A/N: Sorry this took so long to get back to and finish off. Hope you enjoy Dean's take on the whole situation.
CHAPTER 3 - DEAN
Dean helped Sam tie up the boat and they walked up the pier together, the future Sam had seen still causing Dean's head to spin. Part of him wanted to shrug it off to wishful thinking and continue on his obsessive hunt for Dick without giving it a second thought. But another part of him, part he thought was as dead and gone as all of his friends, was opening up to the idea. And that part was curious.
He nudged his brother's shoulder. "So is she hot?"
"What? Who?" Sam stammered, seeming distracted.
"This chick I'm supposed to hook up with, of course," he answered, rolling his eyes.
A grin appeared on his brother's face as he stared up ahead. "Why don't you judge for yourself?"
"Wh-what?" Now it was Dean's turn to stammer as his head spun to follow the direction of Sam's gaze. There was a brown-haired girl in her mid twenties standing at the end of the pier, a hand held up over her eyes to block out the sun. She was staring right at them.
Words escaped the usually cocky hunter as he took in the sight of what might become the mother of his children. He did manage to note she was slim and at least at this distance, pretty, but his brain was doing cartwheels inside his skull and any details beyond that were lost on him.
She stood there with a hand on her hip, waiting as they approached. Sam strode right up to her, a grin still plastered across his face. When they were just a few feet away, she turned to the empty space beside her with a smirk. "Okay, you definitely weren't lying about one thing," she said quietly to nobody.
"Sorry, what was that?" Sam asked, his voice friendly as he came to a stop in front of her. "Did you say something?"
She shook her head hastily. "Private joke. Are you Sam and Dean Winchester?"
Dean remained quiet as Sam confirmed their identity, extending a hand for her to shake and asking for her name. She looked vaguely familiar but Dean couldn't quite place where he'd seen her before.
"Marisol," she said simply, accepting the handshake but keeping it short and not bothering to greet Dean individually. "Listen, I have a message for you. This is going to sound weird but…" She hesitated and glanced around, clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation.
"Trust me, nothing you can say can be weirder than some of the stuff we've seen," Sam appeased.
"Yeah, I know you're hunters," she blurted. Dean didn't miss the cool tone of her voice as she practically spat the word 'hunters'.
Sam took no offence, that goofy grin still on his face. He kept throwing quick glances at Dean, his eyes darting between his brother and the brunette as if watching for some proverbial spark or something. Dean wanted to smack that grin off Sam's face but was too busy sorting through conflicting thoughts to do anything. Womanizing Dean wanted to make the moves on the hot chick right away. Family-man Dean wanted to be sweet and romantic and get to know her. Guilty Dean wanted to giver her a wide berth and keep her away from the danger and death that plagued him. Dead-inside Dean wanted to walk right past and head on down the road after Dick Roman without so much as a backwards glance at her.
"We are hunters," Sam conceded. "So you see why nothing you say is going to weird us out."
She still looked nervous. "Why don't we go somewhere else and talk?" she suggested. "Somewhere where there's more people."
That surprised Dean. Was she scared of them? If she was here with a message from Bobby, why was she scared of them? "We're not going to hurt you," he blurted.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Somewhere with less mosquitoes," she added, swatting at the growing cloud of insects buzzing around their heads. "I'll meet you at the diner at the fork in the road right before you hit town. Okay?"
Sam nodded, voicing his assurances they would be there a few minutes after her, as soon as they took care of the paperwork for the boat rental. She turned on her heel and hopped back in her Jeep, driving away without any further goodbyes.
She was sitting in a booth in the back corner when they got there. Sam practically elbowed Dean out of the way to slide in opposite her, leaving his brother no choice but to scoot into the booth next to her. Dean frowned his disapproval across the table. "What is this, junior high?" he grumbled. Sam ignored him and still couldn't seem to wipe the smile off his face as he stared openly at the nervous-looking girl.
"So this message," Sam led. "I'm guessing it's not from the phone company."
She shook her head. "No. It's from…uh…"
"Bobby?" Dean offered, not liking her obvious level of discomfort and trying to make it easier on her.
Her eyes widened and she turned to give him an accusatory stare. "How did you know?"
It was Sam who answered. "We're hunters," he reminded her. "We've been seeing the signs. It was only a matter of time before he found a way to communicate with us."
She was silent for a long moment, staring warily at each of the brothers in turn. "I can see him," she said finally. "I can see people that have died but didn't, you know, cross over."
Dean had been searching for proof Bobby was still with them but now that it was staring him in the face, it wasn't happiness he was feeling. More like trepidation. Fear. Apprehension of what would come of it. After everything they had been through, he believed more than ever that what was dead should stay dead.
Sam kicked him under the table and gave him a reproachful look, subtly telling him to get the dark expression off his face. He glanced at Marisol to see she was tense, leaning away from him slightly in the booth. He remembered the way Sam used to think of himself as a freak when he was getting visions and after he found out about the demon blood and cursed himself for the momentary lapse. He pulled on a lighter smile, pushing away his dark thoughts.
"So you can see Bobby?" Sam was asking, minding his reaction much more tactfully than Dean had. "Is he here right now?"
She shook her head. "Nah. He comes and goes. He disappeared before you came in."
Sam nodded. "What's his message?"
"Well, it's a bit weird and I don't quite understand all of it."
"Give us a try," Sam encouraged.
She started to explain that these things called Leviathans had 'archaeological digs' going on all over the world and were looking for a specific tablet that was supposedly the Word of God with instructions on how to kill their leader. Killing the leader would kill them all. Each of these sites had been assigned a five digit number and one of them, of which Bobby had seen the number but not the location, had turned up evidence that indicated it was the place the tablet was buried.
"Bobby says it's just a matter of time before they find the tablet and destroy it and if they do…"
"We lose our only chance of killing Dick," Dean cut in, his extreme hatred for the Leviathan leader coming through in his harsh tone.
Marisol nodded. "Bobby told me where their headquarters are," she continued. "Where you'll be able to find out where the site with the ID number 48495 is located so you can get your hands on the tablet before they destroy it."
"Where?" Sam pressed eagerly.
She pursed her lips. "First explain what the Leviathan are and what they're doing and why the whole planet is in danger," she said. "I deserve to know what's going on if I'm going to be your walking telegram."
