“Anything?” Dean asks, dropping into the seat across the stained diner table from Sam. He puts his coffee cup down carelessly, slopping coffee everywhere.
“Dude! Not on the laptop!” Sam grouses, dabbing at the offending spill before it can short-circuit his pride and joy.
“Gee, you’re testy when you haven’t gotten laid in three months,” Dean quips. “Maybe we should go see Sarah-“
“I’ve got a potential job,” Sam cuts him off, addressing Dean’s earlier question. “You won’t like it, though.”
“Why?” Dean asks, stuffing bacon into his mouth with two fingers. Sam very resolutely avoids watching Dean eat.
Sam starts to turn the laptop towards Dean, then thinks better of it. He doesn’t need bacon-grease stains on the keyboard. “You’ll have to leave your baby behind.” He nods towards the Impala in the parking lot.
“Wha?” Dean says, (full) mouth hanging open. “I’m not fucking flying again,” he insists.
Sam smirks. He remembers Dean humming ‘Metallica’ on the plane to ‘calm down’. “No, we won’t have to leave terra firma. ‘Commuters say train is haunted’,” he reads out loud to Dean.
“Oh, a train,” Dean says, but the disgruntled look remains on his face as he looks over at the Impala.
“Yeah. Think ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, but with a supernatural component,” Sam says.
Dean just looks at him blankly. Of course, Dean’s never read Agatha Christie.
Sam sighs and shuts down his laptop. “I’ll rent the movie for you tonight.”
“Dude, I hate this,” Sam declares, after he’s bumped his head on the roof of the sleeper car’s hallway for the third time. These things weren’t made for people standing six foot five, that he’s sure of. Or for broad-shouldered men, either.
And they haven’t even made it to their cabin yet.
Dean smirks mischievously. “Maybe you should’ve thought of that before suggesting this job, Sasquatch.”
“Jerk,” Sam snaps, struggling to pull his duffle bag through the narrow hallway.
“Bitch,” Dean answers, still smirking.
Finally, they find their cabin. It’s even more disconcerting for Sam, and Dean’s grin only widens. There’s a seat which Sam guesses folds down into one bunk bed, and obviously the second bunk bed folds down above it. The bathroom? It’s smaller than your standard airline bathroom, and Sam’s always hated those.
“I call bottom bunk!” Dean declares gleefully. There are a couple packs of trailmix, thoughtfully provided by the staff, on the armrest between the two halves of the seat. Dean, being Dean, immediately grabs one and tears it open, popping pieces eagerly into his mouth.
Sam glares angrily at him. “What? Why?”
“Cuz I can’t wait to see how you manage to get your tall Sasquatch ass into the top bunk. Call it tonight’s entertainment.” Dean’s smirk is a near-constant thing by now.
Sam just shakes his head and drops into his side of the seat. “Gee, you’re a bitch when you get separated from your car-“
There’s a knock at the door, and they glance at each other. Shrugging, Dean reaches to open it. On the other side is a pretty blonde woman. “Hello,” she says. She’s wearing a uniform, with the logo of the train on the breast. Sam’s sure Dean’s already noticed, considering that’s exactly where Dean’s looking.
He’s probably not looking at the logo, though, Sam would bet.
“My name’s Julie, and I’m the attendant for this sleeping car.”
“Hi Julie,” Dean says, already turning on the charm. Though to Sam, it seems more like smarm. “I’m Dean, and this is Sam.”
“Hello Sam. So, you two are traveling together? I’m sorry about the two bunk beds, we’re not really set up for queen- or king-size, obviously-“
“What?” Dean asks.
“Um, no, the singles are fine,” Sam says. He knows where this is going.
“Yeah,” Dean says, catching on. “We’re brothers.”
“Oh!” She laughs, blushing a little. “My mistake. I don’t often see two men traveling in a sleeper car together unless-“
Dean laughs, but uncomfortably. Sam just smiles in a friendly way.
“Anyways, it’s my job to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible,” Julie continues, all business again. “If you need any help with your bunk beds, or you need something in your room, or there’s any questions you have, my cabin is the first one in the next sleeper car.”
“Thanks, Julie,” Dean says, giving her what Sam privately thinks of as Dean’s ‘A-1 grin’. “I’m sure we’ll see you later.” He shuts the door.
“Um, why’d you do that? Shouldn’t we ask her about the murders?” Sam points out.
“I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time once we’re under way,” Dean argues, looking irritated.
“The first issue we need to figure out, anyways, is this: Why do these people assume we're gay?”
Once the train starts moving, it’s even worse. Sam doesn’t mind the slow rocking motion so much. It’s more the way the whole cabin rattles when they go over a rough patch of tracks, or the sudden unexpected stops and starts, as well as the sudden decelerations that throw him forward. He’s knocked himself into the wall so many times he’s lost count by now.
The call for dinner comes, and he walks awkwardly down the impossibly small hallway behind Dean. The view is nice, lots of farmhouses and cows and open fields and lakes, but the windows don’t exactly leave much place for Sam to brace himself.
