A/N: Since I'm a snot-blowing, thumb-sucking, diaper-filling infant when it comes to this site and how this whole fan-fiction thing works, the story has had no official beta (other than my put-upon husband—thanks man!). Therefore, I own all dangling participles, split infinitives, misspellings, typos, double or missing words, as well as all literary lame-assery and general amateurish writers' missteps in plot, style and tone. That said, thank you for reading my story. It is my sincerest hope that you enjoy it. Cheers.
A/N: Please assume that any and all obligatory non-ownership disclaimers apply.
A/N: These events take place directly following those in Season One's "Skin". The boys swear a lot, and there is one PG-13ish casual one-night hook-up for Dean.
A/N: A big shout-out to BlackIceWitch for the awesome poster-art. I'm every so grateful!
Killing Me Softly
Chapter One: Overture
"What, you want me to paint you a picture, dude?" Dean was not amused. It had only been a five hour drive from St. Louis to Louisville, but with Sam humming the same old tired ditty about the Shapeshifter, it had felt as long as the fuckin' Iditarod and just as warm and inviting. "How many different ways can I put it for you? The Shapeshifter was lying. Geez, dude, just give it a rest, already!" The first few bars of Zep's, The Song Remains the Same began to play. Talk about fuckin' irony. Dean snorted at the thought.
"Look man, I'm not trying to piss you off. I just wanted you to be open with me. You know you can talk to me about this." Sam was still a little unraveled over what the Shapeshifter had said. Its words were still rattling around his brain. He's sure got issues with you. You got to go to college. He had to stay home. I mean, I had to stay home. With Dad. You don't think I had dreams of my own? But Dad needed me. Where the hell were you? Did Dean truly harbor that much resentment? It had rankled deep and Sam wanted to discuss it, but his brother was completely walled off, as always.
Dean looked in the rearview mirror and caught the translucent, shimmering aura of the October sun as it dipped far beyond the Ohio River, back toward St. Louis and that goddamned monster spouting half-truths with his voice. "Sammy, you know those things talk shit just to mess with you. Come on, we're here in Louisville, so let's get our head in the game, OK?" He made sure to overstress the name—incorrect pronunciation was a pet peeve of Sam's, so he tossed that steak as high and as far as he could.
"It's pronounced Loo-uh-vul, Dean." Sam said absently. Good doggy!
"It's pronounced how?" Dean lobbed a chew toy to keep the steak company.
"Loo-uh-vul." Sam repeated.
"Nuh uh," Dean said. "What about the 'Loo-wee-ville' Slugger, then?" he asked with convincing incredulity, grinning as his clueless brother loped after the goodies.
Sam tiredly stretched his neck but kept his eyes on the map. He was trying to make sure they didn't miss their exit. "I don't know what to tell you, man. That's how they pronounce it, here. Don't you remember from when we were here in '98?" Dean's face glazed a bit as he quietly flipped through his internal card-catalog of hunts. Sam prompted, "Vengeful spirit? That crazy tennis-shoe company heiress. The one that had lived in that old hotel." Still just a blank-face from Dean. "C'mon, man, you know, the...the crazy-lady ghost who had that thing for hamburgers." That did it.
"Oh yeah, that one. 'Nike,'" Dean said awash in the glow of his inner light-bulb. "I distracted her with that bag of sliders, while you salted and burned the bones. Good times," he chuckled. "Man, what a weird hunt. What a weird town."
"It was 'Converse'," said Sam, "and at least you liked the Derby Pie, here."
"Mmm, pie." Dean agreed. "Ok, so what exactly is the deal here in old Loo-wee-ville?" he said, pointedly mispronouncing the name with a grin. Sam bitchfaced him upside the head but then just gave in and grabbed the newspaper with the story that'd brought them there. Steak eaten. Chew toy chased. Shapeshifter talk averted. I'm like freakin' Van Gogh, here! Dean grinned wide and gave his brother a nudging thwack on the arm. "Come on, man. What do we got?"
Sam pointed to the Bardstown Road exit indicating for Dean to take it then gave his attention to the newspaper article. "Ok," he said, "three deaths in the last couple of months. All had connections to The Louisville Artistic Endeavor, a local amateur artistic community center where people get together to network and share their own works of art, literature, composition and the like."
"Ok, so a bunch of crappy dead artists, and where do we come in?" Dean asked.
"Well, it's really weird." Sam regarded the newspaper. "Autopsies on each have come up inconclusive."
