Summary: Sam is injured during the hunt for a violent spirit on a university campus. When the injury screws with his memory, he and Dean are forced to use his own research to fill in the blanks to stop the spirit before it kills again.
Warnings: Mild cursing, one mildly suggestive scene and much whumpage on both sides of the Winchester fence.
Disclaimer: The characters of Sam and Dean Winchester and Jessica Moore and the TV show Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke. I am playing in his sandbox for fun, not profit. But what fun it is.
Author's Note: Takes place in Season 2, shortly after Born Under a Bad Sign. A huge thanks to my beta Ann for making this story better and the hand-holding when my muse and I were on the outs. I tweaked post-beta so any remaining mistakes are mine alone. This story was written for Musica Diabolos as part of a Live Journal fic exchange. She asked for a "case fic involving a violent spirit haunting the music building of a university campus...(that) should be about Season 2 era." More stories in the exchange are available at: fic exchange at community [dot] livejournal [dot] com [slash] summer_sam_love. Hope you enjoy!
Sam lifted his phone to his ear and shifted his knapsack to his shoulder as he shoved open the stairwell door and moved quickly down the stairs. "Hey. I had to go back 70-some years, but I know who the spirit is. And there's a lot more-"
"Where the hell are you?"
Sam frowned at Dean's terse response. "At the university library, where I said I'd be."
"I repeat, where? I walked through that place, all ten floors of it, three times looking for you."
"On the ninth floor – records room in the back." Sam swung around the railing at the first turn and jogged down the next flight of stairs. "You didn't get my text?"
"Text?" Dean was losing the battle to rein in his temper. "If I got your text, would I have taken three tours of that geek paradise?" He exhaled audibly. "No, I would've hauled your ass out of there two hours ago when you didn't show at the restaurant."
"Two hours…" Sam glanced at his watch. "Damn…why didn't you call me?"
"Oh, gee Sam, why didn't I think of that? Did you check your freaking messages?"
"Course I did. There weren't any."
"How's that possible? I left you like 12 of them."
"You know my phone's been acting up." Sam's jaw clenched when it clicked that he'd had to power up the phone to call Dean. "Crap. Now it's turning itself off, too. That means-"
"…it's time to get you a new one," Dean huffed. "Forget the phone: I asked every librarian in there, including one I swear is the Cryptkeeper's mother, if they'd seen you and got nothing but blank stares. You're slipping, Sammy; you usually make more of an impression."
"The librarian who showed me to the records room was just finishing her shift. Guess she forgot to tell anyone I was there." Sam's knapsack slipped off his shoulder as he rounded the corner at the seventh floor. He hitched it back in place as he moved down the next flight. "Then I started digging through the microfiche and…just lost track of time."
"Lost track…are you trying to give me another heart attack?"
"Not funny, Dean." Sam's stomach roiled at the memory of finding his brother unconscious in a puddle of water after he was electrocuted.
"Ditto with your disappearing act."
And there it was. Dean was reliving Sam's recent disappearance during his possession by Meg. Sam exhaled loudly. "Look, I'm sorry you were worried, okay? It was just, I dunno, the perfect storm of screw-ups."
"I swear, Sammy…" Dean's temper evaporated as quickly as it had flared now he knew Sam was safe. "But we're getting you a new damn phone – right after we get something to eat. I'm starving."
Sam smiled. When Dean was worrying about his stomach, they were good. "You pick the place. I'm buying."
"Damn right you are." Dean sounded puzzled. "Or maybe we get you the new phone first. You sound like you're standing inside a tin can."
Sam moved quickly down the stairs toward the fifth floor, taking in the echo of his footsteps bouncing off the concrete walls. "I think you can blame that on the stairwell."
"Why the hell are you taking the stairs?"
Sam turned the corner, heading for the fourth floor. "They just started working on the elevators. Some electrical glitch."
Dean snorted. "So that's why you're huffing like an eighty-year-old."
"Bite me." Sam frowned as traffic noise suddenly came over the phone behind Dean's voice. "Where are you?"
"By the main entrance. Left the car in a tow-away zone while I was trying to find your sorry ass. Lucky for you, it's still here."
Sam grinned. "What – the car, or my sorry ass?"
"You're a real comedian, Sam."
Sam grin faded. The Impala was home. The fact his brother had recklessly left it in a tow-away zone was a huge indication of how worried he'd been when he couldn't find Sam. Of course, if the car had been towed while Dean was looking for him, he'd be hearing about until he was ninety. "Stay where you are; I'll come to you."
The familiar creaking groan of the Impala's door being opened traveled over the phone. "How long's that gonna take?"
"Um…two minutes – tops."
Next came the throaty growl of the Chevy's engine as Dean turned the key in the ignition. "I'm timing you. Two minutes starts…now."
Sam rolled his eyes. "You get inside the music department?"
"Piece of cake. Put on a janitor's overalls and you can get in anywhere."
Sam made the turn toward the third floor. "Any signs of spirit activity?"
"Oh yeah." The sound of Zeppelin in the background disappeared as Dean turned down the volume. "There was residual EMF all over the building – in the theater where the two deaths occurred, in the rehearsal hall, the practice rooms, the studio, the lecture halls..."
"Makes sense that he likes to hang out there; Marcus Lee was a music student." Sam picked up his pace as he moved past the third floor landing and on toward the second.
"Marcus Lee? That's our spirit's name?"
"Yeah. What about the computer sciences building?"
"Definite traces of EMF on the roof where the third victim was pushed from." Dean exhaled in frustration. "Three attacks, three deaths, but in two different buildings – on opposite sides of campus. Witnesses in all three cases heard some kind of creepy-ass music before each attack, which suggests it's the same spook. But if it's this Marcus Lee, like you say, and he haunts the music department, how'd he cross campus to push a computer nerd off the roof? Not to mention why?"
Sam swung around the railing at the second floor. "First, the three deaths we're investigating are just the latest in a long series I can connect Marcus to, dating all the way back to the 1930s. The why is a little more complicated because his motive's getting more and more warped over time; the angrier he gets, the less justification he needs to attack.
"As for how he's moving around, I found the answer in an old campus map. It's not the music building itself he's tied to. It's–" He pulled up suddenly as the plaintive notes of a violin filled the stairwell.
"Sam?" Dean had obviously heard it too. "Please tell me you're walking past a student recital or something."
"Uh uh." The music was beautiful yet sinister, swirling around him, making it impossible to pinpoint the source. Sam froze when his breath suddenly clouded in front of him. "Oh, crap."
"What?" Dean's worried query was met by silence. "Sammy, don't you dare say 'crap' and then nothing. Is it the spirit?"
Sam swallowed as a figure began to materialize on the landing just below him. "Yeah."
"Son of a bitch." The comforting purr on the Impala's engine disappeared, followed quickly by the squeal of hinges as Dean opened the door, then slammed it shut. "Where are you – exactly?"
"East-side stairwell – half-way between the first and second floors."
Sam could hear the pounding of Dean's feet as he ran.
"Yeah. I-" The words were barely out of Sam's mouth when the form in front of him took shape.
Marcus Lee was about Sam's age and of average height. His dark hair, parted at the side and slicked back, suggested another era and he was formally dressed in white tie and tails. He glared up at Sam, his translucent form flickering softly, as he shook his head. "I have to stop them."
"Sammy?" Dean's breathing was fast and harsh as he sprinted toward his brother. "What's goin' on?"
"Little busy, Dean." Sam dropped the phone, the clatter echoing through the stairwell as it skittered down three steps, and slid his knapsack off his shoulder. He swallowed, raising a hand placatingly. "No, you have to stop, Marcus. These people…they didn't deserve to die."
The spirit's eyes flashed angrily. "I know what it's like to have my dreams stolen, my hopes crushed. I won't let these monsters do that to others."
Sam lowered his hand, reaching slowly for the small, sawed-off shotgun tucked inside the knapsack, all the while keeping his eyes glued to the spirit. "They're not monsters." As he pulled out the gun, pointed it and discarded the knapsack, all in one fluid move, the spirit flickered and disappeared. The haunting music vanished with him.
"Sam? Damn it, say something." Dean's frantic voice spilled out from the dropped phone.
Sam moved cautiously toward the landing, glancing around as he picked up the phone from the bottom step. "He's gone."
Dean's footsteps slowed slightly, but he kept running. "I didn't hear a shot."
Sam's eyebrow quirked. "Not such a bad thing, considering I'm in a library."
"Exactly, Sam. The library. How the hell did he get there? Dude moves around more than we do."
Sam tightened his grip on the gun; the air was still electrically charged, his breath still clouding as he exhaled. "This is where the-" He shuddered as the music started again.
Dean heard it too, picking up his pace as the strains of the violin filtered through the phone. "Sammy?"
A ghostly chill ran down Sam's spine. He spun around to find Marcus Lee standing right behind him.
Eyes reflecting decades of pent-up fury, the spirit reached up, clamped his hand around Sam's throat and slammed him into the wall, the concrete cracking with the impact. The apparition seemed to grow in size and strength with his anger, easily pinning the younger Winchester in place and lifting him so his feet barely touched the ground. Struggling to breathe, Sam dropped his phone but held tightly to his gun, clumsily wrestling it around so it pointed at – or through – the spirit.
As if sensing the threat, the spirit threw Sam sideways just as he pulled the trigger, the retort of the shot echoing through the stairwell as both ghost and the music disappeared.