They soon find out there’s also a certain amount of choreography involved in getting from place to place on a train. There’s not enough room to squeeze by another passenger, so if someone appears at the other end of the cabin hallway, coming towards you, one person pretty much has to back up and let the other person go by. Sam hopes they won’t have to do a lot of running away or running towards on this job because, hello, awkward?
When they finally make it to the dining car, they are fortunate enough to sit at a table with a couple who rides the rails frequently.
“We heard there was a murder here a few weeks ago,” Dean says. He’s trying to keep his voice low, confidential, but the effect is spoiled by the food stuffed into his cheeks. “Kinda weird circumstances.”
“Yeah, and some other weird murders before that one,” Sam adds. “Have you two heard any details? Any gossip?”
“Oh yes, that was definitely odd,” the woman says.
Her husband leans across the table, dropping his own voice. “The most recent one? We heard they found the poor man in his cabin. Died of snake-bite, they said. Bites all over his body.”
That isn’t what Sam expects to hear. Snakes? “Um, OK. That is weird.”
“And let me guess,” Dean says, chewing noisily, “They looked afterwards, but they didn’t find any snakes on the train.”
The woman nods. “How’d you guess? I mean, it’s very strange anyways, to have someone die like that, but when they couldn’t even find the animals on board? It would probably have made more sense if there had been someone traveling with a snake as a pet. But that wasn’t the case, from the rumours.”
“Is that how the other people died?” Sam asks.
“Maybe,” the man says. “They’re trying to keep the whole thing pretty hush-hush. Although we heard that they did fumigate the whole train before putting it back into service, each time. So maybe there’s a connection.” The man shrugs. “Me, I grew up in the backwoods. Snakes don’t faze me at all.”
“Yeah, us neither,” Sam says absently. He’s wracking his brains, trying to think of a supernatural snake of any kind, but he draws a blank. Maybe it really is some kind of pest problem? But he decides he’ll check Dad’s journal just in case.
“Well, time to get back. You two enjoy your trip,” the husband says.
“Yes, there’s plenty of soundproofing in each room, so….enjoy,” the wife adds, winking at both of them before following after her husband.
Dean turns to Sam, scandalized. “Dude, I’m gettin’ so sick of this…”
The train slows unexpectedly once again, throwing Sam into a wall. “Fuck,” he mutters under his breath. He hides the EMF under his jacket and fixes a smile on his face as an old couple passes him in the open space at the end of the car.
Sam gets back to the sleeping car and lets himself into their room with a sigh. Nothing, and more nothing. Nothing on the EMF, no lights flickering, no hissing or rattling.
And where the Hell is Dean?
Twenty minutes later, Dean swaggers in, hair mussed and shirt half unbuttoned, and a very smug grin on his face. “Hey Sammy, how goes your end of things?”
Dean’s looking entirely too pleased with himself, and Sam knows what that means. “Dean, did you just get laid?” He makes a sound of disgust. “We’re on a job, and you’re busy screwing around, literally-“
“Whoa, Sammy,” Dean says, holding up his hand. “I was working, really. I talked to Julie. She confirmed that all the other victims died of snake-bite, too. There were even traces of snake venom in all the victims. She also told me they never found any live snakes on the train, though. It may be our kind of job after all.”
Sam scrunches his forehead. So, it’s definitely snakes. “You still had sex, though, didn’t you?” he insists, irritated.
“Hell yeah. We were all alone in the observation car, so she locked it, and…well, let’s just say we joined the Mile Low Club.” Smirking, Dean elbows Sam.
Sam opens his laptop, staring at the screen instead of his annoying older brother. “Whatever,” Sam replies.
“C’mon dude, don’t you wanna know what it was like? Aren’t you the least bit curious? Because lemme tell you, the rocking motion of the train sure adds…something. Gave her a lot of bounce while she was on top, if you get my meaning...”
Sam jams his fingers into his ears and starts humming Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Julie had confirmed another thing for them – that all the attacks had occurred in the dead (no pun intended) of night, seemingly right around midnight, in fact.
So Sam and Dean decide that would be the best time to search. They split up, Dean covering the back of the train while Sam covers the front.
Long minutes pass, and the EMF remains silent. Sam is starting to get really worried. Maybe the thing only shows up at certain times of the month?
The thought of spending weeks riding the rails, waiting for the thing to attack again, does not appeal. Half his body is bruised and abraded from banging into walls and scraping himself on corners already.
Sam’s cell rings and he snatches at it. “Dean?”
“Dude….you’re not gonna believe this.”
In the observation car, Sam finds not only Dean, but something writhing against the back wall. Something which looks like a ball of snakes.
With nine heads.
And really bad breath.
“My God,” Sam says – loudly, over the hissing - after staring for a good minute. “Dean, I think that’s a hydra.”
“Huh? A what?” Dean says, puzzled.
“It’s a monster from Greek mythology,” Sam tells him. Such are the benefits of a Minor in Liberal Arts. “What the Hell is a mythological Greek monster doing on a train in modern times?”
