"Hey, boy. Hey. You okay?"
George leaned closer, peering down at the boy curled up like a pill bug in the doorway of Moe's Deli, blocking traffic. Sal, who owned Moe's, told George that earlier, the guy had actively and vocally resisted moving. Kind of scared the few early risers trying to get into the place. Now they were milling about, along with newcomers dropping in to peer over shoulders to catch the drama.
"Not violent," Sal said, "y'know, very Gandhi and all, but Officer, he's got to go. Y'touch him and he just...whines and...shakes." Sal demonstrated, sort of flailed his arms at George, frowning. "He kicked me inna shins—didn't mean to, I guess, not really, but..." Sal sighed heavily and shrugged.
"Do something, officer, please?" Sal looked more sympathetic than he looked annoyed, so George tried to nudge the guy again, gently. A poke or two to the guy's side and he unrolled, all of a sudden, his arms flailing wildly. George, and everyone looking on, jumped back, but the kid just rolled up again, his arms going from wrapped around his head to wrapped around his gut. He wasn't as young as George had thought at first—looked like there was even a bit of gray sprinkled in the messy, dirt-clotted hair, fine lines radiated out from his tightly shut eyes and framed his down-curved mouth. It was sheer panic that made him boy-like. George couldn't help but feel bad for him. Hell, he was somebody's kid, and in damn crappy shape.
"Hey, guy. I'm Officer Payton. I'm tryin' to help you. You wanna stand up? Or, can you, ah, how about you move over this way a little?"
The guy opened his eyes, just a little, and peered up at George. His eyes drifted over him, taking in the blue uniform, the cap...the gun strapped to his hip. Sudden terror made the—man, definitely not a boy—the man's eyes go wild and round, but instead of curling up again, like George expected, he chewed at his lip for a second, and then nodded. Shuffled to his knees and George reached down, hand out to help. The man scrabbled back, but calmed a bit when George spoke softly, somewhat the way a frightened dog responded to soft, calm tones. George winced...yeah, maybe not the greatest comparison.
"Hey, hey...it's okay, promise. Let me take your hand, okay, help you up?" He did his best to project harmlessness—as harmless as the gun on his hip and his shiny badge would let him.
He felt ridiculously pleased when the guy eventually reached out for George's hand, eyes on him like he was watching out for a sucker punch. He let George pull him to his feet, though. Shuffled forward, slowly, steadily moving out of the doorway and closer to George. The mood of crowd around him had gone from annoyed, irritated, to sympathetic. He heard one or two murmurs of encouragement. Yeah...sure, 'course they were sympathetic now they could see him. The guy was dirty and rumpled, cringing and whining under his breath, but even George could tell he was kinda easy on the eyes. George shook his head, muttered under his breath, "People."
He stepped backward, the guy's hand laying trustingly in his as step by step, he pulled him out of the doorway and onto the sidewalk, away from Moe's. He stopped and turned to the guy, and was shocked at how tall he was. He'd seemed so...small all curled up like a lost puppy in the doorway.
George looked up at him and smiled. He got a shy smile in return."So, big guy, what's your name?"
Simple question, but the guy stopped dead in his tracks. Looked at George like he'd suddenly started speaking Swahili. "Name?"
"Yee-aah, your name? My name's Officer Payton—George. And you're…?"
"I don't know. My name is...George?" The guy looked hopeful. George shook his head and the guy's face fell, his eyes going all liquid and round like those freakin' Disney characters the grandkids were all into. He felt like shit for making the guy look so lost.
"Kid, I'm pretty sure George is not your name. Where you from?" He figured that was kind of a wasted question, but he had to ask.
"I don't know."
I don't know, I don't know. I don't know…. was the response to every question asked and of course, the kid had no ID on him, not a damn thing to help identify him—not even so much as a damn candy wrapper. The guy had gone quieter with each question, drew deeper and deeper into himself. It worried George, all the while he called for help and hoped it was the right thing to do—no, he was sure it was right. The kid, the John Doe, had been living rough, looked like he'd probably roughed it out for days. He was a good-looking kid—hell, the boy was almost pretty—and bound to be worth something to the wrong kind of people, even if he wasn't a tender young thing anymore. He was too damn defenseless to leave on the street, that much George could see.
After the boy had been loaded onto the ambulance, George watched it pull away, siren silent and lights killed, wondered if he should maybe go check up on him, see him get settled. George shook his head. He'd only been with the boy a few hours, but there'd been something about him, something that had touched George….
His radio crackled to life, came with another problem on another corner, and then another and another...things piled up like they do. Life happened. Officer Payton forgot all about the kid until days and days later, and by then he figured too much time had gone by.
George hoped the boy was safe, that his family had found him and taken him home. He sent up a silent prayer for him.
"Why? Why come after me for this? I just take them temporarily, I give them back, eventually." She tried to reason with him, but the hunter just laughed.
"Are you kidding? You're stealing their memories and ransoming them back!"
"In my defense," she said, and couldn't help smirking at the hunter's incredulous expression,"it's not like their companies can't afford it. It's not like I'm holding up some poor old ladies of their life savings."
"It's worse than kidnapping, which, y'know, is *wrong*. You think I'm not going to do what it takes about this shit?"
"Rich people—so I take the memory of some CEO—his minions are happy to pay a little to get them back, five, ten, fifty thousand." She shrugged, took a step closer, and Winchester automatically took a step back. "Once, twice a year; I'm not a greedy person. I live simply."
The hunter cast his eyes around the first-class room and looked back at her, raising an eyebrow. Smug bastard.
"What gives you, Winchester, the right to declare yourself judge, jury—"
"And executioner, don't forget that part," he growled, and centered the gun sight on her.
"Wait, wait—it doesn't have to be this way. I bet I have something you want. A chance at a guilt-free life, right? I can pin-point memories, erase the ones that poison everything. Torture, horror, betrayal—on you, by you. Oh I know, it's no secret what you and yours have done..." She squinted at him, taking a quick read—and gasped quietly. 'Oh, ho. So that's how it goes…'
The hunter frowned. She knew what he'd seen, the way her eyes flashed violet when she did her thing. She grinned wide, the way that put all her pearly-whites on display. Like a snarling dog. "Yeah, all that, but it's not what's really killing you, 'Flowers in the Impala'. I can take all that sick stuff away so you finally get to be normal—whatever you think that is. I don't judge. Much."
Rage and some intense expression washed over his face—guilt, maybe, probably—and then he spit, "Fuck you—" a sneer twisting what she had to admit was a pretty mouth. Just her luck she'd hook a pretty slut in a bar who turns out to be a hunter. A Winchester at that. Fucking witch-hunters, all the same. Damn Roberto, leading this kill-crazy dick her way. Still...he was hot. With his brain scoured clean, he'd make a pretty toy at least.
She made a fist, cracked the vial of herbs she'd palmed skirting around the altar. the glass shards sliced into the tender skin of her palm, giving her just what she needed— the blood to pull the spell ingredients together, and now, the words. Short, elegant, effective. She started off whispering, as fast as she could, trying to keep Winchester from getting just what she was doing, "Dean Winchester. tuae memoriae. Intus inclusas—" and just for fun, she quickly added, "Per caritatem osculum vero liberari!"
She gambled that the spell would take effect before he got wise to what was happening and snapped off a shot.
Sam wandered down to the garage, picked out the '51 Muntz; it didn't shout, 'Hey, I'm a goddamn classic" all that loudly, and probably no one in Lebanon would get that it was rare as hell. Besides, he liked it. It had a friendly face.
He headed out of town, going for a fairly decent Chinese place Dean had managed to find, and mourned the impossibility of takeout. Wasn't like they could causally say, "Address? Ah, just drop the food at that sealed-up old bunker halfway in the woods, the place that the men who dabbled with magic used to live in? Before they were wiped out by a Knight of Hell—''
In all fairness, he had to admit the trade-off wasn't bad. He missed having food come conveniently hot and delicious to the door, but no rent, no utilities, hot water all the time, privacy…thick mattresses, and no neighbors banging on the walls?
