It's Called Harmony, Jerk
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A big thank you to Muffy for the lightning fast beta, and Sherry for the encouraging feedback.
Warning: It's a Halloween fic and there're some bits that reflect the, um, flavor of the holiday! Not to worry too much though, as usual I have the brothers here the way I like to see them (Sam and Dean, being brothers first and as always heroes of the story!).
Also, I'm obviously rusty, this was written hastily, lightly beta'd, and posted with alacrity! Please forgive my mistakes. If you find any, they are definitely all mine!
Author's Note: It's been forever, I know. In fact, it's been four solid months since I wrote a single thing (does that answer your concerned question, Karen? LOL). My deepest apologies to anyone who is waiting for an update on Finders Keepers. I'm hoping this puts me back in the writing groove.
P.S. I'm also behind in my reading if you're waiting to hear from me!
Sam's forehead creased in concentration as he pored over the short, page three article of the local paper. They'd stopped here last night out of sheer necessity, Dean had been exhausted and while he hadn't complained, Sam could tell his back was still hurting from their last hunt. As for Sam, well, he'd been far too keyed up from left over adrenaline and anxiety, not to mention the tension between them, to sit idly in the hotel room. He'd gone for a run last night, taken a long shower, read for almost two hours, and he was still up this morning by five. If he'd clocked four hours of sleep last night, he'd be surprised. So although they hadn't planned on hunting in Nowhere-ville, Iowa, it seemed fate had other plans for them.
Sam snorted loudly, screw fate, destiny, or any of that crap. If he never heard about it again he'd be a hell of a lot happier. He took a sip of coffee and looked up when he felt eyes on him. Dean was staring at him with a quizzical expression on his face.
"Something interesting?" Dean asked, nodding towards the paper.
"Maybe," Sam said, folding the paper into quarters. He stretched across the divide and handed it to his brother. "Check out the article on the local Farmers' Market."
Dean's expression was inscrutable as he read, and Sam wondered if his older brother would just nix the idea outright as too insignificant in light of things. Then again, Dean was the one who seemed hell-bent on taking on anything evil that crossed their paths these days. "What do you think?" Sam asked, when his brother looked up from the newspaper.
"I think we just might have to stock up on fresh vegetables before we leave town," Dean said, tossing back the covers. "But first, I need a shower. Did you eat?"
"Nope." Sam shook his head. "Been waiting for you." His stomach chose that exact moment to emit a long, rumbling growl.
Dean paused in his efforts to find clean clothes, twisted to look at Sam, and smirked. "I'll hurry."
The bathroom door shut with a click in response and Sam picked up the paper again. Two women had disappeared in the last two weeks and both had last been seen at the Saturday Market. Sam didn't believe in coincidence, not anymore. Something was definitely wrong in Waterloo.
True to his word, it hadn't taken Dean long to shower. They'd quickly packed up the room before hitting a drive thru and now they were parked, munching on breakfast sandwiches while they watched the locals setting up for the day's market.
It was a cold morning, the surrounding trees brown, red, and yellow, and the ground bore evidence of the early morning thunderstorm which had driven Sam out of bed. Despite the weather, there were several vendors setting up shop with everything from local produce, to homemade jams and scones, to teakwood furniture. People milled about with steaming cups of coffee, and other than one fight over what was apparently prime real estate, nothing struck him as out of place.
"That guy has seriously overestimated the need for pumpkins," Dean remarked, breaking the silence.
Sam followed his brother's gaze over to the stand in question. An entire wagon had been parked and it was brimming with orange gourds. "Well, it is Halloween, Dean."
Dean's head snapped around and he shot Sam a look of surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah," Sam said. It struck him as a bit ironic that his sweets-loving brother had lost track of the day. Sam had never liked Halloween. Their dad had always been withdrawn and moody, or drunk of his ass on Halloween. Given that it fell only two days before Mom's death, Sam certainly understood as he got older. It didn't make it any easier for any of them, but he did understand. He couldn't stop the sudden flare-up of pain as his thoughts naturally traveled to Jessica, but he quickly pushed it away. Now wasn't the time to wallow. He needed to focus.
