It all started so perfectly normal. Plumbing warehouse, something inside having a field day with the employees, getting off on wringing their necks. The constant moving of heavy ass equipment in the night had pointed in one direction only; poltergeists. No biggie, they'd done it a dozen times at least. Missouri had shown them the hex bags and they never failed them. The trick was to keep the critters occupied without getting your own neck wrung while you trapped them with the bags and they promptly took off.
Not exactly like fighting hard-ass demons or anything. Really no biggie at all.
The moment the freaking SOBs had Dean cornered, Sam knew he'd miscalculated their viciousness and that drastic measures were needed. Dean was still not well enough; he was slower than usual, they both were and now their asses were on the line. He'd been a fool to get talked into this supposedly easy hunt. He should have known better, this job had no guarantees of survival. And taking unseen energies on in a warehouse was just stupid, however much the owner had pleaded with Bobby about stopping the things killing his workers. And why had they both been so incredibly cocky that they denied Bobby's offered help? Dean's happy face at the prospect of getting some 'sons of bitches' to bite the dust had been contagious and Sam had just happily agreed that the two of them were enough. Stupid, plain and simple. There wasn't just one Poltergeist in this joint, there were at least four and they seemed supercharged and pissed off. Sam didn't even know if they had the hex bags on him still, he distinctly remembered clutching then with his left hand just a minute ago. Being thrown around must have scrambled up his head because it was a deadly sin to lose your weapon of choice in the middle of a battle.
Getting stuck under a pile of sewer tubes, while the Poltergeists were going after Dean with flying utensils of the heavier kind, was downright ludicrous for a hunter. Dean cursed and ducked when a chainsaw came flying in his direction.
The lighting inside did not work to their advantage either; the only source was now the streetlight from the yard behind the open port. The metal shelves gleamed while chains clattered ominously.
“Dean, get out!” Sam hollered when metal contacted with plastic right by his head and he found himself rolling forward with the pipes, enough to free his legs and have him land with nose pressed to the coarse cement floor. The large port was still open, letting in light and air, smelling of old tarps and diesel mixed with something odd that Sam just wasn't able to identify. When he raised his head, he noted Dean on the floor by the wide port, grappling for support to get up, just to have to throw himself out of the way of more flying objects.
Sam was up on his feet, running toward Dean when he heard the thunderous sound of heavy objects moving; large cement rings, stored on rails, had been set in motion, rolling slowly towards a drop that would kill Dean in the blink of an eye.
It all happened in a fraction of a second. His hands went up, and he wasn't sure how he did it but he sucked the energy out of the Poltergeists and the cement rings came to a temporary halt, as did every sound in the small industry hall. Like everything was on hold, waiting for Sam's next move.
Then Dean took a rushed breath, wheezing at him to stop fucking around and follow him out.
Sam had to make a decision. His arms were starting to shake from the effort of holding the energies still, his heart beat so fast that he was unable to speak and Dean was still right under the cement rings. The Poltergeists struggled against his hold, battled it and Sam was able to feel the rage emanating from them, soundless surges of something akin to electricity. He wouldn't be able to hold them long enough to let Dean, if his brother even had it in him, place the hex bags in the walls and eradicate them the old fashioned way.
Sam's mind raced for a safe solution. Cold sweat had his clothes clinging to him by now, and he could feel himself getting weaker. When energy escaped him enough to let the cement start moving anew, he made his decision. He hurled Dean out of the building just as cement crashed to the floor and clashed with the wall with force enough to create sharp crackling sounds as the wall started to give in.
“Sam!” Dean's voice seared through the racket.
Sam staggered backwards toward the gate, still fighting the energies with his own until he sank to his knees on the pavement, legs shaking too much to support him any longer. Dean's hands gripped his shoulders hard, but Sam didn't budge. With Dean standing behind him, his only option was to let the Poltergeists' energies mirror off his own body to then collide with the walls and the shelves, then turn back and mirror off him all over. The whirlwind it created made the Poltergeists lose control and implode on themselves in a rain of sparks. And right there, in a zap of blinding light, Sam saw something that resembled a human figure. Like a bluish shadow, flickering in the light, like a warning. It was gone in a moment, but the image was like etched into Sam's awareness. He held his breath as the force he'd let loose ripped a hole in the ceiling, sent live-wires sparkling in the darkness and the walls started to cave while alarms went off, wailing in the night.