Sam dropped hard, feet slipping out from under him as he pitched down the stairs. The shotgun flew from his grasp, hitting the floor, careening off the wall and disappearing around the corner. Sam's head smacked the edge of a step, leaving a smear of blood to mark the impact, while long legs tangled awkwardly in the vicious somersault. His arm caught in the metal railing, twisting cruelly before the force of the fall pulled it free. He tumbled again before landing heavily on his back at the base of the stairs.
Searing pain ripped through his head and his shoulder, fueling a guttural yell. His vision swam as the spirit flickered back into sight at the top of the stairs, the music a nauseating counterpoint to the pounding in Sam's head.
Marcus Lee glared down at Sam. "You won't stop me. No one will - because I have to stop them." And then he was gone.
Sam was vaguely aware of the door at the top of the stairs flying open and blurred figures rushing through before his eyes slid closed and he felt nothing.
Dean heard a sharp exhale and an all-too-familiar grunt of pain before the phone was dropped again.
There was no answer, but there was a gunshot.
Dean flinched, his heart slamming against his chest. He jammed his phone in his pocket, his run becoming a full-out sprint. "Two minutes," he chided himself as rounded the corner and tore down the brick sidewalk that ran along the east side of the library. "He's two freaking minutes away and something happens I can't stop."
Fuelled by adrenaline, Dean was at the entrance less than 40 seconds later. Through the glass door, he could see a student, a guy with dreads, a tie-dyed t-shirt, baggy shorts and sandals, looking down the stairs, a phone pressed to his ear.
Breathing heavily, Dean ran up the steps and yanked open the door in time to see the guy shake his head as he spoke into the phone.
"Not a clue, man. We were just leaving, heard this loud noise and found the guy out cold, doing some heavy duty bleeding. You need to get your paramedic asses over here and help him."
Dean's chest tightened as he followed the guy's line of sight down the stairs.
His brother lay at the bottom of the stairs, head lolling to one side, blood covering the right side of his face. Two girls, one blonde, one brunette, knelt on either side of him while a guy was crouched near his feet. The brunette was unzipping a gym bag, pulling out a towel, as Dean flew down the stairs.
The guy, sensing movement behind him, stood up quickly and moved to block Dean's path. "Show some respect, dude. Give the guy some space 'till the paramedics get here."
"He's my brother," Dean growled, shouldering past. The guy, an athletic type in golf shirt and khakis, quickly yielded, his expression turning from annoyed to sympathetic as Dean dropped to the floor at Sam's side.
The blonde moved back to make room for Dean, as the brunette pressed the towel to Sam's head. "We just found him like this." Her voice was calm, if a little shaky. "D.J. up there is calling 911."
"Thanks." Dean's hands were already ghosting over Sam, checking to make sure he was breathing.
"Ambulance is on the way," D.J. called down from the top of the stairs. "Said they'll be here in three minutes. I'm gonna stand outside, flag them down."
A crowd had started to gather at the top of the stairs, heads craning to see what was going on below. Golf shirt guy turned around, shaking his head. "Don't worry, I'll take care of crowd control." He turned and ran easily up the stairs. "Come on, guys. Keep moving, huh. Gotta keep the entrance clear for the paramedics."
Dean's focus was solely on his brother. Sam's breathing was regular although a slight hitch suggested, even unconscious, he was experiencing some level of pain. Dean's hand briefly brushed the brunette's as he moved the towel out of the way to inspect the jagged cut that ran from the center of Sam's forehead to his temple and up into his hairline; it was still bleeding heavily. Dean pressed the towel back in place and offered a tight smile to the pretty 20-something. "Keep that in place…gentle pressure."
Lifting Sam's eyelids, he scowled; the left responded to the light sluggishly but the right was fixed and dilated. Dean's scowl deepened as he took in the awkward angle of Sam's left arm; a quick check of his shoulder confirmed the joint was out of socket. He shook his head. "Damn it, Sammy. You bought yourself an ER run this time."
The blonde watched him work. "You a doctor?"
Dean snorted as his deft fingers checked Sam's neck and torso. "No. Just pays to know first aid in our line of work."
The brunette looked curious but didn't push for further explanation. "How bad is it?"
Dean had shifted to his left to check Sam's legs. "His shoulder's dislocated, that gash on his forehead is gonna need stitches, and odds are he's got a nasty concussion. And the longer he's out cold…" He exhaled loudly. "On the flip side, it doesn't look like there's any broken ribs or internal bleeding, and I think his legs are in one piece."
The brunette paled a little as she glanced at Sam's shoulder. "If his shoulder's dislocated, shouldn't you, you know, pop it back in?"
Dean shook his head. "Takes a lot of force. I won't put Sam through that until I know for sure there's no serious damage to his neck or back."
The blonde glanced between Sam and Dean, her pretty face creasing with worry. "Do you know what happened?"
Sure, a nasty-ass spirit shoved him down the stairs. Outwardly, Dean just shook his head. "Dunno. Was talking to him on the phone when I heard him fall." He glanced over at the brunette. "You got another towel in that gym bag? We need to cover him up, keep him warm."
"I've got one," the blonde answered, twisting toward two gym bags dropped at the base of the stairs. "Gary, my boyfriend," she gestured with her head to the jock at the top of the stairs, "he's got one, too." She quickly pulled a large, white towel from each bag and handed them to Dean. "We were on our way to the gym when we saw your brother. We tried-"
She said something else, words of reassurance most likely, but Dean wasn't listening. He unfolded the towels over Sam, tucked them around him, then sat back, subconsciously tightening the fingers of his left hand around his brother's wrist while scrubbing his right hand down his face. All afternoon, with Sam MIA, he'd had a knot in his gut, the terror of the week Meg had stolen from his brother – and stolen Sam from him – still way too recent, way too raw.
Sam was more than capable of taking care of himself – and Dean, if it came down to it. He knew that - and there was no-one Dean would rather have backing him up. But shit happened – and this was proof of that. Sam had had to face this spirit alone all because of a screwed-up phone and Dean being two minutes too far away.
He squeezed his brother's wrist. "This shouldn't have happened."
Sam groaned softly, eyes moving sluggishly behind closed lids.
"Sammy?" Dean leaned forward. "Come on, dude: wakey-wakey. Time to start giving me grief over my crappy bedside manner."
Sam's eyes slid open. His gaze was unfocused, the hazel of his right eye almost obscured by the blown-out pupil. "Dean?"
"Yeah. It's me." Dean's reassuring smile was solely for Sam's sake. "Keep still, alright? You did a real number on yourself but help's on the way."
Sam's gaze slid past Dean to the blonde looking worriedly over the elder Winchester's left shoulder. "Jess?"
She frowned. "No, it's Kim. I-"
"Look at me, Sam." Dean's worry ratcheted up another notch. He placed a hand on either side of Sam's face. "Do you know where you are?"
Sam's looked briefly at Dean before his gaze slid to the side. "Um…school…I…" His eyelids fluttered, then slid closed.
"Sammy?" Dean swallowed. Sam was out again.
Kim looked from Sam to Dean and back. "Who's Jess?"
"His girlfriend." Dean pressed his fingers against Sam's neck checking his pulse.
Kim pulled out her phone. "If you have a number, I could call her. I'm sure she'd-"
"She died." Dean's retort was far sharper than he intended.
"Oh, god." Kim lowered the phone. "I'm sorry, I-"
"You...kinda look like her," Dean mumbled by way of apology. "He-"
"Come on guys, let them through." Golf shirt dude's voice – Gary, that was his name – carried down the stairs as he gently pushed gawping students aside so two paramedics could work their way toward Sam.
The female paramedic who led the way smiled tightly as she reached the bottom of the stairs and moved to the left of Sam, opposite Dean. "Give us some room to work, okay?"
Kim scrambled to her feet immediately, backing toward the stairs. The brunette hesitated, reluctant to let go of the towel she held against Sam's head. Dean didn't budge.
The paramedic dropped to her knees beside the brunette, pressing a gloved hand down on the towel. "I've got it now. Thanks." The student nodded, pushed herself to her feet and moved off to stand beside Kim.
The paramedic, a 40-something woman with warm gray eyes, then turned her attention to Dean. "Sir, my partner really needs to get in there, he-"
"He's my brother." In Dean's mind, no further explanation was required.
She nodded, her examination of Sam already under way. "I'm Gabi, my partner's name is Greg. The best thing you can do for your brother right now is to let us do our job."
Dean stared at her a moment; there was something about her no-nonsense manner he trusted immediately. With another squeeze of Sam's wrist, he nodded, stood quickly and stepped back. Greg, a 30-something with the build of a linebacker, slid quickly into his place.
Gabi looked up at Dean. "Any allergies, any illnesses we should know about?"
Dean shook his head.
"Has he been drinking? Taking any drugs?"
"He was studying," Dean snapped. "Took the freaking stairs because they were working on the elevators."
Gabi's voice stayed calm. "Okay." She turned to her cellphone and began reporting Sam's vitals.
Greg glanced up the stairs. Dean followed his gaze and, for the first time, noticed a police officer standing on the landing looking down. "We need the litter and the backboard from the bus," the paramedic shouted. The cop nodded and disappeared outside.