"Environmental cause?" Dean suggested.
"Seems reasonable, but they've found nothing. That's not the weird part, though," Sam said. "Apparently prior to each death, the victim became highly…how should I say it? Creatively obsessive. Prolific. It's like they turned into creative savants over night, producing works of sheer genius in whatever medium they had chosen: sculpture, poetry, photography. Now, these pieces have art critics, publishing companies and museums clamoring. Yet all had been mere amateurs. One of the guys, the photographer, he was just the janitor for the center. He'd no previous experience or artistic ability at all. One day he's a janitor, the next he's Ansel Adams."
"Crossroad's Deals?" Dean offered.
Sam held up a finger, "You'd think, but it doesn't seem likely, man," he said. "Each instance occurred within a span of a week or so, and they certainly never got a chance to profit from anything." Sam pointed. "Motel's right up here on the right."
"OK, Picasso, so what do you think it is?" Dean steered the Impala into the parking lot of the Derby City Motel and turned off the engine.
"Honestly?" Sam said. "I've no idea. I called the center and spoke with a Cleo Harper. She's the director of the center and she's agreed to meet with us tonight."
"Tonight?" Dean griped. "Aw man, it's getting dark. I was thinking food, drinks, some pool and maybe…you know…" He pressed the flat of his front teeth against his lower lip and did a pigeon-like head-bob in an attempt to approximate 'getting his freak on'.
"Dude, your brain's not right." Sam shook his head in puritanical indignation.
"Nuh uh Sammy, both m'brains are working just fine!" he said saucily, pointing to both the 'upstairs' and the 'downstairs' versions. He cackled like he'd said the funniest thing in the world.
Sam considered him a moment. "You are such a libertine," he chided. "Stay here while I go check us in."
Dean looked confused and slightly taken aback. "You know I don't vote, dude."
"What's the room number?" Dean asked shouldering both his and Sam's duffels and handing him the weapons tote. Sam grabbed the bag and pointed to the nearby room and unlocked the door. Dean tossed his duffel on the near bed and lobbed Sam's over to the bed across the room. The room itself was pure Kentucky Derby kitsch, tacky horse pictures on the wall and a race-horse themed partition between the kitchenette and the sleeping area.
Dean rifled through his duffel, sniffing a shirt to see if it was fresher than the one he had on. "So what's our cover? FBI? CDC?" he asked. "We suiting up for this?"
Sam hesitated just a bit and cleared his throat. "Um neither. I told her I was a Grad-student from Stanford here to study the occurrences of spontaneous savantism."
Dean's eyes shuttered, wary, having caught every single word he said, or didn't say. "Ok, Einstein. So you better lend me some of your pansy-ass preppy clothes, then, so I can look the part, at least."
"I didn't tell her you were a Grad-student." Sam admitted, clearing his throat. "I said I was traveling with my brother—a mechanic."
Dean stood there blinking like an owl, insulted, surprised. His eyes flattened. "OK, so…what? You don't think I could pull off a Grad-student?" he asked bitterly.
"Dude, it's not like that," Sam defended himself. "I just wanted to make sure you were comfortable if the talk got too academic. There's going to be a poetry reading at the Café tonight, from the collection of one of the victims. I didn't want you to feel out of place or unsure."
Dean huffed out a blast of resentment and disgust, his previous good mood having taken a sudden, ugly turn. "Whatever, dude." He silently fumed his way to the door with his hackles raised high. Sam blocked his path, trying to pacify his volatile brother.
"Dean," he began.
"Let's just go and get this over with." Dean said blankly. He'd completely shut down, now, and Sam knew that any attempt to get him to understand was pointless, at least not right now. He sighed and moved aside, letting his brother push sullenly past him into the cool October evening.
Cleo Harper's handshake was as masculine as her features, and very, very enthusiastic. John had always taught his boys to have a firm shake, but he had nothing on this tall, thick, eccentrically dressed, forty-something year old woman. Her 1920's styled hair-bob actually made her look just a little like a transvestite, and Sam wasn't entirely convinced she wasn't. He tried not to stare too conspicuously as he checked her cleavage and neck for any tell-tales. She appeared to be the genuine article, though.
"Oh, I'm so glad to meet you, Sam." She kept shaking. "And this is your brother, Dean?" She practically arm wrestled him. "So nice to meet you, too, honey." She introduced the shorter, younger woman at her side. "This is Leana Sheehan. She's an Art History student at U of L. She's interning as my assistant this semester."