Dean cussed breathlessly and tugged Sam to his feet, dragging him stumbling backwards, away from the caving walls. The cacophony was deafening; metal and concrete grinding together, air crackling with electric current let loose. Dust blinded them and Dean pulled him over the yard and to the safety of the street.
“Dean, wait!” Sam panted. “Gotta go check the other side! What if someone -.”
He didn't have time to finish the sentence before Dean shoved him into the passenger seat, slamming the door on him and sprinting to the driver's side.
“Dean,” Sam tried again but his brother revved the car and drove through the thick falling dust just as the building behind them collapsed with a roar.
Sam looked back, seeing smoke and fire and something inside him screamed. Had he killed innocents with his stunt? Had this all been avoidable? Were the powers really taking him over? It had been so easy to let the powers take over in there, too easy. Had his slide down the slippery slope begun?
He kept his eyes on the smoke billowing up to the dark sky, wondering if he had killed another innocent without even knowing.
Dean didn't look back, not once.
He didn't want to, he didn't need to see Sam on his knees, shivering and sweating from the effort. Didn't want to remember how instinctively Sam pulled out the big guns just because his brother, who was supposed to look out for the Sasquatch, had been stupid enough to place himself exactly in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. Didn't want to think about what his brother had been forced to do, play with the thing that scared the crap out of him most of the times. The thing that might one day explode right in his face and make him something Dean wouldn't recognize.
So Dean clamped his mouth shut and drove, tires screeching as he pulled out of the industrial zone and onto the main street. Sirens flashed blue up ahead and he slowed down, not ready to get out of the car and explain why they were covered in dust and dirt, Sam's face all scratched up and his eyes still somewhere on the crazier side of I-have-demon-blood-inside-me normal.
When they finally turned onto one of the larger streets, Dean finally slowed down enough to not avoid getting pulled over for breaking the speed limit. In his peripheral vision, he saw Sam finally tear his eyes off the commotion they'd left behind and turn to watch out the windshield while tampering with the radio.
“Hey!” Dean protested, glaring at the dust covered figure. He looked really ridiculous since the sweat had plastered the dust all over him. He'd be washing out the car for that alone. “What'ya doin'?”
Sam's fingers still shivered when he turned the radio on and started looking for channels. “I just wanna hear when the news hit.”
Dean looked at him with disbelief. “Huh? Want me to fill you in? I was actually right there so I have first hand info. You okay, dude? Bobby's gonna have our ass for this one since the dude who called him will know it was the Winchesters messing up his livelihood. And you wanna hear all about it on the local news?”
Sam's eyes followed the light that rushed past them. Police car, followed by a fire truck, not the biggest show to hit the road.
“I just wanna make sure no one got hurt,” Sam spoke, eyes skittering from the window to Dean and back again to fixate far ahead.
All the signs of Sammy not exactly telling everything were there and this time, Dean wasn't even sure he wanted to know. Hearing angels was bad enough but being laden with unwanted, and evil powers, like currently twitchy, neurotic Sam Winchester, that was just something else all together.
“Sam, what are you not telling me?” He kept his voice even, reassuring, didn't look at Sam but kept his eyes on the road, looking for the shortest route to the highway to tail it out of this godforsaken town. Like a promise that he'd be all right with whatever Sam had cooked up in that big head of his. Knowing his brother, Dean was sure that he was guilt-tripping himself something fierce.
“Uh, nothing.” Sam shrugged and turned his face to the side window. Like he was admiring the view in the pitch dark night.
Dean wanted to stop the car, drag his brother out and shake the truth out of him. Rattle every screw that had come loose inside that warehouse back into its rightful place. But he knew the bitch and it wouldn't work anyhow so he just let out a non-committal: “Uh-huh.”
Then he just waited while the radio rambled on with country music and local anecdotes of the mundane kind. They drove for miles and miles and finally, Sam relented.
“I thought I saw something in there,” Sam admitted. “Just for a moment there was like this shadow or something. It just kind of flashed before my eyes and then was gone. But it looked human.”
Dean threw him a glace. “A vision?”
“No, just -.” Sam paused, looking down on his hands. “I don't know what it was, it happened so fast. It just felt like something ominous, y'know? Like a warning. Or something, I don't know. I just wanted to hear no one got hurt.”
