I don't do witches, Sam says, though that's Dean. Smiles.
Well, Max says, maybe we can change that. Gives Sam the brows.
It's harmless, really; they're on a case, Max likes a flirt; Sam's not opposed. Max called and Sam ditched the books and his sky-pale, cranked-up, still-hacking brother and climbed in the car and drove to Canada.
Long drive, Max says.
His sister eyes them while she gathers: sage and sweetgrass and cedar; hyssop.
Dudes, Alicia says, come on.
The woman in white (Provincial Road 201) isn’t acting like a woman in white, or like any spirit really, that they’ve seen. So, Alicia says, you know I called Dean again but—
He didn’t pick up, Max says, good you gave me your number.
He’s been sick, Sam says, so--
You said, Max says, though Sam’s not sure he did, but yeah: Dean keeled at the table when Sam hooked his elbow, took the beer gently away, told him to go to bed, and Dean did, and flopped flat, and let his brother worry up the covers.
He was getting better, Max called, better enough to try to come along.
No, Sam said, rest up. Dean's breath was brackish in the way only all those rooms and beds and years and years could say. I know no body, is what Sam thought, better than yours, and—
Not letting you forget me again.
Dean let Sam make eggs. Wouldn’t drink his tea.
Dug in a robe pocket and flipped Sam the keys.
Max is psychic, of course, like his sister, but he'll stay out of your garden if you don't want company: relief. Sam's garden is like: gardens/garden/gardens/quantum superposition; no, well, there are too many gardens and some you'll always end in. Up in. (Like a fuzzed-out lyric Sam heard on the radio, while, strangely, they were rolling though the very brown-burnt Texas Dylan was on about: now I've never been the kinda person that likes to trespass/ but sometimes you just find yourself over the line). Like that.
Max could read Sam's palm, make him a map, if he wanted.
How’re you, Sam, Alicia says, though she doesn’t need to ask. Energy: sharper than her brother’s, sweet and neat like a knife in a boot.
How’s your mom? she asks.
She’s—Sam says, and Max pours out, black and thick; too hot. Alicia sugars it up, lets the light catch her amulet. Pentagram, not the usual, and when Sam doesn’t ask she says--
Wiccan token with some First Nations on top; neo-pagan BS, really; nothing really powerful until—
Until you charge it, Max says, grins.
Alicia fingers the five-points, hollow cup of clavicle. It’s silver, flushed with ash.
Max and I, we got a history with these things, up north, where--
She tells Sam a story, then, about her daddy the fox, in off the trail, out of the snow, brushing it off his shoulders onto the magicked breath of his children. Their Sipi Cree granddaddy, their mother with her late-night fables; banesflower tea, her own recipe.
Sam thinks: family magic. Of the Loughlins, sudden, then feels the flashback shiver away.
I scryed before I could walk, almost, Alicia says, and--
she did, says Max, or is that ‘screwed’; man, tenses always fuck me up.
Bitch, Alicia says, punches him in the arm.
Something was taking truckers off the trunk roads, drawing them 201-wards, lifting them from the cold stretch between Snowflake and Sundown, Roseau Anishinabe First Nation; places they shouldn’t be, places they weren’t.
White figure in the grass, some locals said, but not so earth-lashed, had a kill-zone but otherwise—
Kind of fluid, Max says, there’s a local story, Io Bainbridge, girl who ran for the border and ran her F-150 into a tree, thirteen years ago—
But we burnt her bones last year, says Alicia.
Local cops or--? Sam says, and Max looks at him.
RCMP detachment, Alicia says, lot of crossings these days, people running from your side of the border.
Asylum-seekers, Sam says, and if America’s haunted, always, it’s never been more so, up to the ex-occupied in the White House—but he can’t talk about that.
There’ve been some fires, too, Max says. Weird heaps of roadkill. Leavings on fields and graves like some kinda muck-mined yellowcake.
Smells demony, Sam says, and the twins fix him in their headlights, blink in unison.
We thought so, Max says.
Not again, Sam says, and catches a hit of Alicia, her dog-soft recoil from the thought of possession.
Got inked up good, she says, fingers her neck.
Demons dig truckers, Sam says. Or: they like lonely roads, ghosts stories they can ride like contrails, rope the unsuspecting into hell.
Books, then bed, Alicia says.
Bed, Max says, waves a hand over the dishes, then hunt.