"Nice to meet you, both." Leana said. She appeared to be the polar opposite of Cleo, long strawberry blond hair, slim, and very attractive. She offered her hand to both Winchesters.
"Please, let's sit down. We'll want to order and chat before the reading starts." Cleo settled everyone around the table.
"You're a long way from Stanford, Sam. How did you hear about the deaths here?" Cleo ventured after their food arrived.
"Well, I'm writing a thesis on savantism. One of my professors is from Louisville and heard about what was happening. It's extremely rare for an individual to spontaneously develop savantism without brain injury, so I asked my brother to come help me research it." Cleo nodded, and Sam could hear his brother shift in his seat. "So, when did all of this start, Cleo?" Sam asked.
"It was a couple of months ago, now." Cleo leaned in and waved a thick, muscular hand. "It started with Martin McKenney. He was a high school art teacher, volunteered at the center teaching sculpture to kids and seniors," she said.
"So, he was a trained sculptor?" Sam asked.
"Well, he had studied the art form, sure, but he was far from a master. Then, out of the blue he started assembling pieces that were," she strove for the right words, "transformative, sublime. Well," she couldn't quite seem to satisfy herself, "they were goddamned amazing. Then, suddenly, about a week after he started working so furiously, he was found dead at the community center. They still haven't figured out what happened. His family had one of the Neurologists from the University Hospital do some tests, but there's little they can really test for at this point. The brain is no longer active. You might want to talk to her. I have her name back at the center, I believe. They still haven't released a cause of death on anyone yet as far as I know. It was tragic. Bless his heart, he was a beautiful soul."
"Was there anything else out of the ordinary, did he act differently just before he died?" Sam asked.
Cleo thought for a moment, "Well, he was very distracted, obsessed. That was out of character for him, but he would not stop working. I tried to get him to go home and give it a rest, but he just said that he'd catch some sleep in the Center's workshop and told me he'd lock up. I don't know for a fact if he slept or not. The poor thing might have worked himself to death for all that anyone knows."
Dean interjected. "Have you noticed anything strange or odd happening at the center itself?"
Cleo frowned. "Strange like how?"
"Any electrical issues, drastic temperature changes?" Dean said.
Cleo looked confused. "I…I don't think so. Can't imagine anything like that would have that kind of effect."
"Oh, you'd be surprised. Sammy, here, he knows all about that stuff. Isn't that right, Sammy, being a Grad-student and all?"
"Certain electrical impulses have been known to affect different centers of the brain," Sam said glaring at Dean. Dean took a big mouthful of his Hot Brown and chewed loudly.
"Well, to my knowledge there was nothing out of the ordinary. And Paul Bohanon didn't spend much time at the Center before he died, he collapsed taking photos at a local park."
"He was the janitor, right?" Sam asked.
"Yes. He'd worked at the Center for a few years. Older fellow. In his early 50's, a real handy-man. Out of the blue he borrowed some of the photography equipment from the Center and started taking pictures. I haven't seen anything like it. Most of the collection has already been purchased, but we do have a few of his photos left. We can show you those, too. In his case, though, he stopped coming to work altogether, so I can't tell you if he was acting strangely, because he just disappeared. About a week later he was found by hikers at Bernheim Forest, camera still in hand. It was odd though, his last few rolls of film, that is."
"Odd how?" prompted Sam.
"Well, his last few rolls of film were nothing but unfocused photos, as though he'd snapped them all, roll after roll, by randomly clicking at nothing." She shrugged. "Still, there's no denying the genius behind most of the photos that he took that week. There is simply no accounting for it."
Dean spoke with his mouth full. "How much genius does it take to snap a Kodak?" he said with a little snort.
Cleo looked at him a little taken aback. "So I take it you're not much of an art lover, Dean?"
He shrugged a little. "Not really, ma'am. Being a mechanic and all, I don't get to many museums." He visibly jerked as Sam's leg apparently made contact with a sensitive body part under the table.
Leana perked up. "A mechanic? You must be very good with your hands, then." She looked at him with interest.
"It's been said, sweetheart, by more'n a few." He grinned lasciviously. Sam cleared his throat, but Leana had smiled and winked back.
Sam quickly interjected, trying to recover and get the conversation back on track. "And the last man, the poet?"
