Chapter 9: Dean and Bobby kill the banshee and bring Merida to the hotel. Sam and Merida head back to her house to get the evergreen while Bobby and Dean search the MacGregors' home for a tribute item.
The house looked fine from the outside, and Sam wondered what Merida's trepidation had been about; it was like she'd been expecting a bombed-out bunker in place of a three and two.
"I can see why you were worried the feds would get involved," he said, smirking. "It really looks like Al Qaeda did a number on the place."
"Ha, ha." She strutted in front of him, beating him to the door. Sam closed the distance between them, feeling a little weirded out about checking out her ass in Dean's jeans. "You should have been here this morning. At least two of the neighbors saw an old man, a male model, and a naked woman covered in tar running to an antique Chevy before a sonic boom went off in the garage. Let's get the evergreen and the medallion and get out of here."
The medallion. He'd almost forgotten it.
"Did you hide them in the flour?"
She opened the door. "I don't cook."
He followed her in, peering around. The living room was small, dingy and devoid of furniture; it reminded Sam of an abandoned guest house he and Dean had once squatted in on a hunt.
"Minimalism. I like it."
She grinned over her shoulder at him as she turned down a narrow hallway. "I'm a simple girl."
He chuckled. "Right."
She went into a small bathroom and began rifling through the open drawers. Sam leaned against the doorframe, surveying the small space. There was debris everywhere; it looked like a tornado had whipped through a drug store and dropped the toiletries aisle in the bathroom.
"This must be where the battle went down, huh?"
"Not exactly." She bent down further to get into one of the lower level drawers. "I'm not one for keeping house, is all."
"Wait, you live here?"
"Eh, a few months."
"But what about your mom? I mean, I got the impression she lived with you."
"She does. In a manner of speaking."
Even though he didn't reply, she seemed to sense his suspicion. She sighed and stood up, leaning against the counter.
"She's dead, all right?"
Sam blinked, shaking his head. "But you said, when we met-"
"Hello, Confessor, remember?" She shook her head and opened the cabinet door beneath the sink, squatting and digging through the pile of…well, bathroom stuff.
He knelt behind her, his back against the door. "She's a ghost?" he said softly.
"Bingo," she mumbled, picking over some of the items.
"So all that stuff she knows about the townspeople…she overheard them when they were alone."
"Spirits come in handy for eavesdropping," she said, chuckling. "She talks to some of the more…difficult spirits, too. Sometimes they don't trust me right off the bat, and they're a lot more cooperative if she can vouch for me, you know?"
"Sounds like you two make quite a team."
"Yeah." She had stopped moving things around. "For now, anyway."
"How did she-"
"You know what, Sam, I don't want to talk about this, okay?" she said abruptly, standing and stepping over him into the hall. "C'mon. The goodies are in the back bedroom."
But she had already disappeared around the bend in the hallway and vanished from sight.
"Her face changed? What, like a mask or something?"
"No, not like a mask, Bobby. I'm talking full-on Emily Rose morphing, okay?"
Dean punched the gas, pushing past seventy. They were on the highway on the way to the MacGregors', and the morning was clear as a bell and cold as balls. Dean wished they had taken the time to go shopping for real clothes before high-tailing it up here; the t-shirts and coats just weren't getting the job done. We're only hunting ghosts near the beach from now on, he thought. Might as well live it up before I get dragged to the friggin' basement.
"We thinkin' witch? Demon?"
Dean sighed. "I don't know. It's probably got something to do with this Confessor stuff, but I don't know why she'd be showing off to me."
"Unless she ain't showin' off anything."
"What the hell's up with her face, then?"
"Might just be you."
"You sayin' I'm going nuts, or something?"
"I don't know. What I do know is that you just made a deal with the boys in the basement to bring a demon-touched psychic relative back from the dead. It's an unorthodox situation, is all I'm sayin'."
Dean didn't have a snappy reply, so he said nothing and concentrated on driving.