Twins have a cabin in an out-of-place prairie grove; of course they do, two bedrooms, piney scent, their mother’s photos (and music Sam likes, indie, world-y, tech-y; playlists Dean’d pitch a fit at). Asa’s here, musk-heavy in the walls. Cached weapons; jangling charms, athame. Spellwork, of course. Lashings of white magic. Wards that hum and crack like a low fire.
Sam lies down on the back bed, back to the wood; salted sill, Missouri-star quilt.
Dreams: his brother’s breath, close and clean. Dean’s hands at his waistband, just at the gun.
A bed, salvia-silver sheet, and two dark heads. Himself between them, close-held.
Hands in his hair and down his spine and over his eyes. Lids. Breath-gentle.
Fingers inside him but not to—
not to crawl, creep through vertebrals and salt, or set to flame. Just to stay.
Something clean, ribs swept as a broom on a hearth. Warm mossfire, way down low --
and his brother’s breath.
Strange Canada sunrise.
Max has coffee on again. Spelt toast with butter. Something that smells like bacon but isn’t made from meat.
Sleep well, Alicia asks. Sam looks at her and she sees his dream-doubt, sees it just as—
it’s shrugged off onto the floor, like a nightshirt.
Don’t worry, she says, we don’t dream-walk. We wouldn’t.
Unless, Max says, you want us to.
Io Bainbridge, nineteen,pissed off, late-teen-petty, dark-red stripe in the black of her hair (Sam read, along with a little history of the CPR, gateway to the west, Manitoba-Minnesota-North Dakota meeting, three-way fistbump on frontiers turned borders.)
Born: Notre Dame de Lourdes. Aspiring translator. Named for the Jupiter moon, which (oh, Sam thought, is kinda made of sulfur.) She had a daughter, Pearl, father unknown; crib death at eleven months.
Wanted to raise a little hell, hit a tree. Didn’t know she’d become a demon folk hero, of sorts, but might have thought, absent the murder, that it was cool.
Sam boots up, gears up, calls his brother and listens to him cough.
Course, Dean says.
Need me to come home?
Nope. How’s the case?
Ask me later, Sam says, and outside the window there are birds. Chickadees, he thinks, this far south of boreal. Licks of bay fire on their striped sides. Max out there, seed and a palm for them to light on.
Fluids and bad TV, Sam says.
The worst, says his brother.
Afternoon: surveillance, and study. Sam walking them through. Sam worrying a nail and another, a memory: dead men’s curves and California, his brother young and ghost-reckless, hot as a cedar fire. Then: a drive, plain-roads on which the twins grow older than they are, older than at Asa’s wake, young-eroded like eastern mountains—the way hunters get, and witches, and all things power flows crackling through.
Max leans on Sam’s arm, over the map up on his phone; Alicia’s Latin tingles at his ear. Then: quick-blessed blades. A bitter tea, for strength. One whiskey, that’s for--
I don’t know, Sam says, and he means: so many places in all of us already, that threaten to break at any bend, but still—
Mary-Asa-Asa’s children, this story needs to bite down on its own tail, close where it began--
with a Winchester.
Now: there are three, one for each of them (and somewhere their faux-ghost on a leash, spirit-effigy hell-dragged like a lure) and an astral hellfire Max can see, and Sam too, he blinks hard enough. Alicia keeps her counsel, crouches with her blade.
Jael’s posse wanted to draw them out, Sam said, wanted to avenge their demon-dudebro, drafted themselves to these latitudes, lodestar in an ex-vessel, maybe, made themselves a highway-game to draw the hunters out. (They could’ve just showed up, Max said, but demons gonna be demons, and Sam laughed.)
They got us now, Sam says, as they kneel, triangle, weird sister and two weird brothers in a little trash-slice of trees, hot spot next to the highway—and cauldron it up, drop the demon-draw into the fire, and watch it boil.
Don’t let ‘em talk when they show, Sam whispers, and shouts then, ‘cause they’re here, sulfurous, jean-jacketed, hunter-jeans and hunter-boots--
three-pointed demon-leers just for them.
Tall one’s got eyes like another, spits brim-juice onto the ground, and starts in, spits Jael’s name as Alicia turns, slashes--and Sam feels Ruby’s blade, hot in the hand, slip through flesh like prairie fire. A flash.
Max! he shouts and they three go backs-to-backs with blades outpointed into the demon-breath, and speak it together—
Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus,
omnis satanica potestas-
Sam feels Alicia flinch, slice, salt slewing from the pack at her waist to raise the falling fire.