That was the trouble with having a psychic bitch for a brother. He could scare the hell out of you just by acting strange enough to make you think he was a fry short of a Happy Meal. Or seeing stuff that nobody else did. At least when something supernatural talked to you, you pretty much got the picture even if they spoke in riddles. But Sam had been seeing things for a long time and if it didn't make sense to him, it was bad.
“Sam, nobody was inside that building, 'cept you and me and the sons of bitches.”
Sam shrugged his shoulders and looked at him. “What if someone was outside when it all came down?”
“Dude, it was close to midnight in a small town industrial zone! Who'd be there? Wasn't exactly lover's lane. Place was deserted.” Dean flicked the radio off, watching his bother intently before he trained his eyes back on the road ahead.
“Maybe I should call and check with the cops?” Sam piped in.
Dean rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah, that's a good one. You think the cops are gonna spill just like that? What you gonna say? 'Hello, I'm Sam Winchester, but don't bother checking me up since you'll probably find me wanted in three states and a suspect in a lot of unsolved, totally wacky cases and I just wanted to know if I killed someone when I blew up Mr. Gonzalez's plumbing joint?”
Sam made a protesting noise and Dean continued, in an exaggerated girly voice just to rile Sam up: “Yes sir, I swear I didn't mean to. It just kinda happened. You see, I have this demon blood and sometimes I just can't stop myself from dicking around with the powers. I just don't want anybody to get hurt. What you mean you have my cell phone location pegged? What'ya mean some nice men will come get me? Padded room with nice pills you say?”
“Shut up Dean!”
“Didn't we cause enough of a mess tonight, Sammy? Let it go already! Nobody got killed, we got out of there in one piece and you ganked the bitches. Stop second guessing yourself, it'll just drive you insane in the end.”
Sam moved uneasily in his seat, trying to get the freakishly long legs straightened out. He was tense, and he wouldn't let this all go. Dean knew his brother, and the stubborn ass just needed to know or he'd have one of his emo brooding periods on top of everything else.
“Look, Sammy,” Dean started, leaning back into the seat. “I'm not happy about what happened back there. You know that those powers are freaking me out, big time. But you not being the calculating mind freaks me out even more. You kind of exploded in there, just went off without even thinking. That's not, the 'research till my eyes bleed Sam' I know. And yeah, I get why you did it, I'm not a complete idiot. I was destined for the ground meat market, big time but wouldn't it have been enough just to shove me out of the way? Did you have to take on the entire shebang all by yourself? What if whatever you did, and I don't know if I even wanna know exactly what you did, would have backfired? What if I would have ended up scooping you up in a body bag?”
Sam said nothing, he just turned his face further to the side, sinking into the seat like he wanted to disappear.
Dean sighed. The trouble with talking to Sam was risking him to clam up totally. If the dude wasn't ready to spill, he just kept everything inside until something made the fuses shot-circuit. And it mostly came with one hell of a bang when it did. And all the signs of over-analyzing things to death were right there; on Sam face and in the silence that he had retreated into.
“All I'm saying is that sometimes what seems the easy way out may end up biting you in the ass in the end. Hell, you were the one to point that out to me. It's supposed to be hard, remember? I can't ever put myself in your shoes Sammy, crap, I'd never trust myself in your shoes. Just, don't beat yourself up over this. It happened, we move on and get over it, 'coz it ain't like we can do much else anyhow.”
Spotting the Exxon sign in the distance, Dean changed lanes, looking at Sam in the process. He was practically able to see the wheels turning inside Sam's head when his bother cast a quick glance back at him. And Dean knew that glance. This so wasn't over.
“Call Bobby,” Dean prompted, talking sense into his stubborn ass bro at this time was futile. “He'll find out and he already knows you're slightly around the bend.”
When Sam made a part questioning, part argumentative face, Dean grinned. “Baby needs gas and I'm finding us a motel in the next town. You need to clean up before they arrest you for public fugliness anyhow. You look like crap, Sammy and I'm so not bailing your sorry ass outta anything tonight.”
Dean was rewarded with a bitchface and it felt like a relief. Whatever was going on inside that thick head of his brother's, at least he was still the usual pain in the ass.