Dean swallowed. Cop, Sam's gun – not a good combination. He glanced around, catching sight of the shotgun in the shadows near a radiator. If they were lucky, the kids had been so focused on Sam, they hadn't noticed the gun on the floor. He took a step back and surveyed the scene; he was out of sight of the crowd upstairs and all eyes downstairs were on Sam. He gave the shotgun a small kick and it slid under the radiator, out of sight. That would have to do for now. He'd come back for it later once he knew Sam was okay.
Dean turned back to his brother. The towel had been replaced by a bandage that covered much of the right side of his face. Gabi was fastening a cervical collar around Sam's neck while Greg was immobilizing Sam's left arm against his chest. When the cop returned with the requested items, Sam was strapped to the backboard, the backboard placed in the litter and blankets tucked around him.
Dean moved in, grabbing the edge of the litter, ready to help carry his brother up the stairs to the waiting ambulance. "Hang in there, Sammy. Everything's gonna be fine. Just fine."
Sam awoke with a yawn, stretched lazily and blinked his vision into focus. He scrubbed a hand over his face, wincing as calloused fingers raked the bruised skin of his forehead. Sun was streaming in through the window, the bright light further stoking his pounding headache. He groaned, burying his face in his pillow.
"That doesn't sound good."
He peeled open one eye and glanced up.
Jess, wearing nothing but a towel and a sympathetic smile, was standing at the side of the bed, holding up a glass of water and a bottle of Ibuprofen. "These might help."
Sam rolled onto his back, pulling himself up with another groan and slouching back against the headboard. He forced open his eyes and took the glass of water Jess offered. "Thanks."
Jess twisted the cap off the bottle and shook out three pills. She handed them to Sam, then sat down on the bed beside him. "You sure you don't want to go to the hospital?" She brushed his hair back, frowning at the deep cut that split the large welt on his forehead. "You really did a number on yourself."
"No hospital." Sam tossed back the pills, took a big gulp of water then placed the glass on the nightstand. He grinned sheepishly. "No serious damage, and the fewer people who know I walked into a doorframe, the better. If my brother was here, I'd never hear the end of it."
Jess leaned forward to kiss his bruised forehead, her long, wet hair tickling his bare chest. She smiled as she sat back. "I'd like to meet your brother."
Sam gently raked his fingers through her hair. "I'd like you to meet him, too. And you will, someday." He pulled Jess toward him for a long, slow kiss.
Her eyes twinkled as she slowly pulled away. "Someday it is. In the meantime, I need to teach you to duck."
Sam looked indignant. "This…" He tapped his forehead. "…is technically not my fault. See, there was the gorgeous blonde who distracted me. I was watching her instead of where I was going."
Jess's eyes flashed mischievously. "This blonde – anyone I should be worried about?"
"Absolutely." Sam crooked his finger at Jess, who leaned in closer, biting back a smile. "There's just something about her…I can't get her out of my head."
Jess slid a hand down his face, smiling seductively. "Well, there's only room for one blonde in this handsome, slightly-dented head, and you're looking at her." She twisted around and pulled herself up onto the bed, stretching out beside Sam, and hooking a long leg over his. Tucking her head under his chin, she slowly traced the outline of his six-pack with a slender finger. "Do I need to remind you, Mr. Winchester, exactly what you've got right under your nose?"
Sam nuzzled her hair and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer. "I think maybe you do. What did you have in mind?"
Jess tilted her head and grinned up at him, tugging open the top of her towel. "Oh, I dunno. I have an idea – or two."
Dean slumped in the well-worn vinyl chair, staring at his brother stretched out in the hospital bed.
Sam had been in and out of consciousness since they'd left the university. He'd come to briefly in the ambulance but, much like at the library, was confused and unable to focus. He'd then slept through most of the tests they'd put him through to confirm there was no damage to his neck or spine, no internal bleeding and to evaluate the extent of the injury to his shoulder.
Sam, being Sam, woke up just as they were about to pop his shoulder back in. He'd recognized Dean, knew he was in a hospital and mumbled something about his head feeling like 'a football after the Super Bowl' before they sedated him to re-set his shoulder. Thanks to that sedative, he'd also slept through the intern neatly stitching and bandaging his forehead. The rectangular gauze stretched from temple to the bridge of his nose, the bright white in stark contrast to the unruly brown hair that now obscured most of it.
Dean smiled. "They were gonna cut your hair, Sammy, but I talked them into using those girly clips to pin it back while they stitched you up." His smile widened into a grin. "And don't worry about missing it. I took lots of pictures."
Sam's left arm was strapped to his chest and the IV in the back of his right hand delivered mild painkillers, the doctors reluctant to give him anything stronger until he was conscious for more than a minute at a time and they were able to fully assess the extent of the head injury.
Since being moved to his own room, he'd woken up four or five times. The doctor had checked him over the first time, then advised Dean to keep asking him the same series of questions each time he came to and notify staff immediately if there was any variation in answers or any signs of increasing confusion. So far, Sam seemed lucid enough to understand the questions, but quickly fell back to sleep after three or four of them.
Dean leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees, his chin on his folded hands as he stared at Sam. His eyes widened in surprise as his brother smiled and groaned contentedly. "What's goin' on in there, huh?" Dean shook his head, biting back his own smile. "Your head must be pounding and I know what kind of grief that shoulder is giving you, but here you are smiling and making happy noises."
A quiet knock on the door drew his attention. He turned to see the brunette who'd helped Sam at the university standing there. She smiled shyly, walking hesitantly into the room. "I don't mean to bother you but, um," she held up Sam's knapsack, "this got left behind. Cops said I could bring it to you."
Dean pushed himself up, nodding as he took the knapsack from her. "Thanks, um-"
"Tia." She gestured to the knapsack. 'We found his phone, too. It's in there. I'm, uh, sorry it took so long to get it to you. I had night classes so, um-"
"Don't apologize. I owe you a big thanks for helping Sam. And thank your friends, too." Dean shook his head. "And tell the blonde – Kim? – I'm sorry I snapped at her. I-"
"It's okay." Tia smiled. "She knows you were just worried about your brother. It's easy to see you care a lot about him."
Dean glanced over at Sam. "He's all the family I've got." He cleared his throat, quickly growing uncomfortable with that kind of raw admission to a stranger. "Anyway – what you did for Sammy, it means a lot."
Tia gave a small shrug. "No thanks necessary. We just did what anyone would do."
Dean snorted. "You'd be surprised how many people would just stand there and gawk or walk on by."
Tia glanced over at Sam, her smile fading. "How's he doing?"
Dean dropped the knapsack beside his chair, looked over at Sam, then turned back to Tia. "Should be okay. We'll know better when he wakes up properly. He's kind of in and out of it right now."
Tia nodded. "I'll tell the others." She glanced down at the large Styrofoam cup in her left hand, offering it to Dean. "I, um, thought you might need a coffee. Didn't know how you take it so…" She fumbled one-handed inside her knapsack, pulling out a small paper bag. "…there's cream and sugar in here. Something to eat, too."
Dean took the items, giving Tia a genuine smile in return. "Thanks. When Sam wakes up, I'll make sure he knows everything you, all of you, did for him."
Tia nodded, starting to back out of the room. "I won't bother you any more." She glanced over at Sam. "I hope your brother wakes up soon."
Dean nodded. "Me too."
Tia disappeared down the hall and Dean sank back into his chair, dropping the paper bag on the floor. He was about to pop the lid from his coffee when his brother stirred, Sam's body tensing as consciousness returned.
Dean stood quickly, set the coffee on the bedside cabinet, and leaned over the safety rails. "Sammy? You in there?"
Sam peeled open his eyes. "Yeah."
"Reality check time: You know where you are?"
Sam squinted around the room. "Hospital."
"You know why you're here?"
Sam groaned as he shifted toward Dean. "Hurt."
"How 'bout we try for more than one-word answers, huh?" When Sam offered a watered-down version of his 'you're-pissing-me-off' look, Dean shrugged sympathetically. "Look, I know it's a pain, but you know the drill. Doc says we've gotta go through this every time you wake up for the next few hours. You wanna sit up before we go on?"
Sam nodded, and Dean pressed the button to raise the head of the bed.
"Okay, back to basics: you know who you are?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Course."
"I usually call you Sam, but whatever. What about me?"
Dean smiled at that one, but Sam scowled as he took in the sling immobilizing his left arm, then winced as the fingers of his right hand found the bandage on his forehead. "What the hell happened to me?"
Dean gently grabbed his hand and pulled it away from his head. "You tell me."
Sam screwed his eyes closed as he searched jumbled memories for the answer. "I, um, walked into a door frame at the restaurant with Jess."
Dean froze, fighting hard to hide icy panic behind a calm veneer.
"No…wait, that was while I was at Stanford." Sam looked up at Dean and frowned. "We're in Norfolk, hunting a spirit, right?"
"Right." Dean exhaled audibly. "One of the girls who helped you after you fell kinda looked like Jess; guess that got you dreaming about her, huh? You were making some pretty serious happy noises for a while there."
Sam shifted uncomfortably, a slight blush briefly coloring his cheeks. "You said I fell?"
Dean's grin faded. "In a manner of speaking. What do you remember?"
"Going for lunch with you, then…" Sam screwed his eyes closed and his breathing sped up. "Damn it, there's nothing."
Dean's jaw clenched. This was the first time Sam had been really awake; the first time Dean's questions had gone beyond the basics. "Okay, just relax and concentrate."
