The roads on the outskirts of Arkham were depressing, title pawns and old men burning trash in shopping carts, but that was a Carnival cruise compared to what lay beyond the city limits.
Dean peered through the window. "That's not creepy at all."
The door to a general store stood open, a boy of seven or eight standing behind the register in an over-sized suit like one of those fairy tales where a child wishes to become a man and then changes back after midnight. A girl the same age pushed groceries onto the counter, soup and juice and frozen pizza, and the boy marked her down in a heavy brown ledger.
A flyer rolled across the sidewalk and caught in a tree. A man's photo sat above the caption HAVE YOU SEEN MY FATHER? and flipped up in the wind and vanished down the street.
Dean slowed the Impala to a crawl so that they could study the surroundings. The day, which had started out so bright, had taken on an overcast, muddy light. They passed by houses with their doors wide open like gaping black mouths. At least one house on every block had its windows busted. A handful of disconcertingly pale men in various stages of undress (at the sight of them, the alien words in Sam’s head swelled and lurched) lurked in the shadow of a narrow alley between deserted businesses with their signs still flipped to OPEN.
“Where is everybody?” Sam asked as they passed the dozenth car left idling or dead at the side of the road, doors open.
Dean stopped the car suddenly, pulling up to the curb. "Look." he said, pointing at a leaflet taped to a bookshop door. He stepped out and walked past a clerk so thin he looked like five broomsticks tied together and plucked the leaflet from the door and sat back in the car and looked at Sam. "It's her," he said, "It's the woman."
A dark-haired woman in pink, pumps, and pearls smiled at the camera. LADIES AUXILIARY 8:00 AT ARKHAM CHURCH OF THE COVENANT.
Dean checked the time. "We got a few hours, wanna scope out the place?"
Dread threatened to rise in Sam, but he pushed it down. This was what they were here for, after all. “Yeah, let’s go check it out.”
He took the leaflet from Dean. It was strange to see the priestess looking so normal, other than her eerie, wide-set eyes. "It's 1314 Main Street. That should be easy enough to find."
They cruised down the street, evidence of abandonment and decay growing more obvious as they reached the heart of the town. Identical fliers to the one in Sam's hand were stapled to telephone poles, taped to dirty windows, fluttering by in the cold, sea-scented breeze.
Dean took a left onto Main Street, and they counted the blocks before they reached the address. In the space where the Arkham Church of the Covenant should have occupied, there was only a large, weed-choked lot surrounded by a wrought-iron fence.
Dean scanned the field, chewing his lip but secretly relieved. "Maybe it's further back in the woods."
He leapt up onto the fence, but the trees distorted around him, some appearing to touch him while the others stretched miles away into the clouds. No wind blew but they rocked back and forth, hundreds of them, alive and more aware than any forest had a right to be. He stepped back and blinked. No, there were perhaps a dozen trees behind the field. Either way, he felt sick, and gripped Sam's arm to steady himself.
"It's late," said Dean, "Let's get a room. Maybe the files have something on this place."
Sam didn’t answer right away. His eyes were unfocused, mouth a thin line. “There’s something here. I don’t know what. But it’s… it’s loud.”
The words weren’t in the back of his mind any longer; they’d come up to the forefront, an echoing chant that he could barely think around. He let Dean coax him back into the car, and barely paid attention to the road on the way to the motel they’d seen on the way in.
“You check us in, okay?” he asked when they parked.
When Dean came back with the keys, Sam was standing in front of a motel door, trying unsuccessfully to turn the knob.
Dean dangled the key in front of him, a rusting antique as heavy as a grapefruit. "This might work faster," he said, shoving it in the keyhole, "Though honestly everything in this place is so worn down you could probably take the lock apart with a pencil."
He caught the look in Sam's eyes. "Maybe you oughta get some sleep."
“Yeah,” Sam said vaguely. He walked into the motel room and took a seat at the small table by the window, barely noticing when Dean shuffled in, laden with all their bags.
The words were deafening. He could feel power that had begun subtly when they’d entered the town and peaked when they’d stared at the abandoned lot, beginning to thrum through him, cold and squirming inside him. Sam took a deep breath and thumbed Dean’s ring on his finger, looking down at it and remembering with warmth the way Dean had kissed him the night before. The noise in his head receded from a shriek to a scream; a fractional difference, but definitely an improvement.
So he needed something to focus on. Speaking quietly, he tried counting through perfect squares. The Fibonacci sequence. All the digits of pi that he could remember.
“One. Two. Four. Eight. Sixteen. Thirty two. Sixty four. One twenty eight. Two fifty six,” he said.
A warm hand clapped his shoulder. "Dude, wake up, you ain't speaking English." said Dean, pushing Sam onto a bed. Except the bed felt off, the floor bending at strange angles as if the whole room were on a tilt. Dean kept his hand on Sam, waiting.
“It’s just so loud,” Sam said, and just as he realized his voice sounded all wrong, the mattress of the other bed exploded off its box springs, crashing into the wall. The tattoo on his back tingled.
But he felt… better. As if he’d cracked open a pressure valve and some of the steam had run out of him. Not enough, but he was afraid of what would happen if he kept speaking in that language, releasing the pressure, with Dean so close.
Sam ran his hands through his hair, making it a complete mess. He focused, enunciating carefully. “That wasn’t in English either, was it?” There, that came out right.
Sam hummed like a lightning rod, glass rattling in the windowpanes, but Dean took his hands and knelt down and looked him square in the eye and bit back the kind of Jedi Knight crack he always made when Sam scared him. "That bed probably sucked anyway," said Dean, "This has to have happened before, back at Fort Cloud, you just gotta remember how to dial it down."
Sam stared back, eyes glassy. “I don’t think… I don’t think it ramped up like this before. I think I had time to get used to it.” Or maybe they’d done something to him then, something to combat this overwhelming force. If so, there was nothing he could do about it now.
He closed his eyes as a surge flashed through him, making his teeth chatter and all the hair on his body stand on end. It was excruciating. Then he opened his eyes again, searching Dean’s face. “I know one thing that helps, though,” he said, and then he was standing, pulling Dean up with him and crowding into his space.
He kissed Dean, relentless and hard, and his big hand slid down to the crotch of Dean’s jeans, kneading at the shape of his dick through the denim as he held him close with a hand at the small of his back. Almost immediately, he felt some of the frenetic energy suffuse.
All down the street lights flickered, cracks starting at Sam's feet to branch across the room and up the walls, the trembling of the earth only quieting when Dean took Sam's face in his hands and gently kissed back, bodies swaying like two trees. "Slow down baby boy..."
It was like kissing marble, Sam was so cold, but Dean kept on, softly pressing his hand to Sam's chest until they were together on the bed, ignoring the little voice that said Sam was safe. Sam would never hurt him. Sam would never...lose control and splatter Dean's brains on the ceiling like caramel left too long on the stove.
Sam lay flat, hair fanned across the pillow while Dean straddled him and unbuckled Sam's belt. "Let's play a game."
The belt hit to the floor. "I say a word in English, you say it back to me in...whatever that scrabble is," said Dean, bending low so his mouth was close to Sam's, "Only you gotta say it nice."
Sam curled his hands around Dean’s hips, trying hard to keep his breathing steady. “Okay,” he whispered, leaning up to brush his lips against Dean’s.
Dean put his mouth to Sam's ear, fingers twisting Sam's boxers tight against his body. "Say my name."
Sam nuzzled into the hair at the side of Dean’s head, thinking furiously. There was no word for Dean but Dean. He knew this wasn’t what Dean wanted though, so he searched.
Gentle words weren’t part of his other vocabulary. There was no word for fraternal brother, only brother-in-arms. There was no word for lover, no word for partner, only rutting mate. He tried to combine these concepts in his head and got a spiky, violent word that stung when he thought of it. Not Dean at all.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, smelling Dean’s hair. He took the word and remade it, sanding off the edges, slicing out the black at the heart of it. When he opened his mouth, it spiraled soft off of his tongue.
Dean held fast to him, listening to the word repair the damage. The walls squared themselves. The cracks closed. Hairline fractures in Dean's shoulder from the robot fight went away. Outside the open window the words "...probably take the lock apart with a pencil..." drifted upward, a little temporal leakage it seemed.
"See? It's not all blood and fire," said Dean, as footsteps creaked in the next room. Had someone called the police?
They kissed again, the air greasy with black magic. Sam was calmer but still throwing off sparks, like wheels spinning on a flipped over car, and Dean pressed his knee suggestively between Sam's legs, whispering, "Say the place you call home."
Sam slipped his hands under Dean’s shirt, long fingers sliding up Dean’s warm back, and he curled his face into the crook of Dean’s neck. Rocking his hips up slowly, he traced the shapes of Dean’s shoulder blades and said the same word against Dean’s skin, slower, deeper, the shape of it taking on a familiar taste in his mouth.
Light filled the room. Tires squealed in the parking lot. Their shirts rode up and fell away. Dean barely, barely heard Sam say "get the hinges", but from the wrong end of the room.
Dean rolled over with Sam on top, mouths sealed together. "Now," he said, "Think the word that always brings you back to me."
Sam kissed him, shaking now from the expulsion of energy and the sweetness of the moment. He felt light and insubstantial, the slinking power in him buried deep, the cold in his body forgotten. He thought of the word for Dean, but it needed more. Found the harsh word for possession, polished it and slid it in within the syllables of Dean’s name. The word was multilayered; you’re mine, my brother, my partner, my home, and I’m yours. It exploded in his head, all white light and heat like a lightbulb bursting, and he nearly sobbed against Dean’s shoulder as all the dark power and alien words left him, his body and mind his own again.
“Dean,” he said, pressing his cheek against his brother’s and twining their fingers together, raising Dean’s hands above his head and stretching his long body over him.