. Sometimes he felt like nothing had changed between them since Dean's return, but more often than not, he felt like there was a huge gulf between them that couldn't be crossed no matter how much they might want to. Still, they were trying. They were both exhausted from trying to pretend that everything was ok between them. Maybe if they pretended long enough, it might actually happen. Then again, maybe not, but pretending was easier. It kept a lunch stop from turning into a shouting match or worse, a fist fight.
The door to the bathroom opened again and Dean reappeared, dressed this time. He padded out, barefoot, and threw his dirty clothes in the general direction of his duffle before stopping when he realized Sam was still standing in the exact same place he had been.
"You know, if you need the bathroom, you can just say so. You don't have to wait in line."
It was enough to jostle Sam back into movement. "Yeah. Sorry."
Dean gave him an odd look, walked back to his bag and pulled out a small bottle of pills. "Here." He threw them to Sam. "Maybe those will help with the personality problems."
"Don't need a personality," Sam grumbled. "Need a better mattress."
Dean snorted. "Well, we can't all be lucky enough to have a brand new birthday suit."
Sam froze in place. Before he knew that Dean remembered everything from his time in hell, he wouldn't have given the offhand comment another thought. Dean was always saying things like that. Sam might have made the comment himself. He knew better now though. He knew how much was hiding beneath his brother's composed exterior. Well, he didn't know, but he knew.
Sam forced an amused grimace. "Dean, can we not talk about your birthday suit? Ever?"
Dean raised an eyebrow. "You're just jealous. High price to pay, but like I keep tellin' ya, smooth as a baby's behind."
"Dude, it's too early for this. Seriously. And what would you know about a baby's behind anyway?"
Sam knew he was in trouble when Dean smirked. "You mean apart from your sorry ass? Dude, I got two words for you. Jumbo diapers. And just so you know, you were a bitch to potty train."
Sam just stopped and stared. Again. He'd lived through it, but it was nearly impossible for him to associate Dean the uber-bachelor with a boy who'd spent his early years making sure Sam got to a bathroom before he had an accident.
Dean scratched a hand through his still damp hair. "Besides… you've never had actual contact with a barber, but I'm pretty sure you get the general concept. Same thing."
It was Sam's turn to roll his eyes, but inwardly he smiled. It felt good to have Dean giving him a hard time, the kind without the yelling and the punching.
The door rattled as someone knocked, a little harder than necessary.
"We miss check-out or something?" Dean asked.
Sam glanced at the bedside clock. "Still have half an hour." He walked to the door and looked through the peephole. "Don't recognize him." Sam hopped back when the man banged on the door again, even harder.
"Geez," Dean said in annoyance. "Switch to decaf already."
"Definitely." Sam stepped to the side of the door and opened it a few inches. The man looked to be anywhere from forty to fifty, salt and pepper hair, dressed in slacks and button down shirt, and he had that pinched look people get when they've been stressed for too long. "Can I help you?" The breeze coming through the door reminded Sam that it was definitely still winter and that he was barefoot. At least he'd gone to bed wearing his sweats.
"I need to speak with you."
"Can this wait?" Sam asked.
"Please, I really need to talk to you." The guy actually put his hand on the door and tried to push it open, but the chain caught.
"Christo," Sam said, dropping the polite tone. Nothing happened other than the guy giving him a funny look. "What do you want?"
"Please, Sam, I need to talk to you."
That certainly got his attention, and he could almost feel Dean tense behind him.
"You sure you don't know this guy?" he heard Dean ask quietly.
"Let him in," Dean ordered.
Sam pushed the door closed against a huff of aggravation from the man outside, then took the chain off. The man immediately pushed the door open wide and barreled inside the room. He stopped short, however, when he saw Dean who had apparently located his gun at some point and was very calmly aiming it at the man's head.
"That's far enough," Dean said coldly.
The man paled visibly and Sam thought it served him right for messing up their morning. He closed the door and stepped to the side to make sure he was out of reach and definitely out of Dean's line of fire.