Sam's eyes widened as he frantically searched his memories for the answer. "Seriously, Dean, I don't remember…how I got here, what happened, what I was doing, what-"
"Okay, calm down. Look at me." Dean reached over the railing and clasped Sam's wrist, then waited for his brother to make eye contact.
He'd been where Sam was, more than once. Waking up and realizing you had huge gaps in your memory was a guaranteed freak out. For Sam, so soon after his possession, the effect was bound to be magnified. "You've got a concussion. You know that can screw with memories right around the time of the injury. That's all this is. There may be a few gaps, but I'll bet all the important stuff is still there. You know who you are, you remember me, you remember Jess, you remember what we do." He grinned. "What kind car do I drive?"
"First girl you kissed?"
Dean frowned. "Dude, you were, like, 16 when you met her."
Sam shot his brother a look. "How did I get hurt, Dean?"
Dean leaned forward, forearms resting on the bed's safety rails. "You were leaving the library when you had a close encounter with our spirit. I was talking to you on the phone but, from what I overheard, he tossed you down the stairs."
Sam swallowed. "I thought the spirit was haunting the music department."
Dean scrubbed a hand across the back of his neck. "Yeah, me too. But you said you'd figured out how he could be in the music department, the computer building and the library. You remember anything about that?"
Sam frowned, slowly shaking his head. "No. What did I tell you?"
Dean shrugged. "Not much. You were just getting to the good stuff when the spook showed up. You did say he was a music student named Marcus Lee, that you'd gone back 70 years…" Now it was Dean's turn to sort through his memories of the phone conversation for any relevant details. "You said a campus map had given you some of the answers you were looking for…oh, and that it wasn't the music building itself our spirit was tied to."
Sam's frown deepened. "What the hell does that mean?
Dean's eyebrows peaked. "Dude, I was doing an Olympic-calibre sprint at the time. Wasn't really grilling you for details. Until the spirit showed up, we were gonna hash all this out over a burger."
"Damn it." Sam dropped his head back onto his pillow, grimacing as he licked his lips.
Dean turned to the bedside cabinet, poured a cup of water and handed it to Sam, holding it steady until he was sure his brother had a solid hold. "Look, don't push it, alright? This has happened to both of us – way more often than it should. The memories usually come back in a couple of hours, a couple of days…"
"Sometimes not at all," Sam muttered.
"Hey." Dean waited until his brother's eyes slid toward him. "If they don't, no big deal. All you've forgotten is case details. We can dig those out again. Most important thing is you're gonna be okay."
Sam's jaw set stubbornly. "No, I wanna remember. Let's go over what we do know."
Dean exhaled slowly. "Why don't you get some sleep first, then-"
"No. Let's do it now."
"You stubborn…" Dean shook his head. "Whatever. But the next time I get clocked in the head and you keep telling me to rest, I'm gonna remind you of this, right here."
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, ignoring Dean. "First victim was a music student, a trombone player, tossed from the stage during a rehearsal. He fell into the orchestra pit and broke his neck. Second victim was studying to be an opera singer. She was pushed from the catwalk above the stage."
"Right." Dean stepped back, pulled up his chair and sat down. "And in both instances, witnesses think they saw a guy in a tux, but wouldn't swear to it because he disappeared so fast, and said they heard violin music."
Sam nodded. "But the third victim broke pattern. He was a computer science major, not a music student. He was pushed from the roof of the computer sciences building. He was alone but was having a phone conversation with his best friend, who remembers hearing violin music and the victim telling someone to 'Get the hell away,' even though police found no evidence a second person was on the roof."
"Not bad, Sammy." Dean smiled. "Your brain may have a few dings in it, but it's still running better than most."
"This is all stuff I knew before lunch." Sam took another sip of water. "How long have I been here, anyway?"
Dean checked his watch. "About seven hours. It's past midnight."
Sam's eyes slid closed. "Great. That means I've lost most of yesterday."
Dean leaned forward. "Let's try one piece at a time. When you called me from the library, you said you'd figured out how Marcus Lee's spirit was able to move between the different buildings. You remember how?"
Sam winced as he twisted to set his water cup on the bedside cabinet. "I don't even remember calling you, never mind what I told you."
Dean turned suddenly to stare at Sam's knapsack on the floor next to his chair. He picked it up and grinned at his brother. "You may be Amnesia Boy right now, but you're Mr. Anal when it comes to research. I bet all the answers are in here."
Sam frowned. "I was researching?"
Dean nodded. "You spent six hours at the library digging through records while I scoped out the music department and the computer sciences building." He glanced up at his brother as he unbuckled the knapsack. "Any bells ringing?"
Sam dropped his head back on the pillow. "The last thing I remember before waking up here is arguing with you over which restaurant to go to for lunch." He snorted. "I don't even remember who won."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Unfortunately for me, you did; picked this vegetarian place run by hippies." He pulled Sam's phone from the knapsack and placed it on the bedside cabinet, before grabbing a notebook and a sheaf of papers. "Which is why I'm freaking starving right now, by the way. Rabbit food does not fuel a grown man."
Sam rolled his head toward Dean, unable to hold back a yawn. "So give me my notes and go get something to eat. I'll be fine."
"Later." Dean dropped the notebook on the bed beside Sam then stared at the pile of papers. "I think this is why the spirit attacked you. Somehow it sensed you were a threat, were out to stop it…and had the ammunition to do it."
Sam rubbed his eyes. "Fat lot of good it does us if I don't remember."
Dean shook his head. "Oh, it's in here, Sammy. We just have to find it. We know the spirit's name is Marcus Lee, we know he was a music student, that he died in the 1930s and you connected him to a lot more deaths than the three we came here to investigate." He unfolded the sheaf of papers. "Now, let's see what else your geek self came up in a six-hour library marathon." He shuddered. "God, that gives me hives just saying it."
Sam's weak smile turned into another yawn as he looked at papers Dean held. "So what are they?"
Dean leafed through the stack. "Mostly photocopies of old newspaper articles and…" His eyebrows peaked as he stared at the plans in the middle of the pile. "Okay, you mentioned these on the phone, said something about an old campus map solving the riddle of how our phantom of the opera is able to move all over the place."
Sam winced as he shifted. "I said phantom of the opera?"
Dean frowned. "Work with me." He lay the first map on Sam's lap. "Okay, this is the campus circa 1935, and this is the campus circa 1995." He placed the second map next to the first. "Guess we're playing spot the difference."
"Well, here's one." Sam pointed to the new map. "This is where the music building is today but," he dragged his finger across to the old map, "in 1935 it was a farmer's field."
Dean studied the legend on the old map. "In 1935, the music faculty and concert hall were…here." He tapped the old map, then glanced at the new one. "And today, that would be…" he glanced back and forth between the two maps, "…right here." He checked the legend, read a brief description in the margin of the map, then grinned at Sam. "The old concert hall was demolished in 1950 to make way for, drum roll please, a new library and a business building."
Sam nodded. "And the business building…"
"…is now home to the computer geeks." Dean tapped the map. "And, get this: both new buildings feature architectural components salvaged from the concert hall."
"Which gives our spirit the means to wander at will through both." Sam rubbed his eyes as he stared at the maps. "But he was a music student, so he likes to hang out in the music department." He frowned. "How does he do that? More architectural salvage from the concert hall?"
"Don't think so." Dean picked up the maps and folded them, turning to put them back in Sam's knapsack. "Just before the spirit attacked, you were really starting to get your geek on, tell me what you found out, and you said what tied him to the music department wasn't the building. Any idea what you meant by that?"
He looked up when there was no response from Sam. His brother's head had lolled to the side and his eyes were closed. Dean smiled, pressing the button to lower the bed. He reached over the safety railing and gently squeezed Sam's shoulder. "Recharge your batteries, Sammy." He glanced at the sheaf of papers in his left hand and sighed. "Meanwhile, I'll try to figure out what you figured out."
Dean grabbed his now lukewarm coffee and settled into the bedside chair with the pile of photocopies and Sam's notebook. He popped the lid from the cup, gratefully inhaling the aroma as he took a sip, and began to read.
Dean glanced over at Sam, who had settled back into a restless sleep under the influence of a stronger painkiller the doctor had authorized on his last visit. The bruising spilling out from under the bandage on his forehead had darkened to vivid shades of blue, red and purple, but at least his breathing had evened out, the hitch that had punctuated each inhale when he first woke up now gone.
Dean's stomach rumbled noisily as he leaned over the arm of his chair to set his empty coffee cup on the floor. Spotting the brown paper bag, Dean suddenly remembered Tia saying something about food.
He opened the bag, pulled out a folded piece of notepaper, then grinned when he saw a large blueberry muffin nestled amongst the unused packets of cream and sugar. "Real food. Thank you, Tia."
Dean took a large bite of the muffin, glanced over at Sam and shook his head. "The next time I let you talk me into eating at a vegetarian restaurant, I need my head examined," he muttered with his mouth full. "Bowls made out of lettuce; who the hell does that? And tofu does not taste like chicken."
He glanced down, eyebrows peaking when he saw his name written on the slip of paper he'd pulled from the bag. His puzzled expression quickly became a grin as he read the message inside: 'Call me when your brother wakes up. Tia. 555-6498.'
"Dean, you sly dog," he chuckled. "Even when you're not trying, you've still got it." He pocketed the phone number, took another bite of muffin and returned his attention to Sam's research.
"Okay, let's find out who Marcus Lee is."
