The family that John Winchester raised doesn’t have the time to regret and retrace their steps. So they don’t. Dean and Sam have never been back to visit any of the places they have lived other than Lawrence, and if a hunt hadn't dragged them there, it would've been just another place in the rearview mirror. Towns were like notches on John’s bedpost: once taken by storm, they were discarded.
Sam had wished desperately over the years that they could go back to some of the places they had stayed. But jobs didn’t take them back to where they had already been. He'd always thought it was pretty intentional planning on his father’s part. The towns were places on a map, little marks that Sam made with a permanent marker on the laminated fold-out of the Contiguous United States Dean bought him. They were closed books, sitting dusty on the shelf: still there, stories still running, but for other characters to act through.
They’ve been coasting along for a while now, dealing with mostly easy jobs—low-grade poltergeists and spooks that come like varietals of wine. It’s been working for them, but it’s boring. Sam likes researching and investigating, and Dean likes it when he's got a fight on his hands. But things are quiet these days, and it feels like blasphemy to wish that they were worse.
When it's starting to feel like they've completely run out of things to salt and burn, a job in Cumberland, Maryland turns up. Dean swore he’d never go back.
They lived there for Dean’s junior and senior years of high school, enough time to make a name for himself on the Allegany High football team. Enough time for Sam to have two good friends, Eli and Neal, who played on his soccer team. Enough time for Dean to have gotten blown in pretty much every single dingy restroom at the High School.
He’d gotten his diploma though, and that was the moment John had pulled up stakes. They’d skipped through so many towns that summer that he’d have to pull out Sam’s map to remember all the placed they’d been.
Dean wants to ignore it—the summons home that it is. He would be freakin’ ecstatic to ignore it. When he’d left that town, a little bit of him had chipped off. The two and a half years in Cumberland were the best years he’d ever had with Sammy. The years before his little brother fought for his own burgeoning interests, rather than acquiescing to what simply was.
Dean knows there is something fundamentally wrong with defining some of the best years of his life as the ones where Sam hadn’t worked up the courage to stop compromising his personality. But Dean and Sam are written into the fabric of that town. From the creek where Sam broke his arm for the third time (left ulna again) to the movie theater Dean drove Sam out to so he could go on his first date. In the park there’s an oak tree with Sam and Dean’s names carved into it. He can remember the late July evening Sam did it with near picture perfect recall, whittling away and then placing his palm over the finished product.
“So somebody remembers us,” he’d said to Dean, who was lying in the grass daydreaming about fucking Suzie Wilder from behind, and Dean had looked up. "When we're gone."
Like it was always going to be the two of them.
He carried those moments with him through the best of times and tried desperately to bury them through the worst. Going home is a lot like asking for forgiveness.
“Hey, you with me?” Sam asks, as he spears his fork through a piece of cantaloupe.
“Yeah.” Dean breathes in, trying to clear his face of any telling emotion. “Yeah, just thinking.”
Sam nods, he’s got that look in his eye like he knows everything going though Dean’s head. The connection breaks again when he looks down at the newspaper clippings they’d received. Dean takes another breath.
Sam's got the clippings spread out next to his fruit salad, trying to divine something from the apparent pattern—four girls over the last four years, all young, from all over town. Three were dead in the last seven months alone. Dean doesn’t see any rhyme or reason to it. No connection between the victims. The papers tentatively put forward a serial killer theory. But he’s seen the pictures from the autopsy report: the carved skin of the girls, wounds still bleeding like their hearts were pumping. He’s not had overmuch experience with murderers of the human variety, but he knows what he's looking at. And he's yet to hear of a corpse that bled out.
While part of him is glad that they won't just be kicking around anymore, the entire thing is bothering him like a sore tooth. They don't know who who put them onto the scent. All the information was in a thick manila envelope along with the cell-phone bills they actually paid and the car insurance ads in the PO box they stopped by every few months or so to check.
Dean’s suspicious by nature. There it is, right in front of him. Someone from Cumberland who wishes to remain unknown and who knows what they were, what they are. Not that he could truck with passing this off to another hunter just because it feels wrong, not when he sees the pale waxy skin of those dead girls etched with ancient Hebrew like they were social studies art projects' gone horribly wrong. Hell, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
“Figure something out?” Dean asks, just this side of sullen, swirling his spoon in the thick blue mug of diner coffee.
Sam shrugs. “We’ve got to go there, is all.”
Dean sighs and looks out the window. “I knew that.”
Sam laughs uncomfortably and moves to lighten the mood. “When I was on the internet I looked up Miss Mackler, she’s still teaching at the high school.”
Dean blushes and throws his napkin at him. Dean remembers Miss Mackler. Oh does he ever. She was tiny and blonde and taught English honors, and it was quite possible that the only time Dean actually did his assigned reading was in her class. Dean didn’t have to say a word to Sam about her, but even at fourteen the perceptive little bastard had cottoned on. He had never let Dean forget it. Sam was still at the middle school, Washington, or he’d understand. There was just something about her, even the way she gave out vocab words and chastised Dean to raise his hand was hot.
“What about the crypt keeper, Bowen?”
“The one who got you suspended twice?” Sam asks, biting into his fruit with a fresh-sounding crunch.
“I didn’t deserve those suspensions!” Dean protests. "Well--not the second one."
Sam rolls his eyes. “Yeah, he’s still there--teaching religious studies and advanced Latin. Maybe we should ask him about this stuff!”
“Hell no!” Dean says with an exaggerated shudder. “That fucking ghoul was a few sandwiches short of a picnic, used to get his jollies off humiliating kids. It'll be a cold day in hell before I ask him for help!”
Sam snorts, but tactfully doesn't point out that that day might be sooner then he thinks.
Dean finishes off his shitty coffee, pushes his plate aside and goes to pay at the register—stoic in the way that Dad trained him. Sam is left to gather all their stuff together and shove it in his bag. He knows Dean is a little bit rocked about this one. He saw the way his eyes listed off into the distance like he was remembering. Dean hates to look back, Sam doesn’t need to be reminded. They’re in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Maryland’s a good 2000 miles out and not over easy roads. They're going anyway--time for the prodigal sons to return.
Sam looks the directions up on google, but he knows Dean won’t need them. The same way that Sam can analyze political trends with a row of numbers is how Dean can get them across the country without a wrong turn or a misspent mile. It’s just something he knows.
They drive 500 of those miles without a break, Dean listening to Judas Priest while Sam overdoses on advil. Sam found a four cassette set of air guitar classics for him the last time they stopped at a dollar store. Now he’s really starting to regret it. From the way Dean bitches about his music, you’d think he was asking to play Alanis Morissette (and fuck you, Sam does not know all the words to “Ironic”).
He shakes his head when Dean elaborately drums on the steering wheel, mostly a half beat off. Dean’s music career ended pretty solidly with recorder back in fourth grade. He pulls his hood over his ears and analyzes the photos from the coroner’s office more closely. The little steno steno notebook he picked up is already covered with illegible scribbles while Dean continues his percussion on the wheel. Dean very nearly swerves off the road when Sam sits bolt upright out of his slump and shouts, “God!”
“Christ, Sam!” Dean snaps, annoyed at his own jumpy reaction more than anything else. Sam cracks a smile. “What?”
“I’ve figured out what the carvings on these girls are from!” He pages through a few more notes and then looks at Dean in clear triumph. “It’s from the Tanakh, one of the twelve minor prophets, the book of Joel.”
“Dude, since when did you go all rosetta stone on my ass?” Dean asks.
"Ignoring the fact that the Rosetta stone was written in Egyptian and Greek, I have realized I should just be proud you actually know what the Rosetta stone is," Sam says dryly, "I was just checking the letters against this thing, and the first passage I came to checked out.”
Dean ignores the barb in favor of something more troubling. This is the 17th time this has happened to Sam lately, Dean's been counting. Sam pulls out a book and it opens to the exact page he’s looking for, the first thing his finger lands on turns out to be the long hidden answer, Dean loses something, it's in the first place Sam looks. Dean’s starting to think it’s more than a little lucky.
Dean clears his throat and struggles to come up with a properly irritated tone. “It's covered in ancient writing, fool, you caught my drift. You gonna keep me hanging to be a superior little bitch?”
He can't even see Sam's sour face, but the thought makes him smile. Sam assumes his reading voice, ‘“Then afterwards I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.”’
“Whoa,” Dean sneaks a look at the photos. "‘Pour out my spirit on all flesh?' Sounds like a biblical excuse to jizz on people.”
“Sometimes, I really wonder how we can be related,” Sam says lackadaisically, shuffling all of the papers and books that he had his lap into the back seat. “At least we know it’s not a demon.”
Dean shrugs. “Jizz aside. Perverting the word of God seems pretty demonic.”
But Sam is silent, and when looks over to see why, he finds him asleep, lashes a sooty dark curtain against his cheek bones and lips parted, even as his shoulders are riding up around his ears. He’s guarding himself like he’s prepared for nightmares and Dean sighs and settles in for the ride.
They arrive in Cumberland in the early afternoon. Dean can’t stop himself, he pulls up to Penny’s Diner for lunch, just because it’s out on Winchester. Sam hated it back then, because the waitresses made him uncomfortable, and it was the local hangout for the high school kids. Dean used to drag him along and ply him with malts and cheese fries when Dad said he couldn’t go out without Sam--those were the days before Sam was allergic to calories. His friends hadn’t minded his younger brother, because he’d developed a sassy mouth by age eight that still hadn't developed into surliness as an adolescent, and he spent the majority of the time ignoring them and doing his French 1B homework.
The diner hasn’t changed in any way that matters. It's almost more unsettling than if it had, but there it is, the same buzzing 24-hours sign lighting up the window, the same jukebox, the same uniforms on the waitresses. He wonders if any of the waitresses he knew are still working there. God knows he’s got some unfinished business with Mindy. Another little secret he unsuccessfully hid from Sam. But then he couldn’t really hide being dragged off to the back room by his shirt collar just when her shift ended.
Sam comes awake with a start when he realizes where they are. "Jesus, Dean, this place?"
Dean glares back and Sam decides to let it go. He wonders occasionally what Dean would’ve been like if they stayed in one place—if he would’ve been a regular at a place like this and a fixture at the pool table over in Brewski’s sports bar—not that he wasn’t when they actually were living here. Dean made good use of his collection of fake IDs at Brewski’s, cleaning out at the pool table and going home with older girls--women really. He can remember more than a few fights between Dean and Dad over the proper use of their ID library.
It’s funny to think of a time when Dean champed at the bit, when he was a normal teenage boy who didn’t blithely fall in line. It was such a hiccup in Dean’s behavior, or maybe not. Maybe when they left that awful summer Dean shut down a little, became an adult with the first press of the gas pedal on the interstate. Dean was young without youth.
Sam sighs and looks out into the sunshine, bright blue sky like a bowl washed clean of clouds. He'd wanted so hard to turn around the day left, to freak out and start pulling the boxes out of the car. He’d found the crumpled senior issue of the school newspaper next to Dean’s bed when he’d packed the last of their stuff up. All the things that they’d accumulated in their two years of inertia disappearing into boxes. He’d resolved himself never to let his options and aspirations be taken away from him, the way Dad had robbed Dean of his.
He'd known what they were getting into when they decided to come here, but he realizes he hadn't really understood either. Sam’s not sure Cumberland’s a box that’s ready to be opened. There’s a lot left unsaid, and Sam knows Dean will pick bitter fight after fight to avoid having to come right out and say it.
He looks back over at him as he cracks his back, sore from the car ride. Dean’s fighting a smile that his face can’t quite contain and Sam thinks maybe Dean is owning up to something, facing down the fact that he missed this place. Maybe feeling a little a sad for missing it change...