"Right," Cleo went on. "Alex Peterson. Young fellow, his lovely fiancé, Calli, is heartbroken. The other two weren't married, that I know of. Martin was a widower. His wife, Leia, died a few years back. Oh," she pined, "Leia was a doll, the funniest woman I ever met, such a shame." She pulled herself out of her reverie. "Alex, now, he was a volunteer for our creative writing program. He died about three weeks ago, and it is his poetry that is going to be read tonight. There are a couple of different publishing companies that are bidding on his work. You'll understand what I mean when you hear it." Dean sighed audibly. "I think it's getting ready to start now." An old, thin man was taking a place at the podium situated near a charming outdoor hearth.
"Do you think it would be possible to get Calli's phone number?" Sam asked as people were beginning to hush.
"Sure honey, I'll make sure you get it before we leave." With that the poetry reading began.
Leana yawned and made eye-contact with Dean as everyone was clapping and getting up ready to go. She mouthed 'boring!' and that earned her a grin from Dean. He'd been bored out of his mind, of course, and having to sit through it did nothing to improve his mood. As everyone was getting up from the table and saying their goodbyes, Leana took Dean's hand and shook it. "It was very nice to meet you, Dean." She glanced at his hand in hers. "You really do have wonderful hands, you know. I'd love to see you work with them one day."
Dean looked at her a little curiously. Funny, the way she said that didn't seem remotely like a come on. "Uh, sure thing," he fumbled a little at her straight-forward delivery. He was used to innuendo and didn't really know what to do without it.
After getting Calli's contact information, Sam wished Cleo and Leana a good night and turned down the offer of a ride back to the motel since they were literally two blocks away. Sam made plans to meet them tomorrow at the Center to look at the artwork. The walk home was a little chilly, in more ways than one.
"Holy shit this place is hippy central," said Dean as they walked past the funky red-brick buildings. They had passed an incense store, a Wiccan apothecary, a hemp fabric shop, and an art supply store all in the same block.
"Come on Dean, tell me you didn't enjoy that. The poetry really was incredible," Sam said.
"Well, it was no Green Eggs and Ham, but, then again, I was barely paying attention."
"I'm no expert, but I thought it was truly inspired, and I really like this quaint neighborhood. It's offbeat and funky."
"My god, dude, you really are just a pack of clove cigarettes and a beret away from being a beatnik, aren't you?" Dean's irritation was peeking through his jest.
Sam shrugged. "I dunno, I could get used to living in a neighborhood like this."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Say, why don't we go find that famous intersection, it's got to be around here somewhere, we can take your picture in front of it."
"What are you talking about?" Sam asked.
"You know, what is it? The corner of Haight and Ashbury, right? Got to be right up here a ways." He said as they walked past a head shop.
"You're an ass." Sam said. Dean simply walked coolly on.
"We need to talk, man," Sam urged. He'd been well aware of Dean's mood all evening, and the chill in the room was palpable. It was time to deal with it whether Dean wanted to or not.
"I need a drink more," Dean said. His keys were in his hand and Sam was blocking the door.
"Dean, don't. Talk to me, man," Sam said.
"Nothing to talk about, Sammy. You did what you felt you had to do. Just let it go."
"No way, man. I did not mean for you to take the Grad-student thing like that."
Dean didn't even try and toss the proverbial steak at this point. He'd had enough. "So, what…You spend five solid hours in the car worrying that I sacrifice everything because I'm some kind of freak that can't stand himself, that I was resentful about having to stay with dad while you got college, you worry about me not having dreams of my own and then turn around and imply that I'm basically too stupid for anything else, is that it?" He shook his head, more in disappointment than in outright anger.
Sam flinched as though he'd taken a punch. His defenses kicked in and he started throwing a few of his own. "Well, do you resent it, Dean? Do you? I don't want you to think you have to look out for me, Dean. You don't have to give up everything, sacrifice your life. That's all I'm saying, man. You don't have to do that." He began to lose his temper. "I don't want you to do that. I don't need you to do that. I'm a goddamned adult," he said bitterly. "I don't want that kind of crap laid at my feet. I don't want that laid on me, man."
Dean nodded, icy eyes fixed on the door. "OK." He moved to get past Sam. "Now get out of my way."
"Dean, man…" Sam tried.
"I'm going out, Sam. I'm going to get a drink. Drinks. Lots of them. If I can find a woman in this freakish part of town that actually shaves her armpits, I may even be out late. Other than that, I got nothing to say." Dean stood there still and unyielding, silently waiting for Sam to move.
