The Scrambled Egghead
By San Antonio Rose
June 25, 1998
"Thermothrockle," Dean insisted.
Sam shook his head. "Dean..."
"Iron glass. Starve. Rice, old shoes. Crazy eights."
Sam kept shaking his head, and both boys looked about ready to cry. "I don't understand."
"No sun, Sammy. No sun," Dean repeated, casting a fearful glance toward the window.
Dean didn't look back at Sam as he sang quietly, "One day I'm going to murder the buuu-gler..."
John was about ready to pull his hair out. There was a clue—there had to be a clue—in Dean's ramblings as to what was going on, what had happened to the boy, but damned if he could figure out what it was.
This whole mess started when John got word of a town suddenly shrouded in darkness. By the time the anomaly made the local news, it had been three days since the area within a three-mile radius of Dolan Springs, Arizona, had seen anything more than stars in the sky—not a cloud, not the moon, not even the sun. Sam and Dean were out of school, and John figured he could use their help in doing research and canvassing the town for witnesses. So, over Sam's objections that he'd promised to help Bobby with something and that a little town like Dolan Springs wasn't likely to have the references they needed, John loaded both boys into the Impala and headed down to check it out.
"It's gotta have some serious mojo if it can stop the sun from rising," Dean observed after reading the newspaper article. "Dark fog is one thing, but from what this says, there's no change in the weather. It's just night."
John nodded. "So what do you think it could be?"
Dean sighed and shrugged. "Some kind of creature associated with night or darkness."
"A god or demigod, maybe?" Sam offered. "I mean, there are myths about monsters that eat the sun, but those only explain eclipses."
"That's a good place to start," John agreed. "As soon as we get checked into the motel, you boys head on to the library. I'll break out my press card and start interviews."
"Yes, sir," both boys agreed reluctantly.
"We need to move fast. Nobody's died yet, but if it is a god, it's a cinch people will start dying soon. The old ones need blood sacrifices to survive, especially if they have no worshippers left."
Even knowing what to expect, however, the Winchesters found the approach to Dolan Springs unsettling. Sam spotted the dark blotch in the distance first as they descended into the valley where the turnoff to the town was, a black spot that looked like a hole punched straight down from the stratosphere. The column of darkness grew as the Impala drew closer, a perfect cylinder standing out against the mid-June brightness, until at last the car crossed the boundary and plunged into twilight that deepened to full night as they got to town. The stars were visible overhead, but they seemed dim, as if whatever was here would have blotted out even that light if possible. And when the Winchesters got out at the motel, all three of them shivered against the chill of the unnatural desert night.
"Hey, Dean?" Sam said quietly. "Let's go to the library."
Dean looked around anxiously. "Yeah. Let's."
John wasted no time changing into reporter gear and driving the boys to the library. Dean took the opportunity of the drive to do some people-watching. There weren't many people out on the streets at the time, but one particularly fat Middle Eastern man with bug eyes and a wide, ugly mouth caught his eye.
"Hey, Sammy," he said. "Check out Mr. Toad."
Sam looked and snorted. "Woulda thought you'd say Jabba the Hutt."
"Nah, Jabba was a slug. That guy looks way more like a frog."
"Yeah, I guess he does, kind of."
"Shouldn't say that about people, Dean," John cautioned as he pulled into the library parking lot.
Dean huffed. "Dad, it's not like he could hear me."
"Remember, any and all myths on gods of night or darkness. I'll be back in a few hours."
"Yes, sir," the boys chorused and got out at the same time.
After an hour of searching fruitlessly through Greek and Roman lore, however, Dean was bored. And there was a local drive-in burger joint next door, within easy sight of the window near which he and Sam were sitting. So he whispered, "Sammy, I'm gonna go get a snack. Want anything?"
Sam huffed. "Deeean…."
"Dude, I'm not blowing off the hunt, I promise. If there's anyone there, I'll ask questions."
"You mean, besides her phone number?"
Dean rolled his eyes.
Sam sighed. "Okay. No, I don't want anything, thanks."
"Awesome. Be back in half an hour, tops." Dean slapped Sam on the shoulder and left.
Once Dean had gotten to the drive-in and ordered a soda and a couple of fried pies, he noticed a girl sitting alone at one of the picnic tables. At least, he thought the person was female; the figure didn't look particularly male, but she was pretty flat-chested, and the way her long black hair hung down in her face, he couldn't judge her features from a distance. Still, mindful of his promise to Sam, he collected his order and walked over to the table. "Hey. Is this seat taken?"
"If you mean that you wish to speak with me," she replied, her deep voice holding an accent he couldn't quite place but that somehow seemed to go with her brown skin tone, "then the seat is yours."
"Awesome, thanks." He sat down. "I'm Dean."
"Dean. You may call me Kay."
"Kay. That's a nice name. You live here?"
"For the moment, yes. We're new in town."
"Oh? How long have you been here?"
"Not long. You?"
"Oh, we're just passing through. My dad's a reporter, came down to check out this weird night thing you guys have going on here."
Kay stiffened for a split second, but the moment passed so quickly Dean wasn't sure he hadn't imagined it. "What's so weird about it? Night can be beautiful."
"Yeah, but night all the time? That's pretty spooky."
"I don't think so. I, ah... I'm allergic to sunlight. This way I can go out without fear, no matter what time it is." She looked out at the eerily quiet street, and Dean wondered how she got so tan if she never went out in the sun. "I like it here. I hope we stay. America, the land of opportunity," she added dreamily.
Somehow, that last statement pinged Dean's radar, and he realized that the temperature wasn't the only thing making his skin crawl. He reached back for his gun and snarled, "What the hell are you?"
Swiftly as a striking snake, Kay launched herself across the table, grabbed Dean's shirt, and kissed him hard. He struggled and tried to pull away, but a thin, forked, decidedly not human tongue forced its way past his lips, flicking around the inside of his mouth despite his best efforts to block with his own tongue (and when their tongues touched, he knew, he knew, he saw it all) before hers shot back and pierced the back of his throat, wrapping around his brain stem—and his mind shattered.