Dean growled his displeasure when Sam obediently laid out the whole situation for her, sparing no details except any mention of Cas by name, which Dean figured was more for his benefit than anything else. Cas's betrayal had taken a lot out of Dean and the dead angel was rarely mentioned these days.
He watched Marisol's expression grow more and more horrified as Sam explained the dire circumstances.
Welcome to life with the Winchesters.
She was silent for a long moment after Sam finished before slumping back in the booth. "Bobby told me to ask you guys to help me out with something but now…" she bit her lip. "I guess I should leave you to your business. Seems a lot more important than my little problem."
Dean arched an eyebrow. "Little problem?"
"Yeah." She waved a hand in the air. "Don't worry about it. Go get your tablet. The Leviathan's secret headquarters are in a small Sweet-Foods district office in Seattle. It's a subsidiary of SucroCorp."
"No," Sam said hurriedly, leaning forward with both his elbows on the table. "What's wrong? Do you need help? We'll help you first."
Dean was surprised at Sam's immediate shelving of the mission. They just got their first good, solid lead on Dick Roman and how to take down all the Leviathans and he wanted to stick around to help one girl? Sam must really want that future he had seen for Dean if he was willing to risk the planet to get it. It warmed Dean's insides a little as well as tightening the nervous knot forming in his gut. Having a chance at a future just gave him more to lose if he failed.
Sam pressured the girl until she explained her situation. There was a malevolent spirit she referred to as 'The Soldier' basically stalking her and trying to kill her. Dean again remained uncharacteristically quiet while Sam coaxed the information out of her. She explained what she had found out so far but that she had hit a dead end and didn't know what else to do now that he could get into her house.
It felt surreal, sitting next to this pretty girl who saw frigging ghosts of all things and knowing he was going to stay with her, that she was the one, and that he would start a family with her – something he didn't even bother to deny anymore that he wanted. Well, had wanted. He had all but given up on ever having that for so many reasons. The possibility of a family of his own had been wiped of the table when Lisa and Ben had almost died just for having known him, this new outlook reinforced as everyone else around him kept dropping like flies, gutting him to the point of not even caring that he would die alone. He didn't dream of that fantasy even in moments of weakness anymore. The whole idea was just gone.
And now it was sitting right next to him. He wasn't sure how to feel about that.
But what he did know was that he wanted to gank this Hugh Lafferty ghost more than anything – more than he should for someone he just met.
Of course they would stay to help her. Dean knew saving her would be pointless if they didn't save the planet from the bleak future he had seen in the witch's house, but saving the planet didn't mean much to him with nothing to look forward to afterwards but more of this numbness. What had Cas once called this? His 'crippling, overly empathetic response'?
Well, Cas was dead.
They decided to head to Walker County, Georgia, to the site of the battle where Hugh was last seen alive. This was where he had deserted his battalion in the Confederate Army, just two days before eighteen thousand of his fellow soldiers lost their lives.
Marisol had insisted, more than a little coolly in Dean's opinion, that she had already been and had done her research at the little museum there. Dean found himself getting annoyed at her brisk demeanor towards them but bit his tongue and refrained from snapping at her. He wondered where she got off giving them attitude when they were holding off on saving the planet to help her out.
It was a nine hour drive. Sam suggested one of them ride with her or that she ride with them but she refused, stating quite curtly that she was perfectly capable of driving herself. As they settled in their stolen car-of-the-week, a Chrysler Newport, Dean threw a questioning glance at his brother.
"You sure you got the right girl?" he accused. "Coz I'm not exactly getting the warm and fuzzies from her."
Sam nodded, dismissing Dean's doubts. "I'm sure. Trust me, she's nice."
"Hmph," Dean snorted, starting up the ignition. "Could've fooled me."
They spent an hour at the museum talking to the staff and the curator but weren't turning up any new information. Marisol had given up before them, going outside to wait in her car for them to finish. The Winchesters' persistence finally paid off and a patron who had overhead their questions directed them towards a private collector in Tuscaloosa, Alabama who had apparently been collecting information on that particular battle for decades. The brothers thanked him and headed outside.
Dean strode over towards Marisol's Jeep to inform her of their lead. She had the top down and he could hear her talking as he approached from behind, though she appeared to be alone.
Could it be Bobby?
"So Dean... he's kinda shy around women, huh?" she was saying.
He ducked out of line of sight from her side mirrors, keeping his footsteps slow and silent.
There was a short pause before she spoke again. "What's so funny?" He could imagine the frown on her face by the indignation in her voice. "What do you mean I've got it backwards? Sam's definitely the friendly, flirty one. " Another pause. "Oh. Really?" Her voice grew almost sad. "So it's just me then? He thinks I'm a freak." She slumped in her seat. "You didn't have to say it… Don't worry, I'm used to it, Bobby. Especially from hunters. I've even had a few try to kill me and my mom over the years. Said we were abominations."
Dean felt his blood boil. Her hateful attitude towards hunters certainly made more sense now. He stepped up to the driver's door, making his presence known. "You're not an abomination," he blurted.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "That was a private conversation."
"Sorry. I couldn't help but overhear." Dean thought of Sam and Gordon Walker. "Listen, you didn't ask for this," he told her sincerely. "This isn't your fault and there's nothing wrong with you."
She clearly hadn't been expecting that response. "You really believe that?" she asked slowly.
"Of course," he said quickly. Psychic and supernatural powers gave Dean the creeps but he wasn't going to hold the crappy hand that fate had dealt Marisol against her. She wasn't to blame for this any more than Sam was to blame for Azazel choosing him.
"So the museum was a dead end huh?"
Dean shook his head, allowing her change of subject. "No, actually. We got a lead in Tuscaloosa. We're headed there now. A private collector with a ton of information. It'll be late by the time we get there but hopefully this lady will still see us."
She started up her engine. "Okay, I'll meet you there," she told him before pulling away so quickly Dean had to step back to avoid his toes getting run over. He watched her red Jeep pull out of the parking lot and sighed, turning to head back over to Sam in their car.
He was so not off to a good start. Maybe she had a twin sister and Sam had got them mixed up?
It was after ten o'clock at night by the time they reached Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, a secondary road just outside of Tuscaloosa and ten minutes from the collector's address. Sam was driving, keeping his eyes trained on the Marisol's taillights up ahead, when the red lights suddenly veered sharply on the road. The Jeep swerved violently left then right before careening right off the road and down the grassy banking, slamming into a tree with a sickening crunch that could be heard through the closed windows of the Chrysler they were driving.
