It's a few weeks after the Samhain fiasco when Dean hears a sound that alarmingly resembles a large bird landing in the tiny motel kitchenette. He spins around to find the angel Castiel peering solemnly at him, head quirked to the side and those strange sad eyes piercing through his immediate defensive reactions.
"Dean." Says the angel as though it is a statement in and of itself.
"Uh, yep." Dean follows up lamely. "Come with a mission? More heavenly loops to jump through? Apocalyptic omen crap?"
"My superiors have ordered me to inform you of a potential threat. We have heard of the possible work of Lilith taking over a town in Oklahoma." Castiel says, "It could be another seal."
Dean sighs and leans back against the counter.
"Sam, you might wanna get in here. We've got a job." Dean calls and Sam appears from the bathroom, toothpaste still on the corner of his mouth.
"Now? I thou-" Sam catches sight of Castiel and freezes awkwardly. Dean raises his eyebrows and Sam addresses the angel, "So Lilith?"
"We've had reports of group rituals and possible mind control or hypnosis. It seems that most of the town has taken to the streets and are engaged in some sort of spell recitation." Castiel announces.
"And you want us to stop it?" Sam asks. Castiel nods shortly.
"And will you be playing shoulder angel the whole time?" Dean snarks without venom.
"I will assist if necessary, but we cannot spare our forces for long. There-"
"Yeah, yeah, you fight your war, we'll fight ours." Dean interrupts. Castiel gives him one of his long uncomfortable looks before disappearing. Sam looks as if he wants to say something. Dean averts his eyes and nods silently. The strained silences have been increasingly common between them since Dean most recently rose from the dead.
"Ok. Pack up, lets hit the road." Dean grunts and they both concentrate on squaring away possessions until their conversation reverts to easy, meaningless trivialities. Dean starts up the Impala and they head west.
"Ok, so tell me what you've got on this group hypnosis thing?" Dean asks as they cross the border to Oklahoma and the radio changes to Boston. Sam jerks out of his reverie, suddenly aware of his brother. Somehow, Dean's presence is more unexpected to him lately. He isn't sure if he has changed living for months without him, or if Dean has actually been different since his stint in Hell.
"Well, it's not unprecedented. Outbreaks of so-called 'mass hysteria' have been occurring all over the world for centuries. You know, massive fainting spells, hysterical laughter. Dancing manias were pretty common in the Middle Ages. Sometimes called St. John's Dance, entire towns would dance until they died, often cited as demonic possession." Sam explains, summarizing his research. "Although other people thought it was caused by Tarantulas."
"Great. So it could be an entire town of possessed people or maybe we'll be lucky and it'll just be a giant spider." Dean grumbles sarcastically.
"The thing I don't get is why dancing?" Sam wonders.
"Could be some sort of spell that requires a little community outreach." Dean shrugs. "I guess we'll find out when we get there."
Sam glances over at his brother. Dean's eyes are fixed on the road, face blank and passive. The hum of the impala and the stoic driving of his brother used to be comforting to Sam, but now he feels anxious. He can't shake the idea that he's being left out of the loop somehow now that Dean is running around with freaking angels. But Sam doesn't say anything; he's probably just projecting his own guilt over hiding so much from Dean. Wouldn't want to be a hypocrite.
Sam naps for an hour, wakes up clammy, full of nervous energy, wishing he could drive and pretend he had some sort of control over his life. Dean keeps his eyes fixed on smooth black pavement like it's the only thing connecting him to reality. Monochromatic countryside speeds past in a uniform blur. Sam rests his forehead on the window glass and tries to remember how he used to talk to his brother.
It's around 10 AM a day after Castiel sent them on this errand that the impala speeds past the welcome sign for a tiny insignificant farming community in Eastern Oklahoma.
"Alright, should we hit the police station first or-" Dean begins, and then stops suddenly. The car radio buzzes with static for a moment and Sam leans forward, tense and ready. The radio station fades away into silence. Sam listens for a few seconds to the sound of his own accelerating heartbeat.
"No reception maybe?" Sam guesses, not sounding convinced. Dean opens his mouth to reply when the radio abruptly turns back on.
Violins with remarkably clear quality play an upbeat rhythm and woodwinds harmonize with chords in the background. Sam gapes. The music crescendos, an introduction leading into a verse.
"Driving down the road again and Sam barely says a word. Nothing but a book report, at least he's still such a nerd." Dean sings.
Sam's jaw literally drops as he stares astounded at his brother. Dean's face looks equally alarmed, but he seems incapable of fully stopping himself. Most disturbing, the voice he sings in is clearly not his voice. Sam has been subjected to enough hours of Dean's unusually tuneless warbling to know that there is nothing in this universe that could change Dean enough to make him sound like that.
Then suddenly, Sam feels like he's choking and his own mouth begins to move without his consent.
"Driving down the road again it all just feels so unreal. Right back here again with Dean, but I don't know how to feel." Sam sings back, weirdly pleased to note that his new and improved singing voice takes a pop musical edge while Dean's remains more lyrical. He's never had a particularly fine voice before, his range is embarrassingly small, but he'd retained a little pride that he could at least stay on key.
"And suddenly with no control, I'm accidentally baring my soul!" Dean sings with impressive gusto.
"And didn't want to talk like this, whatever has done this, I'm pissed!" Sam responds, trying to choke back the unbidden singing full of things he'd rather not share when they were in a desperate battle to control their own vocal chords.
"When I thought I wanted to talk more I clearly was wrong. And I certainly don't want share my feelings in song. There are so many things I can't tell you, but now I have slipped. I'm suddenly cursed with the bane of loose lips." Sam and Dean harmonize, music swelling into a sweeping chorus.
"Now I'm on the road again pretending everything's fine. Acting like I'm just the same and earth is not on the line." Dean blurts out with controlled vibrato. He claps a hand to his mouth in a meager attempt to stop the singing, but uncontrollably hums a background harmony to Sam's section of the verse.
"Back out on the road again, wishing that we could go back. Back when I could talk to you and it not be an attack." Sam hits a high note with enthusiasm, and then promptly remembers that the singing should terrify him.
"I wish that I could end this verse, before I tell you something worse." Dean belts, shaking slightly in the drivers seat.
"We've gotta try to end the song, before this goes very wrong." Sam croons, struggling to snap his jaw shut. It's a useless effort, because his limbs suddenly betray him as well and he starts doing jazz hands.