Sam suddenly felt uneasy and looked up from his book to see what was keeping Dean... only to discover that Dean was alone at the drive-in, slumped over a table. Alarmed, Sam put down the book, stuffed his steno pad into one of the inside pockets of his denim jacket, and raced out of the library and to his brother's side, sitting down to Dean's right. Dean's pulse was erratic, and there was a small trickle of bloody drool coming out one corner of his mouth when Sam hauled him upright, but he didn't feel feverish, despite the glassy look in his half-open eyes.
"Poop-poop!" Dean replied with a straight face, eyes not focused on Sam at all.
Sam frowned. "I thought Dad told you to quit using Wind in the Willows insults."
Dean's eyebrows drew together a little. "Jolllly joker. Sticks'n'stones. Mouse's cut. I'm... I'm... K'nnyloggins..." His eyelids fluttered, and he swayed. "'S not... two's bad's... oh-way-oh... dude... looks like..." His eyes rolled back in his head, and Sam barely managed to catch him before he could fall over.
Fighting panic, Sam scrabbled in Dean's pocket for the new, smaller phone John had gotten them for Christmas and dialed. "Dad!" he said when John answered. "Something's wrong with Dean!"
He could almost hear John frown. "What is it?"
"I dunno." Sam explained what he did know of what Dean had done and what symptoms he was showing. "He didn't eat or drink anything—the food's right here in front of him. His gun's in his hand. And he was trying to tell me something, but it didn't make any sense!"
"You think our culprit got to him?"
"Okay. Stay with him. I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Okay. Thanks, Dad." Sam hung up, gently took Dean's gun and tucked it into his own waistband, and chewed his lip for a moment as he tried to figure out what to do next. Then he shifted Dean just enough to be able to get out his steno pad again and quickly jotted down everything Dean had said, just in case it was important. He even appended a "(a lady?)" to the end of Dean's last comment—Sam knew how Dean talked even with a fever of 104°, and that "dude" had clearly been the subject of an incomplete sentence, not addressing Sam. After further consideration, he added "(Walk Like an Egyptian?)" after the "oh-way-oh" and started trying to decipher some of the other half-sentences.
Then Dean started shivering and mumbling something Sam couldn't quite make out. He sounded distressed, though, so Sam tucked the steno pad back into his pocket and reached across to shake Dean's shoulder. "Dean? Dean, c'mon, wake up—"
He was abruptly cut off when Dean pulled him into a crushing hug, cradling the back of Sam's head like Sam was 15 months old instead of 15 years old and pressing his nose into the crook of Sam's neck, rocking back and forth and muttering a tearful litany of "SammySammySammySammy." Sam couldn't move and had no idea what to do even if he could.
The sound of the Impala pulling up seemed to help a little, but Dean was still rocking Sam when John ran up to them. "Boys?"
Dean finally stilled, but he didn't let go of Sam, who looked helplessly up at John.
John swallowed hard and crouched down beside them, putting a hand gently on Dean's back. "Son? What happened?"
"Snakes," Dean said into Sam's shirt. "Why snakes? Hate snakes."
Well, that was another reference both Sam and John could place—Raiders of the Lost Ark. But exactly what part of Raiders Dean was talking about and whether it actually answered the question was more than Sam could tell.
"You were bit by a snake?" John guessed.
"Nananana," Dean sang quietly, "nananana, hey he-ey, goodbye..." Then he was out again, his grip on Sam slackening as his face pressed more heavily into Sam's chest.
Sam grunted as he found himself supporting Dean's weight again. "Uh. Dad?"
John pulled Dean away from Sam and into his own arms, and Sam wondered briefly whether it would embarrass Dean that at 19 he was still light enough for John to lift easily in a bridal carry (probably not, considering that John was a Marine and Dean idolized him). Then John nodded toward the untouched soda and bag of food on the table. "Bring those, Sam. We'll get him back to the motel, check him over."
"Yes, sir," Sam replied with a nod and grabbed the food as he stood.
"You leave anything at the library?"
"Good. Let's go."
Dean stayed unconscious for the whole drive back to the motel and John's carrying him into the room, laying him on the bed, and starting to check him for injuries. But when John touched Dean's chin, Dean shuddered and tried to turn his head away, though his eyes stayed closed.
"Easy, son," John said gently, revealing a side Sam sometimes forgot he still had. "I need to see."
Dean whimpered, but John motioned for Sam to hold Dean's head still and eased his mouth open. Dean's tongue flew up defensively, and his rate of breathing increased... he was panicking.
John frowned and switched on his pocket flashlight. "He's got scratches under his tongue." He brought the flashlight up to get a better look.
No sooner did the light hit Dean's tongue than he whimpered again—more a sound of need than of distress—and let his tongue drop. He was still breathing hard, but not as rapidly.
"Some kind of cut at the back of his throat, too. It's still bleeding a little." John switched the flashlight off. "What the—"
Dean cried out and grabbed for the flashlight, switched it back on, and stuck the bulb end into his mouth, swallowing convulsively as if drinking the light.
"Dean?" both John and Sam gasped.
After "guzzling" for a moment, Dean took the flashlight out of his mouth again, still panting but seeming to calm down somewhat, and let his hand and the flashlight drop down onto the mattress beside him. "Sammy," he breathed.
Sam moved a hand down to rest over Dean's heart. "I'm right here, Dean."
Dean grabbed Sam's wrist and relaxed a little more. "Dark."
"Hold on, son," John said, jumping up and turning on all the lights as quickly as he could. The brighter the room got, the more Dean relaxed. Then John came back to the bed and brushed Dean's hair back from his forehead. "Better?"
Dean nodded, leaning into the touch.
"Think you can tell me what happened now?"
Dean frowned at that and opened his eyes partway. "Snakes," he said in that I've already told you tone.
"The only marks are in your mouth."
"But those aren't snake bite marks."
Dean nodded again—not a They are, too nod, but an I know that nod.
"I don't understand, then."
Dean huffed. "Courtin'."
Dean huffed again, his brow furrowing in an I'm sorry, Dad, I'm really trying expression, and Sam could have sworn there were unshed tears glittering in his still-glazed eyes. His mouth worked for a moment before "Old" finally came out.
Dean nodded and looked a little relieved that John had understood something.
Dean whimpered as he looked away, trying to think. "Bombadil."