"Oh, crap! Dean!" he cried, immediately bringing the car to a skidding halt on the gravel shoulder. Dean was out and running before the car even at a full stop, yelling at Sam to grab a shotgun. It was a remote stretch of road but the moon was bright and Dean could see Marisol clambering out of her driver's door as he dashed down the banking towards her. She was stumbling and he could make out a dark streak running down the bridge of her nose ending at her upper lip. She had pulled herself around to the back of her car and was fumbling for something under the tarp. He was just twenty feet away when she suddenly flew backwards, slamming onto her back on the muddy ground of the wide ditch, the tire iron in her grasp landing a few feet away with a dull thud.
"Marisol!" he yelled, racing as fast as he could towards her and deciding for certain this was no accident.
Her piercing scream ripped through the night air and she started clutching and clawing at her chest, her legs kicking and flailing frantically and her body writhing beneath some invisible force Dean could only conclude was the soldier. He bent down to scoop up the lost tire iron as he sprinted the last few steps to reach her, swinging it wildly in the air above her. She continued screaming in obvious agony and Dean swung again, still to no avail. A second later he felt a pain shoot through his chest as he was thrown towards the trees by something invisible but very fricking solid.
Suddenly Sam was there, blasting away with the shotgun into the empty air above her but she kept on choking and writhing, her screams having turned into gasping and wheezing, her body near convulsing on the grass.
"You're not hitting it!" Dean yelled unnecessarily as he made it to his feet.
"I can't see it!" was Sam's panicked reply.
Dean staggered back over as he watched Sam fire another shot off randomly over Marisol then narrow his eyes and swing the shotgun decisively to aim next to her instead, firing off three steady rounds in succession. A man's scream sounded and an instant later, Marisol's body relaxed, slumping down into the soft terrain beneath her and her eyes floating closed.
Dean dropped down next to her even while Sam was still aiming the shotgun and he placed a hand on her neck to feel for a pulse. When he didn't find one he placed a hand on her chest, hoping instead for a heartbeat. "She's not breathing," he shouted, immediately starting CPR.
Sam sank to his knees next to him, staying out of the way while Dean administered chest compressions.
"No," Sam rasped, sounding panicked. "No. This isn't supposed to happen. I saw her six years from now."
Dean spared a sideways glance as he shifted to give her mouth-to-mouth. Two puffs later with no reaction from Marisol, he moved back to her chest. "You only saw one possible future, remember?" he found himself saying.
How fucking unfair was this? Why give him hope then kill her before he even got to know her?
"No, keep going," Sam almost whimpered. "You need this, Dean. She'll be fine."
She made a choking sound and her chest suddenly heaved. Her eyes fluttered open for a brief second, wide and scared, before closing again.
"Oh, thank God!" Sam breathed, rocking back on his heels as Dean checked for a pulse again, this time finding one. Erratic, but strong.
Dean spared his brother another glance, touched by the sheer level of relief showing on Sam's face. Wow. Sam really wanted Dean to have that almost-apple-pie version of the future had seen at the witch's house. Maybe even more than Dean wanted it for himself.
"She's not outta the woods yet," he said, turning his focus back to the unconscious woman in front of them. He slid his arms under her shoulders and knees and lifted. "I'll get her to the hospital. You call a tow truck and get her Jeep out of here."
Sam nodded, rising to his feet also. "Be careful," he said as Dean placed Marisol in the passenger seat of the Chrysler and shut the door. "The ghost could come back." Dean just nodded before jumping in the driver's side and kicking up a spray of stones as he tore back onto the road.
The closest hospital was in Tuscaloosa, maybe fifteen minutes away. Marisol hadn't stirred and Dean kept giving her anxious glances as he drove. He had felt such numbness since mind-wiping Lisa and Ben, then losing Cas, then having to park his always-dependable Impala, then losing Bobby, that he'd almost forgotten what this feeling was like. This feeling of caring about someone, worrying about losing someone, being vulnerable and feeling his heart twisting in panic. This feeling was almost foreign to him and it was a feeling he hadn't missed. And damn, he didn't even know this girl! He was feeling this over a freaking story some witch had given Sam. A pipedream. He shook his head and pressed his foot heavier on the gas pedal.
It was dawn the next morning before Marisol woke up. Dean was alone, slouched on a chair in the hospital waiting room when the nurse came to give him the news. Sam had managed to get her Jeep out of the ditch and running and had taken it to go visit the private collector and see what he could find out about Hugh Lafferty.
"She's awake, she's lucid, and we've told her the jist of what happened," the nurse informed him. "There doesn't seem to be any permanent head trauma. You can go see her now, if you like."
He didn't need to be told twice. She was sitting up when he walked into the room, tugging at the IV at her wrist. She looked frightened.
"Hey," he greeted her with a smile intended to be reassuring. "You gave us quite the scare there last night."
'It was the soldier," she said absently, wincing as she slipped the IV tube out. Her eyes met Dean's and narrowed. "You brought me to a hospital."
He raised an eyebrow at her accusatory tone. "Uhh, you're welcome?"
"Welcome? I have to get out of here." She swung her legs over the side of the bed.
"Hey, what's the rush?" Dean demanded, thinking she should listen to the doctors and stay put for a while. "You almost died, you know."
She ignored his advice. "I can't stay here. You never should have brought me here."
Dean groaned. He just couldn't seem to win with her. She couldn't see past the fact that he was a hunter. "Your heart stopped, sweetheart," he justified testily. "You weren't waking up." He opened his jacket to reveal a sawed-off shotgun tucked inside. "The nurses kept cleaning up the salt line I put down but don't worry, if the soldier comes back, I'll send him packing."
She was on her feet now, clutching his arm for support. "It's not just him I'm worried about," she frowned. "Hospitals are… I just can't be here. They probably already know I'm here."
She spun to face the window, her face registering alarm. "Them," she hissed, heading for the door.
Dean reached for her hand to stop her but she swatted him away and kept going. He was wondering who she was talking about when the phone suddenly flew across the room, nearly hitting her in the head.
'Oh crap!" Dean exclaimed, the pieces falling into place. "There's a ghost in here?"
"It's a hospital, Einstein," the brunette snapped as she made it out into the hall. "They're everywhere."