He'd skimmed the first few pages before the doctor showed up. His brother had been his usual thorough self. His notebook featured Cliff Notes versions of each of the articles he'd found, listing each victim's name, the date and location of the attack. It also included some kind of Sammy shorthand that Dean eventually figured out meant a witness to the attack had heard violin music, seen a ghostly figure, or both.
The attacks, anywhere from one to three a year and almost all officially listed as accidental, dated back to 1937, and a pattern had quickly emerged – each of the victims was a bully or a cheat.
One victim was a professor known for constantly demeaning his students, destroying their self-confidence and belief in their talent.
Another was a student who stole another's work and claimed it for his own.
Still another student had been accused of hiring local thugs to break the fingers of a rival just before a potentially career-making audition.
Dean looked up, startled by the distress in Sam's voice. He pushed himself up, dropped the notebook onto the bed and reached over the railing to squeeze Sam's arm. "Easy, Sammy. You're safe."
Sam's eyes were screwed shut, his head rolling restlessly across the pillow, the fingers of his right hand fisting in the blanket. Dean knew the signs all too well: nightmare. There had been more than a few since Sam's possession, much like in the days after Jessica's murder and Dad's death.
Dean placed his right hand on top of Sam's. "Let it go, Sammy. I want you to wake up, okay? I need some help here. I'm having a bitch of time reading your writing. Never mind a lawyer; you should have been a doctor."
Sam's eyes snapped open, slowly sliding into focus as he looked up at Dean.
Dean smiled. "That's it. Know where you are?"
Sam frowned. "Your writing sucks more than mine."
Dean rolled his eyes. "How 'bout we sit you up?"
As Dean hit the button to raise the head of the bed, Sam rubbed his eyes looking around the room. "Hospital, right?"
Dean snorted. "You're on a time delay, Sammy. Should I just wait for you to catch up or do we need to do the Q&A again?"
Dean's smile faded. "Seriously, you okay? You want me to call your doctor? You seem a little…fuzzy."
"No. M'okay. It's just…" He pinched the bridge of his nose, opening his eyes wide. "Oh, man. What the hell they give me?"
"They boosted your pain meds because your shoulder was giving you some grief." Dean studied him worriedly. "What just happened…was it a nightmare?"
"No, um…" Sam looked surprised. "It was a flash of me falling down the stairs."
"Looks like your memories are coming back." Dean tapped his fist on the bed's safety rails. "Anything else?"
Sam stared at Dean for a moment, then slowly shook his head. "Nope. Nothing new."
Dean poured fresh water into a cup and offered it to Sam, who took it, nodding his thanks. "Listen, I've been going over your notes about the case. Just getting to the good part. You want the Cliff Notes version or you wanna go back to sleep?"
Sam yawned. "Tell me what I found out."
Dean smiled as he picked up the notebook. "Okay. We'll see how long it takes for you to bore yourself to sleep this time."
He flipped open the book to where he'd left off. "So, it seems our spirit, Marcus Lee, goes after the bullies, the divas, the cheats…" He caught a notation in the margin. "…anyone who destroys the dreams of others."
Sam's eyes narrowed. "Sounds like he's avenging something. Did I find out what?"
Dean flipped to the last page of the notebook and started working his way backwards. "Whatever you were…bingo. The life and times of Marcus Lee."
Sam shifted, wincing as his shoulder protested. "What's it say?
Dean read quickly through the notes. "Lee was a violinist who studied at the university in the 1930s, mentored by the head of the music department, some big-time composer dude named Dr. Donald Ostrovski.
Sam nodded. "I've heard of him."
"Yeah He's one of the university's most famous alumni – kind of their poster boy for the music program here." Sam took another drink of water, then placed the cup on the bedside cabinet. "I read some stuff on the website on the way here; he was considered kind of a minor talent for most of his career but earned major acclaim for symphonies he wrote late in life, while teaching here at the university."
Dean nodded. "Well, this Dr. Don took our boy Marcus under his wing after the kid won a scholarship to the university, and worked with him all through his undergrad and grad studies. The two were pretty tight until…son of a bitch."
Dean sat down, turned the page and kept reading.
Sam's eyes widened in exasperation. "Dean, what?"
"Don't get your panties in a twist, Samantha. I told you before, if you wrote neater, I could read faster." He read through the next page, looked up at Sam and shook his head in disbelief. "It looks like the university's golden boy is a big, fat fake. Dr. Don stole Marcus Lee's music.
"As a heart attack." He missed Sam's glare as he glanced through the pages again. "You filled in the blanks from the bits and pieces the newspapers offered, but it looks like the bastard worked one-on-one with Lee for years, telling him his stuff was crap, it wasn't ready, it needed work… anything to undermine the kid's belief in his talent to the point he kept everything he wrote under wraps.
"Then, in the kid's final year of grad school, there was a mysterious fire at Lee's apartment. All his work was destroyed. Three months later, Donald Ostrovski publishes his first great symphony."
Sam shook his head. "So, what? Ostrovski stole the music, then set the fire to cover his tracks so Marcus wouldn't know it was missing?"
"Seems likely." Dean leaned forward. "Lee gets new digs, life goes on as normal until the university hosts a fancy, black tie gala for the world premiere of Dr. Don's latest symphony. Audience and critics are wowed – at least until Lee stands up in the middle of the theater and starts screaming that the music is his."
Sam hitched himself up in the bed. "But he's got no proof because all his copies are gone – either stolen or destroyed in the fire."
"Exactly." Dean nodded as he shuffled through the photocopied newspaper articles, looking for ones referenced in Sam's notebook. "Bottom line: university stands by Dr. Don, believes Lee is a nutcase and tells him to pack his violin and get the hell out. Check that, they take back the violin that was part of his scholarship deal and then tell him to get the hell out." Dean shook his head. "Talk about kicking a guy while he's down."
Sam nodded. "But given we're dealing with an angry spirit, I'm guessing Marcus didn't just tuck his white tie and tails between his legs and go home."
Dean snorted. "Concussion humour. Ha! No, Lee's pissed, hauls ass over to Dr. Don's study and the two men end up staging their own version of Fight Club, which ends with Lee falling out a fourth-story window."
Sam rubbed his eyes. "There's no way that Ostrovski was charged with killing him; he sure as hell wouldn't be the icon around here that he is if he was a suspected murderer."
"No." Dean put down the papers. "Our dear ol' Dr. Don has a freaking horseshoe up his ass; he's cleared by the cops, who say he acted in self-defence, and goes on to become even more famous with his next two symphonies – which I'd bet good money were Lee's too. His success was short-lived though; he offed himself a year later."
Sam's eyes were sliding closed. "Either the guilt got to him or...when did Marcus Lee die?"
Dean checked the notebook. "March 23, 1936." He read further down the page and smiled. "And guess when Ostrovski died? March 23, 1937."
Sam's eyes stayed closed. "So he was-"
"...our spook's first victim." Dean kept skimming through Sam's notes. "Officially, they blamed his suicide on heavy drinking and an artistic temperament. But what do you want to bet that Dr. Don had been haunted for a year by the ghost of his former student and, on the anniversary of his death, Lee was finally able to break through the veil to take his revenge against his former mentor.
"From then on, he's been going after people he considers to be just like Ostrovski, people who threaten to crush the dreams of others."
Dean looked up when there was no response. Sam's head had dropped forward, his chin on chest, his bangs hiding most of his face.
Dean smiled as he stood up, gently tilted Sam's head back and lowered the bed. "You lasted longer than I thought you would." His smile slipped as he took in the bruising on Sam's face, and the sling immobilizing his shoulder – the injuries Lee's spirit was responsible for. "We've gotta stop him, Sammy. Coming after you mean's he's stepping outside the box."
Dean picked up the notebook again, frowning at Sam's last entry: Violin=link, Ostrovski took it.
"Okay, Lee's violin is a physical link to him and to his music. If that violin is in the music department, it would explain why he can haunt that building. But why would the university still have Lee's violin?" He smiled at Sam's conclusion. "Because Ostrovski took it. I'll bet he hoped some of the kid's talent would rub off on him when he ran out of stolen works. Instead, he just gave Lee the means to haunt him for a year, and then eventually kill him."
He frowned. "But how the hell do I find that fiddle? There's gotta be hundreds of them in that department." Puzzled, he flipped through the photocopied news articles, then smiled when he found one with a highlighted passage. The music department lobby featured a glass showcase housing mementoes of famous alumni. One of the items was the violin used exclusively by Ostrovski after his first major success.
"And that's it – Lee's violin." Dean smiled. "I snatch that, then all I need is…" He flipped back a few pages, his smile widening when he caught the notation he was looking for: Chapel Grove Cemetery, Plot 483-C.
"Attaboy, Sammy: the final resting place of Marcus Lee."
He yanked the page from the notebook and shoved it in his pocket. He then ripped out a blank page and scribbled down a message to his brother. He folded the paper twice and placed it on the bedside cabinet.
Dean smiled down at his brother. "Be back soon, Sammy. A little B&E, a little salt and burn and bye-bye nasty spirit."
"Come on, babe. We're gonna be late."
"Be right there." Sam reluctantly turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. He grabbed the towel he'd thrown on the counter, scrubbed the water from his face and then wrapped the towel around his hips. He worked through the rest of his bathroom routine in less than five minutes. Last up, he grabbed his hairbrush, swiped a hand across the mirror to clear the steam and exhaled loudly as he took in his reflection.
