A/N:Thanks to On-A-Dare for a lovely and helpful beta. These boys are not mine, alas.
They have stayed in any number of places like this, crap motels in crap towns, but Dean thinks that the Castle Inn in Grimm Woods, Pennsylvania, ranks among the crappiest. He can't vouch for that, because it's not like he actually remembers individual motels, or towns, not really, there are just too many of them.
He remembers cases, ties them to place names, knows that it was a ghost in St. George, a werewolf in Catoosa, a really bad idea to pick up that waitress in Kerhonkson. But he couldn't begin to tell you which of those places hosted the World Grits Festival, which claimed the World's Largest Garden Gnome, and which had the World's Most Garish Motel Room Wallpaper. (That last was unofficially awarded by Sam, who swore he could see the damn stuff in his sleep.)
But Dean's impression of the Castle Inn is that, even by their standards, this place is crap.
The bathroom is decorated in a grubby shade of what might have once upon a time been purple, but the water runs hot and clear. All Dean wants to do is shower off the ectoplasm, have a beer or two, eat his bodyweight in pizza, and collapse onto the lumpy mattress covered by the unpleasantly yellowed bedspread.
Not necessarily in that order.
And he probably should have been suspicious when Sam not only let him have the shower first, but insisted.
But instead, Dean's first indication that the shower-beer-pizza-sleep plan might have changed is when he come out of the bathroom, towel around his shoulders, wearing his last pair of clean jeans (and if ectoplasm stains don't come out, they're going to have to find time to shop soon). Sam is saying into the phone, "Fifteen minutes? Great. And where are you located again? Okay, thanks."
Dean tries to find a comfortable place on the bed, and then decides he doesn't care. His eyes are half-closed already when Sam says, "Hey, we've had pizza like three nights in a row, so I ordered Chinese. Should be ready in fifteen."
"Great," Dean says. "Wake me up when it gets here."
"They don't deliver," Sam says. "You'll have to go pick it up."
Sam gives him a seriously, now? look and stands, clothes and hair still plastered to his body with ectoplasm.
"So go after you shower," Dean says.
"Dude, it's less than a mile. Go to the end of the road, turn right, it's up ahead on the left. Wok Something. Or the Something Wok. And don't eat all the egg rolls before I get out," Sam says, and vanishes into the bathroom.
Dean lies there for another moment, then pulls a relatively clean shirt on, jams his feet into shoes, leaves his damp towel on Sam's bed, and trudges out to the Impala. Less than a mile, turn left, up ahead on the right. No sweat. Dean cranks up the music and goes.
Maybe it's that the music is good. Maybe it's that he's tired. Maybe it's just that when you're used to driving hundreds of miles at a clip, it's easy to forget just how short less than a mile really is. All Dean knows is that he's gone a hell of a lot more than a mile before he realizes it. And that there's nothing out here but trees.
He's about to turn around when a deer darts out in front of the Impala. Dean swerves, managing to avoid the deer, but he puts the car into the ditch. Just fucking great. He opens his cell phone, dials Sam, and gets an apologetic beep to tell him he has no coverage.
Just. Fucking. Great.
About 50 yards ahead, Dean can see what looks like a driveway, and without a lot of options, heads that way.
The yard is completely overgrown, and though the front door stands slightly ajar, it doesn't really look like anyone has been here for a while.
No answer. Dean lets himself in, shaking off a vague feeling of this is a bad idea, and tells himself that he's staying for exactly as long as it takes to find a phone and call Sam or find something he can use to get his baby back on the blacktop.
Except that he can't find either of those things. What he does find, eventually, in the very last room, is a woman with long red hair, lying across the bed.
At first he thinks she's dead, but if she is, she hasn't been for long. Death has a certain smell that he is regrettably familiar with, and it's missing from this room.
But she also doesn't appear to be breathing. He checks for a pulse and finds one, weak but there. He shakes her lightly, but that doesn't accomplish anything.
The not breathing is problematic. So is the fact that he can't exactly call for help, and letting her die would be a really shitty thing to do. Fortunately, Dean knows first aid in a way that would probably impress a combat medic who took up ambulance-driving after the war.
He's gotten through exactly one breath of CPR when her eyes snap open and she throws her arms around his neck. It's the closest he's come to having a heart attack since, well, that one time he had a heart attack.