They’re recognized by their dad’s favorite server once they step through the door. He always left a 20% tip for her, a rarity, to be sure. Joanne is from Georgia and fifty if she is a day, but still slim with candy-apple red hair. She spots them as she’s filling the register up with change and knows who they are instantly. “Well would you believe it, looks like some Winchester boys went and done growed up on me.”
Dean laughs and Sam ducks his head.
“Been how many years since I saw y’all in here after every game?” Dean counts back in his head, as she smiles wide and leads them to a booth by the window. Sammy has to fold himself into the seat and Joanne looks on in wonder. “Good Lord, Sam, you did get tall.”
Sam hates that. Do people think he doesn’t notice?
She asks if they need menus and Dean nods for old time’s sake. Sam’s going to crawl through it the best he can, trying to find something with fruit or vegetables for a few minutes before he gives in and orders a burger. Dean knows him.
A few of the older waitresses remember them and they stop and say hello. They don’t ask after John, and Sam has to wonder if maybe they’re a little bit psychic. Turns out Mindy’s gone, went out to see the world, and bogged down a few states over, last they heard from her.
Sam knows Dean feels regretful, but he also knows there were at least five other girls he was going with in their two years out here. He wonders what it’s going to be like when they run into them. Sam has an idea. He’s settling himself in for a long hard laugh.
They leave with a Styrofoam take-out box filled with blackberry pie coated liberally in powdered sugar. Dean isn’t going to let Sam have a bite of it.
Dean carefully skirts their old neighborhood, the dingy little three-bedroom they’d gotten for cheap because the electricity was spotty. It only took about two hours of marking the house up with a broken stick of blue sidewalk chalk and Sam trying out various incantations to get rid of the ghost infestation. The house was still drafty and creaky and cold though. Sam had spent many a night huddled back to back with Dean for warmth on his brother’s bed. There’s a Super 8 motel off route 68 and they head for that.
Dean sacks out on the bed nearest the door as soon as they get through the door. Within seconds, Sam is set up on the internet looking up the implications of the writings on the girls’ skin. Dean is still bitching about the fact that they’re on the third floor rather than the first just because Sam insisted on non-smoking.
Sam considers tossing a book at him, starting a wrestling match that would exercise off some tension. He’s finding dead ends. There isn’t anything in Dad’s journal. He doesn’t like this. The past couple jobs of minimal fact checking and witness-trolling have pampered him soft.
Sam has even cracked open the ecclesiastical texts left to him by Pastor Jim. Dean idly pages Highway to Hell: the Life and Times of Bon Scott, trying not to give in to the urge to nap. The sunlight spilling through the window illuminates the tips of his hair and turns his lashes into lines of light. He doesn’t look like Sam’s brother like that. He looks other, more than human. Sam turns away, considers asking Dean for help and disturbing that sharply rendered tableau. He’d help Sam, or he’d try anyway, but they both know he’d only get in the way. Dean hasn’t the patience for this. He’s too frenetic, too edgy to go through something sentence by sentence until the write thing pops out.
Sam chucks the book at the wall instead and lets out a frustrated huff. Dean looks up from his biography, it closes on his place and he sets it aside with a sigh. He wasn't going to read it anyway. Rock Star stories always make him depressed. He’s not sure why.
“There’s nothing,” Sam tells him in explanation. “We’re just going to have to go to the crime scenes, see if they’ll tell us anything.”
It takes some sneaking to get into the first victim’s house. It’s in the upscale part of town, near Constitution park, an old Victorian with rambling gardens. She was young, 32, some high flying lawyer with the local firm. There was already a new family in the house. Police report said she was found in the master suite two weeks after she died, blood still crimson on the carpet like she’d been killed only seconds before.
There’s a group of kids playing in the backyard, freeze tag or something. A beleaguered nanny watches them from the back porch, swallowing down lemonade like it’s going out of style. Dean wonders briefly if the faint amber tint is from that old fellow Jim Beam. They climb a trellis to an open window on the second floor and find the room with only a little trouble. It kind of amazes Dean that these people have no clue that two strange men found their way into the house in broad daylight.
They tread carefully nevertheless.
Sam is even more frustrated when the scan of the bedroom is clean. Blood shows up everywhere under the black light, but there are no messages written on the walls, no cryptic bible verses. They weren’t expecting sulfur and so it came as no surprise when they didn’t find any, but nothing comes up with EMF either. Sam runs a hand through his hair, making it stick up on end. He hates it when he can’t figure something out.
“Fuck it, Sammy,” Dean says, desperately going through the walk-in closet for some kind of clue. “It looks clean.”
Sam throws up his hands. He doesn’t have any ideas either. They leave through the side door with no one the wiser.
None of the other crime scenes yield better answers. Sam’s eating at himself with frustration. It’s 10 PM before they give up. Dean drives them downtown, eyeing the lights and old architecture. A lot of the shops are new, but the buildings are the same. The number of art galleries seems to have increased exponentially. Sam wonders aloud if Cumberland became fashionable in the years they were away and Dean shoots him a look.
He pulls up at a 7/11, going in to indulge himself in a Cherry Coke big gulp. He gets a Vitamin Water for Sam. It takes a second to get his change, the cashier has some serious butter fingers because he’s eying a girl in short denim shorts bending over a case of Smirnoff Ice. Dean snorts. That chick’s way out of the poor guy’s league. He dumps the change in the tip jar anyway, consolation prize and all that.
Sam is standing outside the car looking up at the sky when Dean comes out.
“Hey, what’s up?” he sets his brother’s drink on the hood of the car and leans against her.
Sam turns at the sound of his voice, eyes alighting on the Vitamin Water. “I always wanted to try one of these, especially the pink one.” His voice comes out more rapid, more sing-song, and if Dean hadn’t already been getting weird vibes from the Vitamin Water comment, the sound of Sam’s voice would've been more than enough to tell him something's off. Sam guzzles these things down. He prefers them over actual sleep.
He backs up, reaches for his gun, and is met with cold fear when he realizes he isn’t carrying. Sam had got on him about the Shall Issue laws in this state. Told him the gun control was strict. Said it wasn’t going to look good if any cop looked at Dean’s guns and realized they had all been bought in different states with different names. Sam hadn’t even wanted to know what the jail sentence was for transporting firearms across state lines, but he’d had a good idea that it wasn’t light.
“What have you done with my brother?” Dean asks, his voice cold and tight, nails digging into the waxy layer on his Big Gulp cup.
Sam’s eyebrows furrow. “Dean, what are you talking about?” He reaches across the hood for the Vitamin Water.
He laughs humorlessly. “Believe me, fuckstick, I know my brother and you aren’t him.”
Sam lets out a huff, eyes rolling upwards, and hands coming to rest on his hips. It's entirely feminine and on Sam's body all that more bizarre. “I should have known I wouldn’t be able to get you going for very long," the girl in Sam's body says.
Dean’s eyes narrow. “What have you done with my brother?”
“Nothing,” she says lightly, twisting the top on the vitamin water and taking a delicate sip before continuing. “I’m just borrowing him for a little bit.”
Dean growls. “Well times up, give him back!”
She rolls her eyes again, and gets into the car like Dean isn't two steps away from bloody murder. “Dean, you aren’t going to exorcise me, I’m not some demon to be cast out, and right now, I need your brother’s body more than he does.”
Dean wants to throw something, possibly his beloved big gulp.
He mutters to himself as he gets in the car and slams the door. “How do you always do this to me? Do you enjoy being possessed by ladies or something?”
She hears him, cocking Sam’s head. “This has happened before?”
Dean shoots her a dark look. “Once.”
“Well, okay Mr. Grumpy Pants, we won’t talk about that then.”
Dean stares at her in mute shock for a second. She just called him Mr. Grumpy Pants. Mr. Grumpy Pants just came out of Sam’s mouth. If this wasn’t so dire, and Sam wasn’t, you know, possessed, again, he’d probably be laughing his ass off.
Dean Winchester is not giving up on getting his brother back from Ms. Crazy Body-Snatcher Harpy. He has a sudden idea and reaches across to the glove compartment. He knows at least one throwing knife has been stowed in there for safe-keeping. She seems to sense what he’s planning before he’s even halfway across the seat though. Sam’s arm comes up, his fingers tightening around Dean’s wrist.
“Don’t, Dean,” she whispers. “I promise not to hurt you or your brother, but I’m not going anywhere until I’m ready to leave.”
Dean wrenches his arm away and drops his head to the steering wheel. “I don’t need this right now.”
She makes a disgusted noise, the one thing that she and Sam have in common, and leans back into the seat. “Well I didn’t need to be dead, and honestly, I think my situation’s worse.”
“Couldn’t you have possessed someone else?” Dean asks petulantly as he pulls out of the parking lot. He sees no other option than to go back to the motel where at least he can keep an eye on her.
“No, I could not have possessed anyone else,” she shoots back, crossing Sam’s arms over his chest. With his knees drawn together and his chin raised like a defiant little spit-fire, Sam looks, well, completely ridiculous.
“Sam’s just prime possession material then?” Dean asks when he stops at a light.
She shrugs. “Not particularly. That wasn’t really the point.”
He shouts, “The point? There was a point?”
She doesn’t answer and he gets back on route 68 with a growl. The girl in Sam’s body cranes his neck around to look in the backseat. Bags of salt, lighter fluid, books on demonology, latin dictionaries, and somewhat improbably, a large canister of Fortnum & Mason Darjeeling tea. Last hunt was a bit of a doozy.
“So you’re like, Van Helsing or something?”
Dean ignores the comparison and keeps his eyes on the road. “What the hell do you know about it?”
She shrugs. “I’m a ghost, it’s pretty obvious to me.”
“Some kind of fucking ghost," he says with a derisive snort. She’s looking out the window, teeth digging into her lip. It’s Sammy’s ‘deep contemplation’ face. "You're not making people's taps cry blood or writing dyslexic warnings on mirrors."
“Oh, the things I could say in reply to that! Well, whatever, I’m not trying to rip people up in new and creative ways.” She shifts around in her seat. “I faint at the sight of blood.”
That’s just great. He doesn’t have his brother, he has a fainting ghost thing, and he still has a case involving weird dying girls. Weird bleeding dying girls and he’s not sure he knows how to do this alone anymore.
A car ahead of them, a junky old Cadillac, is going exactly the speed limit and who does that? Dean swerves into the opposing traffic’s lane to pass the Caddy. Sam shrieks and grabs onto the dashboard.
“Gosh darn it, Dean, you haven’t changed a bit!”
"What the hell?" Dean looks over at her. “Do we know each other?”
"What? Why else would I possess your big lug of a brother?" she shouts incredulously. “Duh, we know each other, still aren’t using those brains are we?”
It comes to him like an epiphany. Maggie Cole, fifth period history, senior year, glasses, perfectly pristine clothes, and a royal pain in the ass. She slammed everything he ever had to say in that class, made fun of him for being on the football team, and continually implied that he didn’t have two brain-cells to rub together.
“Of course it would be you to possess my brother!” He pulls into the motel with a screech of the breaks. He apologizes to his baby, but still feels the gesture was necessary.
“Yeah, well,” she snarks back, overcompensating like she's going to hit her head as she stumbles out of the car. He nearly cries when he hears the door slam. “Couldn’t get the dumb Winchester.”
“Oh please.” Dean walks into the motel lobby ahead of her. He throws a glance back at her over his shoulder. “You were totally in love with me back in high school, don’t try to deny it.”