Sam searched his face for a moment and then sighed. Dean was out the door without another word, leaving Sam to quietly close it in defeat.
It had been a long day, and Mel was looking for some fun. She walked around the back of the bar, slowly working her way up to those brooding green eyes she'd been watching drink shot after shot until they started to look a little bleary and dull. Probably best go say hello before the hot package they were attached to tipped over. He wouldn't be of any use to her if she let him go on much longer. She slipped onto the stool next to his and arched her back, stretching as though she'd been doing strenuous lifting all day instead of working at the tanning salon. She rubbed the back of her neck and twisted in an attempt to get a good crack out of it. He seemed pretty married to his whiskey, taking little notice of anything else. She wasn't about to let that stop her, though.
She nudged him and smiled, "I'll buy this round if you promise not to fall off the stool before you can buy the next," she winked.
He turned to her and looked her up and down a little. He didn't say anything, but he offered her a spongy leer and a nod. She hailed the bartender and ordered a whiskey for him and a chardonnay for herself. They sat together for a while making small talk, bumping hands when they drank, brushing up against each other as they laughed when some drunk spilled a drink on himself at the other end of the bar. Mel decided to make her move. Green-eyes was already five-sheets in, and if she didn't get a taste of those lips before he passed out, she would simply splinter.
Mel rubbed her neck again seductively, ensuring his attention remained fixed on her. "Work was a killer today. I'm so tense. See?" she said tilting her head to the side exposing her neck and delicate clavicle as evidence.
"Work will do that to you," he said, his pastel eyes washing over her indulgently.
"So other than allowing exceptionally sexy girls to buy you drinks, what else do you do?" she asked coyly.
He rolled his eyes, snorted into his whiskey and drank it like a bitter pill. "I'm a mechanic," he said finishing off his drink and hailing the bartender for a refill.
His mood seemed to sour suddenly. She flashed him a smile, trying to recover her obvious fumble. She didn't give a fuck about his occupation, wasn't the slightest bit interested in sharing his dental plan. She was just interested in sharing tonight. "A mechanic? You must be very good with your hands, then," she said suggestively.
She watched him quirk an eyebrow and smirk, sharing some inside joke with himself. He nodded and leaned in close, close enough for her to feel the heat of his breath against her ear. "It's been said. You'd have to be the judge, though." He brought his hand up and gently massaged the nape of her neck that she'd been rubbing earlier.
"Mmmm." She closed her eyes enjoying the thrill that shot down her spine under his touch. She eyed him with a playful smile. "But, you know, I'm not sure that's really enough to judge."
"No?" he played. He eased his hand down lower incrementally until her back was arching lightly as he hit the tender spot in her lower back. "How about that?"
"That's pretty good, but I'm not quite convinced just yet," she teased. "I might be able to tell better if we went back to my place. These stools are so hard." She turned to him. "Don't you think they're hard?"
Yes. Hard. He drained his drink and nodded toward the door. "Let's go."
She smiled broadly and purred. "My place, then."
They never made it past his Impala.
Her heart thundered as he leaned her up against his car, grabbing fistfuls of her charcoal hair, tilting her face into his. His whiskey tongue brushed against her lip and she breathed it in hungrily, flicking her own against it as his hands explored the canvas of her breasts. Quivering gasps of pleasure found a way around her kiss as those hands gently kneaded and pinched all the sensitive places. She hitched up, draping a leg around his waist and pulled him close to her, allowing the pressure of his body to hold her firm against the car. Her mind started to fracture as his hands moved lower, massaging their way down until she was writhing with urgency. She frantically searched with one hand behind her for the door handle of the car.
"Door!" she panted out as her hand fumbled behind her. He reached out and grabbed it, gently easing her in and closing the door behind him. He caressed and nibbled his way up her body until he was blanketing her face to face, her back arching away from the smooth leather in an attempt to feel as much of his taut heat against her. He really was a fucking artist at this, she thought. His lips, hands, even his legs worked in unison, stroking, brushing, grazing until she was saturated in vibrant wave after vibrant wave of pleasure. She shivered under his inspired manipulations; they sharpened her senses until even the soft bristles of his eyelashes fluttering against her cheek sent a prismatic thrill right through to her soft core. Good with his hands? She tilted, inviting him in as far as he could reach. Jesus, he was a fucking master.