He noticed she wasn't overly steady on her feet so he grabbed her arm and led the way down the hall to the stairwell.
Marisol elaborated as they ran. "Lost, confused spirits who linger and get more frustrated and pissed every day. Hospital ghosts are the worst of all of them."
He held the stair door open for her, glad the early hour meant the halls were virtually deserted. He glanced down as she passed to see the back of her hospital pinney was open enough that he could see half of each rounded cheek of her ass, covered only in her pink lace underwear. He worked to erase the smirk from his face and keep his thoughts clean. Respect, Dean. Mother of your children. Mother of your children.
She leaned on him going down the stairs, still griping about a hunter not knowing enough to avoid bringing her to a hospital. They were on the third floor making their way down but just as they passed the door to the second floor, she stopped abruptly, gasping as she stared down at the next landing. Dean reacted quickly and pulled out the shotgun.
"Don't bother," she cried, tugging him towards the second floor door. "There's three of them!"
They dashed out into the hallway and slammed the door behind them. "Got any salt?" she asked him hurriedly.
He groaned, his eyes scanning their new surroundings. He had left his salt bag upstairs in the waiting room. There was a canteen not far away, empty and all boarded up at this early hour. He dashed to the closest tables and snatched the salt shakers. "Now I do," he smirked, grabbing her hand once more and heading towards the elevators.
They were almost at there when she stopped short again. "No, look, just leave me alone. I can't help you." She was talking to thin air in front of them, her grip tightening on Dean's arm.
"Someone there?" he demanded.
She shot him a 'duh' look. "Just calm down," she placated the unseen ghost. "I'm sorry this happened to you but there's nothing I can do, I…" She stopped her attempt at reason when chairs from the empty canteen started flying at them.
"Something tells me it's not listening," Dean remarked as he tugged her down a nearby hallway marked 'O.R.' with one arm extended protectively around her shoulders. The chairs were still flying so he ducked them into a nearby room and slammed the door shut, unscrewing the caps from the salt shakers and swiftly lining the threshold.
"I hate hospital ghosts," she announced from where she stood behind him.
"Yeah you kind of mentioned that already," he pointed out, his voice not hiding his growing irritation.
"They're angry they died and haven't figured out what to focus on so they just stick around here and go crazy and when I show up… "
"They focus on you," he finished.
She nodded and the look of shame on her face made him bite back the smart ass remark that was about to slip out. She was already having a bad enough day; she didn't need him adding insult to injury. He glanced around and saw they were in some kind of supply room, rows of shelves holding all sorts of medical equipment and supplies. The door rattled.
"Great, now we're trapped," she gulped.
"Don't worry, sweetheart, I got a plan." He looked around again and frowned. Actually, he had no plan. Finally he reached into his pocket for his phone. "Ah! I'll call Sam."
He didn't have time before the door was flying open with a loud bang, scattering the salt line.
"Damnit!" Marisol cursed, backing up. "This guy's been around a while - learned some tricks."
Before Dean could react or pull out the sawed-off again, a shelf was emptying its contents, a cluster of objects flying through the air towards them. He instinctively jumped in front of Marisol, turning his back towards the projectiles and wrapping his arms around her, pulling her in close to shield her with his broad shoulders. He grunted in pain at the multiple jolts of pain he felt stabbing into his back but stood his ground, keeping her protected until the attack ended, metal objects clattering to the floor all around them. He stepped back and manoeuvred her behind one of the shelves, ignoring the residual sharp pains in his back. He spun around to raise the shotgun towards the empty space behind them.
Of course, he had no idea where to shoot because he couldn't see the fricking thing.
Marisol solved the problem. She stepped forward and snatched the weapon from his hands, blasting a round in front of them, pumping it, then blasting another round just off to the side.
"Okay, he's gone," she announced, handing the shotgun back.
Dean just nodded, swallowing his pride at the hero role being stolen from him. "Alrighty then," he shrugged. "We'd better get out of here before security finds us."
"Oh my God!" she gasped, her hand clamping over her mouth. "Dean! You've got scalpels sticking out of your back!"
He grunted. "Yeah, I figured that's what it was. You mind pulling them out?"
She bit her lip in sympathy but nodded, placing one hand on his shoulder while the other yanked the two blades out one at a time and dropped them on the floor.
"Are you okay?" she asked him, sounding genuinely concerned.
Dean nodded, easily masking the pain he was feeling. "I will be. Let's go."
Ha! Hero role re-acquired.
They ventured out into hallway and when Marisol confirmed the coast was clear, bolted for the second stairwell. They were out in the parking lot thirty seconds later, clambering into the Chrysler.
Dean ran options through his head and decided Sam could finish the research on his own. He was taking Marisol home. If the soldier could find her on some backroad in Alabama, he could find her anywhere. She needed to be somewhere safe, somewhere they could properly defend. She had wards set up at her house. Surely they could add a few and make the place ghost-proof again.
She didn't argue his decision. She simply nodded and sank deep into the seat, accepting the offer of his jacket to cover up with a grateful nod.
Half an hour passed in silence and he glanced over to her to find her looking out the window with an unreadable expression on her face. "Hey," he said quietly to get her attention and grinning at her when she turned around to face him. "So you must be thinking I'm a pretty sorry excuse for a hunter right now, huh?" he asked sheepishly.
She gave him a surprised look. "Why would I be thinking that?"
"Uh, because you obviously hate hunters and I never should have let you drive by yourself and I definitely should have seen the hospital problem coming… "
"That's not what I was thinking." She didn't elaborate but for once, her tone wasn't hostile.
Dean decided that was a good sign. "Oh? Well, Haley Joel, what were you thinking?"
She smiled at his choice of nickname, chuckled even.
"Wow, I don't believe it!" he exclaimed. "You actually smiled at me. I'll have to remember to call you Haley more often."
"Don't even think about it," she rolled her eyes. "If you must know, I was trying to figure out how to say thanks."
"You just saved my life and you got stabbed in the back for me." Her smile widened. "Maybe you're not so bad after all… for a hunter, anyway."
Dean grinned back at her. "You should smile more often," he found himself saying. "You have a really nice smile." He meant it sincerely, not as the pick-up line it probably sounded like, but he noticed a blush creeping into her cheeks.
"And since you're not hating on me anymore," he continued, "I guess I should tell you that your hospital pinney totally shows your ass."