It turned out the MacGregors had a parking lot on the other side of the main gates – Fucking ridiculous, Dean thought – and after they'd parked the Impala, they trudged up the walk toward the door. Dean rang the bell seven times, and when they got no answer, he whipped out his lock picking kit and got to work.
When the door was finally opened, they went inside, guns drawn.
"Mrs. MacGregor?" Dean called, moving slowly down the central hallway. "You home? It's me, Agent…Winters? We had scotch?"
Dean frowned at Bobby's reproachful look.
"Ian? Anyone home?"
"Think they went out for pizza?"
"Not the type, trust me."
They cleared the first floor, then the second, meeting up again in the foyer.
"Think they got spooked and left?" Bobby leaned against a column, setting his gun on an end table.
"That, or they're dead. Somehow."
"Maybe our Almighty of the week had scrapped together a few more banshees."
Dean groaned. "Already?"
"Don't see why he would wait." Bobby shrugged. "He'll need 'em for tonight, anyway. Even if they can't use our friend Merida to claw up their faces, they can still kill 'em the old fashioned way."
"Yeah, right." Dean clicked his teeth. "Better get back to business then, huh? What the hell do they have around here that's meaningful? I mean, how can we tell?"
"We can start with the safes. Place like this is bound to have 'em. Anything in there that ain't worth a fortune's probably got sentimental value."
The evergreen was a completely unremarkable bunch of green leaves. If Sam hadn't known better, he would have called it parsley. He picked it up, twirling it between his fingers.
"So this is it."
"Not so spectacular to the eye, I know, but it's the real deal." She was sitting across the small wooden table from him. She'd changed out of Dean's shirt and into a tight fitting black turtle neck; silver string earrings hung from her ears. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that highlighted the contours of her face, and Sam was having trouble concentrating on the rabbit food in his hand. She seemed to notice him staring and smiled gently, picking up the medallion.
"And then there's this," she said.
Sam deflated in more ways than one. "I know."
"I can get the contract, Sam. I have a way."
"Yeah, you told me-"
"No, I mean, I have a way. I know who has it, and who can get it for me. All I need is for you to say yes."
"And what's the cost?" he snapped. "Your soul? Mine?"
"No souls. Just a favor."
"Don't worry about that. It's no big deal-"
"It's always a big deal!"
She rolled her eyes. "It's nothing. Really. I just have to go to Delaware. Pike Creek, to be exact."
"Why? What do they want you to do? Kill someone?"
She scoffed. "I wouldn't do that, Sam. I deal with the ghosts of people who've been murdered all the time. I know what it does."
"This guy, Nick Freeman. He needs to meet a woman, Sarah, and they need to have a kid."
"You expect to believe that the demons are willing to let Dean out of his deal so Harry can meet Sally?"
"No, it's more than that. It's fate, destiny, ka…you get it. The two of them will get together, Sam. One way or another. This is just our chance to benefit from it."
"Demons exist to screw people, Merida. Do you think for a second this one isn't screwing you?"
"I'm sure she is, Sam. But we're in screwed up situations, aren't we? Your brother made a deal with the devil to save you. We'll need another deal to get him out of his. That's just all there is to it."
"This is a rare opportunity. Demons of this caliber, with these kinds of connections…they almost never make deals without souls in the mix. You don't have to do this, okay? You don't. As long as you understand that there is no other way to save Dean. None."
"Forget it." Sam shook his head. "It's a bad idea."
She lifted an eyebrow and pursed her lips. "Fine. No contract; don't save your brother. But I'm doing it anyway."
"-have to break my curse somehow, don't I? I can't walk around for the rest of eternity getting randomly possessed by every ghost with a grudge."
"Who is this "Nick?" Do you even know?"
"I'll find out."
"What does it matter, Sam? It's fate, do you understand? This will happen, no matter what I decide to do. I'm just trying to take my breaks where I can get them. And if that means making sure two lovebirds cross paths at the park one day, then that's what I'll do."
She got up from the table and took the medallion with her, setting it on a wall shelf. She grabbed her jacket from the bed and slipped it on, avoiding Sam's gaze.
"Let's go," she said. "We have to meet Bobby and your brother and plan for tonight."
The motel room was empty when Sam and Merida got back; Dean and Bobby were still out. After a tense and silent ride over, Merida walked ahead of him into the room, tossing the keys onto the table and strolling over to Dean's bed. She sat on the side by the nightstand, elbows on her knees; the posture reminded him so much of Dean that he nearly did a double take.
He set his pack down on a kitchen chair and made his way over to her side of the room, sitting across from her on Bobby's bed.
Her gaze rose to meet his, and her unblinking stare made it even more difficult to find the right thing to say.
"I just don't want to do the wrong thing," he said slowly, picking at his nail beds. "Dean…he's always come through for me, you know? Ever since I can remember. Even when I was a total dick to him, he'd never let anything happen to me." He chuckled. "If we ever get old, I gotta make sure he dies before me, or I won't get seven minutes in heaven before he brings me back."
Merida didn't reply. She just held him there in her piercing gaze, and he felt like someone could see the real him for the first time since Jessica had died.
"The point is, he's constantly sacrificing things for me, and I just…I didn't want to be a hunter, Merida. I thought I had quit all this, you know? And then my girlfriend died, and I got dragged back into it, and even though I'd dipped out on him and left him with our dad all alone, he took me back without thinking twice. Like I hadn't even done anything…"
Merida folded a lock of hair behind her ear, looking exceptionally beautiful in the cheap light of the motel lamp.
"It's not that I don't want to be here, or that I wanna leave Dean to do all this stuff alone. I would never do that. And I know I can't quit now even if I want to, with all this stuff happening. But there's this part of me. It's a really small part, but…there's this part of me that hates him for dragging me into this, for making me feel like…like I have to stay here with him because he keeps saving my ass and I owe him. And I know I do owe him, and I love him, but I just feel like I can't get away from this no matter how hard I try. No matter what I do, Dean and monsters, they're always there, dragging me back." He shook his head and rolled his eyes up at the ceiling. "And he's so selfless, he's such a saint, that I feel like the biggest asshole in the world for saying this stuff to you right now."
Merida stood and closed the short distance between them, standing between Sam's legs and taking his head into her hands. She pressed her forehead to his.
"You're not an asshole, Sam," she said softly. "Us freaks, we all go through it. And other people, they never really understand why we do what we do."
"They don't," he muttered. Her lips were less than an inch from his.
"We've all got a part to play in life, and ours road maybe isn't so easy. But it's us, people like you and me, who make the difference. All that stuff you read about in history books – all the big stuff – that stuff's not done by saints. It's a rough road, but we walk it, and smooth it for the people who come behind us. One day, the world will know your names."
She paused and ran her fingers absently through his hair.
"So remember the people who'll come after you, Sam. The ones who'll read about you and say, 'Sam and Dean Winchester did it, and so can we.'"
She kissed him, softly and not entirely sweetly. He grinned.
"Crouching Blonde, Hidden Barack?"
He felt the vibration in both their chests when she laughed. His hands slipped under her shirt and roamed her back, pressing their bodies together.
Their lips met again, and they didn't separate for a long, long time.
Dean pulled into the lot of the motel at dusk, cursing when the front end scraped the concrete block at the head of the parking space.
"Watch it, boy!"
Dean cut his eyes at Bobby and shifted into reverse. The car backed off the concrete block, bouncing them in their seats. He killed the engine and rested his head against the seat.
"I have never," he said, "dug through so much useless crap in my life."
"Least we found the tribute."
"Yeah, after eight hours!"
Bobby held up the urn with the ashes of some loved one named Jerica, fingering the engravings on the sides. Each of the MacGregor children had carved their initials into the pewter, along with two crudely drawn hearts.
"It's good tribute. Should kill Anu dead."
"It had damn well better."
They got out, and Dean swore again as the wind chill hit him. He jogged to the motel door and unlocked it, sighing with relief once he had stepped inside. We are never hunting north of the Mason-Dixon during the winter again.
Bobby locked the door behind them, and had opened his mouth to speak when Sam and Merida emerged from the bathroom in towels, laughing.
Dean leaned against the table on one hand, smiling falsely.
"So, you two up for air?"
Merida pressed her lips together and crossed the room, picking up a small bag and heading back into the bathroom.
Dean nodded. "So, while we've been digging through Scrooge McDuck's attic all day, looking for a way to hide a roofie from God, you've been here, what? Playing hide the salami? Did you two even get the evergreen, or have you been too busy-"
"We got it," Sam said pointedly, ignoring Dean's expression as he picked up their underwear off the floor. "It's right by the bed."
Dean strode over and picked it up, examining it.
Dean slipped the evergreen bunches into the satchel on the kitchen table, muttering under his breath. Bobby tossed Sam a pair of sweatpants from the bag by the bed, chuckling.
Sam caught them and slipped them on under his towel. "So you got the 'special something?'"
"Even better," Bobby said, pulling open the fridge. "We got ourselves a real live human tribute."
Sam raised his eyebrows.
"Well, maybe 'live' isn't the right word," he added, "but it's a person. Someone named Jerica Lange, cremated."
"How do we know they really loved her? I mean, she could be some random great aunt that bit it."
"Because," Dean said, "they kids carved their John Hancocks on the urn, and trust me, that wasn't easy. You don't go through all that trouble for nothing."
"Okay, then. Good."
There was an awkward silence, during which Dean glared and Sam and Sam stole glances at the bathroom door. Bobby just shook his head and took a few swigs.
"Well, I think I'm gonna book myself another room," Bobby said. "It's getting kind of crowded in here."
"Yeah," Sam said too quickly. "I mean, yeah, you'd probably be more comfortable that way, I think," he added as Bobby left the room.
Sam looked sheepishly at Dean.
"Oh, for god's sake," he said, heading over to the bed. He picked up his bag and stuffed his clothes down into it, taking care not to touch the bed or any of Sam or Merida's clothes. He huffed his way over to the door. "You owe me. The next time I wanna-"
Sam cleared his throat, nodding in the direction of the bathroom. "A little respect, man."
Dean gave him a blank look.
"Meet here in the morning to plan," Sam said. "Nine sound okay?"
Dean flipped him off before pulling the door closed and following Bobby to the office.
Merida trotted out of the bathroom as soon as she heard him leave, standing behind Sam and hugging him around the waist.
"You sure you wanna save him?" she spoke into his back.
"No question," he said, smiling. "Just wish it didn't involve demons."
"I know. But there's no other choice."
He sighed. "Yeah."
She released him and moved around until they were facing each other. She wore the black turtle neck and a scarf along with a pair of her own pants. Her coat lay across the table.
"You don't think he was suspicious, about you sending him off like that?"
Sam shook his head. "Nope. He's always trying to get me laid. Probably secretly happy about it, even if he's not such a big fan of you."
"Let's hope when all this is done, he'll change his mind about that." She stood on tip toe and kissed him softly. "I'm off to Pike Creek. Wish me luck."
"Something tells me you'll do fine without it."
She grinned. "Wish me luck anyway, Winchester."
"You sure? I mean, look what happened to the McLaughlins. Luck's not always such a good thing."
"A fair point," she conceded. She stepped away from him, making a big show of sauntering over to the table. She slipped her coat on and leaned against one of the chairs.
"See you in the morning, babe."
Sam couldn't help but be pleased at the pet name. "You'd better."
She held up her hand and waved at him, one finger at a time, then vanished with a barely perceptible shimmer.
Sam just stood there, watching the spot where she had stood, thinking. When he was too tired to remain upright, he went to bed.