|Moebius Time I: Bleeding Kansas
Author: Guede Mazaka
“I can’t believe you did that!”
The car slammed to a stop so that Sam came within a couple inches of going through the windshield. He only kept himself from it by ramming his arm against the dashboard, and since less than an hour earlier, he’d been using that arm to fend off a pack of giant black hounds, that put him in a lot of pain. It was a good thing nothing else happened, since he couldn’t have done anything about it; he slumped over and cradled his elbow, cursing.
“He was a second away from putting a crossbow bolt through your head. You can heal from that, but it takes months and in the meantime, you’re a vegetable. And maybe he would’ve put one through your heart next,” Luther snarled, banging around in the backseat. It sounded like he was kicking the hell out of the floor, which wasn’t going to earn him any points with Dean.
Of course, his account with Dean was way into the red anyway, and from the way Dean was poised to lunge over the top of the seat and into the back, it was in grave danger of being forcibly closed out. “Oh, don’t act like you did it for my sake. You should’ve knocked the goddamn crossbow away from him.”
Long silence. “If I hadn’t killed him, then the dogs would have as soon as Sam had finished breaking the spell.”
“Then that’s fine. He would’ve deserved it,” Dean snapped. He angrily twisted again and again, trying to get all the way around, but something wasn’t letting him. “That’s how it should’ve gone.”
This time, the pause wasn’t silent. If Sam didn’t know better, he might’ve thought there was an enraged bull in the backseat from the loud, harsh, fast breaths. “Dean. What’s the difference between me killing him and the dogs killing him? At least if I kill him, I get to eat.”
“Well, right there would be the problem.” Dean’s voice had gone flat and cold, with a dangerous tension humming through the undertone.
“What, that I’m a vampire? Or that you didn’t get to eat, too? Seeing as you have the same appetites.” Luther, on the other hand, had opted for a deceptively soft, curling tone, given the hardness of his meaning.
They were doing it again and if Sam didn’t say something, he wasn’t going to get a break because he’d be busy trying to get between two extremely strong vampires. Which basically was right where they’d like him, and God, sometimes he almost hated both of them for that. Maybe they couldn’t help it, maybe it was their fucked-up instincts and primal urges and whatever, but that didn’t make it any easier on him, and he didn’t have those to blame things on.
“I’ll—” Dean started, jerking up.
“Stop it,” Sam hissed. He reached out and yanked Dean back down by the arm. “Can we just get to the damn motel?”
Dean twisted free of Sam’s grip. He put his hands back on the wheel, but didn’t make a move towards the gearshift. “So you’re okay with killing people now?”
“It’s not like we haven’t, and no, I’m not agreeing with him. I’m just pointing out that it’s happened and it’s not a simple argument and God, I don’t want to do this now. I just want to get to a place where I can lock myself in the bathroom and not have to listen to you two fight it out of your systems.” A migraine was rapidly developing, and Sam hadn’t even called on his stupid powers once today. He pressed his knuckles into his forehead, catching the bridge of his nose in between two, and let himself sink down so his heels dragged deep grooves in the carpeting.
The grumbling of the engine kept things from getting too quiet, but it didn’t do much to cover up the strained feeling. “What?” Dean asked after a moment.
“He ate, you haven’t—let’s just go and you can get your feed off him, and then maybe we can talk,” Sam muttered. The less he had to think about what happened during that, the better chance he stood of not killing either of the others.
“Not likely.” Though Dean finally shifted the car back into ‘drive’ and pulled back into the road. No, it wasn’t, but the least he could do was wait till Sam was in shape to deal with it.
Of course, that wasn’t likely to happen any time soon either, Sam moodily thought. Once Dean had been strong enough, they’d concentrated on trying to find out more about the strange powers-blocking amulet the demon had been trying to get onto Sam. It’d been pretty good for keeping their minds off Dad—but then the trail had turned towards Kansas, and everything had been sliding downhill ever since. Pretty amazing, considering Sam had thought they’d already hit rock-bottom.
* * *
The moment they pulled up, Sam was out and slamming into the room with his stuff. Dean glanced after him, then sighed and hauled himself out of the car. A second bang made him start, but it was only Sam and the bathroom door.
“You probably should’ve had some of him,” Luther said. He’d already gotten out and was reaching into the back for a bag.
He was damn lucky Dean needed a moment to close the driver’s door and that was long enough for Dean to realize Luther had been referring to the hoodoo master they’d just killed and not to Sam. Not that Dean was real inclined to calm down afterward, but he did have to admit he couldn’t kill Luther yet. “Shut up.”
“He’d raped and killed at least five women around there, and you still have a problem with him getting drained? It’s not like the police would’ve been able to charge him with any of those.” Luther hefted the bag up onto the top of the car, then backed off so he could close the door.
One of the bag’s buckles hit the car with a loud clank. Dean snatched up the bag, then rubbed one hand over the car top, feeling for scratches. He didn’t find any, but that still didn’t do much for his temper. “Shut up.”