"When I thought I wanted to talk more I clearly was wrong. And I certainly don't want share my feelings in song. There are so many things I can't tell you, but now I have slipped. I'm suddenly cursed with the bane of loose lips." They burst into the chorus again in a slightly higher key. Sam takes the higher part of the harmony and embellishes the chorus with long melodic wails.
"I don't want to give this away. We'll talk maybe another day. There are things I never want to say. But my mouth simply won't obey. I've fallen prey, to the sinker of ships. Loose lips!" The song ends on an extended high note and the orchestra on the radio finishes with a flourish.
For a moment they sit panting, the radio only playing a soft static in the background. Finally, Sam regains his senses enough to say,
"What the hell was that?"
"Did we just get… song hijacked? I- I've been… raped by musical theater!" Dean splutters.
"We- we just sang… and it was an original song too- we sang… and your voice was good and I was all- we sang…" Sam blabbers eloquently. Both of them sit in shock for another moment.
"Well nothing can surprise me now." Dean finally grumbles and turns onto the town's main drag.
And that's when they see the kick line.
Dean slams on the breaks and pulls the car haphazardly into a parking spot before they both leap out. Music blasts from stores, parked cars, cells phones, and any other device that could conceivably have a speaker.
"Sing what you feel, let it all out. Like a thundering storm after ages of drought, there's no more secrets, there's no more doubt. It's time to let it all out!" A large group of disgruntled farmers finish their kick line and the brass band accompanying them plays itself out.
Dean struggles for a moment between terrified bewilderment and hysterical laughter as townsfolk dissolve into chaos, screaming accusations and gesturing wildly. He can hear a gruff middle-aged man in overalls calling,
"What do you mean he isn't my kid? And why did you sing that duet with Randy?"
An elderly woman repeatedly hits her son on the knees with a cane shrieking,
"If I catch you tap dancing with those idiots again you'll be singing a different song, mark my words!"
"Eddy, come back. When I sang that I loved you, I meant it in a very manly friendship sort of way!"
"Look mom, pregnant was just metaphorical!"
Dean runs a hand through his hair. This one is going to get messy very quickly if an entire town is past caring about spontaneous show tunes in light of the emotional aftermath. He dodges a teenaged girl brandishing a baseball bat and yanks Sam onto the sidewalk.
"Come on, before you get clubbed by fatal attraction over there." Unfortunately he words are drowned out by the twanging of banjos blaring over hundreds of speakers.
"Quick, in here! Before they start!" Hisses a voice in his ear and Sam and Dean find themselves hurried into a florist's shop. A muffled upbeat group number filters in from the street and Dean catches a glimpse of something that looks suspiciously like line dancing through a window.
"Hey, do you have any idea what is going on here?" Gasps Sam to the grey haired woman huddled behind a fern.
"It all started a few days ago. People just… well at first it was funny. But when they sang their feelings, they all got mad. Everybody getting the truth was just…" The woman whispers. Sam lays a comforting arm on her shoulder and flashes sympathetic eyes. Dean sighs and looks at the ceiling.
"It's ok. We can help. Can you tell us where it started?"
"Over at the high school is what I heard. There was some sort of choir performance at an assembly and the whole school just… joined in."
"And have there been any strange people in town?" Dean interrupts. "Or people acting differently?" The woman shakes her head. "Have you smelled anything like sulfur, maybe?"
"What? No. Why would-"
"Nothing to worry about ma'am. Just looking into every possibility." Says Sam in a soothing voice, casting Dean a dirty look over his shoulder. They leave the shop and dodge quickly back to the car before they join in the musical madness, the florist screaming to anyone who will listen that the whole thing is a government conspiracy involving experimental chemical warfare.
"So shall we pay the school a visit, ask around?" Dean suggests, hoping that they can work the case quickly before he goes full Rogers & Hammerstein.
"Sure, if you can get there without plowing down those square dancers." Sam snarks, eyes a little wild. Dean pulls the car onto the sidewalk and a few very illegal moves and one pedestrian he really only tapped later, they have evaded the worst of the chaos. Outside of that street (Sam points out that it's named Broadway and then guffaws like an idiot for about three hundred years) the town is fairly civilized. They only drive past a few harmless looking performances that seem to be about fairly mundane or positive feelings.
"Sam, have you ever actually seen a musical?" Dean asks as he navigates, eyes narrowed and suspicious. Sam blushes a little.
"Well, yeah, I mean, I saw some in college, you know, to support friends and stuff. And Jess, well, we watched a few movies together. Have you never seen one?" Sam shrugs and fiddles with the zipper of his old tan jacket.
"I think I might have watched some of one in a hotel room, but I mostly remember Catherine Zeta Jones in this leather outfit, I mean-" Dean stops when he catches Sam's bitchface out of the corner of his eye. He clears his throat. "What I mean is, musicals seem pretty demonic to me, but can you think of any reason why they might be an apocalyptic seal?"
"I've been wondering about that. Dean, do you ever think that maybe, even though they're super powerful, angels, uh, don't really get human culture?" Sam smirks a little.
"You mean you think that Castiel and his buddies may have dropped the ball a little on this one?" Dean asks as he turns into the high school parking lot.
"I'm just saying, if this is a spell, it seems like the motivations are a little less 'releasing Lucifer' and a little more 'regular human stupidity'" Sam sighs and Dean nods. Maybe they wouldn't have another disaster, just standard weirdness. Dean shuts off the engine and can't stop the corner of his mouth from curling a little. It was a strange day when a town-wide musical seemed relatively normal to him.
School isn't in session, but the staff seems to be in the building for some sort of emergency meeting. Sam and Dean walk into the front office and up to the main desk.
"Hi, we're reporters from the Muskogee Daily Phoenix. Is there someone we could talk to about the… uh…" Dean lies and trails off, vaguely miming a sort of jazz hands dance.
"Last weeks football victory?" The older woman at the desk looks sarcastically over her glasses. Dean forces a smile and tries to exude charm.
"Nope, we're doing a story on, well, the singing. Is there someone we could talk to about… the choir program?" He tries again and the woman purses her lips.
"You want Mr. Hill. He's our new choir teacher. Office is second floor, number 76." She sighs. Dean wonders if the fear of sudden musical accompaniment is making everyone in town a little terse.