Sam slid out of the Impala as soon as she was filled up and Dean was on his way to get coffee from the Mini-mart. The night was starless and chilly, the darkness dispersed only by the headlights of passing cars in the distance and the neon light of the signs on the parking lot. The place was old and rundown, apparently not one of the more gainful establishments. He spotted only a few trucks parked and when even truckers avoided the place, things were bad. Which meant good for them since they so didn't need any attention, not looking like they'd just crawled up from their own graves and hadn't even had the time, or bothered to dust off. He just hoped this place wouldn't give Dean some kind of stomach flu. Knowing his brother, he was sure he'd have at least one greasy burger and wouldn't care to check the sanitation rating of the place. He'd gulf it down even if the bacon was green at the gills.
There was a dripping faucet on the wall of the building. With a look at the entrance, Sam walked over to wash his face. The water was cold and Sam shivered. Wiping his face dry with stiff fingers, Sam walked back. Eyes vigilant for any kind of anomalies.
That image, the shadow-like flash, would not leave him alone. That something, looking like a human figure trapped in a sheen of light, was something he just couldn't push to the back of his mind and forget. It felt like it was trying to tell him something.
Sam pulled his cell from his pocket.
He hated himself for doing this but he pushed the quick dial to Bobby anyhow. It was too late and Bobby would be majorly pissed off at him for various reasons. Taking the building down was not good PR for any kind of hunter.
“Sam?” Bobby answered at the second ring. “You two alright?”
“Yeah,” Sam said and looked to the ground, poking at a crushed abandoned can in embarrassment. “Look, I have a favor to ask, could you please -.”
Bobby snorted. “Gee, you phone me in the middle of the night to ask a favor? That's a first!”
Sam heard the relief behind the mocking tone but he still felt guilty for having Bobby do something he could as easily do himself. “I'm sorry, but things went a little too far and I kinda need you do find out if anybody got hurt.” An empty paper bag blew across the asphalt and Sam jumped and let his eyes skim the parking lot. That eerie feeling of being watched didn't leave him alone. Not for a second.
“Long story, just please, find out Bobby.” He followed the paper bag's windy trajectory until it vanished in the darkness. When he turned back, he saw it again. It was just as fast a glimpse as before of something bluish, with a distinct human form. He went cold and his breath hitched.
“Sam?” Bobby's voice was laced with the usual accusative tone that covered worry.
“And shadows, Bobby are they what I think they are?” Sam closed his eyes and laid his palm on the roof of the Impala.
“Omens of a loved one’s death?” Bobby paused and the silence was confirmation enough for Sam.
“Well, they actually occur in broad daylight too.” Bobby spoke soberly. “Maybe you just got a ghost on your ass?”
The prospect of the shadow actually being a premonition had Sam's blood run a littler colder than before.
“Yeah,” Sam exhaled. “Would you find out and let me know about possible victims?”
“Will do, just, watch out for your brother, and yourself 'coz you just sound -, call you back, Sam.” Bobby shut the phone and Sam looked at the entrance of the Mini mart, waiting for Dean to appear.
When he finally did, Sam held his eyes on his brother, watching every step he took to gauge if he was hurt and was lying about it. If old injuries were bothering him? He looked for any sign of something not right with Dean. As suspected, Dean held a half-eaten burger in his hand, a plastic bag in his other and even from this distance, Sam could tell that he wasn't pleased with the scrutiny. Though, Dean would have to get used to being under surveillance.
When Dean stopped, toe to toe with him, he glared and poked an indignant finger hard to Sam's chest bone.
“What the hell is wrong with you? You look like you've seen a ghost!”
Sam extended his hand for the keys and flatly established: “I'm driving.”
Dean stopped chewing and looked at him long and hard before he handed over the keys.
Dean watched, brow furrowed, while Sam took a tour around the cheap motel room, salt bag in hand. His currently twitchier than normal brother, took special care and poured salt even down the drains. Which was insane but Dean let it slide.
“Go take a shower,” Sam ordered, eyes flicking yet again around the room.
It was rich, coming from the dust covered, water streaked entity, formerly known as Sam Winchester but Dean was too tired to pick a fight. He just set the plastic bag down on the desk and toed off his boots. Sam salted the window meticulously.
“You gonna be alright?” he asked before stepping into the bathroom.
Sam was standing by the window, holding the curtain at an angle to be able to watch without being seen.
“Huh?” Sam threw him a perturbed glance, like the question was out of place since he was behaving so normally.
“Just don't sit on my bed,” Dean sighed. He didn't pull the door completely shut, he left a chink, just to be sure that Sam wouldn't flip completely over the edge without him hearing it.
He almost jumped at the face that met him in the mirror. The night clerk's behavior suddenly made sense. He wanted to pull out the holy water himself. Ears open for any sound from the other room, he peeled off his shirt. Sam's silence was downright eerie and his goddamned silent paranoia, or whatever, was rubbing off.
The water was hot and soothed his aching muscles and frazzled nerves. When Sam's cell rang, he shut it off and listened in, like a warden. Dean made a face at himself.
Sam kept his voice low, but Dean heard him repeat 'No victims, good'. But he didn't sound as relieved as Dean had hoped. Something else was clearly eating at his brother and who knew how long Sam would brood before he spilled. Sam didn't say much else, he just mumbled 'yeah, will do and told Bobby to take care too before he closed the phone.
Sam's secrecy had always pissed Dean off. His brother didn't do it out of malice, he just kind of thought he was sheltering people by keeping his mouth shut. Which of course, was something John had drummed into them since the beginning. And Sam had rebelled against a lot, but most of Dad's rules and regulations were still in full vigor for Dean when Sam was concerned and he recognied a lot of their Dad in Sam too.
When he got out, Sam was still standing by the window. Coat and boots still on, like he was in combat mode. The plastic bag with the salad he'd gotten for his picky brother was untouched.
Sam was seriously grating on Dean's nerves.
“What the hell, Sam? I'm not askin' you again! What's crawled up your ass?”
Sam looked genuinely surprised for a moment, then the bitchface returned and he stomped across the room to kick his boots off.
“Stay away from the window, would'ya?” Sam was the quintessential rebellious little brother when he slid out of his coat, glaring under the bangs and pouting with annoyance like he used to do when he was a kid and Dean yanked the flashlight from under the covers and ordered him to sleep and not read till his eyes fell out.. He grabbed clean clothes out of his duffel bag and without a word, he disappeared into the bathroom.
“Don't close the door!” Dean growled just as it was slammed shut on him.
“Bitch!” Dean muttered under his breath and went to the window. He looked out but there was absolutely nothing but the green sheen from the neon sign and the Impala looked safe and sound, parked under the window. Dean let his eyes roam, taking in the naked trees and the wet asphalt. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.
He did put a knife, and a gun, under the pillow before he flopped onto the bed. There was a bottle of holy water in his bag by the nightstand. No creepy sons of bitches would get to them tonight.
Sam rested his face in his palms, crunching his eyes shut tight under the glare of the bathroom lamp. He heard Dean move around behind the wall. Knew exactly when his brother did what he had asked him not to; walked up to the window. Then there were steps over the floor, sounds of Dean digging in the duffel bag and then, a thud when he flopped onto the bed. Then nothing.
Maybe he was imagining things? The sensation of being watched and judged would vanish with a good night's sleep?
Fact was; he kind of wanted to stick his head in sand and never pull it out again.
Like that was ever an option for a Winchester? Sam let his hands drop and stared morosely at the yellowed and cracked porcelain of the sink. He flicked cold water on and bent in to wash his face to try and clear his head.
The shadow of his head moved. He held perfectly still and the shadow became larger, like it was creeping in on him from behind.
He whipped around, hands up, ready for battle. There was nothing behind him, only cracked tiles. His heart was beating wildly and he held his breath, listening. Everything seemed calm on the other side of the wall. Dean had flicked on the TV and the low voice of some woman was trying to sell a new kind of fantastic detergent was barely audible.
Dean flipped the channel and the drone of country music followed. Then his brother cursed rather loudly and the patented fake laughter of sitcoms took over.
When he dropped his hands, blue ghosted over his white t-shirt. He saw it in the corner of his eye a brief instance before the same tint flashed starkly in the mirror. He turned, instinctively letting the power shoot out toward the apparition.
The mirror exploded with a bang like a gun had been fired. The power bounced back on Sam and he hit the wall hard enough to make it bend and whimper in protest. Glass shreds stung the palms of his hands and he bowed his head and lost his footing.
On his knees on the floor, Sam shielded his head from the glass and the lamp in the ceiling blinked.