"I think we've seen everything we can from the car," Sam started to say, but his brother's door was already open and Dean was climbing out. "Nice to see you agree with me," Sam muttered under his breath. He followed quickly after Dean who was headed straight for the candy apples. So much for staying focused.
Dean was chatting with the woman running the booth by the time Sam caught up. He was about to hiss his displeasure at his brother when he realized Dean was poking around for clues.
"So, my wife really wanted to come down here today, but I told her I'd pick up anything she wanted. After what happened to Sheri Anne and Marta, I just didn't want her down here." Dean said, resting one hip on the edge of the counter.
"Oh, that's too bad!" the honey-colored blonde cooed. She leaned closer and spoke in a hushed tone. "Confidentially, you didn't have anything to worry about."
"No?" Sam interjected. He gestured toward Dean. "My brother said they were missing."
She glanced over at Sam and smiled. "Not really, it's just no one knows where they are."
"Say what now?" Dean asked, his face crinkling with confusion.
"Well, everyone knows those girls are a loose pair, if you get my meaning," she said with a toothy grin. "They've finally taken the show on the road. Probably hitched up with some guy and are halfway to Des Moines by now."
"Aren't they both married?" Sam asked.
"That doesn't stop all women," she replied matter-of-factly.
"Thanks, uh…" Dean said, offering up a charm-the-birds-from-the-trees smile.
"Dawn," she replied with an answering smile.
"Thanks, Dawn." Dean winked and turned away. He took a huge bite of caramel apple as they walked toward the next booth.
"You think they're halfway to Des Moines?" Sam asked quietly.
"Not for a second," Dean said, around his bite of apple.
"Me neither," Sam replied.
They went from booth to booth until they'd virtually circled the market, ending at pumpkin man's wagon. "Excuse me, sir," Sam said to the elderly man bent over a makeshift crib of acorn squash. The man slowly stood up and tottered over to the brothers.
"Can I help you with something, son?" he asked, his toothless gums clearly visible. "We got an awful lot of good vegetables here." He fumbled with some of the baskets on the table. "Maybe some fresh snap beans?"
"Actually, we just wanted to talk to you about the women who've disappeared around here," Dean said, cutting to the chase.
"Eh?" the man asked, frowning. "What about 'em?"
Sam scowled and moved to stand closer to the proprietor. Apparently a long day of fruitless interviewing had worn Dean's patience thin. "We're just really concerned for the families."
"Take it from old Pete, you ain't got to worry about their family none," the man said, spitting a pumpkin seed out onto the ground.
"Why's that?" Dean asked, stepping closer to Pete.
"'Cause I'm tellin' ya, they're tucked away somewhere." Pete pulled his brim hat further down to cover his eyes. "They didn't go nowhere."
Dean leaned in and lowered his tone, "How exactly do you know that?"
Sam kicked the side of Dean's foot with his boot and Dean brushed him off with a hand wave out of sight of the decrepit man.
"Women like that need to be taught how to stay home," Pete said, spitting out another seed. "If you get my meaning."
"I think I do," Dean said with a smirk. He tugged on Sam's sleeve. "Thanks, Pete."
"Sure thing, boys," Pete said, spitting out a seed. "You change your mind about my crop here, ya'all stop by before the moon rises. I close up shop here by then."
"Will do." Dean said, steering Sam away from the booth.
They walked back to the Impala after a quick side-trip back to the candied apple stand. Once they were safely settled inside, Dean twisted to face Sam. "Pete knows something."
"Ya think?" Sam asked, lack of sleep lacing his tone uncharacteristically with sarcasm. "There's something definitely wrong with that guy. Besides, how does a toothless old man eat pumpkin seeds anyway?"
Dean pursed his lips as he considered the question and then grinned. "Maybe he just sucks the salt off."
"God, Dean," Sam protested, his face scrunching, "that's disgusting."
"I'm just saying, it's possible." Dean started the car, pulled out of the dirt lot, and parked around the corner. From their current vantage point, the pumpkin wagon was visible through the trees. "Now comes the part I hate."
"We wait." Sam said.
Dean nodded. "We wait."
The waning autumn sun quickly faded and blue-black shadows blanketed the landscape. The moon poked out from behind the trees as Pete hitched a team of horses to his wagon and slowly disappeared into the wooded area behind the market.