The way Sam’s cheeks light up, Dean knows he’s scored a hit. He flashes a smile at the desk clerk who looks like she’s ready to go clubbing after her shift is over. The clerk smiles back, and then runs her eyes over Sam. Too bad Sam’s possessed by a psychotic feminazi and can’t appreciate it. Oh hey wait, that isn’t any different than usual. The clerk notes Sam’s obliviousness and then turns back to Dean.
“You got everything you need?” she asks, voice laden with meaning.
“I’m good, thanks,” he replies with a wink. They move off to the elevators. Maggie is hacking and coughing, her face twisted into a disgusted expression. Dean remembers this part.
“It’s not like I wouldn’t have gone with you,” Dean says, shooting her a pointed look. “It’s just the ‘tude was a serious dick softener.”
They step into the elevator and she’s silent, staring at the panel of numbers, hip cocked and eyebrows drawn tight. Not even Sam’s own bitchy glare compares to that expression.
“Look, are you sure you can’t possess somebody else?” he asks her one last time, when they step out on their floor.
She looks ready to slap him. “No!”
Dean unlocks the door to their room and gestures her in ahead of him. “We’d get a whole lot further if you just tell me why you need to possess my brother. Because I said so isn't really my style.”
She sighs and falls back on Dean’s bed before he can stop her, groaning inwardly at how she arranges her limbs so that Sam's shoes don't touch the covers. “It’s my unfinished business,” she tells him like that’s all there is to it. He crosses his arms and leans back against the cheap plywood bureau, expression dark.
She sighs again and the blush is back on Sam’s face in full-force. Meg was so much better at this imitating Sam stuff. She had the way he moved down perfectly, but Maggie isn’t trying to be anybody but herself in Sam’s body. She sprawls like a girl, legs kept perfectly together, hips angled in.
The room is quiet for long moments before she finally speaks up, “I never got to kiss anyone before I died.”
Dean practically falls off the bureau in surprise. As it is, he gives himself a pretty good raspberry on the small of his back. “What? Are you kidding?”
She rolls over so that Sam’s back is to him and huddles inward on herself.
Dean comes away from the wall. “What kind of unfinished business is that?” He’s only one decibel level away from shouting.
“I know, okay!” she shouts back. “I know what it looks like!”
“Dude, can’t you just let your unfinished be getting over the fact that you never got kissed?”
She bolts up in bed. “Hello? I’ve been dead for ten years! Don’t you think I’ve tried that?”
“I can’t kiss you!” Dean shoots back. “You possessed my brother! If you wanted me to make out with you, you would’ve had better luck with the girl at the desk!”
When Dean looks back at Maggie her shoulders are shaking in silent sobs and it hits him like a punch to the gut. He’s a total sucker for crying girls, not to mention crying brothers. Maggie has managed to roll it all into one, and Dean feels like the worst person in the world, which is not fair, because nothing about this situation is his fault. And now he's going to have to apologize.
He sits down next to Sam on the bed and lays a tentative hand down on her shoulder after hovering over it in indecision for a long moment. “I’m sorry, but try to think of it from my angle, okay?”
Tears are still running out of Sam’s eyes, but she nods like she understands.
“So you died just after we left, huh?” Dean asks, lying back on the bed next to her. She rolls to face the ceiling and nods again.
“Three months after graduation,” she says in a monotone. Dean thinks it can’t be the most happy memory. If he remembers correctly she was going to Wellesley or Vassar or some girly liberal arts school where she probably would’ve been in feminazi heaven.
He drops his voice, trying to use Sam’s comforting tone, he hopes he doesn’t fall too short of the mark. “What happened?”
She tenses up next to him. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Dean sighs. “Right fine. You don't want to talk about it. So this is my bed, and that one’s yours, so maybe you could—”
“Aw, Dean, don’t want to snuggle with me?” she asks, dripping sarcasm. Dean sighs, and the bitch attitude is back.
He’s not going to give her any bait with that one and she gets up and moves to the other bed with a huff, kicking off Sam’s shoes petulantly and climbing into bed, jeans and all. Dean guesses that’s a hint that they’re going to pick this up in the morning.
Well whatever, he’s not going to change his routine just because Maggie’s in the room. He shrugs out of his jeans and slips out of his shirt, there’s a knife under his pillow and now he can sleep. Although it doesn't last. He wakes himself up at three in the morning. Maggie sleeps peacefully in the other bed, chest rising and falling. Dean can already tell she sleeps more solid than Sam does. He reaches over the edge of the bed and pulls out the book of exorcisms Sam copied down for him.
He finds an earmarked page and starts reading, “ ‘Crux sancta sit mihi lux. Non draco sit mihi dux. Vade retro satana. Nunquam suade mihi vana. Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas.’”
He watches with furrowed brows as nothing happens. Maggie rolls over, eyes flashing open and Dean curses, startled. She makes a disgusted noise in the back of her throat. “That’s the wrong one, dumbass!”
Dean throws the book aside and rolls back over to sleep. Looks like the bitch ain’t going anywhere.
The next day when Dean wakes up again, Maggie is lobbing Sam’s clothes around the room in a fit.
“What are you doing?” He cries, sitting up on his elbows, wiping sleep out of his eyes.
“Awful, awful, awful,” she shouts, tossing a hoodie aside. “Your brother has the best body I have ever seen, better than yours,” she looks pointedly at Dean’s bare chest. “And he insists upon wearing this baggy California surfer boy wear! Blech!”
Dean is outraged. “My body is fine, thank you!”
She’s discarded Sam’s shirt from yesterday, ostensibly to perv on Sam's chest, but she’s still in the loose jeans that are always falling off Sam’s hips. “Yours is fine, Dean. Just Sam’s is better.”
Dean rolls over and slams a pillow over his head. “God, why?”
She laughs, a deep belly laugh that makes Dean peak around the pillow. Sam should always laugh like that. Girls would be ripping their panties in the hurry to get them off. He’s glad that Sam wasn’t possessed by a giggler. He might have had to shoot her and then no more baby brother. That would have been a tragic end to that story.
“Oh man, I have to pee!” she cries suddenly. “I didn’t even think about that!”
Dean groans under his pillow. “It’s not hard, just point and shoot.”
A pair of jeans smack down over his mid-section, but he hears her stomping off into the bathroom. He has about five seconds of quiet.
“Oh my god!” she screeches. Dean rolls out of bed and is on his feet in seconds.
“What?” he calls back, knife in a loose grip. “What is it?”
“Heh.” Dean can hear the embarrassment in her voice. “You know, I think I’ve got it.”
Dean snorts, looks like she caught sight of the equipment. If she’s never even kissed a boy, he highly doubts she’s gotten an eyeful of dick before. Dean climbs back into bed.
“I’m sleeping for another two hours!” he yells, muffled by his pillow. “Don’t do anything stupid with my brother.”
Maggie doesn’t respond with any harsh witticisms so he finds it safe enough to succumb to sleep. When he wakes up some hours later, the light filtering through the blinds tells him he’s slept way more than two hours. He rolls over and looks at the alarm clock on the night stand between the two beds.
Christ. It’s been a long time since he slept that late. Sam never lets him. He throws back the covers and rolls out of bed. Maggie is nowhere in sight, but she’d neatly folded the clothes she’d been hurling around. It bothers him a little that she isn’t there. Okay, a lot, actually. It isn’t just some random person she’d run off with, it's his brother. Although, if anybody is has to possess Sam, at least Maggie is a persnickety little brat. It could have been Ashley Adams. One of his football buddies had knocked her up because she’d used mail-order diaphragms.
He sighs and cracks his neck. He could freak out and go after her, but he’d checked out the window and his baby was still there, gleaming black in the sun. Maggie couldn’t have gone far. She isn’t the type of girl to hitchhike. He settles on taking a shower.
Maggie had taped a note up to the mirror at the exact level of his face. He rips it off with a frustrated noise in the back of his throat.
Had to take care of some things.
I won’t be gone long.
There’s food in the fridge.
She doesn’t dot her I’s with hearts or anything, but it’s clearly a girl’s handwriting. Sam’s is neat to a fault, but no one could mistake the soft rounding edges of this hand for anything other than a woman’s. He wonders what exactly she has to take care of, and then figures he probably doesn’t want to know. Maggie had her little posse of girls back in high school, not a single guy went close, and the rest of the student body was a little unclear if the group understood the definition of fun.
He crumples up the note and chucks it into the waste basket before stepping into the tub.
The shower head has the pounding almost too hard spray that Dean loves, water wrenching all the tension out of him. He resists the urge to lean against the shower wall and just let it wash over him. Ever since Sam had shown him that thing on motel showers—bleh, what a fucking ruiner. Maggie returns when he’s toweling off in the bathroom.
He steps out into the room and nearly kills himself tripping over a pile of shopping bags. Maggie has once again left the room, but she left behind an entire shopping mall on their floor. He certainly hopes she’s not going to stuff Sam into some frilly dress by Forever 21.
He pulls his clothes on in harsh jerky movements, feeling like he’s about to hyperventilate. Clothes! Everywhere. This was always the thing that got him about Cassie. She’d go on shopping binges and attempt to drag him along and by the end he’d be seriously convinced he had asthma.
He’s just got the Styrofoam take-out box out of the fridge because food always calms him down, when Maggie steps back into the room. He turns around and promptly drops the box in shock.
“What are you—” he cuts himself off feebly. “What the fuck are you wearing?”
She looks down at herself. “This?”
“A suit! You are wearing a pansy-ass suit!”
She doesn’t respond with the rancor and the annoyance that she’s known for. In fact she laughs. “You can’t tell me that Sam doesn’t look good in it.”
“I—” No he really can’t. Sam’s legs go on for miles and the jacket only highlights the trimness of his waist and the breadth of his shoulders. She’d even gone and gotten Sam’s hair trimmed. He thinks he hates Sam a little in that outfit, it is so obviously not his brother. “Are you unclear as to what we do for a living?”
She furrows Sam’s brows. “I saw a suit in his bag, asshole.”
Dean picks up the take-out carton. “Yes, one! It was enough.”
She scoffs and bends to gather the shopping bags that Dean had trampled over. “That tie was criminal! You don’t get a body like Sam’s and then waste it!”
He takes a bite of the turkey-club she’d left for him. “How did you pay for it, huh?”
She chucks him under the chin mockingly. “I’ve been dead for a long time, sugar, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.”
Dean lets out a gust of air and then stuffs another piece of sandwich into his mouth. She makes a disgusted face and moves off. “Can we go back to you calling me asshole and idiot? I just want to impress upon you that 'Sugar' coming out of my brother’s mouth is extremely disturbing.”
She rolls her eyes at him and begins unpacking the bags. She’s gotten herself at least three new pairs of jeans, countless shirts, and a new jacket, not to mention this suit business.
Dean sighs. “We’ve got some work to do for a case today, you look way too slick for a little town like this!”
She crosses her arms and stares at him for a long moment. “Fine, but this suit is Boss, so tell your brother to keep it in a garment bag, and no more relaxed fit jeans for him, okay? Your brother is really tall, he should totally be rocking the straight-legged jeans!”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Fine! I’ll write it down.” She shrugs out of the suit jacket and lays it gingerly over the back of a chair. The tie and dress-shirt follow, and God, what had Maggie spent the last ten years of being dead doing? Striptease? He knows that Sam will just about die of shame at the idea of Maggie pushing those pants down to reveal purple boxer-briefs.
She looks up when he snorts. “You know, trying to get me hot for my own brother isn’t going to get me to kiss you!”
She’s pegged him with a heavy black dress-shoe before he can even blink. So apparently Maggie has figured out how to use Sam’s aim. He’s lucky it missed his collarbone or he’s pretty sure it would have cracked.
“Ow! Christ, woman, no need for violence!”
She’s yanking up a pair of the new jeans and scowling at him. “Just shut up! It’s not like it’s so hard—all you have to do is kiss me, and I can move on! Why are you always such an asshole?”
She runs tense fingers through Sam’s hair and it’s so like his brother that for a moment Dean is almost fooled into believing he’s back.
“I don’t think you understand, you are asking me to stick my tongue in my brother’s mouth,” he snarls, still rubbing at his chest.
She’s folding clothes, viciously, hard jerky movements, that betray the extent of her anger. “I can’t go and possess anybody else.”
Dean throws up his hands. “Why not?”
“Because I can’t,” she grates out, teeth grit and eyes flaring. “I suppose I could find someone else to kiss me.”
Dean’s mouth drops. “Oh, no you don’t! Not in Sammy’s body!”
She raises her eyebrows and puts her hands on her hips. Dean sits down on the bed with a defeated sigh.
They’re in the car, both coming to the same silent resolution not to talk about it. It’s so odd to see Sam in clothes that fit without eight thousand layers on.
“Does your brother just run cold or something?” she’d asked when she’d looked at the pile of shirts and jackets that Sam usually wore.
Dean had laughed. “Nah, he’s just really self-conscious.”
Her eyes had looked like they were going to fall out of her head.
Now Maggie’s scrolling through Sam’s iPod eyeing the selection. There is no way that any of it is going to end up on his stereo. He made this resolution many years ago, and he intends to keep it that way. They’re arguing about music in five seconds. The only thing she’ll moderately tolerate is Queen, but then she has to sing a long, and it’s awful. Maybe Maggie could carry a tune, but Sam sure as hell cannot.
“Jesus Christ, Dean, could you be a good host, and let me pick the music?” she cries, whacking him on the arm when they’re at a stop light. He’d just vetoed Queen and put in Foghat.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” he asks her. “I didn’t invite you to possess my brother, you just freakin’ did it! Under the circumstances I think I get to do whatever the hell I want!”
She ejects the tape from the tape deck and starts pulling out the long red-brown cellophane strip before chucking it out the window. Dean watches as a car in the right turn lane crunches down over it.
“My brother actually bought me that,” he tells her, after getting his voice back. He’s had it since he was fourteen.
She has the good grace to look a little chagrinned.
“Could you like—calm the fuck down or something?” he begs her. “I’m not going to kiss you, but it’s not like you have to be a raging bitch either!”
“All I want is to move on!” she shouts at him. Dean’s fingers clamp on the steering wheel and his jaw goes tight. The way Maggie sighs he knows he’s won this battle.
Dean changes the subject, “Listen, ordinarily, Sam would do this stuff, but since you took him out of commission…”
“What do you want me to do?” she huffs, arms crossed.
“Just some research,” Dean replies. “I don’t really have the patience for it.”
She makes a face. “It figures.”
He purses his lips. “Can we not do that?”
“What?” she looks at him, arches a brow, Sam’s lips molding into a frown.
“Insult my intelligence every five words?” He pulled into the parking lot of a local Irish pub. Sam used to love the chicken tenders here. “It’s really unnecessary.”
She sighs, grabs some of the books from the back seat and gets out. She shrugs all of Dean’s explanations off and snaps that she’ll figure it out on her own. He lets out a breath and tells himself to let it go. As long as she does it, that’s all that matters.
Sam’s long shadow spreads across the asphalt, claiming the space for himself. Dean smiles as Maggie walks Sam’s shadow right through Dean’s shadow’s stomach. Not Sam, at all. His little brother had thought it unimaginably rude to step on people’s shadows when he was little.
Maggie looks over at Dean, catching the fond expression on his face, and pauses. They stare at each other for a second before she breathes out a sigh and pushes past him into the pub. Dean stands frozen, strangely unwilling to move, in the parking lot.
When he follows her inside, she’s already got a booth and several of Sam’s books on biblical etymology spread out over the table. She’s looking down at the scrawled translation of the Book of Joel that Sam had written out. Her brows are furrowed deep enough that it’ll probably leave permanent lines. Dean still hasn’t shown her the pictures of the dead girls, they're sitting back in the hotel room.
“Dean, I don’t understand what any of this means!” She’s frustrated already, finger marking her place in New Advent. “ ‘Law of Harmony’ and liturgy and rhetoric discourse—they’re analyzing it for form rather than content.”
Dean holds up his hands. I got nothing, it says. She breathes out a sharp breath and slams back a gulp of water. The waitress walks up, clearly only just out of high school. She smiles at Dean shyly, asking them what they want.
Dean brusquely orders a French dip and an iced tea. When he looks over at Maggie, she’s arching Sam’s eyebrow back up into his hairline again. She is remarkably adept at that. Dean shoots her a ‘what?’ look and she shakes Sam’s head and orders meatloaf and potato skins. Dean smiles. Sam will only rarely eat potato skins, but Dean loves them.
“I can’t believe you didn’t hit on that poor girl until she was dizzy with it!” Maggie jabs at him with Sam’s foot.
Dean makes a face. “You’re kidding right? That girl’s barely out of diapers.”
She crosses her arms. “Oh don’t go pretending to have morals now!”
“I swear to Christ, it’s your God given talent to needle everybody in the immediate vicinity!”
She looks momentarily stunned, her mouth gaping open. Dean shakes his head and drinks a sip from his water.
“So,” she ventures, voice awash in contrition, “why is the word lord always in capital letters?”
Dean looks over at her as she pushes Sam’s notebook at him. He shrugs. “It usually is in biblical verse, I don’t know. I was never all that interested, Pastor Jim spent a lot more time with Sam than with me.”
“Who’s Pastor Jim?” she asks, her chin on her fist. It almost looks coy. Dean is sure she isn’t even aware of how cunty and stupid she’s making Sam look all the time.
Dean clears his throat. “He took care of us a lot when Sam and I were younger. He died a few years ago.”
She shifts her gaze back and forth, twisting the cap of Sam’s pen nervously. “I’m sorry, I just—I wondered if Sam was doing it on purpose or something.”
Dean shrugs his shoulders. “Why?”
She pushes the book back at Dean and points the pen at the page. He drags the book closer to himself, eyeing the page curiously. Sam had circled random words in the cryptic paragraph in bright red pen, but there seemed to be no pattern to it. It almost looked like he’d taken it into his head to edit the grammar and syntax of the venerable old Bible verse.
Dean groans and looks back up at her. “Could you maybe unpossess him, so that I could ask?”
The young waitress plunks their food down just as Maggie’s annoyed ‘no!’ comes out of Sam’s mouth. The girl startles and blushes.
Maggie turns to her, smiling sheepishly. “I’m sorry, sweetie, I didn’t mean you.”
Dean drops his head to the table in resignation. Everybody in the entire world is going to think his brother is a complete flaming homo.
“Maybe he is,” Maggie says and steals one of his fries.
Dean looks up, he hadn’t realized he’d said it aloud. “Is not!”
Maggie, champion eye-roller that she is, shoots him a look and takes another sip of water. “Whatever, maybe you should just interview the victim’s relatives.”
Dean bites into his burger and takes a minute to savor it before answering, “I would have, if you hadn’t come and snatched Sammy’s body!”
“You can’t even be trusted to interview people by yourself?” she shot back.
“Can so!” he replies mulishly. “It’s just that I gotta watch you, Ms. Crazy-spend-thousands-of-dollars-on-a-wardrobe-Sam-will-never-wear.”
“Well I’m not magically going to come up with the answers from this, I have no idea what’s going on, so you’ll just have to suck it up and take me with you.” She stabs her lettuce with her fork. “Or you could make out with me,” she adds, eyes hard.
“Jesus, a little quieter, please!” Dean looks around the room, hoping no one has heard Sam’s echoing voice.
Maggie looks so incredibly disgusted with him, he feels a little ashamed. They finish off their meal in silence. When Dean goes up to the register, he waits for the gay comments, but none seemed forthcoming. The slip of a girl rings him up and has trouble meeting his eyes without blushing. Dean sighs and pockets his change.
Dean decides he’ll take Maggie with him tomorrow to go question people, otherwise they’ll never get anywhere. Maggie looks at him like he’s pure evil. He supposes he can understand why she’d be upset. She probably doesn’t want to still be here, and he knows he could do something about that, but she really is asking a lot. Sam is his blood, and she might move on, but he’ll have to live with it.
The third victim, Alicia Cohen, had a sister who worked in a record store off of Broadway. Her parents had been completely uncooperative to questioning. Maggie didn’t have Sam’s usual glib soothing tongue, and it was a near disaster. So they decided to try the younger sister next.
Tory Cohen is a tiny fairy of a girl, nothing like her sister who was only visiting for a short while before going back to her internship in DC when she was killed. Tory wears a black tinker bell dress, caked on make-up, a full stack of rings marching up both lobes, and a scowl. Unfortunately, Maggie abandons him for the nu-rave electro-pop section.
Dean walks over to Tory, who is staring him down behind the register, and flips open his badge. “Don Von Fleet, FBI.”
Tory glares at him for a few seconds before nodding. “What do you want?”
“Me and my partner are here to ask you a few questions about your sister,” Dean replies simply, trying his hardest not to look fazed or confrontational by her bad attitude.
“That your partner?” she points over Dean’s shoulder. Dean turns around to see Maggie singing along to Madonna. God, could she make his life any more difficult?
“I don’t wanna hear, I don’t wanna know, please don’t say your sorry, I’ve heard it all before—” Maggie twirls along to the music, holding a ton of CDs in her hands. Way to go, Maggie, blow their cover in the first five seconds.
Maggie finds another album to capture her attention and goes back to merely bobbing her head. Dean watches a tiny elfin blond teen staring at Sam in obvious awe and appreciation. Dean sighs. His brother is attractive, and the way Maggie’s ramping up his assets with the better-cut clothing and the gayness by just acting like herself means he’s going to be beating off every fairy in a five mile radius. He can’t even make fun of Sam for it, because he’ll get all drawn and pissed off and start diatribing in favor of gay rights.
Tory looks amused. “I didn’t know they accepted openly gay people into the FBI.”
Dean realizes he’s got some fragile admiration from her and he’s quick to jump on it. “Yeah, well, that’s Partridge for you, couldn’t keep him…er…out.”
Tory nods and sighs. “What do you want to know?”
“I can’t believe you!” Dean hisses under his breath as they leave the shop.
“Hey, it wasn’t the singing that made her a useless witness!” Maggie hisses back, struggling, even with Sam’s long legs, to keep up with Dean, who is gunning it toward the nearest deli.
“Sam doesn’t like dick!” Dean grinds out, yanking open the glass door.
Maggie rolls her eyes. “So just kiss me already, asshole!”
“I don’t like dick!” Dean nearly shouts, stomping up to the counter to order a sandwich. Maggie growls.
“I’m not asking you to enjoy it, I’m asking you to allow me to move on!” She grinds to a halt and glances around her, looking at the restaurant patrons who have all stopped eating to stare at the two men. She realizes suddenly just how bad it must have sounded. Dean’s shoulders are up around his ears and he’s completely ignoring her in favor of ordering a roast beef sandwich on Dutch crunch.
Maggie wants to spout off some lines about practicing for a play or something equally ridiculous to take the pressure off of them. An entire family is staring at them in open-mouthed horror. Dean probably won’t play along. She sighs and turns around and walks out of the shop, running straight into that blond kid from the record store.
The kid trips and falls to the pavement, books and papers falling out of his messenger bag and littering the sidewalk. Maggie curses and is down on the ground picking papers up in seconds.
“Can’t trust you to do anything,” Dean tells her, biting into his sandwich. Maggie makes a noise and picks up one last paper before getting to her feet. The kid is babbling apologies and Maggie is ignoring him, peering at the paper closely.