John blinked. "Huh?"
"Tom Bombadil," Sam supplied. "'Oldest and Fatherless' was the name the Elves gave him. He's a character in The Lord of the Rings," he added when John looked at him funny.
Dean nodded, and his face suddenly looked grey and drawn. Sam was alarmed at how badly that much conversation seemed to have taxed his strength. "Bombadil," he repeated as his eyes slipped closed.
John sighed and rubbed Dean's shoulder. "Ancient and possibly fatherless. Okay, son. We can try again when you've had some rest."
Dean nodded again and fell asleep, though he didn't let go of Sam's hand. Sam silently pulled out his steno pad and handed it to John, who nodded his thanks and went over to the table to read.
John's hopes that Dean's condition could be improved by rest were dashed every time Dean woke. Whatever had attacked him had scrambled his brains but good. His eyes would react to light and track movement fairly well but never seemed to focus fully on anything; he couldn't come up with a complete sentence unless it was a line from a song and he actually sang it, and most of his other attempts at speech resulted in garbled pop culture references that John might or might not recognize. He could usually answer a direct question obliquely, but if he tried to talk for long on his own steam, there usually wasn't much logical connection from one thought to the next, even if John or Sam could keep up with the references he was making. His emotional defenses had been flattened, too; he seemed to need near-constant contact with Sam to make sure Sam was okay, and darkness terrified him.
It took several hours for John to accept that he needed to try to find another witness. By then Dean had managed to eat the fried pies he'd bought and was starting to act hungry again, so John decided to go back to the drive-in for burgers. If nothing else, he figured, someone there could give him contact information for whoever had been working when Dean was attacked.
But when he got to the drive-in, the building was surrounded by Mojave County Sheriff's Department personnel and crime scene tape.
Cursing under his breath, John got out and flashed his press card to the first deputy he saw. "What happened?"
The deputy shook his head. "Sorry, sir, I—"
"Dammit, officer, my son was attacked here this afternoon. He's concussed, and I can't make out what happened to him. Was there a murder?"
The deputy sighed. "We don't know yet. We're probably gonna have to send samples to Bullhead City or Vegas for analysis. If I didn't know better, though... I'd say the guy got bit by a giant snake."
John blinked. "How giant?"
"Big enough to take a chunk out of his shoulder. Lost a lot of blood, too, although there's not much blood at the scene."
"Who's the victim?"
"Kid who was working the afternoon shift. Business has been so slow with... all this..." The deputy gestured skyward. "Anyway, the manager cut back to a skeleton crew. Billy was working by himself."
"And something or someone attacked him—what, with cobra venom?"
"Beats me. Like I said, we're gonna have to check with the lab in Bullhead City. Could be cobra venom, though; body's pretty swollen."
"How long ago?"
"Maybe five hours. Last order he'd filled was for a soda and some fried pies."
John thanked the deputy and got back in the car, kicking himself for not having understood Dean better. It might not have helped him save Billy; he knew that. The lack of blood would be consistent with a god taking tribute, and Billy might have simply disappeared into the god's larder had Sam not turned up to check on Dean, but he was probably chosen only because he'd seen what happened to Dean. And Dean had likely been attacked as he had been, not killed outright, only to keep John sidelined. But still...
Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?
He drummed his fingers on the wheel for a moment as he thought, then called Sam. "We've got our first victim," he reported. "See what you can find on snake gods."
"But Dad..." Sam objected.
"I'll swing by the library on my way back, Sam. Start with the research you've already done. And see if Dean can give you anything. I've got a feeling he knows what's going on and wants to tell us, but whatever put the whammy on him wanted to make sure he couldn't."
Sam sighed. "Yes, sir."
Rather than going straight to his research notes, Sam went back to his notes of Dean's ramblings, trying to find some kind of pattern in the statements that made any sense at all. After a moment, he rubbed Dean's shoulder to see if Dean was awake.
"Mm?" came the sleepy response.
"Frog or toad?"
"Yeah, I know, but are you talking about a frog or a toad? There might be a difference when it comes to the lore."
Dean blew out a breath and thought before humming the opening line of "It's Not Easy Being Green."
"Frog. Gotcha. Thanks."
Dean nodded and drifted off again as Sam began jotting down notes:
Oldest and Fatherless
Walk like an Egyptian
Dude looks like a lady
No sun (murder the bugler?)
Kiss Him Goodbye
The last gave him pause. "Dean?"
"Someone kissed you?"
Dean nodded again.
"What was her name?"
"K—K-k—" Dean made a high, distressed noise in the back of his throat.
"It starts with a K?"
Dean nodded hard.
"There's a snake and a frog and they're Egyptian?"
"Uh!" Dean confirmed, nodding hard again.
Sam rubbed his shoulder again. "Okay. Okay. Relax. I've got this." He hadn't gotten to Egyptian mythology yet before Dean's attack, but he knew a faster way to get the info than waiting for John to get back with food and books. He picked up the phone and called John first. "Dad? Forget the library. I should have it by the time you get here." Then he hung up and dialed again.
"Singer," said the voice on the other end.
Sam blew out a relieved breath. "Hey, Bobby, it's Sam Winchester. We need some help."
"Sam? What's the trouble?"
"Something put the whammy on Dean before we could get close enough to find out what's going on here in Dolan Springs, but we know it's two Egyptian gods of darkness. One's a frog and one's a snake, and Dean says they're really, really ancient. And the snake's name starts with a K."
"That sounds like Kek and Kauket, Egyptian chaos gods."
"Hold on. Lemme ask Dean." Sam moved the phone away from his mouth. "Kek and Kauket?"
"UH!" cried Dean.
Sam squeezed Dean's shoulder. "That's them, all right," he said into the phone. "So how do we kill them?"
Bobby sighed. "That I don't know, son. I'll see what I can find."
"Okay. Thanks, Bobby." Sam hung up and met Dean's unfocused eyes. "Bobby's looking."
Dean let out a sob of relief and pulled Sam down into a hug.