Mr. Hill turns out to be a smiley little man with a mop of curly hair. He invites them into his office looking nervous. The walls have music notes painted on them and his desk is covered in sheet music, a row of bobble-heads, and a whimsically painted candy jar. Dean contemplates surreptitiously sneaking a few of his tootsie rolls and realizes he hasn't eaten yet.
"So what can I help you gentlemen with today?" Mr. Hill says, drumming his fingers on the desk.
"We'd like to know about the choir concert. And the audience participation." Sam asks, face composed.
"Ah, I see. Well, I'm not sure what I can tell you really. The… audience participation was not rehearsed. I still don't know why it happened." Mr. Hill replies.
"Did you notice anything strange? Anyone acting differently?" Dean asks, pretending to take notes.
"Well Michelle did start the… unrehearsed segment, but she's always been a bit overenthusiastic." Mr. Hill babbles.
"Michelle? Is that a student?" Sam raises his eyebrows and shoots Dean a significant look.
"Yes, she's in my class. She's a real Broadway aficionado; you know the type, star of every community theater production, just dying to perform at all costs. She was the first person to… uh, spontaneously compose, and everyone joined in afterwards." Mr. Hill explains, fumbling in his pocket for a stick of gum.
"Well there's one in every choir. And if she wanted everything to be a performance, I guess she got her wish." Dean smiles grimly and Sam takes the cue to excuse them to leave.
They're walking out into the parking lot when things begin to go wrong again. It starts with a high-hat this time, and then the sudden intrusion of a catchy saxophone tune.
"Crap." Dean manages to fit in before they are once again swept into a song.
"Everyone in town's insane." They sing in unison, low and jazzy. "Something's messing with our brains. Maybe it's some sort of spell. Or someone had a soul to sell."
"But the world needs us, we've volunteered!" Sam belts and the music takes a suspenseful pause before they harmonize with,
"It's our kind of weird. It's right up our street. We've just gotta find out what before our job is complete." Incredibly, they both manage to complete a fantastic tap routine together seamlessly, despite having not been wearing tap shoes when they'd left the school. Then Dean pulls out his cell phone and his hands compel him to call Bobby. Bobby answers gruffly after a few rings.
"Hello?" He pauses, "What the hell are you boys listening to?"
"Bobby we could use the drop." They both sing into the phone, pressing their heads together as Bobby makes a choking sound into the phone. "We're singing and we cannot stop. We need your research now because, we need to have a likely cause."
"What are you idjits-" Bobby splutters into the phone, but they cannot help it and interrupt with a syncopated bridge.
"Is it a spell?" Sam trills.
"Could you just stop-" Bobby tries, but is cut off by Dean.
"Is it a demon?"
"Dean, how can you even-" Sam drowns out Bobby's confused mumble.
"A trick from hell?"
"Seriously? What has-" Dean warbles over him, kind of giving up on trying to prevent himself. At least they're getting their point across.
"Is it a siren?"
"If you knew anything, you'd know they don't actually-" Bobby manages to get out before Sam jumps in.
"Could be a curse, or something worse!"
"Another verse?" Dean manages to squeeze in.
"Ok, I'm hanging up until you sort your voices out. I'll call you later if I find anything." Bobby shouts over the music and hangs up leaving Sam and Dean free to dance more exuberantly around the parking lot.
"I sort of wish we hadn't interfered" Dean laments as the chorus returns.
"It's our kind of weird. It's right up our street. We've just gotta find out what before our job is complete."
"And although I'd love to leave and save face." Dean sings, staring nervously at Sam.
"And I'd like to spare us pain and disgrace." Sam follows along.
"We simply cannot leave this place until…" They sing in unison, until a low baritone unexpectedly joins them from behind.
"Until you solve the case." The angel Castiel appears suddenly and blurts out a few notes. He struggles for a moment, face flashing more different expressions than Dean had believed he was capable of. And most alarmingly he continues.
"What's going on, is this really the seal, now I can't seem to stop, how can this all be real? I should be safe from a spell or a deal, why am I so afraid that I've started to feel?" Castiel sings, background music shifting into a minor key. Sam and Dean exchange looks fraught with significance.
"I think it settles it, Castiel just appeared, said he feared… It's our kind of weird!" Sam and Dean stretch their arms skyward and hit matching high notes while cymbals crash. The music stops and they stand their panting for a moment.
"Dean, something is very wrong here." Castiel deadpans, face blank again.
"Yeah, no joke Pavarotti." Dean groans.
"He was a tenor, Dean."
"Shut up Sammy."
Castiel disappears shortly afterwards, looking ruffled and muttering about collecting ingredients for some kind of locator spell. Dean shrugs and he and Sam get back into the impala and decide that checking out the prima donna choirgirl isn't a terrible idea.
They look up her address and soon the impala is grinding to a halt in front of a square brick house with garden gnomes peeking from every bush. Sam catches Dean eying them with considerable suspicion, but Sam eventually convinces him that they are probably not imbued with supernatural powers.
Sam knocks several times before pressing his ear to the door. He groans at the sound of an impassioned string quartet. Suddenly, the door burst open in front of them and a stout middle-aged man sporting a powerful bass voice rails against a tall, elegant woman, apparently his wife. They whirl around the entranceway in an angry tango, apparently arguing about the wife's sudden confession that she hated his oldest friend and the husband's revelation that he wanted more independence in what he ate for dinner.
Dean jerks his head a little and Sam follows along as they awkwardly shuffle their way past the singers into the house, halfheartedly impersonating back-up dancers. Sam notes smugly that when they are not the intended participants for a song, Dean's voice returns to its former quality.
As Sam creeps up the stairs, hunching to avoid a low hanging light, the sound of the dramatic strings fades and eventually seems to take its climax out into the yard. Dean prowls ahead of him, opening doors and poking his head into cabinets. Sam gets that uneasy feeling of prying into something completely innocent as he peers down the hall. One door catches his eye.
Michelle the prima donna's bedroom door is plastered with little decorative stickers and her name in glittery flowing script. Sam quietly pushes the door open.
"Michelle? Are you there?" He whispers. "It's uh, the police."
No one answers from within so he advances into the room. The room seems typical of a high school girl, if one on the egocentric side. Still, he doubts the average teenager in this town really has use for this many black and white headshots. Sam hisses for Dean and soon both of them are going through the room, Dean much more destructively.
Yet after a half hour of searching they cannot turn up a single spell book or hex bag. Dean groans and leans against the doorframe.
"I just don't get it, man, what is up with this town?"