Right then Luther closed the door, which was a bad move on his part since it’d been a reasonably good barrier between them. Hi-beams from the nearby highway kept hitting his eyes so they’d fluoresce green and that was about all Dean could see of his face. He still smelled like blood; it was dry and stale by now but it was enough to make Dean’s mouth water. He’d had enough to have a pulse Dean could feel in his teeth, a low, maddening throb that only got worse when Dean bit down.
“Oh, right. That’s not the actual problem, is it?” Luther hissed. “That’s just your excuse.”
Dean jerked his fingers into fists, thinking that he was just going to ignore the son of a bitch and walk on by. He’d go inside and talk to Sam and then they’d figure out how they were getting the rest of the way to—to Lawrence. Yeah, he’d do that.
He bounced once on his toes, then jerked the bag off his shoulder. It dropped on his feet and slightly tripped him up as he lunged forward, but he’d been aiming to slam Luther up against the side of the car, so that wasn’t a problem for long. His knee hit the car and he dug his fingers into Luther’s arms and shoulder to keep up; nails raked down Dean’s back, but the leather of his coat kept him from feeling much of that. And then his mouth was straddling the pulse in Luther’s neck, and all the life in that, the jumping fierceness of it, was flooding him and God, it was so good.
He could feel it making his knees tremble, could feel his stomach filling up as if he’d actually broken the skin. Heat exploded in his gut and quickly spread to soften his whole body, turning it loose and lax, though when Luther jerked his neck away a fraction, Dean was yanking himself up and pressing hard before an eye could’ve blinked. A groan squeezed out of him, forcing him to back off himself, and the space that opened up between them was all ache. But then he was back in and hooked and pushing his hips up and that was it.
It faded fast, leaving him reeling with disgust. He caught himself on the rearview window, then was bent over by a sharp, violent burst of coughing. The blood-taste in his mouth now was sour and nauseating, and the stickiness inside of his jeans was turning clammy against his skin.
“If you just drank blood, you wouldn’t have to do that. Wouldn’t that be better?” Luther asked, voice harsh and unsteady. He pushed himself off the car, then sank back, propping himself up on his elbows. The headlights of a car going down the highway caught him on the side of the face, flashing bone-white skin at Dean.
“Don’t talk to me about what’s good for me.” Dean kept his head down. He still felt too dizzy to walk, though the restless, touchy edge to his temper had temporarily been dulled.
After a few moments, Luther leaned off the car again. His hand came down to scoop up the bag Dean had dropped, and then he went inside.
It was another minute before Dean thought he could stand straight. He locked the car and followed the footprints Luther had left in the dusty ground. The bathroom door was closed, but Sam was sitting on the nearer bed, laptop out and maps spread around him. He glanced up when Dean was locking the door, then jerked his head towards the bathroom just as the muffled spray of the shower started. “Luther’s cleaning himself up.”
Bastard couldn’t even let Dean borrow the sink for a couple minutes first, could he. There was a tissue box on the dresser, but Sam was in the room.
“Lawrence was a pretty big stop along the trail to Nevada and California, so it had silversmiths and assayers,” Sam said. He was awkwardly hunched over, and way more than he really needed to be in order to see the screen. Then he shot an uneasy, apologetic look at Dean, and Dean got it.
Really nice of him, but it was the kind of nice that made the bad taste in Dean’s mouth worse. He yanked out a couple tissues, then turned towards the wall to undo his fly. “So we have to go back there.”
“Yeah. Eventually. There’s a ghost town I want to stop at first: Pawnee.” Lots of angry clicking.
Dean twisted his wrist around and forced it down his pant-leg to scrub off the last splatters. Then he wriggled his arm out and bundled up the tissues in his hand so he could zip up again. He winced at that noise. “What’s the deal with Pawnee?”
“Well, it was the capitol of the Kansas-Nebraska territory for five days, which is a record for the shortest time. Got plowed over during the Border War, but there’s a local legend that says a couple nights a year, you can see it like it was—like a ghostly flashback,” Sam muttered. When Dean turned around, the other man practically had his nose in the keyboard, he was trying so hard to give Dean some privacy.
Just behind Dean’s breastbone, things got tight and painful. He gritted his teeth and ignored it while he searched around for the trashcan, finally finding it beneath the desk. “Border War?”
“Did you pay attention to any state history, or do I have to go over all of that? The Bloody Kansas thing—when they were fighting over whether slavery would be legal in the state or not.” Sam warily glanced over the top of the screen. When he saw Dean had finished up, he relaxed a little and flopped into a less bone-straining position. Then he sniffed and jerked over to glare at Dean. “Damn it, open the window if you’re going to torch the trash. The last thing I need is for you to set off the smoke alarm. Besides, how are you going to put that out when you’re done? You don’t have any water.”
“Stop breaking my balls, would you? Alarm’s not going off yet, and—hey, look, it’s Luther.” Dean picked up the trashcan—the flames weren’t even big enough to get over the rim—and shoved it so Luther had to take it. Then he turned around and stalked back over to Sam.
After a second, he heard the bathroom door slam again, and then the sound of running water. Sam looked towards it, then gave Dean an irritated look. “Didn’t you two get things settled outside? It sure as hell sounded like it.”