Banging... A quick flash of Dean being a slut with some faceless somebody flicked through his mind. Sam frowned. Here he was, thinking of his idiot brother again. Why the hell was he worried about Dean? Hobag. Probably just managed an extended hook-up – leave it to Dean to score whenever, wherever. He loved Dean, he really did, but sometimes he just couldn't handle the way Dean...he...the way he was blind, and dumb, and, just...took with both hands.
Sam shook his head, counted breaths until he felt somewhat settled. His hands tightened on the steering wheel, tight enough to hurt. Of course, he got how ridiculous it was to get pissed off with his brother because Dean's moral blind spot didn't match up perfectly with his own. He understood—most of the time—that Dean practiced fidelity, not faithfulness...fidelity was something Dean defined by brotherhood, not sex. And in the end, no matter how much it hurt, Sam figured he had no right to demand faithfulness as well, not when Dean would (and had) walk through fire for him.
He had to admit that all that irritation was sliding into worry—he was getting just a little anxious. Normally, if Dean decided to spend the whole night away, he sent a text. Mostly a bragging, infantile, crowing about Dean's supposed prowess text, but at least a text. Sam threw the fork into the heavy crockery bowl with enough force to send it skidding over the library table. He tilted his chair back, eyes on the landing at the bunker entrance.
Should he head out and look for Dean? He could take one of the bikes or the car he'd used yesterday,….or maybe ask Cas to look for him. But regular brothers probably didn't get all twisted because they hadn't heard from their brother in what...not even close to forty-eight hours? It was barely six in the morning, and going off all in retrieval mode seemed a bit stalkerish. The ass was probably still sleeping whatever he'd been doing off.
Angry again, Sam reached across the table and pulled his laptop closer. He grabbed an age-yellowed file folder from the closest of the piles lined up across the middle of the table. Since supernatural beasties and what-nots seemed to have gone temporarily to ground, Sam was taking advantage of the extended down-time; he'd set himself the task of trying to catalog a section of the file room that had been oddly jumbled—piles of old books and pamphlets dumped together in a dark, little alcove—totally at odds with how relatively neat the rest of the bunker seemed to be. Poking through them had led Sam to a file box full of handwritten notes, probably someone's non-official, personal project. Most of the notes regarded minor, home-spun witchcraft, but tucked in here and there, he'd found information on minor spells and how to rev them up. Fascinating, if scary, reading.
Sam sighed softly, carefully paging through the age-softened papers. Thought with how often the way their life veered off into oh-my-god land with distressing regularity, some supercharged spells might be just the thing to have in their war bag.
Funny how Life was like an ironic pinball game, he mused. What they'd taken to be unequivocally true from childhood to adulthood had bounced and pinged all over creation. Hell, John Winchester would be rolling in his grave right now if he'd had one. Working with witches and crafting spellwork. Two major nots Dad had always cautioned them against—to the point where Teenage Sam, who'd known everything there was to know, came to the conclusion that the old man had more than a few screws loose. He'd never understood his insistence on avoiding the use of magical paraphernalia when folks like Missouri made it plain that magic and such wasn't always negative….
'Course, now that he was closer to the age Dad had been when he'd died, Sam realized that a lot of his commands where meant to help Sam maintain a low profile—to protect him as long as possible from falling under that evil, yellow eye. They had to be somewhat grateful that the man hadn't gone farther, and locked them up in some supernatural version of a survivalist camp to keep them—or him—safe. Sam shuddered, and flipped open a slim, illustrated pamphlet that was next in the pile.
'The efficacy of rosemarinus officinalis when infused in a tincture of cruorem and saline as a catalyst in the casting of healing spells as an aid to weariness of the mind. Part one. Section a'
"Oooh-kaay," Sam muttered, "that's a catchy little title…."