"Kek and Kauket," Bobby told John when he called back later that night, "are two of the eight gods known as the Ogdoad, four married couples each representing a different aspect of primordial chaos. They're supposed to predate everything. Somehow between the eight of them, they gave birth to Ra, but they've hated the sun ever since. Kek is the lord of darkness, and Kauket is his wife. I'm guessin' they figure on taking enough victims from Dolan Springs to try to put the sun out once and for all."
John nodded thoughtfully. "So that's why Dean was singing 'Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning'—'I'll amputate his reveille / and step upon it heavily / and spend the rest of my life in bed.'"
"So what am I looking for?"
"Kek's usually depicted as a frog or frog-headed man. Kauket's a snake or snake-headed woman. But if those are too obvious, it's probably a man who looks like a frog and a woman who's... well, snakelike, but pretty androgynous. Some scholars question whether Kauket's even a separate entity."
"Dude looks like a lady," John murmured.
"Nothing, nothing, just something else Dean said that makes sense now. What are the odds killing both Kek and Kauket will break the curse?"
"On him or on the town?"
"Town, I'd say definitely. Dean, better than even, but there's always a chance it can't be broken that easily or at all."
"All right, then. How do I kill them?"
Bobby sighed. "Stab 'em in the heart. Looks like you've got a choice between using a shepherd's staff carved in the land of Goshen—"
"Oh, thanks, Singer. Where am I going to get that?"
"—or a ram's horn."
"A r—" John broke off as he realized what that would include. "Nearest synagogue's in Vegas. That's an hour and a half, allowing for traffic."
"I'll call around, see if anyone knows a rabbi who'd deliver."
"How is Dean? Sam just said he got whammied."
John sighed as he looked over at the bed where the boys had been sitting together to eat. Sam was gently rescuing Dean's drink before it could spill while Dean's head lolled onto Sam's shoulder. "He's doing better now that we know what he's been trying to tell us," John said. "Looks like Kauket kissed him, blew his mind."
He could almost hear Bobby wince. "Damn."
"We're lucky she didn't kill him, but..."
"Yeah." John sighed and checked his watch. "Okay. I'll work on locating our mystery couple."
"And I'll call back as soon as I get a line on a shofar."
John hung up and sighed, wondering where to start. There was a chance that the man Dean had called Mr. Toad was in fact Kek—a strong chance, given the Wind in the Willows reference Dean kept making—but finding someone even that strikingly ugly might not be so easy before morning, when people would presumably be at work for him to question. The town was strung out along the main drag, which might make it easier to pinpoint the home of a human seen walking near the scene of a crime, but since he was looking at gods... he wasn't even sure whether to look for a house, a barn, a warehouse, or what.
Finally, he called Caleb. "If you were an Egyptian god staking a claim in the Mojave, where would you hide?"
Caleb laughed. "What kind of question is that, John?"
"I'm serious, man."
"I've got two of 'em. Kek and Kauket."
Caleb's voice turned serious. "You are joking."
"Where in the Mojave?"
"Dolan Springs, Arizona."
Caleb swore quietly. "Where've they been seen?"
"Hold on." John heard Caleb shuffling papers. "Odds are, town that small and isolated, someone would notice if something hinky was happening in any of the houses. But they're probably living close to the center of town, given what I've heard about the darkness."
"Yeah, that's a good point. The town runs along the floor of a valley; there are a couple of good-sized hills just west of downtown."
Caleb shuffled some more papers before replying, "Yeah. And judging from this topographic map, it looks like one's fairly pyramid-shaped. I'd check out there."
"Got it. Thanks, Caleb."
"Any time. And John? Be careful. The old ones are slick."
"When's the last time you hunted something that wasn't?"
Caleb chuckled and hung up.
John put down his phone and walked over to the bed. Dean stirred a little when John sat down beside him, on the opposite side from Sam, but he didn't do more than turn his head when John touched his shoulder.
"Hey, Champ," John said. "I'm gonna go scout those hills west of downtown, see if I can't find where Kek and Kauket are hiding."
Dean's eyebrows drew together a little, and he made a soft noise that seemed like a protest.
"I won't be getting out of the car. Bobby's still trying to get a line on the weapon I need. But at minimum, I need to find out where their home base is."
"The highest point?"
"Okay. I'll probably have to hike it, then; but all I'll do tonight is drive past, like I said."
Dean started humming quietly, and it took John a moment to place the tune, since neither of them was normally much of a Petula Clark fan.
"Downtown? What about downtown?"
"So maybe I'll see you there..."
Dean switched to humming "Lucretia MacEvil."
"What time of day?"
Dean shook his head.
"What about Kek? Where will he be?"
Dean opened his eyes a bit, and John saw a teasing glint in them. "What's second."
The corner of Sam's mouth quirked upward. "I'm not asking you who's on second."
"I don't know."
"Third base," they chorused.
John smacked his face with his palm and chuckled. "Can't believe I didn't catch that one."
Sam was getting irritated.
Not with Dean—well, yes, sort of, because if he hadn't gone after that snack, he wouldn't have been attacked by Kauket. And Dean's clinginess and incoherence were getting frustrating, but he didn't mind taking care of Dean, because that's just what brothers did for each other. What annoyed him most was the delay, being stuck in the motel room while Dad did all the scouting and weapon-finding and probably would insist on being the one to kill both Kek and Kauket.
Sam hadn't wanted to come on this hunt in the first place. But now that he was here, he really wanted to be the one to kill the monster who'd reduced his not-so-stupid-really big brother into this... gibbering loony.
Now that Dean didn't have so much to tell them about the gods, he just rambled. It would have been embarrassing if anyone had been around to see. And what especially annoyed Sam about that is that when Dean actually was trying to tell them something, Sam had to be the one to translate for Dad more often than not. Yet Dad was the one who insisted on pumping Dean for information even though he couldn't think straight.
Dad should have left them in Sioux Falls. That was all there was to it.
Dean poked Sam's side. "Grumpy."
"I can't help it, Dean. Normal people don't hunt chaos gods during summer vacations."
"Yes, I would rather go to the beach. Or the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone, or anyplace else but here."
"One person has died, and only because he saw what happened to you. Why is this our responsibility, huh? Why is this our life? Why do we have to be the ones to save everybody?"
Sam blinked. "Huh?"
Dean frowned a little and tried again. "A Locksley."