“Don’t care,” Dean answers, “Let’s just take care of it, OK?” He pulls a machete from under his jacket.
“Um, wait, I think that won’t work-“ Sam starts, but Dean’s already darting in, rolling on the gently rocking floor, and then lunging at the nearest head, severing it neatly.
He misses his next swing as the train swerves and he stumbles backwards. Sam takes the opportunity to grab him by the back of the jacket and haul him back even further.
“Dean, wait! Look-“
Gore is still spouting from the end of the neck Dean just severed. Except…something is growing underneath the blood. Wait, two somethings.
Two more heads.
“Oh, fuck,” Dean growls.
The hissing gets even louder and angrier as the beast – now fully healed and with a tenth head to boot – slithers closer.
Sam desperately tries to remember the myth of the hydra. Something about fire.
It snaps at them, forcing them to split up and dodge in different directions, and Sam whacks his shoulder – surprise surprise – against the wall again. It does seem to help jar the memories loose, though.
“We have to cauterize the wounds so the heads don’t grow back!” he yells across the car to Dean.
“Great, how the fuck do we do that?” Dean hollers back, twisting away from the hydra’s strike. He has no choice but to lop off another head before it can bite him, and Sam watches as the hydra does indeed back off. Until heads number ten and eleven are fully functional.
They need a torch, but Sam is sure that isn’t standard issue on a train. Maybe- “You go and grab the flares from our bags, and I’ll keep it occupied!” Sam yells over to Dean.
“No, you go get the flares!” Dean argues, dodging another strike.
“Just go, bitch,” Dean insists, bobbing and weaving and trying not to get thrown by another unexpected train deceleration. He’s bashing at the monster with the hilt of the machete now. It’s not really affecting the hydra, but at least it isn’t getting its teeth into Dean, and it isn’t growing any new heads. “The sooner you do, the sooner we make boots out of this thing.”
Dean and his attempts to protect Sam. Exasperated, Sam runs to get the flares. Luckily everyone else is in their cabins, so he doesn’t have to do that whole yielding-right-of-way dance in the hallways while Dean risks his ass to keep the hydra busy.
He’s even more battered and bruised after rushing it, but he gets back as fast as he can, and he’s relieved to see Dean still OK, still distracting the hydra.
Sam lights the first flare. “Dean! Let’s do this!”
What follows is a spectacle that would make Heracles himself proud. Dean waits for a head (or heads) to strike at him, then lops it (them) off, and then he dodges away while Sam shoves a lit flare into the bleeding socket. All while avoiding the other angry heads.
Sam’s ears are ringing from the hissing, and the stench is horrible, but after a few tries they get some kind of rhythm down (even with the damned train and its rocking), and they’re soon down to the last head.
This one’s tougher than the others, though. Sam and Dean are both exhausted, and the damned thing’s last neck has armour on it that resists the blade of the machete.
Finally, cursing angrily, Dean leaps on the thing and bashes it senseless with the hilt of his machete, and Sam lights their last flare and shoves it down the hydra’s last throat as deep as he can.
It hisses and rattles and throws them off, but luckily this proves to be its death throes.
When it’s all over, there’s nothing but a pile of coils and blood. And the stink.
Dean turns to Sam, smirking triumphantly. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.” He sheathes his machete in a businesslike manner. “Now, let’s get these motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking train.”
Groggy, Sam shakes his head and climbs slowly, aching, down the ladder from the top bunk. Nearly bent triple, so he doesn’t hit his head. Again.
He’s gotten absolutely no sleep, none at all. Sure, the rocking motion is soothing, but the uneven stopping and starting, the rattling and constant noise? He can’t wait to go back to sleeping in dingy motels with lumpy mattresses. Even in rooms where Dean is constantly running the Magic Fingers beds.
Dean’s bed is empty, however, and Sam rolls his eyes in irritation. Just great. He takes it upon himself to pack their things up, relieved when the train finally pulls into the station.
When Dean appears at Sam’s elbow in the hallway later, all aglow and smug again, Sam’s prediction is confirmed. “You slept with Julie again, didn’t you?” he accuses his older brother, tossing one of the heavy bags his way.
“Why not?” Dean asks nonchalantly, though he staggers a little from the weight of the bag, heavy with weaponry. “It’s not every day we get to beat a freakin’ mythological monster. That’s cause for celebration!”
Sam just shakes his head, trying to block out Dean’s self-congratulatory descriptions of his latest conquest as they disembark from the train, then walk over to where the Impala sits gleaming, waiting for them.
“I’m telling you, Sammy,” Dean’s saying, “You don’t know what you’re missin’. You and Sarah should try it sometime.”
Sam waits until Dean unlocks the doors, then tosses his burdens into the back seat. He collapses into the passenger side, rubbing at his tired eyes. “Just drive, jerk,” he grouses. “And don’t call me Sammy,” he adds with a growl.
If he ever gets on another train again, it’ll be too soon.