The cut across his forehead was still an angry red, surrounded by vivid bruising that also travelled down his nose and under one eye. "Nice, Sam," he muttered, as he dragged the brush through his hair. "You've walked away from hunts looking better."
"What was that?"
He turned to see Jess standing in the bathroom doorway, also brushing her hair. She was dressed in a black tank dress that finished mid-thigh and strappy black sandals, both of which showed off her long legs.
Sam smiled appreciatively. "Wow, you look…amazing." He glanced again at his battered reflection, shaking his head as he turned back toward Jess. "You sure you wanna be seen with me, looking like this?"
Jess's eyebrow quirked as her eyes travelled down his bare torso and up again. "You might be a tad underdressed for the occasion, but absolutely." She grinned, leaning against the doorjamb and crossing her arms. "Show up like that and, trust me, no-one will notice your bruised forehead."
"Very funny." Sam gave Jess a quick kiss as he moved past her into the bedroom. "What exactly are you supposed to wear to a champagne recital, anyway?" He pulled open the closet door and stared at his pathetic excuse for a wardrobe.
Jess came up beside him. "In the real world it would be black tie but, since most of us going tonight are students, a suit and tie is fine." She reached into the closet and pulled out a hanger holding a charcoal gray suit. "I think this one is perfect."
Sam snorted. "Just as well, since it's my only suit." It had been a big, but necessary, expense for his scholarship interview, chewing up a huge chunk of the cash he'd managed to squirrel away before taking off for Stanford.
"It's still perfect." She stood on her tiptoes to kiss his nose, then stepped back, her soft smile turning into a grin. "Although I still say we should give the towel outfit a try…see what happens."
Sam shook his head, hanging the suit on the hook on the inside of the closet door. "You don't give up, do you?"
"Never." Jess batted her eyelashes innocently. "I just think you should show off what you've got – not hide it under so many darn layers." She turned to grab her earrings from the nightstand and fastened the first in place. "But, this is supposed to be Meghan's night. You dressed like that would definitely steal the spotlight."
Sam peeled off the towel, tossing it playfully at Jess before stepping into his boxers. "Speaking of Meghan, what was the big panic when she called last night?"
Jess's smile dissolved quickly into a scowl. "Big drama in the music department. That bitch Rebecca Carstairs tried to sabotage Meghan's chance at an internship." She fastened the back on her second earring, then walked over to the closet as Sam pulled on his shirt. "The school invited representatives of three major orchestras to tonight's recital; if Meghan impresses them, she could be offered an internship, which usually turns into a full-time job."
Jess slid the suit pants off the hanger and handed them to Sam. "Rebecca's on the organizing committee for these recitals and was in charge of sending out the invitations. Somehow she forgot to send one for Meghan's recital, and included the wrong date and time with the other two."
Sam pulled on his pants and tucked in his shirt. "No chance it was an innocent screw-up?"
"None." Jess pulled two ties from the closet, offering Sam the choice. He quickly picked the crimson one Jess had given him for Christmas. "First, this is Rebecca we're talking about, the queen bitch of the music department. If she hadn't gotten sick and her replacement hadn't reviewed everything to get up to speed, the screw-up never would have been discovered. Second, the dates Rebecca accidentally included with the invitations just happen to be the day of her recital."
"Wow, that's pretty cutthroat." Sam flipped up the collar of his shirt, draped his tie around his neck and turned toward the mirror over the dresser as he tied it. "So are they gonna be able to make it – the orchestra reps, I mean?"
"One can't on such short notice." Jess bent down to ferret out Sam's lone pair of dress shoes from the floor of the closet. "But, fortunately, the other two can." She glanced at her watch. "Meghan's boyfriend is picking them up from the airport now."
Sam shook his head. "This classical music gig – looks all elegant on the surface, but it's pretty vicious underneath."
Jess nodded, pulling Sam's jacket from the hanger and holding it up for him. "You need luck as well as talent to make it as a professional musician. Some people will do anything to skew the odds in their favor."
Sam slid his arms into his jacket, hitched it onto his shoulders and then turned toward Jess. "Well?"
She nodded approvingly, grabbing the lapels to pull him toward her for another kiss. "You look…delicious."
Sam's expression was half-smile, half-frown. "Not sure if that's what I was going for, but thanks."
Jess laughed as she grabbed her purse from the dresser. "Come on, we should go. I want to wish Meghan luck before it starts."
"Right behind you."
Jess opened the apartment door, then spun around to face Sam. "You know, I think we should go to Rebecca's recital next week."
Sam's eyes widened. "Why would you wanna go support someone who tried to ruin your best friend's chance at a dream job?"
Jess grinned. "I want to test my towel theory. You show up in a towel, the audience can't take their eyes off you and nobody listens to Rebecca's music." She winked at him before heading down the hall. "That's win-win in my book!"
Sam shook his head as he closed the apartment door behind them. "I've gotta get you a new book."
Dean flung a shovelful of dirt from the grave, then paused to drag the back of his arm across his forehead, smearing dirt with sweat. Breathing heavily, he checked his watch: after 90 minutes of digging, he was down almost five feet.
Leaning on his shovel to catch his breath, he cast a wary eye around the cemetery. The camping lantern balanced on Marcus Lee's headstone created a circle of light about 10 feet in diameter; enough to work by but offering little advance warning if anything tried to sneak up on him. He gave the shotgun on the ground at the side of the grave a reassuring pat before grabbing a bottle of water, twisting off the cap and drinking greedily. Thirst satisfied, he poured the rest of the water over his head and scrubbed a hand down his face.
Dean tossed aside the empty bottle and, after another suspicious glance into the darkness, resumed digging. Ten minutes later, his shovel hit wood; five minutes after that, the casket was uncovered.
Moving to the end of the casket, he wedged the shovel under the lid and levered it open. Rusty hinges kept the lid upright as Dean stared down at the remains of Marcus Lee.
Tufts of dark hair still framed the skull and enough fragile pieces of cloth remained to tell him Lee had been buried in white tie and tails. Skeletal hands lay crossed on his chest, clutching a violin bow.
Dean felt himself shaking with rage, the intensity of the emotion surprising him. A salt and burn was simply a routine part of the job; you did it and moved on. But Lee had hurt Sam – and that made this personal.
Dean threw the shovel out of the grave and then hauled himself out after it. Pushing himself to his feet, he glared again at the remains before reaching into the duffel and pulling out a container of salt.
He shook his head as he sprinkled the rock salt inside the casket. "You know, Marcus, once upon a time I could've sympathized with you. I think life really screwed you over. That bastard Ostrovski stole your music, published it as his own, took credit that should have been yours. And nobody believed you. I can see how that would piss you off…drive you crazy."
Dean dropped the empty salt container back in the duffel and pulled out the kerosene. Twisting off the cap, he began dousing the remains. "But the people you're going after, they don't deserve to die. Kicked out of school, sure; maybe even locked up, but that's not your call, dude. And you sure as hell don't have the right to play executioner."
Dean returned the cap to the kerosene, eyes narrowing, voice tight. "And then you went after Sam. The only reason he was trying to stop you was to protect innocent people. Pushing him down those stairs, you could've crippled him." He swallowed. "You could've killed him."
His hand was shaking again as he reached into the duffel for the large box of matches. The box rattled as he straightened up and stared down into the grave. "And if that had happened, I would have happily brought you back to life just so I could kill you myself."
Dean slid open the box, pulled out a single match and dragged it along the side. The rasp of the match strike broke the silence in tandem with the mournful strains of a violin, the eerie sound carrying easily through the quiet of the cemetery.
Dean swallowed but otherwise ignored the portent, dropping the single lit match into the box. The brilliant flare as the rest of the matches ignited briefly illuminated the glowering spirit of Marcus Lee standing on the opposite side of the grave.
Dean opened his hand, the smoking box tumbling from it into the grave and the fuel-soaked casket. The fire caught with solid whumf, flames and sparks shooting high, as Dean dropped to a crouch, grabbed his shotgun and fired, all in one fluid move. Lee and his music disappeared.
Dean twisted to his right to stare at the small, black music case that lay on the ground. He flipped open the latches, threw back the lid, and pulled out the violin nestled inside.
He stood quickly and dropped the instrument into the raging fire inside the grave. The fire sparked and crackled as the varnish melted and the old wood caught, sending up tiny blue-green flames to lick their orange and red counterparts.
Dean shuddered as a chill ran down his spine. His head shot up to see Marcus Lee smugly smiling at him from the far side of the grave.
"Son of a-" Dean raised his gun but before he could fire, a blast of cold energy split the flames and slammed into Dean's chest.
The force lifted him off his feet and threw him across the cemetery into a large, ornate headstone. He smashed into the granite, head cracking against a finial before toppling forward and landing face-down in the dew-dampened grass.
He was unconscious before he hit the ground.
Sam woke up smiling, the smile ebbing gently as his dream about Jess faded into subconscious memory.
The male voice quickly pulled him back to reality. He groaned as he shifted, his shoulder loudly reminding him it had very recently been dislocated.
"How're you doing?"
Sam scrubbed a hand over his face. "Fine. I'm Sam, you're Dean, we're in Norfolk, I'm in the hospital because I fell down the stairs. Happy?"
"I'm not happy you fell down the stairs – and I'm not Dean."
Sam peeled open his eyes, squinting at the man at his bedside. It was his doctor – Lake, Larkin, something like that.
