Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or its characters - these were created by Eric Kripke - I'm just borrowing them. I'm not making any commercial gain from this. No harm or infringement intended.
The Three Faces of Winchester
Chapter Ten: Hell House
Dean was indulging in a rare moment of happiness by doing exactly what he liked best; driving fast in his baby, the Impala. He had his foot flat to the floor and the empty, open road lay ahead of him as trees whipped past on either side. He felt like he was in a waking dream, not really sure if he was driving away from something, or towards it. He shook his head; these thoughts were way too deep and introspective for the likes of him. They were Sam's thoughts.
Where is Sam?
He glanced to one side, and sighed in relief - trying to ignore the passing fluttery, anxious sensation in his heart - he imagined he could see his younger brother asleep in the passenger seat. He could picture it clearly in his mind's eye – Sam's head lolling to one side, mouth relaxed and slightly parted.
He felt obliged to mark the moment by blowing off a little steam. He reached into the glove box and pulled out a plastic spoon from the secret stash of junk food he kept hidden from Sam. With a wicked grin he carefully placed it in Sam's mouth where it hung at an angle. Grinning in triumph - and trying not to chuckle too much in case he woke his brother - he quickly snapped a photo as evidence on his cell phone.
Sam chose that moment to wake and he flailed his arms wildly in his panic at discovering something in his mouth. Dean burst into loud peals of hysterical laughter.
"Jerk," muttered Sam as he retrieved the offending cutlery from where he had spat it out onto the car floor.
"Don't be a little bitch, I'm just playin' with ya," smirked Dean affectionately, bringing the car back under control and waving the phone in glee.
Sam snatched it and shrugged as he inspected the rather unremarkable photo of him looking straight into the camera with a slight smirk and a spoon in his mouth. Lame.
"Oh, it looked better when I took it," mumbled Dean in disappointed puzzlement, before shrugging and tucking the phone back into his jacket pocket.
"Do you really want to do this? Restart the whole prank war from when we were kids."
"Oh yeah! Bring it on! Remember when I put Nair in your shampoo?"
"Yeah, especially since it was you that ended up using it," Sam snorted.
"Lucky escape. Anyways, the chicks dig bald guys, so it was okay."
"Yeah, whatever," Sam laughed at Dean's weak recovery.
He looked out of the window idly, while Dean concentrated on the driving. His mind drifted to more recent serious events and he sighed.
"Wassup?" Dean asked, ever the protector, sensitive to his brother's moods, although he would never have admitted to it on pain on death.
"We should never have let Dad go, that was a big mistake," groaned Sam sorrowfully. He was having serious second thoughts and felt a little resentful towards Dean for what he felt was strong-arming him into the decision. Life with his brother, he'd decided, was a little like a runaway train; once it got moving on a course of action it was difficult to get off or change direction.
A silence hung in the air between them - an inability to talk - and to Sam it was almost like waiting for something loud and noisy to pass by. The elephant in the room, maybe? The hair stood up on the back of Dean's neck and all he could hear was the sound of blood pounding in his ears. There was...something, Dean thought in confusion, Something... someone said?
"Why did we?" he asked with an expression of bewilderment.
Sam opened his mouth to speak, but then stopped and frowned, There was a reason, what was it?
Sam rubbed the bridge of his nose, feeling vague and wooly headed.
Oh, God! How could I have forgotten that?
"We're...the same," he started to try to explain.
"What, brothers? Hunters?"
"Yes! No, I mean we're the same person."
"That's crazy... Oh," said Dean, realizing the truth despite his instinctive objections.
"Yeah, I know, I can't quite get my head round it either."
"Ha, that's because it's not your head!"
"Dude, you're the one that's not real." Sam winced as the insensitive words slipped from his lips.
"Shut up, bitch! How does that even make sense, I'm the oldest. And I'd know if I wasn't real... wouldn't I?"
"I'm not so sure."
"Huh?" Dean asked, suddenly unsure what they were talking about once more.
Sam sighed dramatically.
Dean found he had to concentrate hard to keep the conversation clear in his head. It was like walking through dense fog so that if he didn't keep a close watch on what he was doing he'd lose sight of where he was trying to get to. "You think someone would have mentioned this to us before now?" he groused.
"Maybe they have, it sure seems like we're having trouble enough just remembering from yesterday. And who would notice anyway? I mean, we're always on the move, never in one place long enough to put down roots."