"I still don't... are... are you saying we have to because no one else will? Like Robin Hood was the only one to stand up to Prince John?"
Sam huffed. "Wish we had more merry men, then. The whole thing's just stupid."
Dean smiled a little, squeezed Sam's arm, and fell back asleep.
John found that the darkness did seem to intensify close to the highest of the hills near downtown. He didn't want to risk his headlights off the road, but he couldn't wait for the daylight that wouldn't come in order to scout the hill and find the best route to the top. So after scouting downtown for the few places Kauket might be likely to hang out to look for victims, he carefully let himself into the library to copy a topographic map. Then he followed the route Kek seemed to have been taking away from downtown in the hope of spotting any of his likely haunts, but to no avail. It was a mile and a half from the library to the hilltop and closer to two miles to any place south of the hills that might be of interest, with a mile of that distance consisting of nothing but deserted desert road. Unless Kek was willing to attract attention by walking that far alone, odds were that he'd been headed back to the hilltop after getting Kauket settled at the drive-in.
John sighed and nearly headed back to the motel. But what would he do when he got there? All he had was a map of the hills to examine for the easiest route to the topmost point, where Dean said the hideout would be. Unless Bobby had gotten hold of a rabbi yet, he'd be stuck with no effective weapons, one son unable to communicate, and one son ready to kill him for dragging them into this mess—as if John weren't already blaming himself for what happened to Dean.
So instead he slowly cruised through the patchwork blocks of Dolan Springs, checking every side street and every alley for any buildings of potential interest. And when he'd finished that and still had no better leads, he paused at the end of town and made an executive decision.
Dean was asleep when John got back to the motel, and Sam was watching TV with the volume on low. "Hey, Dad," he said. "Find anything?"
"Yes and no," John replied, handing him the topographic map. "It was too dark to go up there without a flashlight, and I don't want to risk Kek spotting me before I'm properly armed. So I need you to find me the best route to the top, based on this map—the hill's circled. I'm going to go after the weapon we need. I'll be back by morning."
Anger flashed in Sam's eyes, but all he said was, "Yes, sir."
"I'm relying on you, Sam. So is Dean."
Sam's jaw twitched. "Yes, sir."
"With any luck, we can take the gods down tomorrow—save the town, save Dean, and blow this popsicle stand."
Sam snorted. "With any luck."
Sam didn't reply, but his silence screamed his frustration.
John sighed and turned to leave. "Look after your brother."
I'm worried about him, too, son. I want them dead, too. You did well, getting all that information out of what Dean said; I couldn't have. All of these thoughts crossed John's mind, but he didn't voice them for fear of leaving the door open for Sam to start the argument that he obviously wanted to have and that Dean didn't need to hear. Instead, he simply walked to the door and, with a "Call if anything comes up," removed himself from the situation.
He shouldn't have to say those things, anyway. His boys knew how much he loved them, how proud of them he was... didn't they?
Dean finally woke up again after John had left and, after getting Sam's assurance that John was okay, had Sam steady him on the way to and from the bathroom. His eyes still wouldn't focus, so Sam couldn't get his help in working out a route to Kek's hideout. Yet Sam could feel Dean watching him work on the map even as he hummed broken snatches of his favorite songs.
Finally, Sam finished with the map and got ready for bed. But he was startled when he went to turn out the light and Dean suddenly said, "On."
Sam frowned. "You want me to keep the lights on while we sleep?"
"Mm." Dean shivered.
Sam sighed. "Okay. I suppose you want me to sleep with you, too."
"Mm—p-p-p..." Dean huffed when he couldn't get out a simple please.
"Okay." Sam went back to Dean's bed. "Wish you could tell me why you're Mr. Cling all of a sudden."
Sam paused. "What'd you say?"
"Kiss liked. More. Starves." Dean tried hard to look Sam in the eye, but he didn't quite succeed. "You next."
Sam felt himself go pale. "She said that?"
"Then... how'd you..."
Dean showed him the scratches under his tongue.
"She didn't mean to show you? You just... know?"
Dean shrugged a little.
Sam didn't know what else to say, so he simply crawled into bed, let Dean snuggle up beside him, and tried to fall asleep.
John left Las Vegas several hours later, a shofar in the trunk, pool-hustling proceeds in his pocket, and a lead weight in his stomach. As useless as it was to worry about Dean and to chafe at the need to wait for what ought to be daylight, he couldn't help doing so, even with the radio turned up to keep the silence at bay. And the closer he got to Dolan Springs, the more oppressive the darkness became.
He supposed it shouldn't have surprised him to arrive back at the motel to find the lights still on in their room, but he had hoped both boys would be asleep, and they seemed to be resting peacefully, curled up together like they used to do when they were much smaller. It wasn't until he'd showered and lain down on his own bed that he realized that neither boy was asleep, unless they'd both taken to sleeping with their eyes open. Neither had reacted to his presence, and both were staring off into the middle distance somewhere.
John got up and walked over to the other bed. "Sam?"
Sam finally stirred at that and looked up at him. "Hey, Dad."
Dean wobbled his head up as well and smiled a little.
"Hey, kiddo." John sat down beside Sam. "What's goin' on?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothin'. You get the weapon?"
"Yeah, I got it. We can go after them after breakfast."
"Do not forsake me, oh my darling," Dean sang under his breath.
John frowned in confusion until he placed the tune. "High noon?"
"I thought you didn't know what time Kauket would be downtown."
"After. Hardest. Starve."
"Then why the hell don't they feed before noon? And why haven't they taken victims before now?"
"Dad!" Sam objected.
"T'soon..." Dean replied, trailing off as he fell asleep with his nose buried in Sam's hair.
"Why do you keep pushing him like this?" Sam demanded quietly, eyes blazing.
"That's enough, Sam," John snapped and stood. "Get some sleep. We need to check out by noon."
Sam huffed but grumbled a "Yes, sir" before putting his head back down, not seeming to notice how Dean's arms tightened slightly around his chest.
John sighed and went back to bed. Why the hell did Sam have to question everything John did? Didn't he realize that Dean was the only resource they had?
Morning by the clock came too soon for everyone. John drew up a quick sketch of the man he suspected was Kek and took it with him when he went out to get breakfast carryouts. It took a bit of driving to find a restaurant that was actually open for breakfast, but once he did, he placed his order and then casually showed the sketch to the waiter.
"Oh, him?" the waiter replied. "Yeah, seen 'im around town—he's usually holdin' hands with this little twig of a woman. Dunno if she's his wife or his daughter or what."
John nodded. "But they don't eat here?"
The waiter shook his head. "Nah. Not that I know of."
"Where do they live?"
"Nobody knows. Not in town, anyway, from what I hear. Maybe they've got a place outside of town."
"And how long have they lived here?"
The waiter looked around, leaned closer, and lowered his voice. "That's the weird thing. They showed up the first day the sun didn't rise."
John nodded slowly. "You think there's a connection?"
"Hell if I know, mister. It's one hell of a coincidence, though."
"Yeah. Say, has anyone gone missing since all this started?"
"I haven't heard so. But we sometimes get folks passing through on the way to the reservation or the Grand Canyon; lone traveler might go missing and nobody'd know. We're all stickin' pretty close, though. I mean, the sun don't stop risin' for kicks."
John nodded again. "Thanks."
On the way back to the motel and all through breakfast, John pondered this news. Too soon, Dean had said, but too soon for what? Too soon to take victims from the townspeople, or too soon to take victims at all? Even if they were limiting themselves to drifters who wouldn't be missed, they couldn't be feeding all that well. How long did Dolan Springs have before the attacks would begin in earnest? And could the Winchesters stop the gods before they killed again?
John's plan, as Dean seemed to have intuited, involved catching the gods separately, while Kauket was downtown and Kek was doing whatever on the hilltop. It made more sense than trying to assail both gods at the same time—especially since they had only the one shofar. He'd been thinking that he'd tackle Kek himself before sending Sam in to gank Kauket, wherever she was. But now he was starting to question the wisdom of waiting that long. Would it save more lives for him to head up the hill alone now? Or would he be committing suicide and leaving the boys vulnerable? Would Sam be able to defend Dean against both gods alone if something happened to John?
Dean's head kept wandering from side to side as he ate, and he looked worried. Finally he muttered something that sounded like broken Japanese.
"What was that, son?" John asked.
"Kobayashi Maru," Sam repeated. "The no-win scenario test at Starfleet Academy."
John frowned. "You think there's no way to win?"
"All," Dean replied.
"No way to save everyone?"
"Starve. Angry. Take."
"Then we go after them now."
Dean shook his head. "Iron glass. Thermothrockle, gonculator."
Sam looked puzzled. "A what?"
John inhaled sharply. "Hogan's Heroes. A diversion."
Dean nodded. "El Dorado."
Sam looked from John to Dean and back and then started shaking his head vehemently. "Oh, no. No, now wait a minute..."
"Dean, are you nuts? You want me to go in the front door while Dad goes in the back door?"
Dean raised an eyebrow in silent challenge.
"No, I don't have a better idea, but that doesn't mean there isn't one!"
"Sam," John barked.
Sam slumped back in his chair, stubbornly silent.
"Dean, you think we should still wait until they've separated for the afternoon?"
Dean nodded and began listing to one side.
"Okay. Thanks, son. Let's get you back to bed." John stood and helped Dean to his feet before he could fall over, then steered him and steadied him on the way back to the bed.
"S'mmy?" Dean asked, so softly John could hardly hear him.
Yet Sam sighed and came over to the bed. "Yeah, Dean?"
Dean grabbed Sam's hand. "Safe."
"I know, dude."
Dean squeezed Sam's hand and let him go, falling asleep almost instantly.
Sam sighed again and looked up at John. "Dad..."
"I'm not sold on it yet, either, Sam. Show me the route you found."
Sam brought the map to the table, and John sat down beside him to examine his work. "The map doesn't show trees," Sam disclaimed as he began running his finger along the line he'd drawn, "but it looks like this is the easiest ascent, and it's closest to a road."
"I think it's a driveway, but it does make the most sense. I didn't see many trees out there, either, just low scrub. That's going to make it tricky to get up there without getting spotted. I didn't see anything that looked like torchlight on the hilltop, so a flashlight's likely to be visible from a good distance away."
"You're sure this is the right hill, though? I mean, there are higher peaks further out."
"Too far out. Look." John took a compass and drew the edge of the darkness. "The center of the circle is downtown. If Dean's right that they're struggling to keep up the power level needed to maintain that radius, they can't be too far from the center of town. And this peak is the closest."
Sam nodded and chewed his lip for a moment. "If... if we go with Dean's plan, how would we do it?"
John traced the route Sam had found to a point roughly fifty yards from the summit. "One flashlight. We go this far together. Then you keep going straight up to the summit with the flashlight, like you're just out for a hike; I come around to the side here and trust that Kek will be so focused on you he won't notice me."
Sam shivered, and John wondered whether Dean had said something to him the night before. But he nodded. "You think that'll be safe?"
"Hell, boy, don't you trust your old man?"
Sam snorted, sounding genuinely amused.
"Seriously, Sam, we had to climb worse hills than this in 'Nam. I'll be fine."
"Wasn't quite what I meant," Sam muttered.
"Then what did you mean?"
"Sorry, sir. I just... I don't know how I feel about being the bait."
"Not bait. Distraction. Kek's more likely to buy a teenager with wanderlust stumbling on his hideout than he is to buy a Marine doing it."
Sam didn't reply immediately, so John considered the point taken. "And what if we both get captured? What happens to Dean?"
John sighed. "That's less likely if we both go. But I don't see that we've got a choice here, Sam. All we can do is minimize the risks."
"Dad, they're gods, not skinwalkers."
Sam slumped back in his chair again, resigned. "Yes, sir."
Dean shifted restlessly on the bed, and John glanced over at him before looking at Sam again. "Go sit with your brother. I'll get the car loaded."
Dean was still asleep by the time John was ready to check out, so John bundled him into the back seat and was not at all surprised when Sam climbed in after him. John then went to check out and got back to the car just as Dean woke up enough to hum a line from "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena."
John chuckled. "Yeah, son, we're going."
"Mm," said Dean and drifted off again.