The doctor smiled down at his patient as he finished writing in Sam's chart. "I'm going to hazard a guess and say that you confusing me with your brother has more to do with your eyes being closed than the head injury. Am I right?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah, sorry about that. Not awake yet." He yawned again, rubbing his eyes. "And I'm just used to Dean being there. Is he getting coffee?"
The doctor shook his head. "From what the nurses told me, he said he had to take care of some urgent business and that he hoped to be back before you woke up."
Alarm bells went off in Sam's head. "When did he leave?"
The doctor – Lake, that was it – clipped Sam's chart to his bed and shook his head. "Not sure." He walked to the bedside cabinet and picked up a folded piece of paper. "But he did leave this for you."
Sam reached for it, but Dr. Lake held it back.
"First, let's go over how you're feeling. You were having some memory issues, right?"
Sam nodded, then froze, eyes widening in surprise. "I was – but it's all there now. I remember studying at the library, talking to my brother on the phone just before I, um, fell."
The doctor smiled. "That's good. What about your headache – on a scale of one to ten?"
"Four or five – not bad, especially compared to before. Same with my shoulder." He shifted impatiently, staring at the paper the doctor held. "Can I have the note please?"
Dr. Lake nodded slowly, handing Sam the piece of paper. "You're a lucky man, Sam. This could have been a lot worse."
Sam nodded, tapping the piece of paper impatiently against his knee. "When can I get out of here?"
Dr. Lake smiled. "Pending the results of your next series of tests, and if you promise to do nothing strenuous for the next week, we'll release you in the morning. With a few proviso's." His pager went off at that moment.
Dr. Lake checked it, then smiled at Sam. "I have to take care of this but then I'll be back. Then we'll go through those tests I mentioned – and the do's and don'ts of your release."
Sam nodded tightly. "Thanks, doc."
Before the doctor was out the door, Sam was wrestling one-handed to open the folded paper and read his brother's hastily-scrawled note. Research had the answers. Will get fiddle, take care of S&B. Back soon. D
"Damn it, Dean. You couldn't wait for back up?" Sam scrunched up the paper, then scrabbed on the bedside cabinet for his phone, quickly dialing his brother's number. It went straight to voicemail. "Dean, call me the second you get this. And yes, I remember you chewing me out for not returning messages. In fact, I remember everything." He hung up and dropped the phone back on the cabinet.
"Screw it." Sam reached his right hand behind his neck and began pulling apart the Velcro tabs which held his sling in place. "I'm not sitting on my ass while you could be out there getting yours kicked."
When Dr. Lake returned 30 minutes later, Sam was long gone.
The deep, orange glow, low to the ground, caught Sam's attention and he moved quickly toward it, the beam of his flashlight bobbing between the headstones as he walked.
There was no answer.
Sam's breathing sped up. He'd taken a cab from the hospital, had it drop him off down the block and walked the rest of the way, passing the Impala in the process. That meant Dean was here somewhere, and if the glow up ahead was what Sam suspected it was, his brother should be within earshot.
Still no answer.
Sam's head was pounding, the drugs that had made him comfortable at the hospital quickly wearing off. His shoulder was screaming at him too, each stumble on the uneven ground jarring torn muscles and tendons. He'd dumped the sling at the hospital, unable to unhook himself from the IV or dress himself one-handed, and shoving his left hand in his pocket to stabilize the arm was quickly proving a poor substitute.
"Dean? Answer me, damn it."
Sam swallowed as he stepped around a large headstone and, for the first time, had an unobstructed view of the fire in the grave just ahead. Dirt was piled high on one side, a familiar green duffel and an old shovel abandoned on the other, along with his brother's gray jacket and an empty violin case.
He gauged the fire; it was still burning but the flames were low, most of their fuel spent. By Sam's estimation, it had been going for about 20 minutes. Dean should be standing graveside, bitching impatiently as he waited for the fire to consume the last of the remains so he could fill in the grave, cover his tracks and get the hell out of there.
"Dean!" Sam was yelling now, not really caring how many people heard him as long as the one person who mattered did. But the only response was the subtle echo of this own voice.
Sam rooted throught the duffel, swapping the small flashlight from his knapsack for a full-sized one, then held it up, turning 360-degrees to scan the area beyond the lantern's circle of light. It picked up nothing. Wincing as he transferred the light to his left hand, he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed Dean's number. He spun around when he heard the familiar ringtone somewhere behind him.
"Dean? He moved faster, sweeping the beam of the flashlight along the ground as he honed in on the sound.
He found Dean's shotgun first, almost tripping over it as he rounded a corner, but might have missed his brother if it wasn't for his ringing phone. Dean was facedown in front of a large headstone, jeans and dark shirt blending seamlessly with the ground, his head turned away from Sam.
"Dean." This time as he spoke his brother's name it was barely audible.
Sam dropped to his knees in front of Dean, placed the shotgun within easy reach, and pressed his fingers against his brother's neck, searching for a pulse. He found one, slow but steady. Dean's skin was icy, despite the mild night, and his clothes were damp. Sam swallowed; that meant he'd been lying here a while.
Sam began the familiar routine of searching for injuries, discovering an oversized welt on the back of his brother's head that had left his hair sticky with blood, and grimacing when one of Dean's ribs on the right side of his back yielded to his touch. "Damn it. You're gonna feel that when you wake up."
Sam jumped at the muffled voice, shining the flashlight in his brother's face. "Dean?"
Dean screwed his eyes closed against the bright light. "Damn it, Sammy."
"Sorry." Sam directed the light off to one side.
Dean groaned loudly as he tried moving. "Son of a bitch."
"Careful." Sam's face creased with worry. "You've got a broken rib in the back and I don't think I'm the only Winchester with a concussion any more."
Dean scowled up at Sam. "Help me up."
Sam set down the flashlight and, with some maneuvering, soon had his brother sitting up. Dean was shivering noticeably.
Sam shrugged off his jacket and draped it around Dean's shoulders.
Dean shook his head. "No, Sam-"
"Shut up. We need to get you warmed up." Sam guided Dean's arms into the sleeves and soon had the jacket fastened around him. He smiled at his brother's scowl. "Hey, how many times have you done this for me, huh?"
"But you were five at the time," Dean muttered. He was hunched forward, looking like he was about to be sick, but his eyes were locked on his brother. "You look like crap. You should be in the hospital."
"Back atcha." Sam glanced toward the still burning grave, the glow visible over headstones that obstructed the view. "You burned the violin?"
"So how'd you end up over here?"
Dean coughed. "Didn't work." His breath hitched as he spoke. "Torching the fiddle got rid of that damned music, but it didn't get rid of Lee."
"Damn it." Sam rakes his fingers through his hair. "What the hell am I missing?"
Dean smiled tiredly as he studied his brother. "Not your memories, apparently. You remember everything, don't you?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah. And I rehashed everything on the way over here. The remains and the violin were the two physical links. If they're gone, he should be, too."
Dean winced as he tried to push himself up. "I was just about to toss the violin case in the fire when I got tossed instead. Think that could be it?"
"Could be. I-" A hiss from Dean quickly pulled his attention back to his brother. "Look, let's get you outta here first. We'll worry about Lee later."
Dean shook his head, clutching at Sam's shirt. "He's still around. I want him gone before he hurts someone else – especially if that someone's you or me."
Sam pushed himself to his feet, assessing his brother's condition as carefully as he could via flashlight. "You seeing straight enough to shoot?"
Dean sounded indignant. "Always."
"Good. You keep your eyes peeled for Lee, I'll grab our stuff." Sam wrapped his right arm around Dean, high on his back away from the injured rib, and hauled him to his feet. Dean swayed, hanging on to Sam's shirt until he found his balance. "You okay?"
Dean was breathing through clenched teeth but he nodded.
Sam picked up the shotgun and handed it to his brother. "Like a wiseass once told me: if it moves, shoot it."
Dean's grin quickly became a grimace as he turned and started moving slowly toward the burning grave. Sam walked beside him, picking out their path with the flashlight.
As they rounded the last headstone before Lee's grave, both brothers froze. The spirit was crouched at the side of the violin case, leafing through a ghostly sheaf of papers and humming quietly. His head snapped toward the Winchesters, eyes glinting furiously in the firelight before he flickered and disappeared.
Dean hissed as he raised the shotgun and scanned the area around the grave. "Where the hell did he go?"
Sam's eyes were glued to the violin case. "Cover me."
Dean scowled as Sam moved quickly graveside and knelt down where the spirit had crouched moments earlier. "Don't screw around, Sammy. Just toss the case in the fire."
Sam shook his head. "Fire's too low; case'll take forever to burn. Besides, I don't think it's the case that's keeping him here; it's something inside it."
Dean blinked to clear his vision. "Those, um, papers he was looking at, you mean?"
"Yeah." Sam pulled his pocket-knife from his jacket, wincing as his left arm protested being recruited to help open it. Sam slid the blade into the seam of the case lining, cutting into it. As the fabric fell open, he worked his fingers behind it and tore it free. There was nothing there. "Damn it."
He moved to the lid of the case and repeated the process. As he tore away the fabric there, it revealed a thick sheaf of yellowed paper: a hand-written musical score. At the top of the page in neat script was the title of piece: Nuit d'ete du Sud (Nocturne for a Southern Summer Evening) by Marcus Lee.