She gasped and her mouth dropped open as she hastily reached behind her.
"Don't worry; it's a nice ass," he teased.
She laughed even as her cheeks grew pinker. "Okay, now I see what Bobby was getting at," she said.
Dean's laughter faded at the mention of his dead friend. He tapped his shirt pocket and pulled out Bobby's old flask, glancing at it before dropping it in his lap. "Is he here?" he asked apprehensively. He hadn't had a chance to speak directly to his deceased father figure yet since meeting Marisol.
"Who, Bobby?" She shook her head. "No. Not right now."
"You know, when you went off the road and that thing was attacking you, Sam was shooting at it but he kept missing because he couldn't see it," the hunter told her. "He says then the shotgun moved itself, like something was aiming it for him."
She nodded, not looking all that surprised. "Bobby was in the car with me when he showed up," she acknowledged. "It's not the first time your friend has helped me."
Dean took a deep breath, working up the courage to ask this next question. "Is he gonna… is he gonna go all vengeful?"
She sighed. "Yes, eventually," she said sounding genuinely apologetic. "Depending on the circumstances, it can be instant or can take days, weeks, years even. You should know, Dean, you hunt them. How many good ones do you come across?" She held eye contact with him. "It could be something that instigates a sudden turn, like the old house they lived in being demolished or their descendents being endangered..." She shrugged. "Some ghosts, very few, manage to stay sane. Maybe not forever, but for years, possibly decades." She was clearly being careful not to sound optimistic.
"How?" Dean jumped on it anyway. "What do they do differently?"
"Could be a number of things. Staying away from the people they feel resentment for is a start. Bobby's doing everything he can to take out this Dick guy so..." She scrunched up her nose. "It doesn't bode well for him. Spirits seem to be able to hang onto their humanity longer if they find something else to focus on, something positive, but even so..." She shook her head, her shoulders slumping. "They're just not supposed to be here." She gestured towards the flask in Dean's lap. "That's his object, isn't it?"
"Well, you should destroy it. Let him go out as a good guy, as a hero."
Everything in Dean's gut was telling him she was right but he tucked the flask back into his pocket.
It was a five hour drive back to Marisol's house but the time passed quickly. Now that Marisol had dropped the hostile attitude, Dean found himself enjoying her company, even if she did scoff at his cassette collection, saying the only good rock was southern rock. At least she wasn't into Beyonce and Justin Timberlake. He could deal with CCR and Kid Rock. He began to think maybe Sam hadn't mistaken the girl from his tour in the future after all.
They arrived at her house, an older two-storey home in a rural area just outside Baton Rouge with no neighbors in sight. Dean hesitated for a nervous second before heading up the porch steps, taking a good look at the place. Was this the house he was going to raise his kids in? It matched Sam's description. He shook his head and followed her inside. This was weird, even for him. He felt like he was lying to her by not telling her the truth but "we're going to raise a family together" a day after meeting a chick was usually taken as stalker-type obsessive.
Marisol was exhausted and went to bed soon after they arrived. Dean checked the salt lines and the hex bags and added a couple of other tricks he had picked up over the years before settling himself in the armchair next to her bed with a shotgun in hand, despite her meek insistences it wasn't necessary. Underneath her bravado, he could tell she was scared and welcomed the added protection his presence provided. She was asleep within ten minutes.
Sam arrived a few hours later and Dean came downstairs to greet him.
"Where is she?" Sam asked, looking around as he came inside.
"Who, Haley Joel?" Dean chuckled at his own ongoing joke. "Upstairs sleeping. She's been through a lot the past couple of days. You should have... Dude, what's so funny?"
Sam shook his head, his shoulders shivering with subdued giggles. "Nothing. It's just, well, you're calling her Haley?"
Dean frowned. He used nicknames all the time and Sam never usually found them amusing. Why was he getting such a kick out of this one?
"So, you two together, in a car, for like five hours..." Sam led, giving Dean a questioning look. "Is she still giving you a hard time?"
"No," Dean answered honestly. "I think she's coming around." He grinned. "Succumbing to my charms. You know, like they all do eventually."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Poor girl."
"Well, did you find out what object this creep's tied to?" Dean changed the subject as the two moved into the living room.
"Uh, not exactly, but I think I might have a theory on who Bessy is. I mean, it's a little unorthodox but I think my theory has merit so try to keep an open mind..."
"Sam, just spill it."
The younger Winchester divulged everything he had found out at the private collector's house. The elderly lady's great grandfather had apparently died heroically at the Battle of Chickamauga and the research had been started by her father in his youth. She had hundreds of diaries and letters written by different soldiers from both sides of that battle, along with numerous photos and official record documents, inventory lists, requisition forms, even a copy of General Bragg's military log.
As it turned out, Private Hugh Lafferty was often referred to as 'Hugh Laugh-at-Me' by his fellow soldiers. He was assigned horse-tending detail and was generally thought of as strange and downright insane. He was punished more than once for mouthing off to General Bragg about the treatment of his horse, Bellefire Bess.
"A horse?" came Marisol's voice from the stairs. "He thinks I'm a horse?"
Sam shrugged. "That's my guess."
"That's crazy, even for a ghost." She didn't look convinced.
"Apparently this guy was crazy before he became a ghost."
"But he says things like we're meant to be together and we have to finish our journey."
Sam nodded. "He disappeared two days before the battle of Chickamauga, right?"
"Well Bragg rode into that battle with a horse named Tennessee Tyrant because his regular horse, Bellfire Bess, was stolen by an unknown thief two days prior," Sam told them. He held up a finger and kept going before either of them could suggest a mere coincidence. "According to diaries and letters, Hugh Laugh-at-Me had been telling his fellow soldiers that he was going to take his beloved Bessy to some sacred Indian land he had heard legends about. Supposedly spirits of lovers who died together in this sacred place would be forever joined. They would, like, be reborn and then meet and, uh, fall in love again in their next lives, and their next ones, and so on."
There was a brief silence in a room full of raised eyebrows.
"Dude, you're saying the guy was in love with a horse?" Dean scoffed finally.
"Isn't that reaching a bit?" Marisol added.