"But we're not always together," Dean argued. He felt compelled to put his point across as if he was justifying his own existence.
"No, but maybe the other's asleep. Are we ever in different places at the same time?" pondered Sam aloud. He wondered if he was on the right track when it dawned on him how frequently he had gaps in his memory, or woke in places he hadn't gone to sleep. He realized he was treating this whole situation like an academic exercise as it seemed to make it more manageable and helped contain the feelings of terror that thinking about this seemed to produce.
"What if neither of us is real?" he asked with a rising sense of dread.
Dean had a half remembered feeling of a first - someone who was small and vulnerable and to be protected at all costs. Someone important to him who, under no circumstances, was to ever be disturbed.
"Sammy?" he whispered, despite himself. Memories and images started to play back too fast to take in, "No, no, no," he cried as he was almost swept away under their onslaught while he struggled to take control again.
Sammy woke at the sound of his name and, despite Dean's attempts at comfort, started sobbing seemingly without cease .
"What happened to us?" Sam croaked, when finally able to speak, "I mean, I can see you right there. Can't I?"
"Sheesh, people must just think we're crazy," Dean answered in hushed tones, shaking his head and breathing a sigh of relief that by some miracle they hadn't driven off the road.
"I think that's kinda true, though, don't ya think?"
"I don't wanna think about this, period," said Dean scowling.
By common, unspoken agreement they spent the rest of the journey in silence.
Dean was sat in the diner, too irritated to do more than just pick at his third piece of pie.
They'd spent some time interviewing a number of what could only jokingly be called witnesses in that none of them seemed to have actually witnessed anything. What little they had seen varied so wildly as to be worse than useless.
"This lot are crazier than we are," Dean complained. "And that's saying something since apparently I'm not real and you're just sitting here talking to yourself."
Sam noted that "not talking about it" didn't seem to include Dean bitching about it. Well, when he remembers, anyway. He'd noticed that the duration of his brother's lucidity - where Dean could recall their true nature - was decreasing, which was actually something of a mixed blessing given the constant moaning.
"Yeah, well, I refuse to believe I'd ever choose to make you up, and although their story's not straight, I don't think they're making that up either," he said trying to make a joke of it to lighten the mood.
"Pah! You could never imagine something as awesome as me," Dean groused jokingly.
"Yeah, it'd mean I was a very sick, sick individual," Sam said, forcing a wide grin. Many a true word said in jest. The smile faded and he shivered when he wondered what the other diner patrons actually saw when they looked at them.
Dean's eyes glazed over. How am I even really seeing this? thought Sam, as he realized that his brother had forgotten about their situation again.
"Let's go check out the haunted house," Dean chuckled, finishing off his pie.
The house was a dump. Despite the directions and description from the ridiculously guilty looking record store worker, who had instigated the original visit, neither of them had appreciated quite how out of the way it was.
Dean looked with distaste at the large power lines running low and directly overhead that rendered any reading on his homemade EMF detector meaningless. For reasons he couldn't quite explain he felt a strange compulsion to point the device at himself. Shaking off the weird feeling he shoved the detector into his pocket and made his way cautiously into the building.
The interior, if anything, was in an even worse state of repair and looked spookily like every cliché of a haunted house in every late-night, horror B movie Dean had ever sat through.
Almost every available surface was daubed with spray painted symbols, most of them pseudo-satanic, or at least religious in nature.
Dean found himself drawn to one image in particular. It was in the form of four lines forming a cross around a central point, with the bottom stroke like an upside-down question mark. The design seemed to tickle at the back of his mind and he had the definite impression that he'd seen it somewhere before, but the memory was frustratingly absent.
Sam came to the fore and inspected the area with a more skeptical eye. There was something about the house that didn't quite ring true or sit well with him.
The sheer quantity of symbols was impressive, as was their diversity. He rolled his eyes when Dean bitched at his description of the basis of their origins. It doesn't make sense, many of these come from adversarial, if not downright contradictory belief systems. Why would they be sharing wall space in the middle of nowhere? he wondered. Given the reception of his initial analysis he decided to keep the information to himself for the time being.
It was then that he noticed that given the number of competing symbols, they were all in either red or black, and, while no expert in the subject, to his eye at least they all seemed pretty much the work of the same hands. He had a mental image of two people, one with a black spray can, a shorter one with the red. Sherlock Holmes eat your heart out, and he chuckled at the thought of Dean as a bumbling Dr. Watson.