Sam threw himself on the ground at the warning, his yell as pain ripped through his shoulder muffled by the shotgun blast. Salt rained down on him – the spirit had been close.
Lying on his stomach, his head snapped toward his brother, who was now fumbling in his pockets to pull out a shell and reload the gun. Dean glanced at Sam, breathing heavily. "Think he ducked out before the salt hit. He-"
Lee flickered back in sight right in front of Dean, yanking the shotgun from the elder Winchester's grasp, clamping bony fingers around his throat and lifting him off the ground. Dean stuttered and gasped as he fought to breathe in the spirit's tightening hold, feet kicking reflexively, hands pulling at spectral arms in the battle to free himself.
Heart slamming against his chest, Sam pushed himself to his knees, yanked the papers from the violin case and turned to drop them in the burning grave.
Sam's head snapped toward the voice. The hatred that had filled the spirit's eyes seconds earlier was now replaced by utter devastation. He released Dean, who fell to the ground with an agonized cry, coughing as he desperately sucked in air and writhing in pain as his broken rib protested this latest abuse.
Lee moved slowly toward Sam, who kept the hand holding the papers over the grave fire.
"Please, don't." Suddenly, the spirit became the man he had once been – a young, impressionable student whose work had been stolen and dreams crushed by a man he had once trusted and admired. A young talent cheated out of the acclaim he deserved, the life he should have lived. "It's all I have left."
He flickered and reappeared, right next to Sam. In the firelight, his face hardened and the hatred was back in his eyes. "It's the only thing he didn't steal from me."
Sam swallowed. "I'm sorry." He opened his hand and allowed the papers to fall.
Grief and rage mixed equally in Lee's scream as the papers dropped onto the embers, the edges of each brittle page first blackening and curling before bursting into flame. Then as his last link to the physical world turned to ash, so too did the spirit of Marcus Lee.
Breathing heavily, cradling his injured left arm with his right, Sam turned back to face his brother. Dean was curled on his side, face pressed into the ground, arm wrapped around his head. His rapid, shallow breathing was punctuated by the occasional cough. "Dean?"
Sam pushed himself to his feet and scrambled to his brother's side. "How bad is it?" He didn't wait for an answer, pulling Dean's arm away from his head so he could assess any new damage himself.
Dean's eyes were screwed closed and there were red marks on his neck where the spirit had grabbed him, marks that would soon darken into bruises.
"How's your breathing?"
Dean coughed. "Peachy."
Sam slid his hand under Dean's shirt, searching for the broken rib, concerned it might have snapped loose or shifted when he was dropped, causing internal damage.
As if reading his mind, Dean weakly batted his hand away. "Chill, Sammy. M'okay."
"The hell you are."
Dean twisted his head to peer up at Sam, wincing as he swallowed. "Just got the wind knocked out of me, that's all."
"No, you got the wind choked out of you by a homicidal ghost. Big difference."
Dean snorted, then screwed his face into a grimace as the laugh launched a new spate of coughing.
Sam stared at his brother worriedly, a comforting hand on the small of his back.
As the coughing stopped, Dean nodded at Sam. "I'm good now."
Now it was Sam's turn to snort. "You're not even in the same zip code as good." He shook his head. "You wanna try getting up? We really should get out of here."
Dean nodded. Even with Sam's help, he needed a break between sitting and standing but he was soon on his feet. He shook his head in disgust. "Son of a bitch. All I did was stand up and I feel like I ran the freaking Boston Marathon."
After making sure Dean was steady, Sam moved to pick up the gun the spirit had tossed aside. "Let's see, you got hurled across the cemetery into a headstone, probably have borderline hypothermia and almost got strangled by a spirit, all after digging up Lee's remains by yourself. Not a big shock you feel like crap." He shook his head. "You should've waited for me so I could watch your back."
Dean's expression clearly said he knew his brother was right but it didn't make the fact any easier to swallow. "You were in the hospital, Sammy. He put you in there." He shrugged. "That pissed me off."
Sam smiled. On the surface it was one of Dean's typically blasé quips but, to Sam, the deeper meaning was clear. "Thanks."
Dean cleared his throat, frowning at the grave. "What were those papers anyway?"
"Marcus Lee's last composition." Gritting his teeth, Sam transferred the shotgun to his left hand, then wrapped his right arm around Dean to guide him toward the car. "My guess is that, after the apartment fire, when Lee thought he'd lost all his work, he started carrying it around with him to make sure it didn't happen again. Maybe, despite everything Ostrovski did to put him down, he believed that piece had some merit."
Dean frowned. "Fine, but when the university took back the violin, he just forgot his work was in there?"
Sam shrugged. "I doubt he was thinking straight after everything that happened. Maybe that's part of the reason he went over to Ostrovski's study the night he died - to try to get it back. Guess we'll never know exactly what happened."
Dean glanced up at Sam. "Back there, when he asked you not to toss his music in the fire, you thought about it, didn't you?"
"Not while he was hurting you." Sam stared at Dean for a moment. "But when he let you go…I mean, composers, writers, they all have unique styles. Part of me would have loved to have taken that composition to a music historian, let them compare it to Ostrovski's works and confirm they were written by the same person. With a different name attached, written in a different hand, it would have at least got them asking questions – planted a seed of doubt, and maybe, eventually, earned Lee the credit Ostrovski denied him."
Dean quirked an eyebrow at his brother. "You pick this up studying copyright law at Stanford?"
Sam smiled. "No, but Jess's best friend was a music major. A really talented pianist who almost lost her big chance because a jealous rival tried to screw her over. I dreamed about that at the hospital – it was kind of the trigger to my memories coming back."
Dean smiled. "Dreamed about Jess again, huh?
Sam shot Dean a look. "Not that kind of dream – well, not this time anyway."
Dean grinned. "So what stopped you?"
Dean coughed. "Back there. What stopped you from pulling a Sammy special and trying to talk the ghost into doing the right thing? You know: stop hurting people and I'll make sure you get the recognition you deserve."
Sam shook his head. "He was too far gone. Too many decades of anger and frustration had warped him into something there was no turning back from. I mean, when he started killing, in his mind he was saving people from the kind of devastation he went through, and the people he went after were genuinely nasty pieces of work. They didn't deserve to die but you could at least understand why Lee went after them.
"Lately, there were no shades of gray. The opera singer who was pushed from the catwalk? From everyone I talked to, she was opinionated and loved the spotlight, but she didn't do anything wrong. She was just a diva. The computer guy? He and another student were in a race to develop similar software. The victim, Brett Charlton, won but it was a fair fight. I talked to the other guy; he was pissed that he lost but more mad at himself than Brett. But that didn't matter to Lee; he killed Brett anyway."
Dean studied his brother carefully. "You did the right thing, Sammy. He was just gonna get worse, the body count was just gonna keep climbing."
"I know." Sam exhaled in relief as they approached the Impala. "It's just sad, you know – to see what anger can do to a person." He cleared his throat and turned to Dean. "You got the keys?"
Dean groaned as he hitched up his jacket and reached into his jeans pocket to pull out his keys. He glanced over his shoulder as he handed them to Sam. "We left a mess back there."
"Yeah." Sam yanked open the passenger side door. "Neither of us is in any shape to fill in the grave but, once you're in the car, I'll go back and grab our stuff. Make sure there's nothing left that can tie us to it."
Dean nodded, then slowly lowered himself into the passenger seat. Teeth clenched, he shifted so he was leaning on his left side, keeping the pressure off his injured rib. Sam disappeared, reappearing moments later with a blanket from the trunk. He draped it over Dean, closed the door, then moved around to the driver's side. He slid behind the wheel, started the engine and cranked up the heat, then turned to smile at Dean. "Stay here, get warm and I'll be right back. Then we'll go to the hospital."
Dean pulled a face. "No. Screw the hospital. Hot shower, good meal – none of that vegetarian crap – and a good night's sleep, I'll be fine."
"No." Sam's jaw set stubbornly. "We're getting that rib checked out, end of story. So don't waste what little energy you have on whining."
"I don't whine." Dean shivered, pulling the blanket up around his neck. "Fine. On two conditions."
Sam rolled his eyes. "What?"
"One, you get checked out, too. Make sure you didn't do any further damage." He grinned. "And two, I get to watch when the doctors chew you out for going AWOL."
Sam's eyebrows tented. "Seriously?"
"What?" Dean's grin widened. "It's a thing of beauty, Sammy. You get this cowering puppy look, the bottom lip starts to go, you do the itching-powder-in-my-shorts shuffle, you-"
"You are such a jerk." Sam hauled himself out of the car.
Dean was having fun now. "You're like Antonio Banderas's cat in Shrek. All big eyes and-"
"You watched Shrek?" Sam was bending down, staring at him through the open driver's side door.
Busted, Dean thought for a second then offered an exaggerated grin. "So? It's a morality play gift-wrapped as a kids' movie. You have to learn to read the subtext, Sammy."
Sam rolled his eyes as he stood up, muttering, "Now I know you have a concussion. Stay put, Mr. Subtext. I'll be right back."
"Ah, you know you love me, Sammy." Dean dropped his head onto the seatback, eyes closed, grin still firmly in place
Sam closed the door, smiling. "Yeah, Dean. I do."
A/N: Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to hear what you think. For anyone interested, I'm just doing to final tweaks to a new multi-chapter case fic - the oft-promised, much-delayed follow to Bridging Two Solitudes. First chapter should be up later this week. Hope to see you then. Cheers.