Sam huffed, clearly annoyed they weren't agreeing with him. "Look, this lady was an avid historian. She was amused by the stories of this guy and she spent a couple of months researching it further. Turns out an unknown soldier was found dead four days after our guy took off with the horse. It was assumed he'd been bucked off and his neck was wrapped in the reins. He'd been dragged behind the horse for miles. Nobody paid it much notice because eighteen thousand Confederate soldiers had just died in the battle, but the collector thinks that was him."
"The ghost has a ropeburn ring around his neck!" Marisol told them, her eyes widening. "So he never finished his journey," she added, nodding slowly.
"And to kill you is the only way you two can be together," Dean conceded. "Wrong place, wrong person, wrong fricking species, but Hell, he's coo-coo for cocoa puffs so it's plausible."
"Right," Sam chimed in, his voice laced with that excited tone Dean recognized as the one the nerd got whenever he had just successfully finished some hard core researching.
Dean smiled. One of the things he loved about Sam. It would seem Lucifer had been taking it easy on the kid these past couple of days. "So what's our next move, geek boy?" he asked. "We still need to find the object tying him here."
Sam pulled his laptop out and opened it up on the table. "I say we either find Bessy or something of hers that he could be drawn to."
Dean groaned. "You were supposed to finish the research, Sam."
"Dude, quit complaining," Sam chastised before turning to Marisol. "Looks like we're going to be up a while. You mind if I make some coffee?"
"Sure, go ahead," she shrugged, sitting down on the couch next to Dean and flipping open a well-worn notebook of names and phone numbers.
"What d'you got there?" Dean asked curiously.
"Historians, history teachers, census clerks, some cooperative policemen, some graveyard owners..." she explained. "I have to identify and find a lot of dead people to salt and burn and well," she gave him a sheepish look. "I don't like to ask hunters for help."
Dean nodded his understanding. "Sure. Your contacts. Could come in handy."
She was suddenly frowning in the direction of the kitchen, where Sam was moving around as if he was right at home, grabbing the coffee pouches from an end cupboard and the mugs from the rack around the corner, even going straight for the sugar in the middle of three identical containers on the counter.
"Either your brother's a psychic or you guys have been in my house before," she said, only sounding like she was half joking.
Dean scoffed, not wanting to scare her off with the unbelievable truth. "He's just at home in a kitchen," he lied. "You should see him in his apron. Used to say 'Kiss the Cook' but he burned the second half of the second 'o' off so now it says Kiss the..."
She laughed and relaxed and they got to work researching online and by phone, this time focusing on General Bragg and his horse Bellfire Bess.
They were still working the next morning when Dean threw down the history book he had been struggling through and got up for a stretch and a pee break. He was making his way across the hall to the bathroom when he saw Marisol by the front door, standing in shadow with her back to him. She was next to Dean's jacket, which was hanging on the coathook by the front door, and her hand was reaching inside it. He watched as she drew Bobby's flask out and stared at it for a long moment before hesitantly slipping it into the pocket of the hoodie she was wearing.
He almost walked forward and made his presence be known, taking the flask back from her, but found himself stopping and instead slinking back into the living room. He couldn't help but think that if she did what he thought she intended to do... it might be a good thing. He had long since learned his lesson that what's dead should stay dead. As much as he wanted Bobby around… Bobby was dead. Bobby should have crossed over. Every hunting experience he had ever had was screaming at him that Bobby being here wasn't going to end well, for them or for Bobby. Despite what Sam had seen in the future...
He spent the next two hours unable to concentrate on the research, his mind spinning instead, jumping back and forth on whether or not he should do something to stop Marisol from destroying that flask. But as close as he came on a number of occasions, he never spoke up.
Marisol finally had some success in their search for something to do with General Bragg's horse. A small bed & breakfast in nearby McComb had a small collection of civil war artifacts, one of which they claimed was the battle bridle worn by General Bragg's horse, Bellfire Bess. She beamed at the brothers as she told them the news. "It makes sense," she argued. "I was in McComb the day before the soldier first showed up here. That's too much of a coincidence to really be one."
"You sure you're not a hunter?" Dean grinned.
"I've probably done more salt and burns than you have, wise ass," she fired back. "I can research. I just stick to ghosts and spirits; no vampires pr ghouls or rawheads or other crazy crap you guys deal with."
They decided Marisol should stay here, in the relative safety of her house, and someone would stay with her while the other went to steal the bridle, since it was reportedly very definitely not for sale. Sam quickly volunteered to go. Dean shook his head at the juvenile grin on his little brother's face but didn't argue. Truth be told, he liked seeing that childish grin, even if it was at his expense. With hallucinatory Lucifer stalking the guy twenty-four seven, Sam didn't manage to smile much anymore.
As he saw his brother out the door, Dean bit his lip, glancing apprehensively at his jacket still hanging on the rack. He brushed a hand purposefully against the side of it, where the hard bulk of Bobby's flask should have been, and was surprised to feel something there. He pulled the flap open and drew out the flask, an indecipherable emotion flooding into his chest.
She had put it back. She had changed her mind. Strange thing was, he couldn't decide if it was relief or disappointment he was feeling.
Sam had only been gone an hour when Hugh Laffarty made it past the house's defenses. Dean and Marisol were in the living room, sitting on opposite ends of the couch while watching the season finale of The Walking Dead. Dean had pointed out the numerous factual inaccuracies of dealing with zombies and wondered aloud who the chick that played Maggie Greene was because damn, she looked really familiar.
Marisol suddenly jerked, gasped, and grabbed for one of the shotguns at her side. Dean reacted quickly, snatching up his own shotgun and reminding her to point so he knew where to aim. She fired off three rounds in the direction of the TV as she climbed over the back of the couch before yelling "At the end of the coffee table!"
Dean fired quickly and continuously until she finally held up her hand to let him know the coast was clear. "He's gone, he's gone," she breathed, looking around warily. Her wild eyes finally rested on Dean. "Crap, he's figured out how to get past those extra wards you put up. He'll be back."
"Don't worry," Dean assured her, moving quickly to reload his shotgun. "He won't touch you."
"That took ten or eleven salt rounds this time," she said despairingly. "He's getting angrier and it's making him stronger."
"Sam'll be burning that bridle inside a half an hour," Dean said confidently. "He won't make it back by then."
He was wrong. Hugh Laffarty showed up less than fifteen minutes later, coming at the girl on the couch from behind this time, wrapping what Dean guessed was an arm around her neck and squeezing as he tried to drag her up and over the back cushion. The brunette reacted violently, kicking and struggling frantically to get away, clawing at her neck.