She'd been watching him for hours now, silently drinking him in until very little remained. But she still thirsted. Her body whispered down the aisle of the concert hall, out from under the dark recess of the balcony, prowling close enough to hear his tormented scrawlings on the music sheets. Close enough to hear his bereft sobs. Wordlessly she crept up behind him, her eyes placid, serene. She could let him slowly bleed into her or she could take one last taste. Either way it would be over soon.
She put her lips to the nape of his neck and he stiffened at her touch, paused a moment but then went back to his scrawling. The Dark Muse looked at his work and a hint of a smile skirted her face. She leafed through his composition with its confident, purposeful script of notes filling page after soul-splashed page. Toward the end of the piece the notes had disintegrated into scratches and scribbles, the work of a toddler with a crayon. Black scrawls repeated in endless tormented loops, senseless, discordant. She laid her cheek against his head and touched a tear that ran down his cheek, gently sucking it from her finger like a confection secretively dabbed from a bowl.
He lifted his sorrowful eyes and saw her for the first time, startled. "You?" He looked at her with tired recognition. "Has it been you this whole time?" he asked forlornly.
She smiled and eased herself onto his lap, facing him, her arms draped loosely around his neck. "Did you enjoy my gift?" she prodded, gentle. Cruel.
He closed his eyes, trying to concentrate. "Do I have a wife? I can't remember her name anymore. Do I have children?" he asked as he wept.
"Wife and two kids," she said, a little bored. She dabbed at another tear and delicately licked it from her finger.
"I can't hear it anymore. The Song. Where did it go?" he looked at his Muse and touched his head as though in great pain. "When it began I could hear colors. I could see and taste a concerto. Now, it's all black, all foul. It's all noise. It hurts. I can't remember my life," he lamented. "What did you do to me? Where did it all go?"
The Dark Muse blithely cupped his chin in her hand. "The song, the colors? It's all here," she pointed to her heart. "I have the love you felt." She kissed his neck. "The fear you bore." She caressed his ear. "The devotion you held." She stroked his hair. "And a copy is right here." She tapped the stack of music he'd created. "The world will know what you gave me," she said as though to offer him solace.
He put his face in his hands and wept disconsolately. "I gave you nothing." He moaned. "You took everything from me."
She gently took his hands in hers and kissed his palms, her tongue lapping his tears sensually. "No." She pet his hair. "Not quite."
"I'm finished," he said sadly.
"Yes." She kissed him deeply until he slumped in her arms, his eyes empty and vacant.
The Dark Muse held her embrace long after he was gone, stroking and caressing him, softly whispering endearments into an ear that could not hear. As lovely as he had been she was still left wanting. He, like the others, had not been able to slake her thirst. She hung her head and sighed. Collecting herself, she arose from the dead man. Perhaps the new one she'd chosen would fill her. She smiled warmly at the thought. Surely he would.
Dean winced and tossed up a protective hand to shield his hangover from Sam's ruthless attack. Sam had loudly drawn back the curtains allowing the bright morning sun to dazzle his brother's spongy eyes.
"Not cool, dude," he croaked, one gluey, bloodshot eye popped itself open, licked its finger and tested the wind. Hmm, rough seas. The eye scurried for cover and Dean tossed a pillow over it for good measure. "S'too early," he muffled from below deck. He chewed on his tongue, trying to get the taste of last night off of it. Was that cherry lip-balm? Christ, he felt like crap.
Hung-over or not, Dean appeared to be in better spirits. Guess a double-digit blood alcohol level and a night of casual sex was more of a panacea than Sam thought. Who knew? "It's 10:30, man. We have to meet Cleo and Leana in an hour. And trust me," he sniffed, "you want a shower first."
A cheeky grin popped out from under the pillow, but its owner didn't budge. Sam set down a cup of coffee and waved a bag of breakfast food in front of his nose causing Dean to heave and make a beeline for the bathroom. Dean could hear an outright Mutley-snigger as he dove for the toilet. "Not cool, dude!" he shot out between urps.
His head was still reverberating but he felt a little more human after a shower and a shave, though. He was brushing his teeth when he heard a cell phone ring and Sam's muffled voice talking.
"We have to go now, Dean," Sam called as he cracked the door and stuck his head in.
"The hell, dude, give me a minute," he bitched around a mouthful of toothpaste.
"Cleo just called," Sam said. "There's been another death."