"Well, it could still be her, but I think we have to rule out witchcraft." Sam says reasonably. "Maybe some sort of creature? Or a deal?"
"We're grasping at straws here. C'mon, lets go find some food before someone notices we've sort of broken into this house." Dean grumbles and trudges out. Sam glances out the window before following, the sun is getting low in the sky. He's beginning to feel that prickle of excitement, mind churning as he tries to figure out a way to just slip Dean, call Ruby, find somewhere…
They find a little-used motel on the edge of town, eager to avoid the chaotic madness of Broadway. Sam breaks out the laptop and pretends to be invested in his research, but all he can think of is how soon Dean will give up and go to bed, how soon can he…
"What is that?" Says Dean slowly. Sam snaps back to reality. A bass guitar has started a riff and is soon joined by a drum kit.
"Is it you or-?" Sam glances around.
"How do we stop it?" Dean leaps off of the bed, furious panic in his voice.
"When the night falls I have got to go!" Sam sings to a burst of dramatic guitar chords. "It's time to shake off who I was. Now I've done things that nobody should know, but I'll fix it now because…"
Sam taps his foot and slowly raises his fist before bringing it down sharply to punctuate the beat.
"If Dean can't ever seem to heal, and someone must save all the seals, it's my turn to take the wheel!"
Dean shouts soundlessly at him then gags as he is apparently silenced. Sam is bargaining his life away if only he can keep his stupid, traitorous mouth from revealing everything. Suddenly, the door bursts open and several of the motel maids parade in, twirling their brooms in rhythm.
"I am strong enough!" Sam declares and the maids chime in echoing him.
"He's strong enough."
"I've got the stuff!"
"He's got the stuff."
"With Ruby, my powers unlocked. With Ruby the devil is blocked. I'll stop up the dam, end the flood. I just need a bit of that… demon blood." Sam sizzles on the low note and the maids pose behind him. Internally, Sam slumps in defeat and curses every possible creature responsible for this madness. But the next verse is starting and this time, he seems to be involved in the dance, so he despairs and lets himself be born along with the tide ravaging his life.
"When the night falls I must see her face. Feel her body, have her touch. Dean may get all the angelic grace, but I wouldn't want as much." Sam and the maids are performing an aggressive routine that involves more hair flicking than Sam thinks is strictly necessary. They spin around and strike a pose again.
"If heaven wants the devil done, I can step up and be the one, and I won't be a monster if I've won!" When he lets the music carry him like this, Sam finds that the expression is almost therapeutic. The long silence that has marred the past few months has taken a toll on him that he never noticed.
"I am strong enough!"
"He's strong enough."
"I've got the stuff!"
"He's got the stuff."
"With Ruby, my powers unlocked. With Ruby the devil is blocked. I'll stop up the dam, end the flood. I just need a bit of that… demon blood." Sam repeats the chorus again in a higher key, the maid's dance becoming impossibly more energetic.
"I am strong enough to fight. I am old enough to know what is right. I'm not scared to walk into the night. I will bring them all my light" The tension increases to a shattering climax at full volume. "I have to be strong enough. I have to be enough!"
The final guitar chord fades out as Sam stands panting in the middle of the room. The motel maids finally come back to themselves and groan, hobbling out of the room, leaning on their brooms.
Dean's face is murderous. Sam knows there is nothing they can do except have it out now.
"Just let me explain." He says carefully. Dean glares back. Sam prepares himself for the inevitable barrage of shouting, but instead the sound of a piano waltz in a minor key fades into the background.
"It's not me." Sam shrugs.
"Oh no." Dean groans then begins to sing. "It's never been easy to face the day, but lately it seems I'm just fading away. I'm a shell, I'm not well, I've literally been through hell." The tune is frolicking and pleasant, but the occasional strange interval gives it an odd melancholy aftertaste. Dean's voice is high and careless, sweeping through notes as he sits on the edge of the bed, staring into space.
"And I remember every second there. But I'm not sure I'll ever want to share." The piano picks up its pace a little, adding a lower octave.
"Every day I have to wake up and try to win this fight, but all I want to know is what makes the righteous men right. And if I could just sleep through one single night, I could do what is required, but now I'm just so… tired." The last note is more sighed than sung. Sam is open mouthed, suddenly torn between sympathy and fury towards his brother.
"Now I've done things no man should ever do, to save myself so I wouldn't get it too. I've brought pain, gone insane, tortures truly inhumane." Dean's face develops an odd twitch at this point, which seems to be all he can do in the desperate battle not to spill everything.
"And after I broke down and finally caved, I don't see why I should have been saved." There's something of a growl on the last note, which sends the piano crashing into the chorus.
"Every day I have to wake up and try to win this fight, but all I want to know is what makes the righteous men right. And if I could just sleep through one single night, I could do what is required, but now I'm just so… tired" The key changes on the last word and the piano adds long running scales in the background.
"The angels brought me back and they say I'm heaven blessed, but all I want to do is finally close my eyes and rest. I'd wish that I was dead, but I know just where I'd go. Just another trip down below. So maybe I'm not quite what they desired. I'm not a righteous man, I'm just tired."
The song fades away. Sam and Dean stare at each other for a minute, thunderstruck. The last ten minutes have been entirely too full of mind blowing revelations they suddenly have to confront.
Both of them bolt from the room without saying a word.
Sam's mind is still spinning half an hour later as he paces down a dirt road on the edge of town. The status quo has been permanently disrupted now and there is no way he can get back to that silent truce he'd had with Dean. He's torn between hurt that Dean would hide something so important from him, anger that he'd been kept out of the loop for so long, and terror of what Dean will say about his actions with Ruby.
Sam takes long strides and runs a hand through his hair, fighting back panic. The steady crunch of dirt under his boots and the rustle of wind in the grass reminds him of beats, percussion, and he's irrationally terrified of breaking out into another song. When he trips over a protruding stone, he lies there in the dirt for a moment, catching his breath.
Finally, Sam rolls into a sitting position by the side of the road and takes a few deep breaths. It's a clear night and the moon is rising in the velvety black sky. Sam listens carefully, paranoid that another orchestra will start up from behind a decrepit fence post. All he hears are crickets and the hum of a motor out on the highway. Sam relaxes and tries to process for a minute and form some sort of plan that does not involve running away to some far corner of the world where people can't even pronounce his name.