Again, Dean was on it in a flash. Shotgun still in his hands, he jumped up and blasted six rounds point blank right over Marisol's head. She dropped down, gasping and quickly scrambled off the couch, tumbling to the floor in front of the coffee table by the hunter's feet. Dean lost track of where to fire and gave her a questioning look as he waved the barrel of the shotgun in the air in front of him.
"Behind you!" she cried, her voice hoarse as she pointed suddenly but Dean didn't get turned around in time. He felt a force hit his back and was propelled over the couch to crash down onto the hardwood floor beyond. He was struggling to catch his breath enough to make it to his feet, worried what state he was going to find Marisol in when he could see her, when he heard more shotgun blasts.
He pulled himself up using the couch as leverage and peered over to see Marisol on her back on the ground, firing up into the air above her. She let out a sharp cry and covered her head but quickly relaxed, breathing out an audible sigh of relief. "Dean!" she rasped, her worried eyes searching him out. "He's gone. You okay?"
He nodded, making his way stiffly around the couch to help her to her feet. He didn't let go of her hand when she was standing next to him, instead choosing to keep her close. "He's recuperating quicker," he pointed out with a frown.
She nodded. "He's more determined than before. I'm thinking when my heart stopped yesterday, maybe he got a taste of me dead or something... like on the other side of the veil?"
Dean nodded. "Makes sense. Stubborn son of a bitch will be back soon enough." He used his free hand to call Sam, still not letting go of Marisol. "Dude. He's in. How much longer?"
"I'm about ten minutes out of McComb," Sam answered. "Then I still have to break in and steal the thing. You going to be able to hold him off?"
Dean curled his lip at the news. "Better make it a smash and dash. He's a persistent bastard." He hung up and turned to Marisol. "We need to hold out another fifteen or twenty minutes," he told her. "You up for it?"
She groaned but nodded. "Do I have a choice?"
He laughed and let go of her hand. "Let's reload."
"You sure we have enough ammo?"
He grabbed his duffel off the floor and dumped it on the table with a heavy thud. "Trust me, I stock up," he grinned.
They got to work, fully loading five shotguns and placing them on the coffee table next to where they were standing. Neither wanted to sit down, preferring to stay alert and ready and on their feet. They stood side by side for fifteen nervous minutes, during which Dean noticed Marisol had at some point hooked her fingers around his arm and left them there.
"You know, this would be a lot easier if I could see the bastard too," Dean grumbled, glancing around them warily.
Marisol gasped and turned to face him.
"What?" he demanded anxiously. "He here?"
"No, but there's a spell."
"Yeah. It's dark magic and my mother always forbid me to go near that stuff but..."
"What does it do?"
She gave him a sheepish look. "Some ghosts can be seen from time to time, mostly when they're angry or attacking, but others can't. This spell makes them all visible for a few minutes. To people like you, I mean. Normal people."
Dean managed a chuckle. "You're calling me normal?" He returned his focus to the current problem. "How easy is this spell to do?"
She shrugged. "Not all that hard. Bad juju though so I've never done it but I saw my mom do it once. She's got it written in her old diary. I think it's up in her old bedroom."
She started heading towards the stairs but before Dean could stop her, she went flying sideways, slamming into the wall by the kitchen doorway.
"Mari...!" he yelled before he too was hurtled through the air. He hit the large living room window and sailed right through it, shards slicing at him and falling on him when he hit the porch outside. Panic shot through him even faster than the pain did when he realized Marisol was now inside, alone with the soldier. He scrambled to his feet and staggered to the front door, calling her name repeatedly. He made it back inside to find her running, making a mad dash for the shotguns lined up on the table. She had almost reached them when she was jerked backwards and tossed violently onto the couch. She never stopped struggling but soon her head tipped back and she was screaming again, clutching at the air above her heart.
Dean lunged for the first shotgun, blasting away continuously at every square inch of empty space around her. He emptied the first weapon and snatched up the second without ever missing a beat in his steady stream of salt rounds. "Marisol!" he yelled in worry.
Finally she let out a breathless cry of relief. Her mouth moved but no words came out, her chest heaving and a wince of extreme pain still twisting her pretty features. Dean rushed over but just as he was almost there, she lifted a hand and pointed to the space next to him, still unable to speak. Next thing he knew he was on the floor again, a spike of pain shooting up his back and black blotches threatening to take over his field of vision. All he could make out was Marisol being shoved back into the couch again, her breath being sucked away once more by her unseen attacker.
No, no, no, was all he could think. He'd lost enough.
It took every ounce of reserve strength he had in him to focus enough to grab the next shotgun in line from the coffee table. He hadn't even fired off a round, however, when a flash of flame sprang up in the air in front of Marisol and the outline of a man appeared, screaming and writhing in pain as the fire consumed him.
Dean recognized a ghost being ganked when he saw one.
"Yes!" he hissed, feeling a sudden urge to give the air a fist pump. He would have, too, if he hadn't been so worried about Marisol, who was still lying sputtering on the couch. "Hey, you okay?" he demanded, making it to his knees on the floor in front of her. "Marisol?"
"I'm okay," she rasped, letting him help her to an upright seated position. She looked so shaken and scared that he pulled her into a hug without even thinking. She returned it immediately, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face in his shoulder, breathing heavily into his neck.
"He's dead this time," he assured her.
She just nodded, not letting go. "Good riddance," she mumbled.
Dean's phone interrupted the moment by belting out Deep Purple from his pocket. He withdrew to pull it out and answered it with a grin.
"Cutting it kinda close, Sammy."
They left as soon as Sam got back. After all, they had a Leviathan headquarters to break into, an archeological dig site location to find, a tablet written by God to intercept then interpret, and finally, they had Dick to kill.
Dean found himself alone with Marisol in the kitchen as Sam loaded their weapons duffel into the car. He cleared his throat, glancing warily around the room. "Uh, is Bobby here?"
She shook her head. "Not at the moment."
"Listen, I have a favor to ask of you."
"Of course. Anything."
He grimaced at what he was about to ask. "Can Bobby stay here?" he blurted. "With you?"
She gasped. "What? You want me to let one stay in my house?"
"I know, I know, it's just... well, he's different than the others. And if there's even a small chance he can stay sane through this then…"
"Do you have any idea what you're asking? Every part of me thinks this is a bad idea."