Sam nodded at Dean and then got out to open the trunk. Armed with flashlights and their handguns, they headed in the same direction old Pete had taken through the trees. The breeze was cool, but not yet cold and crickets chirped a farewell song to summer while nearby an owl hooted a cautionary warning.
Wagon ruts were clearly visible in the rain-softened soil and it didn't take long before they caught up to Pete and the pumpkin cart. Dean motioned that he was going to circle around to the back and Sam nodded. They couldn't really make a move on Pete until they knew where the women were and what he was up to, but Sam wasn't terribly fond of the idea of splitting up. Something about Pete the pumpkin-seed-spitter was definitely setting off all his warning bells.
As Dean disappeared into the black trees, Sam edged closer to the fire Pete had started. The old man was turned away from him, talking animatedly to someone. Just a few steps closer and he'd be able to hear, maybe even figure out exactly what was going on. A twig snapped beneath his boot and Sam closed his eyes, repressing a sigh. Stupid, rookie mistake, his only hope was that it had gone unheard. When he opened his eyes, Pete was no longer in sight.
Sensing more than hearing a presence at his back, Sam whirled around and flicked on his light only to come face to face with Pete. Gone were the toothless gums and in their place was a mouth filled with long, pointed teeth. Strings of pumpkin flesh curtained the monster's open maw and it fluttered when he roared.
Sam drew his gun even as pellets stung his face. He glanced at the ground. Pumpkin seeds? Confused, Sam tried to sight his weapon on would-be merchant as a wave of dizziness overwhelmed him. He felt as if he was falling, falling, falling, but the ground never met him on his descent. Instead, the tiny pumpkin seeds grew in size until they were the size of his fist. It wasn't until Pete reached down and snagged the back of his coat with a giant claw that Sam understood.
It wasn't that the seeds had grown and with dawning realization he knew what had happened to the missing women.
"Now where'd you go, you freak?" Dean muttered as Pete's campsite came into view, but the old man was nowhere to be seen. He should have known better than to stop in a town called Waterloo and follow a creepy old man into the woods. It was a bad idea, even by their standards.
The elderly man shuffled into sight from behind the wagon carrying a large pumpkin. He hummed a haunting melody as he puttered around the campsite, stoked the fire and pulled out a wicked looking knife. Dean moved closer and drew his gun. There was no sense taking any chances with a guy who looked like the grandpa version of Edward Scissorhands.
"Gonna keep you here," Pete sing-songed slightly off-key with his own melody. "Keep you very well." He shook the large gourd vigorously. "Keep you very, very well." He chuckled and placed the pumpkin on the seat of the cart. Pete patted the orange fruit affectionately and moved on to another that seemed identical to Dean, but what did he know about pumpkins?
Dean scanned the opposite bank of trees waiting for a sign from his brother. Sam had been watching the old man longer so it made sense to wait for his lead. As the minutes ticked by, and Dean continued to stand in the shadows freezing his balls off, the stronger the feeling grew that something was wrong. When it came to Sam, Dean couldn't ignore the feeling for long before he got antsy.
Firelight glinting off Pete's long knife garnered Dean's full attention. The old man sliced into the hard pumpkin flesh with ease, lifting the top off carefully. Strands of pumpkin flesh danced from the bottom of the cut off piece with seeds and something larger tangled in it. Pete held it up to eye level and poked what looked like a small animal with a gnarled finger. "You done yet?"
The animal squirmed, emitting tiny noises of distress. Dean furrowed his brow trying to figure out what exactly Pete was doing with the pumpkins and what could have been a chipmunk when the moon finally crested the trees, adding silver light to the scene. The old man lifted the pumpkin lid higher dangling the entire mass over his head. He inhaled loudly, sniffing the poor, sickly looking, pumpkin covered, animal. "You are done." Pete's mouth opened wider, his jaw dislocating as fangs descended.
"What the hell?" Dean whispered. He lifted his weapon and aimed straight at Pete's head. "Hey!"
Pete whirled around to face Dean with an animalistic growl. Without further warning he lumbered towards Dean, the forgotten pumpkin top dangling from his hand. Dean fired, once, twice, then several times in rapid succession, but Pete kept coming.