Suddenly, Sam registers that headlights are shining on his face from the end of the road. He stands up, squinting to see the car idling by the sign several yards away. The car door opens and a familiar silhouette sidles towards him.
"Ruby? How'd you find me?"
"Please. You haven't exactly been covering your tracks." She smirks disdainfully.
"Look, I'm glad you're here, but I've got bigger problems right now. We'll have to skip tonight." Sam hurries over to her. Ruby's eyes are narrowed, heavy lids and dark eyelashes obscuring her hard stare.
"Oh, well sorry to bother you. I guess we can train you to save the world and all mankind some other time when it fits with your schedule." She quips, crossing her arms.
"No, look, it's the case. This whole town, it's insane. We all keep… singing. And I may have sung some things, things about what we've been doing… to Dean." Sam trails off nervously. Ruby's lips curl into a snarl and she looks like she's about to speak, when the sound of maracas from the surrounding empty fields begins.
For the first time, Sam is actually glad when unexplained salsa music floats up from the prairie. If there's one person he'd like to spill all of their secrets, it's Ruby.
"I don't care about angel plans or a singing case. I'm here to train you to take your place." Ruby begins in a clear soprano, melting into Sam's arms as they dance sinuously to the music. "You aren't strong enough or ready yet. You'll need more of me to become a threat." Trumpets blare dramatically and he dips Ruby passionately.
"Soon," Ruby hold the note for a long time in unison with a trumpet, "you can take Lilith on, a new day will dawn, my unwitting-" Sam spins Ruby out, but suddenly she gasps and chokes, scrambling backwards. A little flicker seems to run across her, distorting her for a moment with a blue flame. "What just-" she splutters. Sam tries to fathom how she could have broken free when even the angel had been compelled to sing with them. Suddenly, Sam spares a glance for the sign they've been standing under and realizes that Ruby had managed to stumble out of the limits of the town and somehow, out of the spell. But Sam is intrigued and needs to get her back inside so that she might spill something he could use.
"Tell me truly, Ruby. I am newly suspicious of everyone. Tell me truly, am I unduly, afraid that you're leading me on?" Sam croons smoothly, offering her a hand up from the ground, and then yanking her back across to his side of the sign.
"I am giving you help and just what you need, I would kill for you, die for you, I would bleed. You're the only human who even has a chance. You're the only one that I would romance." Ruby draws closer to him and his heart begins to race as her swaying hips graze his jeans, her dark eyes fixing him like a snake to a hare.
"Now, you have an ally, who will not deny, but might well-" Ruby shoves herself away and back behind the sign. She changes again for a second, and Sam has a strange impression that he's seen something like it before.
"Tell me truly, Ruby. I am newly suspicious of everyone. Tell me truly, am I unduly, afraid that you're leading me on?" Sam choruses again, stretching out his arms to her. She hides behind the sign. The music transitions into a dance interlude and Sam darts forwards, trying to wrestle her back into the town. Each time they cross back in, their struggle become a well-choreographed tango, but when she pulls them back out, they are a disorganized tussle. As the musical break comes to an end, Sam resorts to stretching out a hand and psychically flinging her over the line back into town. Ruby looks almost pleased beneath her scowling exterior.
"Tell me truly" Sam sings.
"Open book" She purrs back.
"Tell me Ruby" Sam spins her again.
"Take a look" She grins.
"It's all a matter of trust, but I will do what I must. Will you stay true? Oh, what will you do?" They harmonize and the song finishes triumphantly.
Ruby stomps back to her car looking peeved and throws him a glance.
"Coming or not?"
Dean sits in the impala working his way slowly through a six-pack. He keeps trying to think of some way he could smooth things over, put off the inevitable disaster with Sam, but his brain only supplies a steady string of curses. He leans his forehead against the steering wheel and begins repeatedly thumping his head against it.
He is disturbed by a puff of air and a swooping sound. The angel Castiel pops abruptly into existence next to him in the passenger seat, looking more disheveled than usual.
"Hello Dean." He says gravely.
"Did you find anything?" Dean immediately asks, meeting Castiel's gaze and finding it difficult to look away.
"I have searched the town and tried every spell I know, but I cannot discover a cause. And more importantly, I have been unable to determine any creature that could affect me as this has." Castiel rumbles, bland voice showing a trace of irritation.
"We've got nothing. Thought it might be a witch going all Barbra Streisand, but she's missing and her house is clean." Dean mutters, still engaged in some sort of staring contest showdown with the angel.
"What is a Barbra Streisand and how could it-?"
"Never mind. The point is, there's a high school girl named Michelle who might have wanted to spice up her life with some songs, but we can't find her or how she did it." Dean sighs, wrenching his eyes away. Castiel annoyingly continues to stare at the side of his face.
"Then I shall find her." Castiel says shortly and disappears. Dean sits there for a minute, uncertain if he should leave or help somehow. He shift uncomfortably and takes a swig of beer before nearly choking on it when Castiel abruptly reappears.
"She's at the hospital. According to her record, she attempted suicide after discovering her peers true opinions of her." Castiel reports.
"Wait." Dean struggles mentally for a moment. "So, her plan backfired? Or…"
"What?" Castiel inquires.
"Shut up. Wait a second. So a huge diva that wants life to be a performance starring her gets her wish when the town turns into Broadway. But her dreams are crushed when the songs only reveal her unpopularity. Does that sound a little karmic to you? Like really twisted justice for being a stuck-up bitch?" Dean's heart begins to pound.
"You believe it's-"
"A trickster. One has it out for us. He's probably just luring us here to mess with us again. But who could he…?" Dean pauses again, feeling elated.
"Dean!" A voice down the road calls his name. Sam is sprinting towards them, eyes wild. He pounds on the window and Dean cautiously rolls it down. "I think I know what it is! I saw where the spell ends, it looks like-"
"The trickster." Dean finishes for him. "We know."
"But what we need to know is where he's hiding. We can't kill him if we don't even know what he looks like now." Dean raises his eyebrows. Castiel quirks his head to the side.
"Well I've got a good idea of where to start. Don't you remember that choir teacher with the giant candy jar?" Sam pants, grinning.
"Right! We'll start there." Dean turns on the car and Sam slides into the back, glancing at Castiel in his usual seat. "And this time, we kill the bastard. For real. No tricks."
They scope out the high school and find one window still lit in approximately the area of the office they'd visited previously. Sam and Dean step out of the car, slamming their doors grimly in unison, while Castiel simply appears on the other side of the barrier. Dean pops the trunk and rummages through the haphazardly arranged gear for the stake he had reserved for this purpose, prepared months in advance.