"Please, I…" The man swallowed nervously.
Dean kept the gun aimed steadily. "You were watching us in the diner across the road last night and now you're here pushing your way into our room. That's two strikes in my book."
Sam gave the man another once-over, but he still didn't recognize him. He certainly didn't remember him watching them at dinner the night before. Dean apparently had, however. If anything, Dean was even more vigilant since he'd come back. Sam didn't want to ponder just how much time Dean had spent in hell watching for new dangers.
The man appeared completely silenced by the gun in his face. He was just staring at it, thunderstruck.
"I don't know who you are," Dean snapped, "but you have about ten seconds to start talking."
"You're… D-Dean, right?"
"How do you know us?"
"I'm a teacher at North Lawton."
"The high school."
"Crap," Sam said suddenly, an image coming to mind of the man, ten years younger and without the gray in his hair. "I think he was one of my teachers."
Dean smirked. "We counting that as a third strike?"
"Dean." Sam shot him a quelling look as the man backed up, panicking. Dean dropped the gun and tucked it into his jeans at his back. He then looked down at his feet. "Hate threatening people barefoot," he muttered. "Lose all sense of authority."
"Sit down, Mr.…" Sam couldn't recall the man's name. He looked up at Dean who was rummaging in his bag again. "You remember him at all? We were only here a month or so."
"I got nothing," Dean said, holding up a pair of clean socks triumphantly. "I was outta school by then. Just dropped you off, picked you up, and that was it."
"Stockton," the guy said. He sat down heavily in a chair, his eyes still wide and glued to Dean, but he was calming now that the gun had been put away.
"What do you want, Mr. Stockton?" Sam asked. If he was remembering correctly, this guy had been one of those teachers who'd been a little too interested. A little too smart, a little too observant. He'd known something was off about their family.
"I…," he cleared his throat uncertainly, "I need your help."
Dean made a rolling gesture with his hand for the guy to move it along. He was impatient at the best of times and Sam could vouch that these… were not the best of times.
"When you were here… back then… I knew something was strange," Stockton explained. "I saw some of the books Sam carried, weird books, and I heard him talking to you a couple of times when you came to pick him up. Not much, just… enough to know you were looking into the deaths and thought it was something… crazy."
Dean just shrugged, but Sam nodded. It had been a long time ago, but he sort of remembered it. Poltergeist problem in some house that was for sale. People would come to look at the house and then die mysteriously. Finally killed a couple of realtors and a family looking at the house before the story made enough news to catch their dad's attention.
"That house was down the road from mine. I was up late one night and heard your car. I saw you," Stockton nodded to Dean, "and another guy, older, go into it. The next day, Sam was pulled out of school, but… no one else died after that."
"That's great," Dean said. He finished pulling his socks on and stood. "Nothing I like better than a little walk down memory lane. Glad to see you again. I'm sure Sam's thrilled." He pointed. "There's the door."
"Please," the man said, standing as well. "I need your help. My family… this has been going on for three years now. I've looked up other people, anyone who might be able to help. They say the house is haunted, but nobody has been able to do anything about it. I saw you two in the diner and I could barely believe it. It was like the answer was just handed to me on a…" He stopped abruptly, grimacing, although Sam didn't understand why. "Just… please…"
"Look, pal. We've got somewhere to be," Dean said, and they did. They were on their way to a possible haunting a couple of states over. "Maybe later… or maybe we can find someone who can help you."
"Please," the man pleaded. "I've been praying for someone to help us. We'd given up and then you two… just out of the blue. I could barely believe my eyes."
Dean shoulders sagged and he looked at Sam, their eyes meeting briefly. Finally Dean shook his head. "You've been praying, huh?"
Stockton frowned, confused, but he nodded. "Yes. It was the only thing I could think of left to do."
"He prayed for help," Dean said, almost to himself. Sam watched as he sighed and closed his eyes in defeat. "Well, crap."