It wasn't yet noon, so John took his time finding a restaurant to get an early lunch that they could eat in the car. He parked near the rodeo arena while they ate, since that lot would give him the best view of both sides of the loop around the hills. Kek and Kauket hadn't turned up before the boys had finished eating, though, so John opted for a slow patrol through the neighborhood, keeping clear of the main road but still keeping it within sight. Sam had gotten Dean upright for the meal, and he stayed sitting up for a while, humming vaguely and trying to watch the scenery, such as it was.
They'd been patrolling for about half an hour when Dean suddenly cried out and dove for the floorboard.
Immediately, John pulled over, snatched up his night-vision binoculars, and started watching the main road. Thirty seconds or so later, he spotted Kek, hand in hand with an individual who must be Kauket, walking along that road on a course opposite the direction the Impala was facing. He then cautiously turned the car around, renewed visual contact, and followed slowly from a safe distance, ignoring the vibrations coming up through the seat back that told him that Dean was trembling.
"Dad," Sam said quietly, urgently.
I'm sorry, boys, was John's first thought, but what came out was, "He'll live."
He didn't have to break visual contact with the targets to know that Sam was staring incredulously at him. That was a look he could feel from fifty paces.
John followed the gods until they got to their restaurant of choice, then pulled around to a point that gave him a good view through the restaurant's window, putting the car in Park but leaving the engine running. He watched as Kek saw Kauket to a table, spoke to her, kissed her, and started to leave.
But it wasn't until Dean let out another distressed noise that John spotted the lone biker walking up to the front of the restaurant—thin, scruffy, long grey hair pulled back in a ponytail, but otherwise nondescript. Exactly the sort of person nobody in that town would miss if he disappeared suddenly.
John was too far away. The man was inside before John even got his hand on the Impala's door handle, and Kek was just three steps inside the restaurant door. John could only watch as Kek hailed the man, said something to him, and took his hand. The man collapsed into Kek's arms... and the god vanished with his prey, leaving Kauket still impassive at her table.
John swore bitterly and threw the Impala into gear. Dean started to cry as John put his foot down and peeled out, headed for the hill. And Sam evidently briefly considered patricide before turning his attention to coaxing Dean back up onto the seat and getting him calmed down.
The distance from the restaurant to the end of the dirt drive Sam had identified as the starting point for the hike to the hilltop was less than two miles, so Sam had barely gotten Dean settled when John pulled the Impala to a halt. John jumped out, and Sam followed, demanding, "Dad, what the hell?"
"Kek's got someone," John replied, popping the trunk. "The faster we get up there, the more likely we are to save him."
Sam's eyes went wide, and he caught the flashlight John tossed to him without argument. John pulled out the shofar and closed the trunk, then jogged back to the door Sam had left open and ducked his head inside. Dean was sitting on the seat, curled up on himself and shaking, but he lifted his tear-streaked face from his knees to look at John.
"Stay put, son," John said. "Don't come after us, no matter how long we're gone. That's an order."
Dean whimpered but nodded.
John squeezed Dean's shoulder and backed away, closing the door behind him. Then he turned to Sam. "All right. Let's go."
Sam obediently switched on the flashlight and shone it ahead to light the path he'd mapped out. John had been concerned about encountering wildlife as they ran, but the hills were eerily still. Not even bugs and scorpions seemed to be stirring. They still had to dodge brush, but they made good time getting to the easiest ascent and thence to the crest. At the arranged point, John tapped Sam on the back and stopped; Sam also stopped to catch his breath, then continued forward alone at a walk. John waited a five-count before veering off to one side; the crest of the hill was barely a hundred feet wide, so he couldn't go too far, but he could stay clear of Sam's path and thus (he hoped) out of Kek's sight.
As Sam approached the gods' lair through the few trees that crowned the hill, he did an excellent job of letting the flashlight beam play over the entrance as if he were surprised by and curious about it. From his position, John could see that the place was a stone courtyard ringed with Egyptian-style columns but without a roof. Two low gold-and-lapis thrones glinted off to one side, and in the center stood a dark-stained altar that bore implements of sacrifice lined up behind a space big enough for a man's body. But there were no lights, not even candles on the altar, and the place seemed deserted—until the flashlight beam fell on Kek at the far end of the pavilion, wiping his mouth.
John stifled a curse. They were too late for the biker.
Sam started when he saw Kek. "Oh, sorry! I... there weren't any lights, so I didn't think anyone was here."
"What are you doing here?" Kek croaked, walking toward Sam.
"I... was just out for a hike. Is there gonna be a play here?"
"You could say that, yes."
"Cool. Mind if I look around? Egypt's kind of my thing right now."
Kek was practically drooling, and John suddenly got a sick feeling as he wondered whether that lust were for more than blood. But all Kek said was, "Not at all. Please, do come in."
"Awesome! Thanks!" Sam carefully skirted past Kek and made his way around the edge of the pavilion furthest away from John, seeming not to notice as Kek began following him.
So intently was Kek stalking Sam that John had no trouble in slipping up behind him and driving the shofar into his heart. "That's for my son," he snarled before twisting the horn and pulling it out again.
Kek fell to his knees but chuckled wetly. "It's not that easy, hunter. Haven't you heard the old saying... 'the two shall become one flesh?'"
And suddenly Kek's body dissolved into sand that began swirling up into the standing form of a woman. John started to shout a warning to Sam, but before either of them could move more than a step backward, Kauket had fully materialized—still humanoid but clad in Egyptian white and gold, golden asps coiled around her arms and a cobra circlet on her head. With a wave of her hand, Sam went sailing into a pillar and slumped to the ground, seemingly unconscious as he let the flashlight fall out of his hand. John started forward with the shofar and suddenly found himself flying backward, losing his grip on the horn, and landing with a thud on top of the altar. Heavy ropes sprang up around him, binding him from the neck down as if he were a mummy.
Kauket turned her back on both Sam and the shofar and slithered up to the altar. "Well. John Winchester. We had hoped you would be foolish enough to come after us, but that you would deliver us your sons as well was beyond our imagining. We are pleased."
"What the hell do you want with my sons?" John growled, trying to figure out whether he was imagining the hiss in the way she spoke.