“I made sure I’m not going to chomp on your neck while you’re sleeping. You think I can take care of any of that other crap in two minutes, and—fuck it,” Dean snarled, kicking off his shoes. He scooped up a handful of maps, then sat down on the space he’d cleared. “Look, I’m not going to be friends with that asshole.”
“And I’m not asking you to be. I just want you to stop—” Sam cut himself off so sharply that the remainder of his sentence, whatever it was, hissed through his teeth. Then he turned and went back to staring at the computer.
He didn’t have to say anyway, since Dean could guess. And Dean wished he could make that stop. He really did, because that was about the worst of the whole mess; it went and it took everything he and Sam had—everything Dean had left in the world—and it made it into something repulsive.
“Sorry,” Sam mumbled. He squeezed his eyes shut. “I know, I know, it just comes with the vampirism.”
“Yeah, well, I’m still sorry you have to put up with it.” Dean pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes and rubbed hard, then put his hands down. He moved more maps out of the way so he could lie down and check out whatever Sam had on the computer. “Okay. Bloody Kansas. How’s this important again?”
Sam started to answer, but was interrupted by the bathroom door opening. The damp, slightly stinging smell of ashes preceded Luther, who kicked the trashcan out. Then he started to shut the door again, but noticed something and looked over. A lot of sarcasm seemed to want to get out, but he kept himself to just saying: “I’m rinsing the bloodstains out of my clothes. Did you want to use the shower yet?”
“No, I’m fine,” Dean replied, wrapping his words in razors. He watched till Luther closed the door, then turned back to Sam.
His brother was looking at him with a strange, not-quite-irritated expression. But Sam shrugged and twisted away before Dean could tell exactly what it was. “Bloody Kansas doesn’t have much to do with it, I think. Except maybe because things were really violent back then, so the demon had a lot of negative energy to feed off of, and it could get more done.”
“Like having that charm-thing made?” Dean asked, relieved to go back to a relatively neutral subject. He folded his arms, then put his chin down on top of them.
“There was a famous silversmith named Brown working in Pawnee—a couple of his pieces are in the Smithsonian. But he ended up lynched in eighteen-forty-eight…” Sam glanced meaningfully at Dean “…for supposed witchcraft.”
“No kidding. What kind?” The computer screen was at some local history website. After reading the first couple of paragraphs, which were all about the hardships early settlers faced, Dean got bored and turned his head so he could rest his cheek on his arms. He watched Sam scroll down to a fuzzy sepia photograph of a dirt street with lots of Wild-West storefronts and a horse-cart.
Sam put one hand down and pushed so he could go from sitting on his knees to sitting cross-legged. Then he closed that window and pulled up another one, which was dominated by the photo of a man, who seemed pretty nondescript except for his eyes: they were dark and eerie, and it almost looked as if they were all black, with no iris or whites. Brown, according to the caption. “Two black men were caught performing a ‘hexing’ to kill this local merchant that they owed money to. They were using silver bowls decorated with ‘clear symbols of devil-worship’ that they said they’d gotten from Brown. Given the time period, they might’ve been framed, but the townspeople didn’t really care. They hung all three men on the same night.”
Dean sucked in air hard through his teeth, grateful that at least he lived in the twenty-first century. It was better dealing with people’s disbelief than…that. “But you think Brown at least might’ve been really guilty?”
“Worth a check. I found a photo of his stuff that’s in the Smithsonian, and…see, look here.” Switch to another window showing a photo of a heavy, ornate silver candlestick. Then Sam zoomed in. “See that little mark? That’s how silversmiths signed their work. The same thing’s on the charm.”
A circle with a…no, it was a triangle in the middle and not a star, but for a moment the back of Dean’s neck had prickled. He shook it off and memorized the symbol. “Okay. But why Pawnee? You think you’re gonna dig up Brown’s diary or something after all this time?”
“Probably not, but maybe we could raise him and ask about it. He should still be buried there,” Sam offhandedly said, like séances were no big deal. He knew better. He definitely knew better, because he was refusing to look at Dean.
Dean jabbed his elbow into Sam’s leg. When that didn’t work, he turned over on one elbow and grabbed Sam’s arm to give him a good shake. “Sammy? No.”
“God, Dean, teenage girls do it all the time with their Ouija boards—”
“And what happens? They mess up and it turns into a case for us, doesn’t it? Besides, if this guy Brown’s really linked to the demon, then he’s not exactly going to be a normal ghost, is he? Have you even thought about that?” Dean snapped. He jerked at Sam’s arm hand and that finally got his brother looking at him. Yeah, Sam was pissed off, but so what? “This is practically necromancy. That’s definitely not white magic.”
Sam glared at Dean for a moment, then turned away to stare sullenly at the far well. “Well, the high road’s not exactly working, is it? It’s been four months since…since Dad and we haven’t really learned anything new.” He winced and looked at Dean again. “I have checked around. There’s nothing useful in the documentation for that time and place—the only way we can know the truth is if we ask him. There’s literally no other reference to go to here.”
“Maybe you just haven’t looked in enough places—” Dean started to push himself up and off the bed.
His shoulder got grabbed, and once Sam had yanked him back around, