A/N: 7.10 spoilers implied.
Sing a Song of Sixpence
It had seemed like such a simple case. Go in, gank the poltergeist, get out. Getting out was harder than they'd expected, though. The two sweet little old ladies who lived in the house, sisters who'd never married, were extremely grateful and insisted on rewarding them with coffee and cake, fussing and fretting over them even though they were (outwardly) fine and asking them all about their plans for Christmas. Dean tried to fend them off, but finally he gave up and admitted that it would be just the two of them this year since they had no one else to visit.
"All alone in the world?" asked one, sounding like it was the saddest thing ever.
Dean tried to shrug it off. "We're okay."
"Well, you'll take a pie with you, at least," said the other, walking over to the pie safe.
Dean blinked. "Pie?"
Sam finally spoke up. "No, really, that's not necessary..."
But the lady who'd offered the pie would not be deterred. "Nonsense. You can't have a proper Christmas without a fruit-mince pie!" She pulled one out and bustled over to Dean, pressing it into his hands. "There, now."
Dean grinned. "Awesome. Thanks, Miss Brewster. Hey, uh, we should get going."
"Yeah," Sam nodded.
It took another minute or two of repeated farewells and refusals to take more than the pie before they were finally able to get out the door. Then, with an exchanged look and mutual sighs of relief, they made their way back to the Impala—out of storage, now that Dean didn't see the point in hiding anymore and Sam didn't have the energy to argue—and drove back to the motel, stopping for burgers on the way.
After scarfing down his bacon cheeseburger and washing it down with a beer, Dean cut himself a slice of the pie. "Hey, Sammy, you want some?"
Sam, who was working steadily on his own hamburger, wrinkled his nose. "No, thanks."
"Dude, it's fruit-mince. There's no meat in this thing anywhere."
"Still doesn't sound good to me."
Dean shrugged. "Your loss." And he tucked into his slice. He slowed down after the first couple of bites, though, and he'd barely eaten half of it when he stopped.
Sam frowned. "What's wrong?"
Dean shook his head. "I dunno. Tastes funny."
Sam had a sudden flashback to Broward County. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I... I think..." But his breathing was quickly becoming rapid and labored, and one arm curled around his stomach. "Then again... gettin' dizzy... kinda nauseous."
Dean shook his head and, after another few seconds of panting, bolted for the bathroom.
Sam's mind whirled as he listened to Dean being noisily sick. No, there wasn't really a reason to suspect the burger of causing food poisoning, not with it coming on this fast. Sam had eaten a burger from the same place and felt fine. But the pie tasted funny... yet there wasn't anything in the pie that could cause food poisoning. Even if the ingredients could have been suspect, the top crust was a perfect golden brown; it should have baked well enough to kill off any bacteria or parasites.
Yeah, I don't think it's food poisoning, said Lucifer.
Sam bashed his knee against the leg of the table to shut Lucifer up and went to check on Dean, since it sounded like he'd finished vomiting. But Dean slammed the door shut before Sam could get there, and seconds later Sam heard explosions coming out Dean's other end.
By the time Dean dragged himself out of the bathroom, pale and sweating and still breathing rapidly, Sam had a clean change of clothes and a bottle of Gatorade waiting for him. Dean waved off the clothes but accepted the Gatorade as he sank down on the bed with a groan that might have contained profanity.
"I think it's the pie," Sam said as Dean gulped Gatorade between gasps for air. "I dunno what they did to it, but I don't think it's food poisoning. I'll see what I can dig up about curses someone could put in a pie."
"'Kay." Dean leaned back against the headboard, hands twitching a little.
Hey, Sammy, said Lucifer from the other bed, why does the name Brewster sound familiar?
Sam gritted his teeth and went back to the table to start researching curses.
He was still there half an hour later when Dean's breathing got worse and the muscle spasms started. Fighting panic and trying desperately to ignore Lucifer's cackling, he got Dean onto his side, but Dean's joints seemed locked, and his back and neck kept arching backward as he screamed hoarsely. The spell lasted a good two minutes, and then Dean went completely limp.
"Damn," Dean croaked, "that was hellish."
And Sam knew Dean didn't say that lightly. Not anymore.
"Found anything yet?"
"Not yet," Sam replied as Lucifer started whistling "There Is a Happy Land." "You said the pie tasted funny; what did it taste like?"
Dean made an uncertain noise. "Kinda bitter. Almond-y. But there's no nuts."
Sam's eyes went wide as he put all the clues together and realized what his subconscious had been trying to tell him:
Well, dear, for a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoonful of arsenic, then add half a teaspoonful of strychnine, and then, just a pinch of cyanide.
He swore and grabbed the phone.
Dean frowned. "Dude, what..."
"911, what is your emergency?"
"I need an ambulance right away," Sam said, not bothering to hide the panic in his voice. "My brother's been poisoned!"
The next few hours were a whirl of activity and anguish; any touch other than Sam's sent Dean into another round of painful seizures, and the police had all kinds of questions for Sam about the pie and its origins. Sure enough, tox screens from both Dean and the pie showed that it was laced with all three of the poisons that had figured in Arsenic and Old Lace. And in the middle of everything, the Brewster sisters called to say that the poltergeist hadn't been banished after all.
Sam had a sudden suspicion that the problem wasn't actually a poltergeist.
"Okay, listen," he said. "I'm kinda tied up right now, but I'm gonna send someone to come get you out of the house. Until they get there, get a box of salt and pour it in a big circle on the floor. Make sure there aren't any gaps in it, okay? Then sit in the middle of it; you'll be safe there."
The sisters agreed and thanked him, and he hung up.
The officer he'd been talking to looked at him oddly. "What was that all about?"