“I’m so sorry,” the kid says and runs a hand down Sam’s arm. Maggie is too engrossed to notice.
“Sam,” Dean starts, “hand the kid his paper back.”
Maggie looks at him over the top of the sheet and then sighs and hands it over. She drags Dean off before the boy can apologize anymore.
“What the hell, Maggie?” he shouts, trying to shake her off. He’s still angry.
"Quit it! I think I know what Sam was doing!” she hisses.
“It’s a code! There’s a code in the verse!”
“Are you high?”
Maggie growls. “That guy gave me the idea with his paper! Get us back to the hotel and I’ll show you, jerk!”
Dean makes an ugly noise in the back of his throat and unlocks the car. When they get back to the hotel, she starts pulling books out and ordering them across the tiny little hotel desk. She places the verse directly in front of her and starts crossing out words and circling others the way that Sam had started in the verse.
She tries a systematic pattern and comes up with nothing. Then she tries an alpha-numeric pattern and a theme-based pattern. Two hours later Dean is watching Ellen Degeneres and Maggie is tearing Sam’s hair out.
“Are you sure it’s a code? Like completely stake-your-life-on-it certain? Because it seems like you're wasting my time,” Dean intones, not even looking away from Ellen’s hot guest.
Maggie throws a theology text at him. It flies through the air and then stops in motion, pages frozen open. Dean starts, backing up on the bed in surprise.
The book flies straight back into Maggie’s hand. “That’s it! Psalm numbers!”
“What?!” Dean stares at her in mute shock. She’s scrawling on the page again and reordering words. “Maggie, what the fuck! You can't just go defying Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation and then go, 'oh, la-ti-fucking-dah, I've figured it out!'”
"I'm surprised you've even heard of that one," she says as she scrawls the new sentences out on the page. Dean growls and she says, "Right, right, I promised not to insult your obviously extremely ample intelligence anymore. You'll get over it, because I've figured it out!"
Dean throws his hands up in the air, muttering to himself about her flair for drama, when she finally holds the new sentences up for him to read. “‘The survivors shall be great and terrible, turned to slaves of my will, and the heavens shall pour blood and fire. Everyone who calls my name shall see the sun go out and escape into the darkness,’” he reads off and then looks at her bewildered. “Well that’s hardly any more cryptic then what it said before! You could have just been rearranging things!”
“Dean!” she cries. “Look at it, every word appears in a psalm of a corresponding number! Escape, the second word of the 11th line of Joel’s prophecy. And here it appears in Psalm 11:2, and so on and so forth!”
“Does knowing this psychotic prophecy thingamajig help us at all?” Dean asks, frustrated. “Whatever, get to that later. Explain what happened with the book.” Maggie bends back down over the new work and starts shuffling Sam’s research around. “Maggie!”
She hums loudly, tuning him out.
Dean rolls to his feet, at the end of his rope. “Don’t fucking do that! That had better be some weird ghost thing!”
“Dean—” she pleads with him, trying to change the subject.
“Tell me!” he says, gripping her shoulder with punishing fingers, nails digging in deep. She winces and gasps. Dean feels a little bad, Sam’s going to have some pretty ugly bruises when he gets back.
Her knuckles clench tight around the pen in her hand. “Your brother…he—there’s just—haven’t you noticed how whenever he’s looking for something he finds it?”
“He figured out this code after how long? Without even have anything to go on?”
He lets go of her, worst fears confirmed.
“He doesn’t even know how powerful he is!” she continues, oblivious to the look of horror on his face. “Only I noticed right away because after being in my own head—well, it’s noticeably different!”
“I know.” She spreads her palm in the first genuine sign of surrender he's ever seen on her. Dean sinks slowly back onto his bed, breathing deeply. She shifts uncomfortably in her chair, obviously unsure of how to handle his sudden crisis. “Look, Dean, can we at least figure out what this means?”
Dean turns back to her. There she is, wearing his brother’s body like he wears that horrible camel-colored jacket. It’s like when he was little, and all he could think was: I want my mom. God, I want my mom. And maybe wanting her hard enough would make her come back. He wants her gone, he wants his brother, not this girl who thinks that Dean is her unfinished business. He shakes his head and squares his shoulders, because this is what he does, he soldiers on. He says fuck it, I’m gonna have a party, like the best of them. And nobody will ever know otherwise.
“Yeah.” He nods. “Yeah, we should do that.”
She cocks her head at him, evaluating, and then, after a long moment, finally clears her throat and starts talking, “You never even told me what this translation was for.”
“Right,” he says dully. The looks she gives him is one of pure exasperation, like she can’t figure out why he’s upset and why can't get over it already. He shuffles through the stack of papers and folders that Sam had left out. He locates the folder of crime-scene shots under a pile of take-out menus, Yum-Mee China Wok right on top of the mangled and pale women with vacant eyes. He hands the folder to Maggie and turns back to the dingy window. “Four different victims, all found with that passage from the Tanat or Tanakh or whatever the fuck gouged into their skin.”
He hears the folder hit the floor with a small pwaf sound and turns back around. “Getting a little clutzy—” he breaks off when he sees the pictures spread all over the floor and the way Maggie has got Sam’s hand pressed over his mouth. It’s Sam’s post-vision face.
“Are you—” he starts to say, but she jolts out of the chair, trying to get as far away from the pictures as possible, nearly tripping on the bags of ammo and supplies.
“I don’t—I can’t—oh my god!” she hides herself in the corner of the room and Dean has another one of those epiphany-type moments. Apparently when Sam isn’t around, Dean really can do this. He remembers those horrible four years of silence, four years of frustration and boredom. But he could do it on his own.
“How did you die?” he asks slowly.
She’s shivering and shaking and refusing to look at him. Her hands are tight on Sam's skull and he’s afraid she’s going to start bashing his brother’s head against the wall.
“NO!” she shouts, and the glass breaks out of the windows. Dean hits the ground, covering his head with his arms as the pieces rain down, shards tinkling against the furniture and carpet like an out-of-tune song. Maggie screams as the TV explodes.
“Christ!” he shouts, pulling himself into a sitting position. His arms are dotted with shallow cuts, but it pales in comparison to the feeling of near rage welling up in him. Women are systematically dying and he doesn’t know why. Maggie’s just proved there is at least one victim that they didn’t even know about.
Maggie leans back in the corner, slumped over. There’s a jagged cut down Sam’s forearm and looking at it just pisses Dean off further. She can go have her useless hysterics elsewhere where it isn’t hurting his brother and she can fucking well enlighten him with what’s going on.
He pulls himself to his feet, summons his father’s best ‘on your feet, soldier’ voice and orders, “You've got ten seconds to tell me what you know.”
She shakes her head and mouths no. An ambulance blows by their motel, sirens blaring. Dean turns to look out the window where the lights are flashing bright blue and red. Two rigs are gunning it down the street and it’s probably just a coincidence, but hell, it might not be.
“That could be for some other girl, some other young woman who’s being defiled and written on like she’s nothing, like she’s trash, for whatever twisted fucked up reason.”
“Don’t ask me!” she says, slamming her head back against the wall. “Please, don’t ask me! I don’t want it!”
“Maggie, do you want justice? Do you want these girls to have justice? Tell me what you know!” He bends down and grasps Sam’s forearms in his hands. “You can speak, they can’t!”
She’s crying, huge racking bitter sobs. She hunches into her legs, gripping Dean back, shaking in his arms like she’s fighting not to fly apart. “Please, oh God please, don’t make me talk about it!”
Dean could soften his tone, tell her it’s all going to be all right, but she’s standing in his way from saving these girls and getting his brother back, and he’ll be damned if he has the energy to just let her sob and wash it all away the way Sam would. “Tell me how you died, Maggie.” She looks up at him, like she’s gathering up the resolve and he knows he’s won. He tilts his brother’s chin up and looks deep into those familiar hazel eyes that now seem so alien and gives in. “I’ll kiss you, once we stop the person who did this.”
Her sobs quiet then and she nods, eyelashes dotted with water. “You’ll let me move on?”
He sighs. “Yes, once you help me, I’ll help you.”
She wrangles out of his grip and wipes her eyes, and with a voice all stopped up from the tears, says, “Okay. Okay then.”
He steps back and away from her, giving her space. She picks herself up off the ground and the glass swirls up off the dirty carpet and refits itself back into the frames, mending seamlessly together.
He swallows. God, if this is what Sam can do—
Maggie interrupts his thought process like she heard him. “That was a ghost thing, dumbass.”
He rolls his eyes. Glad to see she’s back in fighting spirit. “Yeah yeah, okay, talk!”
She nods and stoops to pick up the scattered photographs, before giving up and leaving them on the floor. “I was at home by myself. It was about a month after you packed up and left. You know, I wasn’t all that surprised. Beside your name in the Senior Issue of the paper there was just a big blank, no college, no trade school, no army, no peace corps or community service program, just a white space.”
Dean looks away from her, swallowing. He’d been scouted by both Ohio State and Notre Dame for football, and Pastor Jim had called him about Notre Dame, told him about all his options. He hadn’t even filled out an application. There was nothing in college that he’d wanted, not even for a second. Sam was only fourteen and he’d looked at Dean with despair for a full six months surrounding that time.
“Don’t you want anything for yourself, Dean?” Sam had asked him again and again.
“...I was at home alone and I heard the back door blow open. We were having a really blustery July. Lots of summer storms. I went to go shut it and it happened so fast, like a car crash. I was just walking, hardly paying attention and then I was lying on the floor while this bastard cut into me…” she broke off, her voice getting thick around a sob.
Dean doesn't say anything, careful not to interrupt her train of thought. “I begged him to stop. ‘Please, don’t, please don’t,’ I told him over and over. I begged him. Promised him anything he wanted, but he didn’t stop.”
“Did you see his face?” Dean asks.
“I--I must have, but it's just a giant blank in my head…I just kept waiting for somebody to come get me. I thought, at any minute, my dad’s going to be home,” she stops, choked up. “I didn’t even realize he was writing on me. All I knew was it burned, it hurt so much, and I felt like I was choking on blood.”
Dean nods and looks off into space, wondering. “But definitely a man? Not a spirit or a creature?”
“He got sloppy for a moment, let my wrists go, and I hit him across the face, my charm bracelet caught him above his eyebrow. I remember his skin hanging off in a flap.”
Dean pauses to process. Whoever it was might have a scar on his face and perhaps, with any luck, he could get Maggie to hack him into the police database and see if anybody in the system had suspicious scars. It was the thinnest of threads, but it was better than that jumble of nonsense prophecy she'd come up with.
“The next thing I know, I'm dead, standing above my body, screaming at people to talk to me.” She laughs bitterly. “You know, I was at my own funeral, not that many people came.”
“Maggie,” he tries to interject. Now probably would be the time to comfort her. She cuts him off and doesn’t let him go on.
“It’s not like I was very nice when I was alive, I guess.”
Dean sighs. “I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re not. You feel a little guilty,” she scoffs, “but only a little, because you want your brother back.”
“Whatever, Dean,” she shakes her head. “It’s fine.”
There's a long awkward pause, both of them standing there, unable to look at each other.
“I wonder what the connection is between the victims,” he says softly.
She wipes at her eyes again and shrugs, paging through all the information they’d dug up listlessly. Something catches her eye and she stops, frantically shuffling pages around.
"What? What is it?" he asks.
“It’s right in front of your face, dufus!”
"You know, that really doesn't help."
She scoffs and spins the folder around and fans out each woman’s profile. “An auto-mechanic, a DC intern, a lawyer, and an electrician,” she points out and shoves the papers at Dean to sit down in front of Sam’s laptop. She hammers away at the keys and it's enough to make Dean wince.
She shakes her head. “God, you two are dumb, I don’t know how you missed it.” She yanks him down by his t-shirt to look at the missing persons reports displayed on the screen. “I cross-referenced careers against missing women in the last ten years, this long string right here all show up. God knows what he did with them.”
“Wow, looks like we've got a chauvinistic bastard of a serial killer”
“Aren't all serial killers chauvinistic by nature? I mean, the ones that kill women anyway? Not to be argumentative or anything, but that seems a bit redundant."
Dean smacks her shoulder with the folder. “And...I’m glad to see you’re back to normal.
She ignores him, still typing away. “Well, look at that, 75% of the unsolved homicides here in Cumberland involve professional women or teens going off to college.”
“Christ,” Dean says, horrified by the numbers. “And all I’ve got to go on is a misogynistic fuck with a possible scar on his face from a charm bracelet.”
Maggie unfolds his brother’s body from behind the desk and stands above him. “No not all,” her voice is as derisive as ever.
Dean could pick a fight with her but he doesn’t have the patience. “Alright then, girl genius, tell me what else we know.”
She gingerly holds up a photograph of a dead girl’s leg scrawled over in Hebrew. “He’s obviously got some religious education, enough to be able to write in Hebrew, enough to come up with that Psalm based cipher.”
Dean sits down on the bed and puts his head in his hands. “Man, I wish Pastor Jim were alive, he’d tell me how to go about this.”
“There are two major Catholic churches in Cumberland, Dean,” she shoves at Dean’s leg with her new shoes. “SS. Peter and Paul and St. Marks, and then there’s B’er Chayim Congregation which we should probably also check out.”
Maggie crosses Sam’s arms. “They’re the only kinds of people I can think of that would have the know how.”
"Priests?" Dean throws up his hands. “Protestants have theology education, too!”
“Well, whatever, the flair for drama then, let’s check these out first.”
“Setting terms now?” Dean asks.
"Shut up, do you have anything better? No, you don't," she says, pointing an accusatory finger at him. “Now let's get this show on the road so you can kiss me and I won't ever have to see your asinine face again!”
"Yeah, that's the way to get me to make out with you."
It proved to be another long grueling day of getting nowhere. No priests with scars, no priests coming up with EMF, no priests even looking remotely suspicious of hurting young boys. Every damn one checked out perfectly. And Dean hated putting on the damn dog collar and blacks for nothing. He had a suspicion that Maggie just wanted to see him in the priest get up.
It was really weird to turn around and find the spirit inhabiting your brother’s body perving on you. Dean felt the risk of them being mistaken for a couple increase exponentially, and when you were running around in a priests outfit? That was not supposed to happen. She, of course, could care less.
Dean watched her trip over Sam’s height and twist Sam’s kind face into every shade and value of irritated. When he flirted with witnesses there wasn’t Sam’s resigned amusement or his teasing, just Maggie shoving Sam’s elbow into his gut. Repeatedly. He missed the way Sam cut his pancakes into perfect little squares and didn’t let the different foods on his plate touch. He missed the way Sam folded up the Newspapers after Dean messed them all up and read him the police blotters in the car when the drive was getting long and his knee was aching.
It had only been two days. But there wasn’t any warm presence at his shoulder. Dean could go out and murder someone right now, get framed or some shit, like that dude on TV, and Sam would still love him, would still break into prison for him. Maggie was a reminder of those horrible few months before Sam left for college, when he was still there, still with them, but he was just a hurt dark shadow who had few words for Dean and none for Dad.
He shoved the thought away. He’d get this job done, and then he’d bite the bullet and kiss his brother, if that’s what it took to get him back. There hadn’t really ever been a question of it, he and Maggie both knew it. But Dean wasn't much good at blithe acceptance.
They were at SS. Peter and Paul, about to call it quits for the day, when Father Michael Antoninus, not to be confused with Father Michael Ambrose, asked Dean why he took the black. Dean furrowed his brow and said the first thing that came into head.
“My brother.” And hey, it was true. He wouldn’t be running around in this ridiculous priest getup if he didn’t want Sam back so badly.
“Your brother?” Father Michael asked, face tilted up like he was ready for a story.
Dean sighed. “I thought it would bring him back.”
“Ah,” Father Michael places a palm on Dean’s shoulder. “You're very young.”
But Dean doesn’t feel young and he hasn’t for a very long time.
They don’t get anywhere again. Dean knows they’re looking in the wrong places the same way he knows that Angus’s riff on “Shoot to Thrill” has no comparison. He and Maggie have been fighting, fighting, fighting. Dean, who usually sleeps like a stone, is having trouble shutting his brain down at night. He has all these thoughts and fears he can't help cycling through. It can’t be good for his brother to be all pressed up tight inside his own body, shoved out of the way in favor of Maggie’s consciousness. He's afraid to ask.
“What’s Sam really like?” she asks, when they settle in for bed. “I get little flashes sometimes, I feel what he feels, but it’s funny, I don’t really know who he is.”
Dean clears his throat. “Sammy’s a lot like you, I guess, but uh...a charmer, he can be a real bitch, but when he wants to, he'll have you eating out of the palm of his hand.”
It’s her turn to sigh. “I figured you’d say something like that.”
Dean rolls over in bed. “He wanted to work for the DOJ. I mean, he never told me, but I used to find the internet searches and the pamphlets and the programs.”
“Do you ever wish you hadn’t been raised this way?”
“No,” he snaps, hoping to inject the syllable with enough finality that she'll leave it alone. It doesn't work.
“Liar.” She shifts noisily in bed and then says, after a long fraught moment, “You and Sammy don’t really talk do you? You don’t really ever just enjoy each other’s company?”
Dean shuts his eyes and feels nausea wash over him. “Not for a long time.”
She goes on, ignoring all the signals he sending her to shut up. “He was seventeen when he lost his virginity to a girl in the organic garden club with short hair and a t-shit that said ‘whoever heard of a nice piece of elephant?’”
Dean remembers that day. Sammy coming home looking flushed and hazy and just a little bit triumphant. He’d known that look anywhere, he'd seen it before in the mirror, and he’d waited for Sam to say something, anything, but he hadn’t said a word.
“He loves you so much, you know that?” Dean blinks up at the ceiling and doesn’t answer. “It all gets a little muddled up in my head sometimes, what I feel for you, and what he feels for you, and I just—I want to be a part of you.”
"Well, who wouldn't want to fuck me?" he says, jocularly.
She throws a pillow at him. “Everything's a joke to you!” He hears her punch her pillow a couple of times and then roll over with a huff. Dean fists his hands in the sheets and tries not to think about things better left buried.
There's something soothing about public libraries, maybe because he's spent so much of his life in them, they're almost as familiar as the Chevy or the dime a dozen hotel rooms. Dean can count on the section for periodicals, the reading nook for young kids, clunky old computers for internet, all in their prescribed places, like he can count on the sun rising. He wonders if Sam feels the same way, that the simple predictability of it all grants serenity in a world filled with so little certainty. It's funny, because they'd lived here for two years, and he'd probably not spent a single day here, in all that time.
Maggie is at the microfiche reader, going through films of birth and death records, while Dean scans an Irving novel for all of the dirty bits. She’d posited, somewhat plausibly, that it was a spirit inflicting all the damage. Dean doesn't think so, but since all he's got are gristly crime scene photos, a deranged code, and a half-fleshed out profile of a misogynistic man, he's willing to pursue all leads.
The priests had been so goddamn wholesome you could’ve eaten off of them. It was anticlimactic, and frustrating, because he figured he was due a break at some point. While it was very nice that they kept leading them through their rectories and showing off their reading programs and explaining the organization of their soup kitchens, a little demon action popping up would've gone a long way to relieving his building his anxiety.
It’s funny to think that Maggie never met Sam and now she kind of is him.
The creaky doors blow open and a familiar shriveled figure figure enters the room. Mr. Bowen. His class was an elective, but John had found it valuable, so Dean had sat through two semesters of mind-numbing theological discussion and bible verse that was useful about 4% of the time.
Dean hopes that Mr. Bowen won’t recognize or see him. He sinks low in his chair and brings the paper higher up in front of his face. One of the last conversations he’d had with Mr. Bowen had been had been in the principal’s office about the “graffiti” he’d found Dean scrawling on his desk. It had been a little difficult to argue that all the religious sigils he’d carefully etched into the wood were necessary without looking completely insane, so he claimed to have seen them in one of the texts Bowen had himself.
He figures Bowen won’t be all that open to Dean asking him for help now that they’re in absolutely dire straits. Sam would want him to try though, and if Bowen holds the key and Dean doesn’t pursue it—well that would be shitty. He gets to his feet and...
Maggie jerks around, Sam’s deadliest expression on his face.
“Whoa, Sam,” Dean says. “What’s up with you?”
She raises a finger and points at Bowen, who’s using a step ladder to pull down some heavy books from the top shelf of the Judaica section. Mr. Bowen seems to sense their eyes on hi, because he turns, slowly, searching them out, eyes flaring in the light. Dean’s stomach drops out. It was right in front of them the entire time. And Sam had scoffed when Dean had said Bowen was chock full of crazy.
Mr. Bowen jumps off the ladder, more agile than his age should allow, and bolts out of the heavy front doors with a book in hand. The librarian shouts after him when the sensors at the door go off, but abruptly cuts herself off in shock when Maggie leaps over the reference shelf like an Olympic track athlete. The librarian screeches when Dean tears after the two, jacket flying up and revealing the gun holstered at his waist. He rolls his eyes, pushing past a series of high school students working on a history project. Outside Bowen is skipping through traffic, and Dean sees the cars shake and their windows spider webbing. Sam’s body is glowing, his blue-brown eyes shining like LEDs.
Dean has the strange certainty that the entire street is going to blow apart.
“Maggie, stop it!” he yells, sprinting towards her, and she jerks in surprise, eyes returning to normal. Dean heaves a sigh of relief. They keep running. Bowen’s old and spindly and yet he’s faster—jumping up over low slung fences and navigating through the stream of cars like a cat. Dean is starting to feel the burn in his thighs. Maggie looks barely winded. He curses his brother’s long legs.
“There’s no way I can catch up to him,” she gasps out and Dean shakes his head. She takes in a deep gasp of air, “But I can do this!”
A pile of bricks lying along Bowen’s path fly in front of him, and he smashes into them with a sickening crunch. Dean and Maggie skid to a halt next to his prone form only seconds later. Bowen’s glasses are imbedded in his nose, he rolls weakly on the ground and spits two broken teeth out into the dust. Maggie winces.
“Don’t faint!” Dean tells her and trains his gun on Bowen’s writhing form.
Sam’s face hardens and Maggie advances on Bowen. Dean is a little chilled at the sight. “Been a while, old man,” she says, nudging Bowen with the rubber toe of Sam’s new converse.
“I don’t know you,” Bowen bites out viciously, swiping at his mouth. He glares up at Dean. “But I do remember you, Winchester!”
Maggie squats next to Bowen, elbows laid across Sam’s knees. “Think again.”
Bowen tries to kick up at Sam, but is stopped mid-action by Dean clicking off the safety on his gun. “You remember Maggie Cole?” Dean asks. Bowen stares at him, eyes filled with hate.
Bowen shakes his head. “Of course I remember, terrible tragedy, girl was going on to bright things.”
Maggie snorts and tugs a stained handkerchief out of Bowen’s breast pocket. She swipes it across his bloody forehead, revealing the white line of his scar slicing through his eyebrow. She makes a disgusted sound.
“You don’t recognize me, Mr. Bowen?” Maggie asks him. “I suppose I look a little different.”
Bowen growls and his body rises up off the ground, arms coming up like whips. Dean shoots him, once, in the shoulder and he collapses back on the dusty concrete. He whimpers, but the voice that comes out is warped, gravelly, not his own.
“Why’d you do it, Bowen?” Maggie asks, voice going quiet. “Kill all those girls?”
The iron round Dean pumped into Bowen’s shoulder is smoking and he keens and writhes.
“Tell me, old man!” Maggie shakes his shoulder. “Or I’ll have him shoot out your kneecaps next.”
Dean raises a brow at her, but she doesn’t budge. He thinks it’s very likely that if he shoots out his kneecaps, she’ll fall like a log at the first rush of blood, but it's her show.
Bowen’s wailing increases to superhuman levels and Maggie has to push her palms against her ears. “Get thee behind me, Satan!” she screams and Bowen subsides with a rash of unexpected laughter.
When he finally speaks, it’s with the voice of many. “My will is that of the creator, by his hand, do I so move!”
“You think God wants you to kill all these women?” Maggie hisses, “God? Whose second commandment is love thy neighbor like yourself? Was it not you who taught me that?”
“They were agents of sin!” he says, still laughing. Maggie sinks backward, enervated by this display, and Bowen reaches out, clawing down Sam’s arm with a triumphant yell. Dean's finger tightens on the trigger, but before he can shoot, something about Sam’s posture changes, his body loosens, like he’s suddenly more comfortable with his limbs. Jesus, did Sam kick Maggie out on his own? Sam turns to look over his shoulder at Dean and winks.
He bends back down over Bowen and presses his fingertips to his forehead. “Agents of sin? You can’t come up with a better reason?”
Bowen’s body starts convulsing and Sam glows, fingertips irradiated like he dipped them in glowing paint. Dean’s heart sinks. How much of Maggie’s abilities really have to do with Maggie? He knows with a certain clarity that she could’ve easily lied to him. Who is his brother really? Dean’s starting to grasp the true extent of everything that Sam left out.
“You’re my brother, and I’d die for you, but there are some things I gotta keep to myself.”
Whatever Sam is doing right now—it scares him.
Bowen rolls back and forth, spine snapping taut and then relaxing. Sam holds on, grabbing Bowen’s struggling arms and forcing them back against his chest as he glows brighter still.
“I will not be stopped by the likes of—” Bowen screams and then chokes himself into silence. Spirits start forcing their way out of his mouth. Shiny translucent and trembling images of pretty women with their lives cut short. They array themselves around Bowen and Sam.
“Why?” one of them wails at him. Dean thinks his eardrums might rupture. Maggie seizes control of Sam’s body again. He can tell by the way Sam’s head rises and his knees drew back together. He puffs out a frustrated breath of air. Still going to have to kiss her.
“What did I do?” another ghost covers her pearly face with transparent palms and sobs. “I was getting married in a month!”
“Tell us why,” Maggie exhorts softly. Dean begins backing away.
“I consumed your sin so that I could be made stronger, so that I could act as the arm of God,” Bowen wails, voice thin and broken. He struggles against the tide of spirits who shove and poke and pull at him.
“How long?” Maggie ask, she glances around at the thirty odd spirits who blink in and out in the stark light of the construction site. Bowen shakes his head and refuses to answer. Maggie shouts, “How long?”
He finally coughs weakly, “Twenty years.”
The spirits start shrieking, faces tilted up to the sky, and Dean turns away. No one would blame him for this but it feels like his failure, dad's failure. Sam’s hand is on his shoulder, but it’s not Sam, he thinks bitterly.
“You're acting like this is your fault,” Maggie ventures, fingertips trailing down his arm. Dean shivers and shifts away.
He takes a deep breath and changes the subject, “How are we going to deal with him?”
Maggie smiles, it’s not pleasant. “They are!” Dean looks back at Bowen and the spirits of the dead women. He’s screaming again and Dean hadn’t even noticed. She walks off, hands in Sam’s pockets, practically whistling.
Dean jogs to catch up. “And what about them?” Christ, that’s not the only question they’ve left unanswered. Kissing and Sam’s abilities and Jesus, it feels like the entire world is up in the air. Like he’s a kid again, and he’s just found out that Santa Clause isn’t real. Dean cranes back over his shoulder, Bowen’s limbs are flying about in a bloody mess, gore everywhere, slowly spirits are blinking out.
Maggie nods, catching him staring. “Their unfinished business.”
“How come he didn’t…eat…you?” Dean stumbles, trying not to sound untactful.
She twirls in Sam’s body. “I’m special.”
Dean throws up his hands. “That’s one way of putting it…”
She doesn’t rise to the bait. “And now, what you promised me?”
Dean nods, biting his lower lip. “Once we get back to the hotel.”
She looks betrayed. “You can’t put it off, Dean! That’s not fair!”
“Hey, I promised!” She’s stomping away from him, shoulders drawn up around her ears. He catches up to her, grabbing and whirling her around, framing her face with his palms, like he’s done so many times when Sam is a step away from the edge. “Listen, I promised. I always keep my promises. It’s just, I’m not making out with you with my old religion teacher as a pile of road kill over there!”
She’s crying. He feels irritation welling up in his stomach. What about this situation is his fault? He wants that explained to him. He didn’t ask for Maggie to have a crush on him! Quite the contrary. He keeps his expression even and steps away. Maggie laughs weakly and rubs at her eyes. They fall into step on the way back to the car and he watches the way their legs move together. It’s the first time she’d figured out how to even her pace to match his.
Dean sits at the foot of his bed, eyes on Maggie, who’s leaning against the TV stand. They stare at each other in awkward silence. He heaves a sigh. “Who’d have thought I’d be doing this.”
“Life is like quicksand, you think you’ve got his plans figured out…” She points at the ceiling. Dean looks at her blankly. “What? I heard it in a Delta Goodrem song!”
Dean nods slowly. “Are we even speaking the same language?”
Maggie narrows Sam’s cat-eyes at him. “The only language I want to speak is that one.” She points at the bed this time.
Dean hacks and coughs, appalled. “Okay, you, stay away from the lines!”
She huffs and rolls her eyes, arms crossed tight across Sam’s chest. “Look, could you just kiss me?”
Dean breathes in deep and gets to his feet, shrugging off his jacket and setting it to the side. He looks at her and nods, swallowing audibly. He reaches for her with one hand, cupping her chin and running a thumb across the jut of Sam’s cheek bone. With another stabilizing breath he leans in and brushes his lips across Sam’s.
Her arms come up around his neck and that’s odd, because Sam has four inches on him. He goes with it though, tilting his head back at an odd angle, and yeah, obviously she doesn’t know how to do this. He’s her first kiss. He’s doing his best here. It’s his brother’s mouth he’s pushing his tongue into, after all. She sighs and opens against him, letting his tongue flick hers. It feels cold against his mouth. He feels her eyelashes flutter against his cheek.
He knows it’s Sam in his arms because of the way kiss changes, goes from being awkward and tense into something Dean doesn’t have a word for. Sam shifts, suddenly aware of his body. His arms fall from Dean’s shoulders and Dean thinks he’s going to tear himself away, ask him what the fuck is going on, but he doesn’t, he pulls Dean against him, sucks Dean’s tongue into his mouth and moans.
Goodbye, Dean, he hears whispered against his ear.
Dean’s eyes flutter open and closed. Everything about this is crazy—the last thing he wanted. He hasn’t thought this through at all, but then, when does he ever? He’s sliding his hand around and clenching it in Sam’s hair. He’s already gone and done it now, might as well deal with it when it doesn’t feel so good, doesn’t feel so much like coming home after many years of wandering lost.
They’re spinning, covering the space between the TV and the bed. Sam falls back against Dean’s mattress, tugging Dean with him. It’s awkward and ridiculous again, they’re laughing and clicking teeth and learning each other by the skin of their palms. Sam heaves Dean onto him by the leather of his belt and he snakes his clever fingers under Dean’s shirt.
Dean is fascinated by Sam’s neck where it meets his jaw and the curve of his lower lip and the flush high up on his cheeks. It feels good, maybe too good, that’s why he’s doing it. Sam is pulling him back into equilibrium, callused fingertips running over the warm skin of his back. Sam kisses him with the weight of his dreams and his fears behind it. And Dean fears it, because there’s only one person who can kiss you like that, and if it’s Sam then—Dean is startled by fiery lines of semi-sweet pain down his back.
Sam had scraped his nails down Dean’s back like a woman thrown from gentleness in the middle of her orgasm. And God that gets him. Dean’s breath comes out all shaky against Sam’s neck. Sam chuckles a little, and fuck that, little brothers do not get the upper hand in sex.
Dean brings his thigh up and grinds down into Sam’s crotch. Wraps a hand more accustomed to a gun than to a lover around Sam’s throat, and thumbs his Adam’s apple. Sam moans at the pressure and his eyes snap open to connect his gaze with Dean’s. Dean ducks his head, sinks his teeth into Sam’s lower lip. And Sam just has to one up him, mother fucker, that’s his hand rubbing Dean’s dick through his jeans. And Dean will get him, just—just give him some time to think. He wants to peels the layers off of Sam and—
His cell-phone rings.
Sam snorts when he reaches to grab it, lying like a dead-weight across his younger brother. Dean flicks Sam’s forehead with his thumb and forefinger and flips his cell-phone open.
“This is Dean.”
“Dean, it’s Bobby.” Dean’s eyes open wide and he jerks himself off of Sam, falling to the floor in a tangle of limbs and a loud thump. “Dean? You still there?”
“Yeah, Bobby, I’m still here.” He rolls flat on his back and finds Sam leaning over the edge of the bed, peering at him. He rolls away from Sam so that he doesn’t have to look at him and asks, “What do you need?”
“I can’t believe you kissed back!” Dean says, head in hands after he gets off the phone with Bobby. He’s sitting on Sam’s bed because he’s afraid to go near his own.
“Oh I’m sorry, this is all my fault!” Sam snaps. “I come back into my body to find your tongue in my mouth and I’m to blame?”
“Well you could’ve said ‘Ew, no, wrong, bad touch, Dean!’” Dean replies, voice a little high-pitched.
“Well you could’ve stopped it at any moment, it’s not like we were so caught up in the throes of passion that we couldn’t tell what we were doing!” Dean snorts and Sam’s eyebrows lower over his eyes. “And it wasn’t a bad touch, anyway.”
“I—we’re—that’s just Maggie muddling up all your feelings!”
“Oh yeah? She muddle up your feelings too?” Sam shoots back, pacing back and forth in front of the windows.
“No.” Dean sighs. “I don’t even know what that was.”
“All right, fine. If you don’t want to do it again, we don’t have to,” Sam tells him. “But lets just make sure we’re absolutely clear what it was, and it was not bad.”
Dean puts his head between his knees and breathes deeply. When he speaks up his voice is raggedy, “Psychotic, we’re both psychotic.”
Sam sighs and flops back onto Dean’s bed. “Of course, Dean.”
They go out for dinner, back to Penny’s to say goodbye. It’s stiff and formal and Sam only breaks the silence to ask about the bruises Maggie left on his body. They’d already had the conversation about the clothes. Sam had gone to change out of the form-fitting jeans and shirt the minute he’d gone back only to find that Maggie had damaged or gotten rid of pretty much everything.
Sam had almost cried. Dean probably shouldn’t have laughed at him, but okay, Sam’s new wardrobe was only five steps away from emo-hipster kid. Hunters were going to think Sam was the Anti-Christ just because he had a designer label on his jacket.