He sighed and leaned back against the counter. "I know that. I know and I'm sorry. But Marisol, I've lost pretty much everything recently and Bobby, well he was like a father to me. I've thought a lot about this and honestly, half of Bobby is better than no Bobby."
Her expression softened. "I guess he did save my life a couple of times," she admitted. "I do owe him." Dean could tell she was still apprehensive.
"I've got good reason to think Bobby's one of the few who can keep it together," he pressed, not elaborating on how he knew this. "And if he goes crazy or tries to hurt you, I swear, I'll torch the flask myself," he added. "But he won't."
She bit her lip, giving him a long, hard look before nodding. "Okay," she said quietly. "He can stay with me 'til you're done."
Dean let out a deep exhale. "Thank-you," he said. "Thank-you. Now I have another favor to ask."
"No, you can't have my Roberta Flack CD," she quipped.
He rolled his eyes. "Thank God for that. No, I was wondering if you could do that spell you mentioned so we could see Bobby for a few minutes? So we could hear him? I'd like to talk to him. Sam and me. Alone, if that's okay."
She nodded. "Sure. I'll go get the stuff."
A few minutes later she was lighting some smelly stuff in a bowl and chanting a few words from a book. "Okay," she said, pointing behind them. "It'll only give you a few minutes so you have to be quick."
She went outside to wait on the porch and Sam and Dean turned around to see Bobby standing in the entrance to the kitchen.
"Bobby," Dean stepped forward quickly to pull his old friend into a hug but his hand slipped right through him.
Bobby rolled his eyes. "You can see me and hear me but I'm still Casper, idjit."
"Well it's good to see you," Dean rasped, his voice a little hoarse with emotion.
"Yeah, Bobby, we've missed you," Sam added, stepping up to stand next to Dean.
"Well, don't go gettin' all teary-eyed boys," Bobby groused through a lopsided smile. "We ain't got all day. You got the facts straight for the plan to ice Dick? We may not have a lotta time."
"Uh, about that," Dean began. "This is where you get off, Bobby."
"I mean, you need to stop going after Dick. You're a vengeful spirit, man. You'll go vengeful a lot quicker if you keep this revenge thing up. You need to stay here."
"You don't understand," Dean pressed. "You could have a future. At least for a while. A long while maybe, depending on how you play your cards."
Sam stepped in, explaining what he had seen in his vision of the future at the witch's house in the swamp. "So you see, Marisol is Dean's chance for a future," he finished.
Dean shuffled a bit uncomfortably at his brother's melodramatic summary but nodded and went along with it. "Bobby, for the first time for as long as I can remember, I want to end this for something other than revenge. I'm not just going through the motions anymore. I got something to look forward to. But see, you're part of that future so… if you wanna see my kids call you grandpa, you need to focus on something other than Dick. So stay here. Please. Stop obsessing over Dick Roman - or you will turn vengeful and we will have to burn this." He held up the flask.
Sam joined in the dialed-up effort. "Focus on Marisol instead, Bobby, on keeping malevolent ghosts like Hugh Laffarty away. On doing something good. That's your only chance at beating this."
Dean nodded. "Yeah, keep her safe for me so I can have something to come back to when this is over, okay?" He knew his plea would work. He had never doubted Bobby's love for him. Bobby would never deny Dean a heartfelt request like that.
He was right. Bobby nodded, tugging at his trucker's cap and scowling. "Oh, balls. Of course I'll do it," he grumbled. "How can I say no to that? If there was ever anything worth my undivided attention, it's a good future for you boys."
"Thanks, Bobby," Dean said lifting a hand to touch his friend but stopping and just tapping air awkwardly when he remembered that the man standing before him wasn't corporeal.
They joined Marisol on the porch a couple of minutes later. Sam gave her a hug and she thanked him for the twentieth time. "You're pretty smart, putting that horse thing together like that," she acknowledged.
Bobby grinned. "Kid scored a one seventy-four on his LSAT's," he bragged, sounding every bit the boastful father.
Sam threw Bobby a warm smile and a lingering look before turning to make his way down the steps to the car. Bobby returned the smile with a wistful sigh and started to follow the younger Winchester down the walk.
"Hey, where do you think you're going?" Dean questioned, trying to make his tone sound joking.
The ghost rolled his eyes at him. "I'm just seein' you dimwits off," he groused, stopping at the end of the walk as Sam continued on to the car.
Dean pulled the flask from his jacket and handed it to Marisol. "Well, just to be sure," he said, loud enough so Bobby could hear him. "Hide it," he whispered to the brunette.
She took the flask gingerly, flashing a guilty look at the ghost on her front lawn and nodding.
"Well, I gotta get going," Dean said, opening his arms to give her a hug also.
"Bye, Dean," she said in his ear as she stepped into it, giving him a light squeeze. "Thanks for everything."
As he pulled away he hesitated, leaning in suddenly and giving her a firm kiss on the lips. It was a quick kiss, a chaste one even, but he felt her surprised sharp intake of breath against his mouth. He let his hands rest on her upper arms as he pulled back, smirking at the pink hue seeping into her cheeks. "So, you don't mind if we stop by from time to time to see how Bobby's doing?" he asked casually.
A loud snort came from the steps as Bobby made his way back up to them. "I ain't a dog yer leavin' at the kennels!"
Marisol laughed, grinning at her new houseguest before turning back to Dean. "You're always welcome here," she said sincerely. "Go save the world. I'll see you when you're done."
Dean smiled and sauntered down the walk, ignoring Bobby's rolling eyes and Sam's cheeky grin. He climbed in behind the wheel of the stolen Chrysler and started her up, pulling away slowly. Glancing in his rear view, he saw Marisol standing on her porch next to a fading but still visible Bobby, both giving the hunters a wave goodbye. Yes, he thought, he wanted this. He had all but given up on this dream but damn, now he wanted this.
He suddenly felt as if he'd been dragged back into the land of the living, like a splash of color had been injected back into his world, a world that had become empty, grey, and barren since losing almost everyone he loved. He had never had more incentive to kill Dick and end this once and for all, only this time he was going into the battle armed with something he hadn't had two days ago.
A pretty powerful weapon, he reckoned.
Author's note: So that's the end of this tale. Hope you liked it enough to review :-)