"I can't believe it," Cleo keened. "Thom Mitchell was a good man. He was the choir director at St. Cecilia's and one of our Community Orchestra members. I've no idea what's happening here." Her face was pinched with sincere distress and sorrow, and she dabbed her eyes forlornly. The tears didn't make her appear any less manly, however.
Dean stood on the apron of the stage, peering out over the orchestra pit and into the audience area, palming his homemade EMF meter. He glanced at Sam and nodded, indicating for him to cover him while he gave the place a once-over. Sam made clear eye contact and then turned to Cleo. Dean stuck the ear-buds in and nonchalantly began to sweep.
"When did they find him, Cleo?" Sam asked.
"Around 7:00 this morning. This is the hall where our community orchestra rehearses during the summer. Everything is shut down for the season, now. Our orchestra director had come to put some stuff in storage down in the basement and found him."
Leana pointed upstage. "He was found up there slumped in a chair surrounded by a ream of music sheets. They're still up there," she said sadly. "I don't know music, but I think—I think it's probably like all the rest." Sam and Cleo went to investigate.
Cleo knelt down and was looking at the sheets. "I'm no expert, either, but I'm sure these are important. We have to collect them and give them to his wife, Polly. They belong to her, now." She touched the sheets sadly, at a loss.
While Sam and Cleo collected and organized the scattered sheets Leana smiled and serenely walked over to where Dean was sweeping his EMF between the proscenium arch and the apron of the stage. He noticed her and attempted to cover himself, giving off his best I'm bored, so I'm listening to music vibe.
"What's that?" she asked.
He pulled the ear-buds out of his ear and shrugged. "Oh, vintage Walkman," he said shifting somewhat uneasily. "Just listening to some tunes while Sam does his thesis crap."
"I see," she said. "Well, I'll leave you to your music, then," she smiled, warmly patted his arm and moved off upstage to where Sam and Cleo were pouring over the composition.
Dean waited until Leana had joined the discussion upstage, then situated the ear-buds back in and continued his sweep. He'd noticed no unusual activity, although it was difficult to judge since the high voltage stage-lights gave off false readings. He was heading over to the other side of the proscenium when he started to hear a rather pensive melody coming from the headphones. He stopped and studied his meter, moving it around to see if any slight changes in altitude had any bearing on the volume or cadence of the music, but the meter didn't appear to be picking anything up. Moving back to where he'd been standing when the music started proved to have no bearing, either. The hell? he thought, poking at buttons to determine if this was a malfunction of some kind or a form of spirit activity he'd never encountered before. He took out the ear-buds so that he could concentrate better, since the music was swelling and becoming too distracting. He actually staggered a bit in surprise when he found that the music was still audible. Examining the Walkman he noted that sound-waves were visibly rippling against it in pulsating, glimmering colors. He dropped it in surprise gaining the attention of the others upstage.
"What the fuck?" he blurted out.
"Dean?" Sam called, looking at Dean's puzzled expression. "What's wrong?"
Dean looked toward Sam and the others, and that's when he noticed light auras radiating from everything, including Sam. His mouth worked around a series of surprised O's as he strove to lock onto something recognizable. He glanced from point to point in dazed confusion, as the light warped and stretched, changing its hues as his eyes moved. He stuck the heel of his hands to his eyes and rubbed vigorously. The hangover was still with him, sure, and the entire bag of breakfast he'd scarfed on the way over wasn't sitting particularly pretty right about now, but this felt—strange. He wouldn't say it was unpleasant, but he couldn't quite wrap his brain around what he was seeing and hearing. Holding his hands to his ears, he tested whether he could physically block the sounds but nothing worked. It was as though the music was emanating from him. He could literally see it lightly vibrating off of his own arms in shimmering, fractal patterns.
"Hey, man, you ok?" Sam asked with more concern.
Instinctively, Dean started to back away from the strange sensations, trying to get both his bearings and his balance back. A gentle glow of golden light surrounded Sam as he set down the papers and started moving toward Dean, and while rather compelling in a way, it was still disorienting enough that Dean moved back even more abruptly. He watched with growing alarm as the light around Sam changed rapidly from gold to a harsh, clashing red when Sam started shouting something at him. Bewildered, Dean tried to make out what he was yelling about so furiously when he suddenly felt the seasick, heaving jerk of gravity as he took one final, off-kilter step into the orchestra pit below. He could have sworn he actually tasted ozone when a tremendous crack of thunder ripped through his head and violently hurled him into mind-numbing darkness.
To Be Continued…