Sam had pegged him with a dress shoe in the exact spot Maggie had hit him and then Dean had kind of wanted to cry. Now he’s sitting there, trying not to stare, ice pack for his shoulder while Sam puzzles over a Monte Cristo. Sam had poured more water from the pitcher Joanne had set down without touching it and magnetized the silverware with a touch. Dean was holding up his knife, blade pointed at the ceiling with two forks dangling from it. Sure, he knew that happened with silverware, something to do with the dishwasher.
Actually, Dean, it’s because their trash can has magnetized sides so that they can just upend the plate, and the silverware sticks to the sides.
Dean made a face at the memory of Sam explaining that to him, coffee at his elbow, paper in hand like a scene out of the fifties. So Dean knew that silverware could get magnetized, but this was crazy, he’d never been able to do with with two forks. The weight had been too much for the magnetic pull. He added another one. Three.
A little girl in a booth was looking at him with round eyes and furiously trying to do with her own knife. No luck. Dean flicked the forks, watching as they twirled. Sam took a bite of his Monte Cristo and the forks fell with a clatter.
Dean looked at his brother expectantly. Sam looked back, Monte Cristo still in hand. He swallowed, took a sip of water and squared his shoulders. “Ever since Maggie, it’s been…easier…to do stuff.”
Sam looks back down at his sandwich and Dean gives up. Sam will tell him sometime in the next century, but only if Dean doesn’t pressure him. They don’t speak for half an hour, just eating their food, and calling for more coffee refills. Dean knows they’ve got to figure this out, set rules or something, but Sam’s too busy fiddling with sugar packets. Dean decides he’ll ignore him. That always makes him come round.
“Are you—is it okay that I didn’t—didn’t tell you about all that I could do?” Sam struggles around his words, like they don’t quite fit in his mouth.
Dean looks up from the little sudoku book Maggie had bought herself on the second day there. He’s addicted, carrying it around in jacket pocket. “What?”
“About my abilities?” Sam continues. He looks tense, skittish.
Dean scratches at his face.
When Dean doesn’t answer, Sam looks down at his hands. “I understand if you want to separate. I know you’re always saying it doesn’t bother you, but I know it does and maybe with this whole Maggie thing we should just—”
Dean interrupts, “‘Wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’”
Sam stares at him for long moments, his eyes bright. He knows how the verse ends. He doesn’t need Dean to finish it. He ducks his head then. “I guess Bowen managed to beat a few things into you.”
“Nah, used that to get into this really hot Born Again Christian girl’s pants.”
Dean shrugs and goes back to penciling in numbers. Sam can’t know that when he learned it, he really did have his little brother in mind. Penny brings the check after that, she’s got two boxes of pie, and she didn’t charge Dean for his second plate of chicken tenders. Dean figures out the tip like it’s still there.
“Y’all come back this way, don’t leave it ten years like the last, lord knows I ain’t gonna be around forever.” She says, and swats at Sam’s butt, like she did when he was being rowdy back in the day. Sam colors and waves goodbye, Dean grabs her up and twirls her around. “We’ll be back, Joanne, for your fabulous pie.”
She laughs and tells him to set her down. What would her husband say? They walk out the door of the diner, and Sam knows, as their boot heels crunch through the gravelly parking lot, they won’t be back.
They lie staring up at the ceiling in separate beds. Dean had been all for getting straight back on the road, but Sam asked for a good night’s sleep. Dean supposes that’s fair. But now neither brother can fall asleep. Dean’s been shifting back and forth in bed, kicking sheets around and adjusting his pillows. Sam’s told him to shut up twice, and when he isn’t Dean can hear his beleaguered sighing.
“Do you think we were always moving in this direction?” Sam finally asks, breaking the fragile glass silence. Dean doesn’t have to ask to know Sam’s referring to the kiss.
Dean screws his eyes shut tight. “No,” he tells his brother abruptly.
“No?” Sam repeats. “I’m gonna have to disagree with you.”
Dean groans. “Fine, just disagree in your own head or something.”
“Dean,” Sam starts, voice patient. “I think we were, but then we moved, and we changed.”
“Yeah, you became a little bitch.” Dean rolls, presenting his back to Sam.
“Yeah? Well you became the living dead.” Sam throws a pillow at him, it hits home with a thump. “I was clearly just compensating for your complete lack of emotion.”
“And what about this exactly makes you think we were headed towards fraternal incest?” Dean rolls back over, to find Sam lying on his side, facing him. “You were fourteen!”
Sam cracks a smirk. He slides out of bed and Dean lies frozen as he pulls the covers off of Dean, straddling him. His thumb swipes a burning tingly line across Dean’s lower lip. Dean feels blood rush to the surface of his skin, flush running from his cheeks down to his chest. It’s dark, Sam can’t see it, but he can see the glassiness of Dean’s eyes.
Dean rolls Sam under his body and they go skidding over the sheets, limbs tangled together, bare skin meeting for the first time. Sam’s expression is blank, he stares up at Dean, but in the absence of emotion Dean fines meaning.
Maybe they were moving toward this. Trembling glances and buzzing when their fingers touched. A tight squeeze around his heart when he sank into all those girls. They wasted so much time.
He kisses Sam, gripping him tight, working his hips against him. He tastes of sugar and mango Altoid sours, sweet with a bite. This is what they are, a tangle of lips and limbs and messy feelings, and Dean’s hand reaching between them to curl around Sam’s cock. Sam breathes, let’s Dean touch him, learn where Sam starts and ends.
“Is this how you make love?” Sam exhales.
Dean looks up. The skin of Sam’s abdomen glistens from Dean’s tongue. “No,” he says shortly, irritably.
Sam laughs, pulls him up, crushes their mouths together, melts Dean’s mind with slick flicks of his tongue. He would be aces at making out, Dean thinks, considering that’s the farthest girls would let him go for the longest time. He remembers Sam tense and sexually frustrated, lying in the bed across from Dean’s, while Dean laughed at his hilarious stories of how Sheila or Courtney or Sarah absolutely would not give it up. Now he’s here, grinding and gasping against his brother, wondering how Sam will convince him to give in.
It’s not difficult for him, he catches Dean at a lull, flips them back over. Dean finds his wrists pressed into the pillows by his head, sensation is wrenched out of him as Sam takes his body by storm—teeth at his collar bone, fingers hooking into boxers and tossing them aside, hips between Dean’s thighs. Two days ago there was an awkward girl that Dean really didn’t know inside the warm velvety skin and layers of muscles. Dean doesn’t really know this side of Sam either.
He palms Dean’s skin, tongues along the crease of Dean’s thigh and takes his pleasure in Dean’s. Dean should ask, ‘have you done this before’ or ‘do you know what you’re doing?’ He should, but he’s afraid of the answer. So he holds back, let’s Sam talk him through the breach of one long finger and then two. There is Sam’s mouth tonguing over the slit in his dick, jabbing just under the crown, never giving him the time for second thoughts. Dean moans, it’s too much, much too much. The muscles in his thighs tremble.
“Dean, I’m going to—”
“Just,” Dean breathes, “Just do it.”
Sam spoons up behind him, holding onto Dean’s hip with one hand, and carefully fitting himself against Dean’s opening with the other. He rests his chin on Dean’s shoulder.
“You know I’ve done this before,” Dean snaps, when the bite of pain gets to be a little much and he’s fighting against tensing up.
“Oh yeah? How long ago was that? And were they as big as me?”
“I—” Dean breaks off, drawing the syllable out as Sam slowly slides inside him. It’s almost a gasp, the noise that comes out of him. He arches against Sam, lets him push deeper. “Arrogant bastard.”
Sam shakes and holds still, reaching around to tug Dean’s cock. Once. Twice. “It’s not arrogance if it’s true,” he replies, voice strained, nose against the sharp curve of Dean’s shoulder. Dean cries out as he thrusts in and hits his prostate. He’s vibrating with this, whatever it is. He can hear it in Sam too, in the snag of his breath. Sometime in the future he’ll strong arm Sam up against a wall, and take from him, put that arrogance to good use.
“God!” he cries when Sam fingers whisper over the slit of his dick, pressing down with the pads, smearing pre-come and his own saliva. He’s fighting that pressure, he wants to come. Fucking little brothers. They just have to string you out to the breaking point. Sam’s playing with him, in control of himself and holding Dean just at the edge.
Dean changes the angle of his hips and reaches back to draw Sam closer, deeper inside. His brother chokes, loses his rhythm. Dean feels a rush of satisfaction and he draws Sam’s hand up to nip at his finger tips. There’s that butterfly sensation at his shoulder, Sam’s eyelashes fluttering over his skin. He shudders and Sam’s hand is back on his dick, palm and callous working against his skin in smooth strokes.
There’s blankness in the space behind his eyes. Dean can’t draw breath in and his brain is too preoccupied with the synapses firing in his groin. He’s coming, spilling out over Sam’s hand and the worn sheets. He clenches down without thinking and there’s a hitching noise falling past Sam’s lips, like he’s going to sneeze. His hand’s stilled on Dean’s dick, and Dean pulls it to him, pressing Sam’s palm flat against his beating heart. Sam comes, his cock pressed sharp against Dean’s prostate, and it makes Dean shake.
Dean wakes up to an empty bed and he struggles into a sitting position, blinking sight back into his eyes. Sam is standing naked, looking out the window into the overcast night sky. There’s tension in the muscles of his shoulders all the way down to his legs. Dean can see nail marks in the skin by his hip and Dean wonders when that happened. It’s all a long blur now, a contest to see who can play each other’s body better. He hasn’t had that much sex in a long time.
He says the first thing that comes out of his mouth. “You made me come, you don’t get to take that back.”
Sam glances over his shoulder, his outline faintly silver from the incandescent bulb of the street light. “I was just thinking, what if we hadn’t left that summer? What if you’d gone to Ohio State or Notre Dame or something?”
Dean looks down at his hands, the tent of his spread knees under the covers. “A lot of people would have died.”
Sam is silent, his head is bowed low, there is understanding in the structure and frame of him, but also defeat.
Dean breathes through his nose, and he rubs at his face. “And who’s to say I wouldn’t have blown my knee out and ruined it all? Where would I be then? I’m not like you, Sam.”
Sam nods, lets it go. It isn’t acquiescence. Sam will never stop believing that he is more, that he can be more. And maybe that is love. Because Dean will never stop believing that Sam can beat the demon’s legacy, that he is still human and whole and amazing when he controls things with his mind or looks ahead into what will be. And it scares him, sometimes, all the time, because Sam walks a road unknown in a place that Dean cannot follow.
Dean holds onto that like he holds onto his brother: with a clenched fist and a gun in one hand.
They pull out onto the highway the next morning and head west without ceremony. Sam is sleepy and loose in the passenger seat. Dean looks at his brother now, the way he spreads his denim-covered thighs, trying to accommodate the length of his legs, and there is another layer running over him. One that owns sexuality. And Dean was right, you can’t take that back.
Sam doesn’t ask to visit any last landmark as Dean ratchets up to 75 in a 65 zone. Although Dean thought he might. He is still and silent and when Dean looks over at his younger brother, a rabbit-quick glance, he knows they’re thinking the same thing.
Once, this place was home. There was a super market that Dean stole comics from. An internet café where Sam first plugged college into a search engine. A girl he left behind with an acid tongue and a penchant for hurling insults. Now this place is alien, foreign. Dean is a stranger. He walks through this town and feels all the dreams he had bubbling up, seeping out of the Georgian brick and stone and wood. They fill his mouth and he has to fight to keep them inside. He can’t go back. Not in time. So he puts miles behind him, Sam in the passenger seat getting frustrated over Sudoku, and doesn’t look over his shoulder.
And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.