"I knew you'd come for me!" she exclaims, drowning out his reaction ("Holy fuck!")
"What is your name?" she asks. He was expecting it to come out more Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?, but, hey, no complaints.
"I'm Dean, and I'm sorry to intrude, but I was looking for a phone—"
"Dean," she says, getting up off the bed, and damn if she doesn't manage to fucking twirl as she does. "I, of course, am Rose."
"Nice to meet you. Look, like I said—"
He stops when she giggles. She blushes a little, lets her hair fall to cover part of her face, and smiles at him. "You're even more handsome than I dreamed you would be," she says. Dean can't exactly fault her taste there, but he's also pretty sure she's crazy.
"Well, thank you," he says. "And I'm glad you seem to be all right, but I should probably be going."
"Oh, yes," she says, stepping uncomfortably close to him and opening alarmingly wide and blue eyes. "You'll take me to the castle now, won't you?"
Did the crazy chick just ask him to take her back to his motel? Because, well, yeah, she's hot, but he mentioned the part where she's crazy, right?
"Um, no," he says, but she already off and out the door, half-dancing down the hallway, and no way in hell is he leaving her alone anywhere near his car.
. . . which, impossibly, is parked in the driveway.
He knows, he fucking knows, that the car had been in the ditch. If she hadn't, he wouldn't have gotten out of it and walked to Lunatic Rose's house in the first place.
Rose has settled in the passenger seat already, and Dean has no idea what to do. Haul her out? That has assault charge written all over it. Do psych wards have drive thru windows? Maybe he should take her back to the motel and let Sam deal with this. It is, after all, all his fault.
Yes, that's what he'll do. He'll make Sammy deal with Rose.
He turns right at the end of the driveway, which should lead him back into town. Except that it doesn't. The forest just keeps going, getting deeper, and Rose just keeps talking and talking.
He almost doesn't see the figure sprawled across the road ahead in time, and he hates to think about what that grinding stop did to the Impala's brakes. "Sorry, baby," he says.
"It's all right," Rose says, climbing back up out of the floor. "I'm fine."
"Great," Dean says. "Wait here, okay," he adds, and goes to check the situation out.
There's no obvious wound, nothing that he can see lurking in the trees. Just a woman, lying in the road, one arm out-stretched, black hair fanned out around her. There's nothing else there at all, except an apple.
Dean drops back on his heels next to her, looking more closely for some indication of what happened. He turns her head slightly, so he can check her neck for a pulse, or fang marks, or something.
She chokes, sputters, and coughs out a small piece of apple. She sits up.
"You okay?" Dean asks.
"You saved me!" she cries, and Dean (who is a quick study sometimes), stands up before she can fling her arms around him. Not that it actually deters her; it just means that she winds up clinging to his knees instead of his neck.
"It, um, was no trouble," he says, a little afraid to move. "Happy to help."
"May I inquire as to the name of my champion?"
It takes Dean a moment to translate that into who are you?
"Dean," she says, her arms still around his legs. "I'm Blanche."
"How's about we get you up out of the road, Blanche?" he says, though his primary goal is to get use of his knees back.
"You are kindness itself," she says, and allows him to help her up. "Will you take me home now?"
Dean looks around at the vast expanse of nothing but trees. "I can give you a lift, sure. Back to town?"
Well it's not like he can just leave her there, now, is it?
Rose has gotten out of the car and arranged herself across the hood. It manages more to make the Impala look like a grand piano than to make Rose look like Tawny Kitaen, and Dean decides he's totally okay with that.
She slides off the hood when Dean gets there, and he has the oddest feeling she's planning to run into his arms or some shit like that, but then she spots Blanche, behind him.
Blanche spots Rose at the same moment.
"Who the hell is she?" they demand in almost perfect unison.
"Rose, this is Blanche. Blanche, Rose."
The silence that descends is icy. The only sound as they get back underway is the muffled crunch of apple as the Impala runs over it.
"I told Blanche I'd take her home," Dean says, mainly to say something.
"That's right, he did," Blanche says from the back seat. (She had lost the scramble for shotgun.)
"I am going to the castle with him," Rose says haughtily.
"She is?" Blanche asks.
"Well, I kind of think my brother might be able to help her with—"
"Oh, your brother," Blanche says. "She's going to meet your brother."