"Ah, Dean's blood was most enticing. It was difficult to keep myself to only a taste. Other humans are only food, but you?" She caressed his face with one cold hand, and John couldn't help shivering. "We shall savor you three."
"Nothing special about us."
"Ah, but there is." She leaned closer, as if preparing to kiss him after she explained. "There is power in your blood, in your sons, power such as we have not tasted in many years. And they, still so pure of heart despite their flaws, the younger still a virgin... yes, a most pleasing sacrifice. Your heart will restore Kek to himself, and your sons will be all we need to keep Ra from this place forever, to make it ours. And then we will feast."
"Well, feast on this," Sam said and plunged the shofar through Kauket's heart from behind.
As Kauket gasped and fell to her knees, burning from the inside, the bonds holding John to the altar turned to sand and fell away. He rolled off, scattering the sacrificial implements, and Sam quickly helped him overturn the altar itself before turning back to face Kauket, whose face was now half human and half cobra. Cold black eyes met furious hazel eyes, and John braced himself for what might come.
"So, vessel of the Light-bringer," Kauket hissed at Sam, forked tongue flicking out from behind her fangs. "You think you slay the darkness now... but beware that the darkness does not swallow you. The Peacock... is coming." And she died and dissolved into sand.
Stunned, Sam looked up at John as the preternatural darkness gave way to the bright summer sun. "What... what was that supposed to mean?"
John could guess part of it, at least—Lucifer was called the Peacock Angel in some cultures, especially among the Yezidi. But Sam didn't need to know that, so John just shook his head. "No telling. Let's go."
They got back to the car to find Dean sprawled shirtless across the hood, soaking in the sunlight with a blissful expression on his face. The temperature hadn't risen much yet, so he was shivering a bit, but he didn't seem to care.
"Surprised you still have your pants on," Sam snarked.
"You kiddin'?" Dean replied without opening his eyes. "It's too cold for shorts yet. I'm not that stupid."
Complete sentences. Logical connections between them. Sam shot John a hopeful look before returning, "Just stupid enough to make out with a chaos goddess."
"Hey, she kissed me, genius. It's not like I wanted to be violated with snake tongue."
Dean opened his eyes and raised his head to make eye contact—and his eyes were clear and happy. "Yeah, dude. I'm back."
Sam quickly clambered onto the hood and hugged him.
Dean laughed. "Geez, Sammy, you're blocking my sun."
Sam huffed in amusement and backed off. "Sorry, I just..."
Dean sat up and grinned at him. "Hey. Thanks."
John smiled and squeezed Dean's shoulder. "How about a couple of days in Santa Monica? I think we could all stand to be sun worshippers for a while."
Dean looked up at him, surprised and delighted. "Could we?"
"Sure. I'll call in a couple of favors."
"Awesome! Thanks, Dad! Maybe we can even find Sammy a girlfriend."
"It's Sam," Sam shot back out of habit, but the attempted grumpy face was spoiled by the relief in his eyes that Dean was okay, that the plan—Dean's plan—had worked despite the odds.
And somehow John suspected that neither one of the boys would do more than watch the girls this time.
A/N: Would you believe that every line I gave scrambled!Dean actually means something, not just the ones I explained in the text? Behold:
Thermothrockle: This comes from one of my very favorite Ronald Reagan movie moments, the scene in Desperate Journey where Reagan's character uses technobabble to distract his Nazi captor long enough to land a sucker punch. Dean's trying to argue for catching Kek and Kauket off their guard with some kind of diversion.
Iron glass: The punchline (pun intended) of that same scene is where Reagan brings Errol Flynn's character back into the office to see the unconscious Nazi and deadpans, "The iron fist has a glass jaw." Dean means that Kek and Kauket are not invincible.
Starve: Kek and Kauket are starving but waiting for the right moment to begin taking victims from among the townspeople.
Rice, old shoes: This is condensed from a line from Arsenic and Old Lace, where Cary Grant's character is telling his fiancée some of the things he's always mocked about marriage. Kek and Kauket are husband and wife.
Crazy eights: Kek and Kauket are two of the Ogdoad.
Poop-poop!: In The Wind in the Willows, Toad goes more than a little crazy when he first sees an automobile, and Mole and Ratty find him pretending to drive and making car noises, including "Poop-poop!" as an approximation of the sound of a car horn. Dean had previously pegged Kek as "Mr. Toad" while they were going to the library.
Jolly joker: Schultz's unamused (but not offended) response to the prisoners' jokes on Hogan's Heroes. Dean's trying to tell Sam that what happened to him was not a response to his jokingly calling Kek "Mr. Toad."
Sticks'n'stones: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"—it's not about the insult at all, not least because it's actually an accurate description.
Mouse's cut: From One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (emphasis added): "I cannot hear you; this is why: / A mouse has cut the wire. Goodbye!" Kek hadn't even heard Dean's comment.
K'nnyloggins: "I'm All Right" is a Kenny Loggins song.
Two's bad's: Severely condensed from "Two can be as bad as one," an out-of-context line from the Three Dog Night hit "One (Is the Loneliest Number)." Kek and Kauket are sometimes considered one entity, but more importantly, Dean's trying to warn Sam that they're not looking at just one MOTW.
Snakes: Egyptis the main setting for Raiders, in which the snakes in question were asps, the snake Cleopatra used to commit suicide; however, Dean's also referring to Kauket.
Courtin': "Froggy Went a-Courtin'."
Chickens: "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens"—the Winchesters are the only hunters who've responded to the story about Dolan Springs.
Yes, having Kauket's tongue wrap around Dean's brain stem is a nod to the Goa'uld. Hey, if the snakeheads were stealing from the Egyptian gods in the first place...
As for Sam, I get the impression from "The Girl Next Door" that Amy was Sam's first kiss. Since this is (presumably) set before then... well, you do the math.
I knew going in that I wanted Dean's brain scrambling to result from the kiss of a chaos goddess, but I very nearly made this story about Badb, the Celtic goddess of war whose arsenal includes battle frenzy and confusion, just to explain why the fae found Dean so attractive in "Clap Your Hands If You Believe." Jennytork talked me into making it about Kek and Kauket, though, and I think it's probably better for the change.