"So what's the plan?" Sam asks.
"We go in, you distract him, Castiel and I kill him." Dean says simply. Sam looks skeptical. Dean averts his eyes. He's having difficulty even looking at his little brother now that a steaming pile of dirt laundry has been dumped between them. Suddenly, he recalls their previous trickster adventure, and concludes that the bastard is probably intentionally turning them against each other again in order to escape detection.
"Sammy, can we talk?" Dean mutters then turns to the angel who is standing slightly too close for comfort. "Could you give us a minute?"
Castiel expressionlessly tilts his head and vanishes. Frustration overcomes Dean for a moment and he curses the angel for his infuriating tendency to disappear without so much as a goodbye.
"So…" Sam rocks back and forth on his heels. "Talking."
"Yeah." Dean grunts and promptly forgets how to speak. The parking lot remains silent. Then floating out from the darkness comes the clip-clop of woodblocks and the gentle plink of a piano. Both brothers audibly sigh with relief, then cast flabbergasted glances at one another.
"I'm pissed at you," Dean sings with a grin.
"And you're pissed at me." Sam replies with an exaggerated shrug.
"I can barely stand you, I'm so angry." Dean winks, the lively tune frolicking along.
"I tried to hide," Sam chirps with a toss of his hair.
"And I simply lied," Dean does a little shuffling dance.
"But I can't see the reasoning from your side." Sam glares with his eyes, but smiles cheerfully. The piano picks up a little and a little brass quartet joins them.
"We kept each other in the dark, but when someone lit the spark, the secrets burn out of control, and now it finally takes it's toll." They harmonize, linking arms and staring into each other's furious, smiling faces.
"Honesty, is the best policy, obviously. Without honesty, we can guarantee, that we'll disagree, and that's something that nobody, wants to see!" They chorus, grapevining slowly to the left.
"How can we work," Sam sings, breaking away and pointing to Dean.
"When you're such a jerk?" Dean sings and chuckles fondly, followed by a trilling of flutes.
"How can we talk calmly when I'm going berserk?" Sam spins around and adds a little kick.
"Everything has changed," Dean droops, but quickly perks up.
"And now we're estranged," Sam follows up with a comical sigh.
"We can't just forget the info we've exchanged." Dean links arms again with Sam and they twist back and forth.
"This whole year has been a sham, but now we finally broke the dam, and I think we're going to drown, unless we get out of this town." They reverse the harmony this time, with Sam taking the top part.
"Honesty, is the best policy, obviously. Without honesty, we can guarantee, that we'll disagree, and that's something that nobody, wants to see!" They repeat the chorus, strutting across the parking lot. One of the streetlamps twists suspiciously towards them, forming a spotlight.
"There's so much I haven't told you," Dean belts.
"And I really miss the old you," Sam responds.
"So now's the time to let it all out." They sing in unison.
"Please let it end!" Sam holds the last note while Dean sings at the same time,
"I used your toothbrush last week, cheated at hide-and-seek, once got gum in your hair, tried acid on a dare, actually saw a troll, had a cancerous mole, sometimes siphoned some gas, dreamt I made-out with Cas." He patters along uncontrollably.
"How can we mend?" Sam sings in horror, holding the note again while Dean rattles off more disturbing trivia.
"But that doesn't mean much, we barely just touched, I dream make-outs a lot, and this one wasn't hot, not a kiss then alright, it was more like a bite, dream's are always bizarre, I've had Meg, Jo, Ava, Jess, Ash, Ellen and one time the car!" Dean concludes dramatically and they both hold their notes until they run out of breath.
"Honestly, I wish you'd talk to me, frequently. But honesty, has proved faulty, I cannot see, how telling has helped anybody, be happy." The modified chorus reaches it's climax and then the song ends, quiet and wistful.
"You know, I was going to have some crappy forgiveness moment or something with you, but now I just wanna kill the damn trickster before we sing another song." Dean grumbles as they stumble away from each other.
"Sounds like a plan." Sam snarls, striding towards the school.
"Let's go." Comes the gravely voice of Castiel from behind them and Dean yelps and spins around.
"Nice of you to turn up!" He says in an attempt at sarcasm, but with too much underlying hysteria to be convincing.
Sam tries the doors and quickly overcomes the lock and the three of them walk purposefully into the dark building. They're nearly blind in the unlit hallways, so Dean digs out a pair of flashlights. Castiel appears not to need them, as he never hesitates in his course. Dean skirts through the hallways, already jangled nerves on high alert. He leads them by memory up to Mr. Hill's office.
When they find the office door, Dean stops to listen at the door for a moment, but Castiel pushes past him and easily removes the door with a brush of his hand. Dean casts an irritated look at the back of the angel's head, but Sam simply shrugs and follows him. The office is blazing bright, but completely empty. The candy jar is completely cleared out, and the trickster seems to have gone with it. Castiel whirls around, face dark with menace.
"Where is it?" He growls.
"No idea. Guess he cleared out when he heard us." Dean sighs, leaning against the doorframe.
"We need to find him. Now. This cannot be allowed to continue." The angel says urgently.
"Look, it's just one town. It's not that destructive, I think he's done all the damage he can to us." Sam ventures quietly.
"No." Castiel avoids looking at Sam when he answers. "I need to find out why. I can't let him escape until I know. But I can't let him-"
"What are you talking about? Find out what?" Dean asks.
"Why it affects me. A minor god shouldn't be able to do this. Not to an angel. We need to find him before I become a liability. Before I reveal truly important information to the wrong people. Before I burst into-" Castiel speaks with more passion than Dean has ever heard from him, but cuts off suddenly. A shivering chord of violins has begun playing from the sound system.
"Is it you?" Sam asks.
"Nope." Dean responds.
"Then it must be…" Sam trails off and they slowly turn towards Castiel. The music abruptly cuts to crash of electric guitars mixed with the soaring melody of strings and brass. The symphonic rock quiets in preparation for the verse and the strings revert to pizzicato.
"Unfaithful." Castiel begins in a deep baritone. "How can I fight when I'm unsure? How can I fly when I'm impure? I cannot help the things I feel. I can't not question what is real."
"Unfaithful." Castiel sings again and the strings are joined by a low brass rumble. "I used to follow with such ease. But now it's like I've some disease. Who gives the orders at the top? And what if I were just to stop?" Violins trill and the whole orchestra joins in for the chorus.
"When all of your life you've been trained to obey, when a world black and white starts to show shades of grey, when you think you should leave yet you cannot betray, when you've reached that day, you'll be unfaithful." Castiel cries, tilting his head to gaze up at the ceiling as though it holds some important answer.
"Unstable." Castiel begins the next verse. "All though it seems insanity, I still respect humanity. Before when I could just observe, without their contact I could serve."
"Unstable." The angel's face looks harder lined now, eyes agonized. "I should not ask these questions, so lord accept my confession: I can't believe in heaven's plan, now that I know a righteous man."
"When all of your life you've been trained to obey, when a world black and white starts to show shades of grey, when you think you should leave yet you cannot betray, when you've reached that day, you'll be unfaithful." The angel repeats the chorus and all of the lights in the room explodes. Sam and Dean cover their faces as glass showers them, and an unearthly pitch nearly destroys their eardrums. The accompaniment does not falter and soon Castiel regains a semblance of control.
"Should I let them? Should I just forget them? Angel on my shoulder no longer speaks true. Why can't someone tell me what to do?" Castiel sings quietly, the music calming down to a few peaceful chords.
"All of my life I've been trained to obey, the world black and white starts to show shades of grey, I think I should leave yet I cannot betray, I've reached that day, it's finally dawned, and my faith is gone." Castiel finishes in a whisper, standing in the darkness, merely a black shape faintly backlit by moonlight from the window. What follows is the most extremely awkward pause any of them have ever experienced.
"Don't disappear." Dean finally blurts out. Castiel jumps, looking spooked so Dean continues in a softer voice. "Just… don't leave now. Please."
"Alright." Castiel follows up somewhat breathlessly. Dean locks eyes with him. Blue eyes meet green and some unspoken agreement and understanding seems to flow between them.
"Uh, so, the trickster?" Sam ventures. Dean clears his throat and turns away.
"Right. Let's go." Dean leads them back out into the hallway. Unfortunately, the minute he enters the hallway, his feet betray him and he spins off in the opposite direction from the exit. Sam and Castiel follow, seemingly unable to prevent their legs from sending them pirouetting after him. They twirl gracefully down the dark hallways like dirt circling down a drain.
A door snaps open, blatantly and proudly defying the laws of physics, and the three helpless men topple through it, landing in a pile on the carpeted floor. A spotlight clicks on and when Dean looks up from his mouthful of carpet, he realizes that they are in the auditorium and standing on the stage in front of them in none other than the false Mr. Hill. Mr. Hills snaps his fingers and the door slams shut behind them.
A jazz organ begins softly, building volume and sweeping through the auditorium. Dean picks himself up, tense and ready to fight. He is thrown off guard when Mr. Hill suddenly morphs into a sixteen-year-old girl.
"I wished on a star, to shine just as bright, but I took it too far, and my downfall was spite." Michelle croons, voice surprisingly fitting for a gospel song despite her skinny white girl exterior. "And I thought I should rejoice, when my pipe dreams came to be, but when others found their voice, I heard what I could never see." The organ is joined by a piano as the beat picks up and a choir began to hum in the background.
"How could I know my quest for fame, would only lead to deepest shame? I could have changed and turned the tide! Why did they lie, why did they hide?" Michelle does a series of challenging runs, smoky voice exuding anger. The gospel choir burst into a glorious background "ah" and Michelle suddenly morphs into the trickster's familiar visage.
"All the secrets that you keep, have a price that's far too steep. Satan closes for the kill, and he'll win unless you spill. I don't want the world to end, so I would recommend, talks of blood and time in hell, boys, it's time for show and tell." The gospel choir echoes his final phrase enthusiastically. The trickster saunters around the stage as he sings, outfit changing to snazzy suit and then to glittering unitard. When he finishes his chorus, he snaps his fingers again and Michelle (or a facsimile thereof) appears next to him and begins to sing another verse.
"I thought that I was blessed, until all my friends confessed, I didn't have to play the sleuth, I could simply learn the truth." Michelle takes this verse much faster, the gospel choir clapping for percussion.
"All the secrets that they kept, I can only now accept. And I'm hurt, they've left their mark, it's beats still being in the dark." Trumpets chime in as Michelle's song really picks up the beat. The trickster takes her by the hand and they do a wonderful jazz dance around the stage.
"All the secrets that you know, help you learn and help you grow. To keep the devil in the box, you kids will have to have some talks. Though we may not be allies, you must do what I advise. Or this world won't end well, boys, it's time for show and tell." The trickster repeats in the faster rhythm and the gospel choir goes ballistic in the background. Michelle and the trickster spin faster and faster around the stage until they're a blur of wild motion.
Suddenly the song quiets and the choir sings reverentially, building volume steadily.
"So here's the deal, express how you feel, communication is key, please listen to me, and my valuable tips, for stopping the start of the coming apocalypse!" The trickster sings, building intensity to match the choir backing him up.
"You can't run or break my spell, so it's time for show and tell!" The choir and Michelle join the trickster on his concluding phrase, holding the last note and the trumpets and drums give their final burst.
"What the hell are you doing?" Sam hisses furiously. The trickster is still holding his final pose, but finally slumps and returns to normal attire, choir and Michelle projections disappearing into the ether.
"Ugh, you guys are no fun. You have no sense of style." He groans, but his eyes twinkle merrily. "Listen bucko, I put it all in the song. You need to stop the apocalypse. I like surviving. Therefore, I give you two morons a little free therapy and save the world. It's simple really."
"No it's not. Why would singing this crap help us save anything?" Dean splutters. The trickster rolls his eyes.
"It's like talking to a brick wall! If you work together, without all those nasty secrets getting in the way, you might actually manage to prevent a worldwide catastrophe. Although with your current level of general comprehension, I'm feeling increasingly doubtful." The trickster smirks sarcastically, pacing across the stage.
"I figured that out." Dean says sourly. "I mean, why singing?"
"Cause it's fun. This town needed to be taken down a peg, squash all that hypocritical self-righteousness. And Sam looked pretty hilarious in that salsa number. The hair swishing alone was completely worth it." He grins toothily and Sam produces a truly magnificent bitchface.
"Well, it's a really crappy plan. So, time to stop the chit-chat and kill you." Dean advances, glancing over his shoulder. Sam and Castiel are completely rigid, rooted to the spot.
"Dammit." Dean sighs.
"Sorry, not the time to die. Let's give you some time to let the message really sink in." The trickster shrugs, clicks his heels, and the music begins. "Time for a little review. Or I should say reprise."
"There was so much to tell, but now you have slipped. You're suddenly blessed with the gift of loose lips." The trickster begins, recalling the first song they'd sung in town.
"I'm afraid that plan's insane." Sam and Dean respond, advancing and snapping their fingers. "Please stop messing with our brains. If you do not stop this spell, we won't get along so well."
"You're not strong enough." The trickster echoes Sam's solo, conjuring his gospel choir back into existence to aid him.
"Too tired." The choir creates an odd medley with the trickster, weaving Dean's song into Sam's.
"You don't have the stuff." The trickster continues.
"Required." The choir interjects; creating a sentence that oddly makes sense.
"Tell us truly," Sam sings, defiantly plowing into another reprise.
"When was this?" Dean mutters in the background, unfamiliar with the song.
" Will our newly discovered secrets save everyone? Tell me truly, am I unduly, afraid that the battle is done?" Castiel unfreezes and sings.
"Honesty is the best policy," The trickster and his choir repeat, building in volume. They drown out Sam and Castiel easily, repeating the phrase over and over until it's overpowering. Dean drops the stake and it rolls away as he clutches his ears to escape the deafening moral. The three of them lie defeated on the ground and the music swells to a conclusion.
With a bang the door bursts open and Bobby strides in, covered in weapons. He begins to sing in a deep dramatic bass.
"It's better to tell secrets when you're prepared, you can't try to force it, they have to be shared, you'll fight and get angry because you are scared, you need to explain and remember you cared, or you feel unfaithful." Bobby booms, hurling a stake towards the trickster. He looks stunned, but manages to dodge.
Heartened, Dean, Sam, and Castiel pick themselves up and begin singing a trio. Bobby backs them up with a low note.
"Privacy, is the best policy, obviously. Without privacy, we can guarantee, we'll just get angry, and that's something that nobody, wants to see!" They sing and the trickster's expression falls a little.
"All the secrets that we keep," Dean starts into the final reprise.
"Might be better buried deep." Sam continues, jabbing a finger at the trickster.
"If we lie we'll get along," Castiel nods gravely.
"And we'll stop these stupid songs." Bobby rumbles.
"We don't want the world to end," Dean states the obvious.
"So I wouldn't recommend," Sam glares at the diminished trickster.
"Talks of blood and time in hell," Castiel begins climbing the steps onto the stage and the rest follow him.
"Till we're ready, we won't tell!" Bobby shouts as the four of them take the stage, joining hands.
"I won't tell," Bobby begins on the lowest note, holding the last syllable.
"I won't tell," Castiel sings a step up, joining Bobby on the last syllable harmony.
"I won't tell," Sam adds another step up and holds with them on the chord.
"I won't tell," Dean sings the highest note, creating a smooth barbershop quartet sound.
"No more show and tell!" They sing in harmony, keeping the same intervals when they change notes, and the music crashes to a halt. The lights above the stage explode and they are plunged into darkness.
"Fine! Just keep fighting, never talking, see if I care! Let the world end!" The trickster's voice rings out a final time, strangely emotional. Then blessed silence fills the room.
"Did we win?" Asks Sam hopefully. No one has an answer.
Castiel stands outside of the motel room listening vaguely to an incredibly loud argument going on within. He waits passively, face smooth and expressionless. However, within, he is a roiling sea of conflict. Every time Dean looks at him now, he sees his own spilled secrets swimming across green eyes like oil on clear water. His mind churns, feeling transparent and weak.
His less visceral reaction tends more towards concern over whether he will be able to effectively carry out his mission. Hundreds of possible scenarios flash through his mind, an endless parade of failure and death. The vessel reacts by increasing perspiration and vanquishing control over muscles that commence with trembling.
"Fine, just go!" He hears Sam roar from within and something smashes.
Castiel paces back and forth, finally perching on the hood of Dean's car. He draws his coat closer around his vessel and narrows his eyes. Disaster seems inevitable. The world will end violently unless he acts soon. And more troubling still is the matter of the trickster god who could somehow overpower an angel of the lord. The world is becoming a strange place, so Castiel finally comes to a somewhat reckless conclusion. With chaos around him, he will find a way to plant his feet firmly again. When he is losing all certainty, he will force the ground to remain stable.
"-And I will!" Dean slams the door and tears out to the impala. He flings everything he owns haphazardly into the backseat and wrenches open the door. Throwing himself into the seat and starting the ignition, he glances around to see if Castiel has waited or run away mysteriously again. The angel is nowhere to be seen. Dean slams his fist into the steering wheel, setting off the horn and bruising his knuckles painfully. At the sound, Sam comes out of the hotel room, weaving slightly as he walks.
"Dean? Are we going now?" He calls. Dean opens the door.
"What, you're ready to come now, just like that? What if I lie to you? I might misrepresent myself again?" Dean shouts with bitter sarcasm.
"What are you talking about? Who said anything about lies?" Sam sways a little, looking puzzled.
"The trickster, this whole mess?" Dean's fury is only furthered by Sam's mock ignorance.
"Who said anything about the trickster? C'mon Dean, we haven't had a job since Halloween and Lilith is still out there breaking seals. No need to go chasing that guy again." Sam walks over to the car, rubbing his forehead and staggering a little.
"What the-" Dean begins, when the sound of a large bird landing behind him alerts him of the presence of the angel Castiel.
"I'm sorry. You'll be happier this way." Castiel murmurs and presses a hand to Dean's forehead. Light bursts behind his eyes and then slowly the world swims back into focus.
"Dean?" Sam asks cautiously from outside of the car.
"Sam, hey!" Dean says, grinning at his brother. "Get packed already, we should hit the road."
"Almost ready." Sam jogs back to the room to grab his bag. Dean rubs his eyes, unnerved by a strange wave of dizziness. He wishes absently that Castiel would show up already and give them an update. As he broods, Sam throws his stuff in the back and climbs into the passenger seat. Dean puts the impala into gear and pulls out of the parking lot and onto the open road.
Sam rests his head against the glass and sighs. The silence from Dean's seat is suffocating and he's craving Ruby, and the unspoken weight of hiding from his brother is crushing him. But it has to be this way. He can't tell yet.