Sam huffed a laugh. "They think they're being attacked by a poltergeist. Do you mind... 'rescuing' them?" He even made the scare quotes with his fingers.
The officer chuckled. "Nah, I think we've got enough to at least bring 'em in for questioning—I mean, 'protective custody.'" He winked.
Sam laughed. "Thank you."
As soon as the officer left, Sam made his way into the ER room where Dean was being treated. He was still in danger, especially given how much alcohol as was in his system; but the EMTs had gotten the antidotes to all three poisons into him quickly and put him on oxygen, so he was looking a little better as he looked up at Sam.
"Hey," Sam said quietly. "The Brewster sisters just called—they're still being attacked. But I don't think it's a poltergeist. If they're doing the whole Arsenic and Old Lace thing, there's probably a ton of bodies buried in their basement."
"Once the cops have 'em out of the house, I figure I should go take care of the remains. You gonna be okay until I get back?"
Dean shot him a thumbs-up.
"Don't you dare give up, dude. I can't—I can't lose you, too. Not again. Not now."
Dean gave him a look that spoke volumes: exhaustion, grief, depression... and love. After a moment, he flashed another thumbs-up.
"Okay. Be back in a couple of hours."
Sam drove slowly back to the Brewster house and stopped a couple of blocks before he got to it. The sisters were just leaving with the police. As soon as they were gone, Sam got out, grabbed the shovel, salt, and gas, and made his way to the back of the house, where there were doors leading down to the cellar.
The icy blast that met him when he opened the cellar door didn't surprise him. Neither did the crowd of ghosts that appeared as soon as he reached the bottom of the steps, mostly elderly men.
"Your brother took a pie," said one of them. "Is he..."
"They think he'll live," Sam replied. "We'll make sure the police take care of the Brewsters."
"They didn't even ask if we wanted to die," said another ghost.
"I know. But we'll see justice done. Can... can you let go? If not, I'll have to burn your bones."
A number of the weaker spirits did look relieved and faded out. The stronger ones, however, shook their heads.
"Been here too long, son," said the first ghost who had spoken. "But I reckon we can make your job a sight easier."
The ground shook, making the foundations tremble and the house above groan. And then a strong, icy wind rushed in through the open doors, blowing away the dirt and uncovering row upon row of neatly buried bodies in various states of decay. Sam let out a quiet, sad curse.
"That ain't all they've killed," said the first ghost, "just the ones buried here. They use wine, too, just like the movie. Far as I know, though, none of the souls that took pies and died elsewhere are here."
There was a general murmur of agreement from the other ghosts.
Sam nodded. "Okay. Thank you."
He opened the bag of salt he'd brought down, and one of the ghosts picked it up carefully and scattered the salt evenly across the graves while Sam splashed gas in a trail that would require striking only one match. Then he made his way back to the stairs.
"Thank you, son," said the first ghost. "I hope your brother makes it."
"Me, too," Sam replied. "Thanks." Then he lit the match, dropped it in the gas, and made his way out as the fire began consuming the victims' remains.
He didn't stay to keep an eye on the fire or to re-bury the remains. Whatever the cops thought, even if the house burned down, at least the bodies would be easy to find.
Dean surprised everyone but Sam by pulling through, even in spite of the alcohol detox that followed hard on the heels of the other poisons' effects wearing off. His lungs had been damaged by the combination of cyanide and strychnine, so the doctors kept him in the hospital until they were sure he wasn't likely to catch pneumonia right away. There was also some slight damage to his heart and brain from the cyanide, though not enough to significantly affect his health or mental functions—provided he cut back on his drinking. Dean grumbled, but Sam gave Dean the Look, which finally convinced him to cooperate so they could finally get out of there. Sam had already poured out all of the stashes of anything stronger than beer that he could find, anyway.
And shockingly, their faked insurance not only held up but also failed to trip any of the leviathans' search protocols. Sam had to wonder if God, or maybe Kali, was still looking out for them in spite of everything.
"Whatever happened to the Brewsters?" Dean asked as Sam wheeled him out to the Impala.
Sam snorted. "Weirdest copycat crime ever, dude. Their name really is Brewster, and they saw Arsenic and Old Lace when it was in the theaters and never figured out why Mortimer was making such a big deal about such a great charity. They've been 'helping' people who are alone and unhappy for something like fifty years, ever since their father died and left them the house. Nobody realized they were nuts. But they confessed to the whole thing when the police questioned them."
"Hundreds, by their count. There were something like fifty just in the cellar."
Dean shuddered, and Sam gently helped him into the front passenger seat before putting the wheelchair in the trunk and getting into the driver's seat. Then Sam looked at Dean for a moment.
"What?" said Dean.
"One of the ghosts said, 'They didn't even ask if we wanted to die.'"
Dean huffed. "Yeah, well, I won't lie to you, Sam. If they had, I probably woulda said yes. World doesn't know it needs saving, and revenge won't hold us for long. I probably woulda eaten that whole pie in a few minutes, made you drink their wine. Hell, as it was, I coulda given up, just let the poison take me."
"So why didn't you?"
Dean just looked at him for a moment before answering quietly, "You asked me not to."
Sam's lip trembled as he tried to come up with an adequate reply. Finally, he just pulled Dean into a tight hug and tried not to cry. And Dean held on and pretended he wasn't crying.
After a long moment, Dean sniffled and patted Sam's back. Sam took the cue and let him go, then handed him a Kleenex and looked away as Dean wiped his eyes and blew his nose.
"So what now?" Dean finally asked hoarsely.
Sam pulled himself together and started the car. "Now, big brother? You and me got a date with the Grand Canyon."
For the first time in a long time, Dean grinned.