Rose's eyes narrow. "Older or younger?"
Blanche says something that sounds like, "The spare."
Which is in the trunk, and which Dean has no idea what has to do with anything. He would ask, but he doesn't really want to, and when he spots the first house he's seen since he left Rose's, it's a good enough reason not to. He pulls over, and hopes there's someone sane he can ask for directions.
There's a girl out in the garden, picking what looks like squash or some such shit. Dean leaves Rose and Blanche in the car and heads over. "Hey, excuse me," he calls, and she looks up. "Sorry to bother you," he continues, from his side of the gate, "but I'm really hoping you know the way back to town."
She leaves the basket of vegetables and comes over. "Of course," she says. She's pretty, even with the worn clothes, her blonde hair bright under its light layer of dust. "Go back the way you came, cross the river, turn left at the intersection, and the town should be right there."
"Great, thanks," Dean says. He wants to add It's so nice that you're not batshit insane like everyone else I've met today, but that probably won't go over so well. Instead he gives her his most charming smile, and says, "I'm Dean."
"Cindy," she says. "And you're welcome, Dean."
She starts back toward the garden, and he starts back toward the car and the problems that are Blanche and Rose. He stops, though, when he spots something in the tall grass along the fence. "Hey, Cindy," he calls, "is this yours?" He holds out the shimmery, glimmery high heeled shoe.
Her smile is radiant. "My shoe! You have my shoe!" She lets herself through the gate, and adds, horrifyingly, "It's you!" Dean finds himself embraced by a strange woman for the third time that day.
"Um, well, I'm glad you—" he begins, but cuts off when Blanche slams the car door.
"Back off, Cinderbitch," she says, shoving Dean and Cindy apart. "I saw him first!"
"Correction," Rose says, getting out of the car, too. "I saw him first."
"Well, obviously, he doesn't want either of you," Cindy says, "or he wouldn't have continued his quest."
"What the fuck is going on here?" Dean asks, but no one answers.
"He's mine," Rose says. "He woke me up."
"No, he's mine," Blanche says. "He saved me from the poisoned apple."
"Yeah, well, he brought me my shoe!" Cindy declares, brandishing it like a very shiny and wholly impractical weapon.
"Look, I'm sure you're all really great—" Dean says, trying to back towards the Impala.
Blanche takes hold of his left arm, and jerks him towards her. "He's mine."
"No, he's mine," Rose says, grabbing his other arm and yanking him towards her.
"He only wants you for his little brother," Blanche snaps. "And as for you—OW!" She lets go of Dean and stumbles back as Cindy whacks her with the shoe.
Cindy grabs the arm Blanche has let go of. Blanche drops down in the dirt and again grabs Dean around the legs.
They're all pulling now, an angry chorus of Mine! No, mine! all around him, and he swears to God he just heard the seams in his shirt start to rip.
"Let the fuck go of me!" he yells, but they don't listen, just go on pulling him this way and that.
"Dean," someone says, and it doesn't seem to be anyone here.
He's getting shaken, now, while being pulled and pushed and . . . if he gets ripped apart by three crazy hot chicks, Sammy is never going to let him hear the end of—
"Hey, Dean," Sam says.
"Hey, wake up, Sleeping Beauty," Sam says, and Dean opens his eyes to see his brother – hair matted with ectoplasm – and their dingy room at the Castle Inn.
"I'm awake," Dean says, sitting up. His hair is still wet from his shower, and the shirt the girls had been shredding is draped, undamaged, across the back of the chair.
"You okay, dude?" Sam asks.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Dinner here?"
"I called the Chinese place," Sam says. "Fifteen minutes. You'll have to pick it up—"
"Oh, hell no," Dean says.
Sam, almost into the bathroom for his shower, stops. "Excuse me?"
"Nothing," Dean says quickly. "Get cleaned up. You stink of ghost."
"See if I ever let you take the first shower again," he says. "And don't eat all the egg rolls before I'm out."
Dean waits until he hears the shower running, and then calls and cancels the dinner order, with some apology about his little brother being off his meds and making calls. Three minutes later, he has ordered pizza to be delivered to the room, and flopped back on the bed.
Sammy'll bitch about it, sure, but then he'll shut up and eat it.
As any good knight knows, sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor.