Chapter 8: Merida and Sam's communal dream is interrupted by the banshee; Sam wakes up in the motel room, bleeding and disoriented. After pinpointing Merida's location, Dean and Bobby head to her house to get rid of the banshee.
It was cold as shit outside, but Dean trudged forward like it was midsummer in Aruba, loading a salt round as he approached the small house. Bobby was right on his heels, his own gun drawn and aimed in case she came out before they reached the door.
Tripp Lane was a shallow cu-de-sac with just four houses to its name. 1437 was on the left, completely dark, and worryingly silent.
"Think it's still got a hold of her?" Bobby dropped his pack to the ground and pulled out a thin iron chain, handing his gun to Dean.
"I dunno for sure, but you know what they say about safety and sorrow."
"Shoot to miss," Bobby said. "Drive her into the garage. I'll make the loop before the thing recognizes what's going on."
"You sure the echo'll be strong enough in there?"
Bobby shrugged. "You got any better options, I'm all ears."
We could take her out now and be done with it, he thought. He could still hear Sam screaming, and it made him want to kill her dead, evergreen or no evergreen. What would it take to keep evil shit out of Sam's custard? I already sold my damn soul. What's left to lay on the line?
He stepped onto the porch, peering in through the front window. It was dark inside, but he thought he saw something move among the shadows.
"She's inside," he mouthed to Bobby, who nodded and wrapped the extra chain around his wrist. He raised his gun to shoulder height. "You good?"
Bobby gave him an incredulous look and headed toward the side door to the garage, chain rattling.
Here goes nothing.
Dean took a deep breath, stepped back, and kicked the front dooropen, stepping through before the thing had time to react.
The room was a black void; the door bounced against the doorstop behind him.
Dean stalked along the south wall, his eyes open wide in the pitch darkness, sensitive to any sign of movement. The room couldn't be bigger than fifteen feet or so across, judging from the outside, so he knew he'd be able to cross it quickly if he had to. All he needed was a single clue, one false move…
And then the thing went for it, leaping at him from the opposite corner. Dean could feel the air vibrate with the beginnings of its scream, so he shot off a round, the end of his gun flashing as the salt round caught the thing somewhere. It released a loud, shuddering scream, but not one that hurt Dean.
"Well, that was underwhelming." He shot another round up at the ceiling and moved to the west wall. "I've heard you got quite the set of pipes. Don't tell me that's the best you can do-"
-and he let off another round before the thing could get its bearings; in the extremely dim light that filtered in through the open front door, he saw it scamper down the hall toward the back of the house.
Hope you're ready, Bobby, he thought, taking the time to reload.
"C'mon, aren't you gonna sing me a lullaby?" He fired into a room on his right, then hauled ass to the first bathroom, standing just inside and leaning out the door into the hallway.
A few moments passed without incident, so he crept back into the hall, moving as silently as he could. Not sure why you're bothering to creep, he said to himself, scanning each room for signs of movement, and finding none. She's gonna blow out your eardrums, not her own.
The door to the garage stood slightly ajar, and a small mat sat in front of it. Dean knelt to inspect it, finding an inky black substance smeared onto it. He squinted as hard as he could and spotted another smudge of the muck a few feet away.
He crept in that direction, feeling his way along the floor for more footprints and following them down another seemingly endless hallway.
This place is bigger than it looks from the outside, he thought bitterly, squinting so hard he was getting a tension headache.
They really needed to invest in some fucking night vision goggles.
The hall finally terminated at a pair of cheap-feeling French doors. The room they opened into was pitch black – naturally – and Dean hesitated before pulling the door open. What if it was some kind of trap and he ended up with a brain bleed?
What the hell else are you gonna do, champ? Get in the car and go home?
Sam's twisted face and bloody ears floated into his mind again, and he scowled, yanking open the doors.
"Get out here, you bitch!"
He opened fire into the dark space, firing one shell after another. The flashes illuminated the room for a moment and Dean caught sight of a washer and dryer and some shelves. He had barely registered the images when the scream to end all screams reached his ears.
Dean Winchester had experienced some monster hangovers, but none of them had come even close to preparing him for this.
He wasn't even aware of dropping his gun or falling to the ground, but he found himself on the floor, head between his knees and hands over his ears. Shards of glass were carving devil's traps on the inner walls of his skull and his eyes were about to pop, the pressure in his head was so great. His throat began to ache, and he realized that he too was screaming, the sound of it drowned out by the wails of the banshee.
And then all the sound was gone.
His own moans reached his ears and he rolled onto his back, pressing his fingers against his eyes. The sharp, blinding pain had been reduced to a dull ache, and he looked around him, surprised to find that he could see – a dim light was emanating from the garage door.
Someone was calling him…who was that?
"DEAN! GET YOUR ASS OUT HERE! I GOT HER!"
"Bobby…" Dean scrambled to his feet, leaning against the hallway wall as the room spun. "Bobby!"
"GET A MIRROR, DEAN!" Bobby appeared in the doorway. Dean could still hear the banshee screaming, but the bite was gone; now it was just an ugly, annoying (and loud) sound. "She's in the loop. We got to get it out of her, or it we can't kill it! GO!"
Dean shook his head and stumbled down the hall to the bathroom, yanking drawers open blindly and feeling around for a mirror.
There were none.
Of fucking course there aren't, he thought.
He was about to hit the kitchen when he caught sight of the medicine cabinet. He opened the door and yanked hard, tearing the door off its thankfully rusted hinges-
"DEAN! HURRY UP, BOY!"
"I got it!"
Steadier on his feet now, he trotted down the hall and shoved the door to the garage open, stumbling inside.
The iron chain was draped around Merida in a triangle, the ends linked to two metal shelves and what looked like a stripper pole. A naked woman with a slimy log for a head tripped drunkenly around inside the confines of the chain, crying out every other second with loud, layered, and strangely childlike wails. Every scream sent black ooze flying at the walls and ceiling.
Dean stared in stark disbelief.
"Hold it up, idjit!" Bobby said between screams.
Dean shook his head and held up the bathroom mirror.
The screams suddenly rose in pitch and volume, and Dean's low-grade headache started to return. He fought to keep the mirror in place, using it as a shield between him and the banshee. Bobby's hands covered his own ears and he turned away.
There was a sound like claws scraping across aluminum, and Dean wished he could cover his ears. His headache was back with a vengeance, and he nearly dropped the mirror when Merida suddenly appeared beside him, half her body covered in the black muck of the banshee. She tugged at his arm.
There was a pile of black sludge on the floor inside the chain. It slithered along the floor, leaving a trail of what looked like ink behind it, and writhing like a ball of dough being kneaded by invisible hands.
"What the hell is that thing?' He shouted at her.
She yanked his arm toward the door to the house, her hair plastered to her head by the mystery ooze. "Let's go! We don't want to be here when it dies!"
Dean dropped the mirror, not needing to be told twice. "Let's go, Bobby!"
The three of them ran through the house and out the front door, where neighbors were standing on their porches, staring at the house. They sprinted to the car, jumping in and taking off, the peel of tires barely audible over the cries of the banshee.
They were almost a mile away when something akin to a sonic boom went off.
Dean looked over his shoulder at Merida, who was laid out on the back seat.
"What the hell was that?"
"The death of an ancient monster, that's what."
Bobby swerved out onto the highway, picking up speed when they reached straight road. "If the banshee blew that kind of top, what the hell's gonna happen when he send Anu to meet his maker?"
"Anu's a god," Merida said, covering herself with a blanket Sam had left on the back seat. She wiped her face and head until Dean could see her face. "The banshee…it's older. More powerful, in some ways, at least. Seniority, and all that."
"What was all that shit it was covered in? Is there some black monster lagoon somewhere where they shoot the shit while they decide who to kill?"
She sighed. "The black stuff was blood."
Merida chuckled. "You don't want to know." She waved her hand and Dean caught sight of a cigarette in her hand. He whirled around and she winked, taking a drag off it as she rolled down the back window with her other hand.
"You also don't want to know where these things are born. Or where they go to die." She blew a plume of smoke out into the night and took another puff. "But I have a feeling you're gonna find out, babe."
Her face twisted again, her nose elongating and her smile widening frightengly, for a split second before settling back into the smug, thin face it usually was.
She cut her eyes at him, taking another puff of her magically appearing cigarette.
"What the hell are you staring at?"
"That's a good question," Dean mumbled.
He shook his head, settling back into his seat.
Bobby turned into the motel parking lot. "You okay, kid?"
Dean didn't answer.
Sam was sitting at the table, eating a salad and watching a Shake Weight commercial when they came staggering in. Dean tossed his holster and handgun on the table, shooting him a creeped-out look.
"You need a few moments alone, Nader?" One of the women on-screen held the Shake Weight at head height, jiggling it back and forth. "Didn't mean to interrupt your alone time-"
Sam ignored him and stood. "Is she okay? Did you-"
"I'm fine, Sam." She dropped the blanket she'd been covering herself with, walking across the room the bathroom in the buff. "Just got a little messy."
She closed the door behind her.
Dean cracked a beer while Bobby collapsed into a chair. "Well, she's not shy, I'll give her that."
"What the hell happened out there?" Sam pushed the salad away. "You look like shit. And what is all this black stuff…"
"Blood, according to Miss Cleo in there." Bobby opened the book of Celtic deities.
"Who's blood? Banshees are spirits, aren't they?"
Dean scowled. "It depends."
"Look, Sam, we killed the friggin' thing, all right? The banshee chapter of our autobiography is over. Let's work out how to put paid to our divine party guest, huh?"
There was a high pitched scream from the bathroom, and then the shower went off. Something fell to the floor and then the door opened. Merida's face appeared in the crack, dark water dripping down her face.
"What the hell's wrong with the water here? I let it run for ten minutes!"
Dean fought to keep a straight face.
"Dean here had a two hour sauna session last night," Sam said. "Sorry."
Merida rolled her eyes and disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door rather harder than was necessary.
Dean leaned back in his chair, folding his hands behind his head.
"You don't have to look so smug, Dean."
"Yeah, well, cry me a river, okay? She's something, Sam, something evil."
"What is your problem with her? I know you don't love the whole psychic thing, but this is getting ridiculous!"
"I got my reasons."
"Sorry to interrupt, kind sirs," Bobby said, "but we got other problems. If Merida's got this evergreen, we got to find a way to get it down Anu's gullet. I don't think he's gonna let us buy him a drink."
"Maybe we can gild it and hide it on Ian's belt," Dean said, tilting his bottle toward Sam. "With all the crap he's got hanging from his waist, Anu'd never see it coming."
"Or," Merida said, emerging from the bathroom in a towel, "we could just give it to him."
"Oh yeah? Just like that, huh?"
She turned to Sam. "How do you keep up morale with him around? Meth?"
Sam coughed to cover his laughter.
"Bobby," she said, looking sheepish. "Long time no see. Hell of a reunion, huh?"
"Running around with these two, I'd expect nothing less."
She tightened her towel. "Sorry about your face. I usually save that move for emergencies, but that spirit had solid info. Couldn't let you just toast him."
"Tell you what. You help us kill…God, and we'll call it even."
She smiled. "Deal."
"So, back to the monster," Dean interjected loudly, "care to elaborate?"
She walked over to Dean's side of the bed and unzipped his bag.
"Hey! That's my shit-"
She pulled out a pair of jeans. "What else am I gonna do, Dean? Can't walk around like this, can I?"
I wouldn't mind, Sam thought.
"I'm sure Sam wouldn't mind," Bobby said.
Sam looked uncomfortably at Bobby, folding his arms over his chest.
"I don't think we're the same size, princess."
"I dunno," she said, holding up a pair. "Look fine to me."
She shook the pants a few times like she was trying to remove lint. When she held them up again, they were worn on the thigh and had rhinestone studs on the back pockets.
Dean's face fell.
"How do you do that?" Sam shook his head in awe.
"Witchcraft, wicca, even a little fairy magic. You learn a lot from the dead."
"You can't be a witch, a wiccan, and a fairy, hon. If you got magic, you got it from demons."
"You two use witchcraft all the time."
She held up a smaller pair of Dean's underwear. "Oh?"
"Relax," she said, setting them back in the bag. "I don't do secondhand panties."
"They're not panties-"
She laughed, slipping into the jeans in one move. "You don't mind if I use one of these t-shirts, do you? I won't bedazzle them, I promise."
When she was dressed, she sat down beside Bobby in the only remaining chair.
"Okay," she said. "Here's how gods work. They get their power from worshippers, for the most part, and tribute for the other part. People adore them, curry favor, and give them gifts, kind of like they did with ancient kings, princes, sultans, you get it."
"Thanks for the history lesson."
Bobby, Sam, and Merida glared at him.
"Sorry, jeez. Please continue."
"Anyway, Anu's off script. He's making deals and taking souls, like demons. Using them to power his exploits, getting to earth chief among them."
"But if he's upgraded to souls, why bother with anything we might give him?"
"Ritual, Sam. Anu might have changed currency, but he's still a god born of tribute and worship. He can't change what he is."
"Which means," she continued, "that if we have a tribute ceremony and present him with a gift, he can't refuse us. He has to visit the court to accept it. We can hide the evergreen in the tribute, and when he eats it…"
"…he eats it." Dean raised an eyebrow. "Swanky, very Casino Royale. But what kind of tribute do we even get this thing?"
"Well, usually it was a person, someone important to the summoner-"
Dean started to speak.
"But," she said pointedly, "the only rules are that it has to be something important to them. And object they've placed their faith in. The god takes it, eats it – whatever it is – and then grants the summoner a request."
Bobby sighed. "We ain't got nothing like that around here," he said. "Everything important to us is either too good to let go of, or else gone."
"Anu's deal is with the McLaughlins, though. Couldn't we get something important of theirs to present to him? He'd probably show up at the court for that, I mean, he has to eat three more of them anyway, right?"
"I think you're gettin' good at this, Sam."
He smiled at her.
"All right, so we show up at this festival or whatever, build an altar, phone E. T. and slip him the mickey. Oh, and we also have to find something near and dear to McLaughlin hearts to hide it in."
"That about sums it up."
"In one day."
"Never said it would be easy."
"And when do we pay the bill for all your services here? What about your curse?"
She shrugged. "First things first."
Dean smiled darkly. "Yeah," he said. "Sure."
Sam touched her hand. "The evergreen, did you get it?"
"Mmm," she said, swallowing her beer. "Sure did. That's why the banshee was on me so hard last night. It's at the house."
"Let's go get it."
"Sounds good to me-"
"Fabulous," Dean griped. "A morning date with the wiccan witch of a midsummer night's dream. But I guess it would be midwinter in your case, right Sammy?"
Sam stood, grabbing his coat off the back of his chair. "Yeah, Dean."
"You're not going anywhere alone with her, man. Not outside your dreams, anyway."
"You to head back to what's left of the house," Bobby said. "Dean and me'll head over to the MacGregor's for God's little Christmas gift. Their house is loaded with old family stuff, I hear."
"Thanks, Bobby," Sam said.
"Whoa, now hold on a m…"
But Bobby gave him a look that ended his sentence for him, and he settled back into his chair, feeling defeated.
Sam offered Merida a jacket, but she shook her head. "Perks of being a conduit," she said. "Haven't been cold since 1983."
"1983?" Sam said. "But that would make you-"
"Time's a wastin, Winchester," she said. "One day, remember?"
Bobby tossed them the keys to his truck. Sam missed them, but Merida caught them before they hit the floor and dangled them in front of Sam's face.
"Little slow there for a hunter."
"I was caught off guard!"
"As hunters often are."
"This doesn't count."
They kept talking as they disappeared out the door, and Dean turned to Bobby, pissed.
"What the hell was that, Bobby? I'm not a friggin child you can put on time out-"
"Cut the crap, Dean. If you're serious about Psychic Barbie being evil, you got a reason. Spit it out."
Dean looked uncomfortable and got up from the table, headed over to his side of the bed.
"Let's just go, okay?"
Bobby nodded. "Okay. And on the way over, you can tell me all about the Merida-shaped bug up your ass."
After this chapter, there'll likely be one or two more and an epilogue. Sorry for the long, long wait! I claim the thesis excuse!