The man-beast stopped mere feet from him, threw back his head, and roared. "Sam, I could really use some help here!" Dean shouted. He hoped his brother was still out there and that he hadn't had a run in with the creature before Dean had made it back around to the campsite.
Pete barked and swung, sharp claws barely missing their intended target when Dean expertly pivoted out of harm's way. Ducking under another swipe of the monster's claws, Dean managed to wrestle the knife out of his other hand. Using all his Junior High baseball skills, Dean swung the knife around in a wide arc, cutting into Pete's neck.
Black blood spurted from the deep wound. Pete dropped the pumpkin top to the ground and staggered backwards, clutching his throat. No sound emerged when he opened his mouth to roar and terror filled his tawny eyes. Swinging again, the knife connected, finishing the job Dean started. With a soft thud, the monster's head fell to the ground, his body following, as a fountain of pumpkin seeds and fleshy gore dotted the area.
Dean stood for a moment, hands on his knees, panting as he tried to catch his bearings. As soon as he caught his breath he shouted for his brother. "Sam!" He turned to search the camp and nearly tripped over a woman lying on the ground next to the pumpkin top.
Her wrists were tangled in pumpkin strands and her white skin was ghostly pale in the moonlight. He crouched down low placing two fingers on her neck. He couldn't feel a pulse and pressed his fingers deeper into her flesh. He was too late, she was gone.
Piecing together the impossible, Dean stood and quickly surveyed the immediate area looking for any sign of his brother or the other missing woman. Hopefully, whatever mojo Pete had been wielding ended with him. "Sam!" The large pumpkin from earlier sprang to mind and he made a mad dash for the wagon. There, on the floor sandwiched between the seat and wall, lay Sam. He was covered in pumpkin seeds and chunks of orange fruit. "Sam!"
"Gah," Sam groaned, his fingers weakly scrabbling at the slick strands wrapped around his throat. He coughed as Dean used his sleeve to wipe pumpkin out of his eyes. "Dean?"
"I got ya, Sammy," Dean said, wrapping an arm around his brother's back and helping him to sit.
Sam grabbed his sleeve with an intensity that belied his apparent lack of strength. "Pete?"
"I got him, too," Dean reassured him. "Can you walk?"
"Yeah," Sam said after a brief hesitation. "Give me a minute?"
"Sure," Dean said, patting him on the shoulder. "I'm going to look for Marta. Shari Anne is dead."
Sam nodded, waving at Dean to go. "I'm fine."
It didn't take long to find Marta, she'd been gone longer than Shari Anne and Pete had obviously been snacking on adulteress flesh. Like Shari Anne and Sam, she was covered in pumpkin. By the time he made it back to his brother, Sam was standing, leaning heavily against the cart.
"You ready to blow this pumpkin stand?" Dean quipped, his eyes scanning his brother's face. He wasn't disappointed when Sam's brow furrowed with annoyance.
Dean grabbed Sam's elbow when he wobbled. "You sure?"
It was slow going and the cold Halloween wind nipped at him, burning his cheeks and numbing his fingers. They trudged along the leaf-strewn trail in silence. Dean watched Sam closely out of the corner of his eye, but save for an occasional stumble due to exhaustion, Sam seemed fine. Dean's nose ran and he sniffed a couple of times before jamming his hands deep into his pockets. "You know what I could really go for right now?" He waited for his brother's trademark wrinkled brow to continue. "A cup of hot coffee."
Sam sighed in obvious agreement. The poor guy looked miserable with strings of orange still hanging from his hair and clothes.
Dean smiled wide and paused on the trail to garner Sam's full attention. "And a ginormous piece of pumpkin pie."
The look of stunned disbelief on Sam's face caused Dean to chuckle as he started walking down the trail again. When Sam caught up within two strides and slugged him hard enough on the arm to bruise, Dean chalked it up as a win.
Things were definitely looking up.
Author's closing note: This was one of those sudden inspiration fics where the ending came to me and the beginning and middle had to meet it. I was waiting for a report to load at work and started tapping out "Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater" on my desk (the first song I learned to play on the piano). Pumpkin Eater, Halloween, and my Supernatural desktop wallpaper joined forces in that instant and the closing five paragraphs wrote themselves in two shakes of a lamb's tail. :)
Incidentally, the song is played on the black keys only, which is the reason for the title. /grins