A sudden noise from the other room roused him from his musing. Dean was suddenly alert and pushed his way forward, kicking open the door, gun at the ready.
Dean could just make out two figures despite the glaring lights aimed at him destroying any vestige of night vision. To his mind they looked like a couple of skuzzy, douche-bag hipsters and he decided that he was going to take an instant dislike to them on principle.
"Oh, cut! It's just a human," ordered the taller man with a scruffy beard to his companion holding a film camera, "What are you doing here?" the man demanded, rudely addressing the Winchesters.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Dean called back, bristling at the man's smug superior tone.
Bearded guy just laughed in a really affected way that made Dean just want to punch his lights out.
"We belong here, we're professionals."
"Professional what?" snorted Dean, Pains-in-my-ass? Douche bags?
"Paranormal Investigators," beardy smirked pompously as he handed out a novelty printed business card, "There you go, take a look at that."
Dean just glared; this guy definitely deserved an ass kicking.
"Oh you gotta be kidding me," Dean growled as he glanced at the card.
Sam stepped in quickly to diffuse the tension, "Ed Zeddmore and Harry Spangler? You guys run that website," he said quickly, embarrassed that he'd not yet divulged to Dean where he'd found out about the house in the first place.
"Yeah," replied Ed, the beard-guy, in an unsurprised know-it-all voice as if it was only to be expected that Sam had heard of him.
Sam frowned as he wondered if it wouldn't be preferable to let Dean pound on the guy after all.
"Oh yeah, yeah, we're huge fans," muttered Dean sarcastically.
"And yeah, we know who you are too," added Ed importantly.
Dean stepped forward, narrowing his eyes into a glare, "Oh yeah?" he growled, while surreptitiously moving his hand towards his gun.
"Amateurs," Ed added, his voice dripping with dismissive disdain, "Looking for ghosts and cheap thrills."
Dean rolled his eyes and turned away, as for the first time in their lives the Winchester brothers tussled over who didn't want to be in charge of their body, in an attempt to tune out the self-important droning on of the ghost hunters
Sam stalked out of the town's public library, stretching out muscles tight from sitting still after a couple of hours of research. A relaxed and rested looking Dean was waiting for him, leaning up against the door of the Impala.
"Hey. So what you got?" Dean asked, unlocking the car.
"Well I couldn't find a Mordechai, but I did find a Martin Murdock who lived in the house in the '30s. He did have children, but only two, both boys and no evidence he ever killed anyone."
"Hmm. And those kids couldn't give us a clear description. No matching missing persons - it's like she never existed. Dude, basically everything everyone thinks they know about this house is completely wrong! Come on, we did our digging, this one's a bust."
"Yeah, all right."
"For all we know those hell hound boys made it all up and this whole thing's a red herring."
Sam snorted, "Why would you ever have expected anything else, dude?"
"Oh, man let's stop talking to ourselves and go find a bar, some beers and leave the legends to the locals," Dean complained as he got in the Impala.
When he turned the key in the ignition, loud music blared from the radio at a permanently ear-damaging volume, the windshield wipers went into a frenzy, and Dean jumped so high in surprise it was a wonder he didn't headbutt the ceiling.
"Whoa! What the..." he screeched in alarm, quickly reaching over to turn everything off.
Despite having no actual memory of setting up the prank, Sam was more than happy to take the credit for its execution. With an exaggerated laugh he licked his finger and made an imaginary mark in the air before pointing to himself in obviously pleasure.
"That's all you got?" muttered Dean under his breath, desperately trying to regain his dignity as drove off with his ears still ringing.
Within a couple of hours they were back at the house in a more somber mood after hearing about a murder through radio dispatch. The witnesses seemed no more reliable than before, but this time there did actually appear to be a victim. They had arrived just in time to see the ambulance take her away.
"You know, I think I vaguely remember a time when you weren't around," said Sam quietly as they watched the house.
"What, when I was in New Orleans?" Dean asked, with the vague sense of creeping dread he always got when he tried, and failed, to remember that period in his life.
"No, when I was a little kid, it was before we started staying with Uncle Bobby."
"Really? I don't get how we keep forgetting all this stuff."
"Well, it kinda makes sense, if we knew you weren't real it'd be difficult to trust you to take care of me," he smiled to take the sting out of the words. "I remember sitting up late with Dad and him telling me about you pulling me from the fire. Who wouldn't want an older brother like that taking care of them?"
"I remember Dad saying that too. In the end I could never figure out if I was remembering Dad telling me about it or the actual doing it," admitted Dean. "But I always felt how proud he was of me."
Whatever Sam was going to say next was forgotten when he heard excited whispers coming from the woods beyond the house.
"I don't believe it," grinned Dean as he caught sight of the paranormal investigators in full ghost-hunting regalia.
Dean turned towards the direction of the waiting cops and shouted to them, "Who ya gonna call?"
There was a chaotic, muddled mixture of voices as the cops chased the investigators into the woods, leaving a chuckling Sam and Dean free reign to the house.
They stopped laughing when they discovered the spirit couldn't be killed with rock salt.
"So what, you think I'm like this tupla-thing too, then?" asked Dean, his brow furrowed with concentration, a short while after Sam had finished explaining his theory that the ghost wasn't a ghost, but a very strong belief made real.
"Maybe. Do you reckon we're supernatural in origin then?" Sam's tone made it pretty clear he didn't share that opinion.
"Don't you?" Dean asked, still hoping for a 'no'.
Sam sighed and took a moment to gather his thoughts, "I was thinking about what Dr. Ellicott said about finding me in that motel..."
"Yes," said Dean slowly with a bad feeling he wasn't going to like what he was about to hear.
"Well, it sounded pretty traumatic, didn't it? And Dad, or rather the Yellow-Eyed Demon, grabbed me - so presumably there was more of the same after that," Sam explained, having to talk louder to be heard over the background noise.
Dean nodded his agreement as he too tried to tune out the noise of their surroundings.
"Well, neither of us remember, do we?"
"We came after..." said Dean softly, barely audible over the sound of screaming.
"Do you hear that?" asked Sam, suddenly aware of the deafening commotion all around them.
"It's okay, I got you," Dean reassured, carrying Sammy to safety once more.
Dean took a deep breath, "Let's not do that again," he gasped.
"D.I.D," muttered Sam, breathless with exhaustion.
"Dissociative Identity Disorder, otherwise known as multiple personality."
"Oh, I guess we should be grateful there's not a whole gang of us in here then, 'cause that would be weird," Dean replied automatically, his tone sarcastic as he chuckled a little at his own joke. He fell silent.
"Maybe if things were really bad, but you were told over-and-over about someone who had saved you," his voice cracked and he struggled to continue, "Someone who would give up everything to protect you, then don't you think you might be desperate to have that person back, no matter what?"
They looked at each other, eyes glistening, neither of them clear who had just spoken.
"Wait, then does that mean there's no Yellow Eyed Demon, it was just Dad all along?" asked Dean appalled.
Sam blinked. This was typical of Dean, just as you get so fed up of his obtrusiveness you feel like strangling him, he comes up with a gem of insightfulness like that. Still I guess it's my mind too, he thought. Then it occurred to him that it was his own mind that had wound him up in the first place.
He could sense Dean waiting impatiently for an answer.
"Yes, I guess it is just Dad," he finally answered with reluctance.
Dean held his head, trying not to scream, as tears ran down his face, "He said he's gonna kill it, Sam. He's just gonna kill himself."
Sam didn't have the heart to say 'I told you so', although he certainly thought it, "Don't worry, we'll find him again. And this time we'll stop him."
They watched in silence as the house burned and collapsed in on itself.
It sure seems easy to wish these things into existence, but not so simple to get rid of them without drastic action. This doesn't bode well.
Approaching sirens woke him from his woolgathering
"So is this the answer then? Just burn it out?" he asked.
"You could always try adding salt."
It was dark in the motel, the only illumination from the occasional passing vehicle, but he didn't need much light to help him make his way across the room and pull his father's journal from their duffle bag.
He flicked his way through the book until he got to the section where his brother had meticulously written out a detailed description of their condition in case they should forget again.
He felt a small stab of guilt for what he was about to do, Think of it as a prank, he thought as he tried to justify his actions.
With a razor from their wash bag he carefully set to cutting the page out of the journal. Once done, he inspected his work critically and was pleased that his vandalism wasn't obvious. He replaced the journal and screwed up the excised pages into a tight ball and pushed them to the bottom of the trash.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he got into bed and settled himself back down to sleep.
Forget, he commanded as he slipped into unconsciousness.