They say it together—with a burst of pagan laid neat over the Latin, to turn a knot of trees into a cone of power--
Ergo, draco maledicte—
(Eat my white magic, asshole, Alicia thinks, and Sam hears her, and Max must too)
And let their heads fall back, knock, to watch the smoke peel screaming treeward, the bodies fall hollow and dull.
That might be the blackened place, sentinel, in the spring, where the first snowdrops’ll come steaming up.
Alicia goes to her knees. Max. And Sam too, little slash opened skin-deep over his heart. Hot heaves in the afterdark.
On the way back to the twin-truck, Sam walks between them, tree-swaying, and palms their slender shoulders.
You alright, he says, and they both say they are, and—
At the cabin, Baby shining outside, cut-cleanup over steaming bowls, Max leans into Sam-space, not lips, so close their breath twists up.
Max has a necklace too, Sam sees, like his sister’s. Anti-possession ink. Warm breath.
Max flutters at him, then goes, man, I'm sorry. I mean—you take good care of yourself but not lately, and I know, Max says, it's your brother or it’s the highway or it’s your brother and not even like that, I mean, for you it isn't--man, this is none of my business.
Sam, utterly surprised at himself, says: maybe it is.
Then, surprised again--because Max backs off and takes his wrist, rests fingers over his pulse, and the pulse beneath that one, and consternation flushes up, between his twitchy brows.
Max's fingers hover over his sternum:
I—Sam says, OK, yes.
It’s light, what Max does, young magic but not weak, greenplant quality, not bright like angels, not dark.
Faint: Oh, I'm sorry. Knot of … something, right there.
Yeah, Sam says, I know. Closes his eyes.
(Eyes outside of him, not him, say: Max is so fine. Alicia too, I mean, come-to-Gaia beautiful. Smart and dark and you know, witchy: your type(s), Sammy. That's the inner-Dean, one he carries; the one that's part him, part his brother; them. Knows things.)
Oh, Sam says, and fuzzes out, and--
tingles in some of the places he's been hurt. It might be too much.
No, go ahead, Max says, and his sister’s there too.
This is what Sam comes up with: one drop of Toni’s slick afterfeel, the last blue burn of Gadreel, Lucifer’s tongue, maybe, little bit of lick-Lilith, somewhere; prison reflux: mealworm-gnawed absence-of-brother -- all to choke on, up; batteryacid beads on a bile string, and Sam coughs, sways, might start to sweat. Like he might heave, but--
Two pairs of hands, close by, brace him up.
Alicia makes him an omelet and a poultice of sorts—for spirit-stuff, she says, you put it where, well, where you feel aftermath the most. When you get home.
Mom’s recipe, she says, of course. Witching and hunting, ya know—not incompatible.
Tell Dean that, Sam says, laughs, and the twins give him their twin-blink.
Possession, Alicia says, sucks. I know you know. Far more than I do.
I just, Sam says, wanna be the guy who didn’t break the world. Or –
Or anything, Max says, not hero, not legend, not--
Talked about, Alicia says, to disappear, or--
We get it, Max says, or—
as much as we can. Alicia says, and then—
she sits, shoulder to shoulder with her brother, shifts expressions:
Ya know, I thought I saw Io ghost again, slipping off, when we sent those bitches back to hell.
Alicia stops, makes a sort of a sigil in the air:
But that was probably just a memory.
Ghosts of ghosts don't forget, I guess, Sam says.
Sam’s in the little drive, sweet-cold westerlies in his torn collar, when Alicia runs out with a homegrown for Dean; greenish infusion, pearled up like tea.
Make him drink it, Max says, fix him up.
Yeah, Alicia says, make him drink it. And then--
It’s like they hold him still, just for a second, and Max drops the charm on a chain, silver triplet-twin of theirs, warm-presses it into his palm.
Sam crosses the border at Rainy River, dark prairie and Dakota sky.
Voice-dials his brother and gets a flash of his flushed-up face.
How're ya feeling?
Soup’s on, Sammy, Dean says, when’re you home?
He sounds better.
Gimme six hours, Sam says, and lets his foot down heavy, something warm in the hip-cage.
You clean up for the witch-twins?
Tell you all about it, Sam says. Through the windshield: flat road, vault tricked out with stars.
See ya soon, says his brother.
The plains open up and he's so clean so clean, cool and sharp as a blade for--
Whatever’s ahead. Western horizon, and head south. The world speaking in a tongue he understands.
Betelgeuse, Gemini; highway and plain, night sky: we can carry you home.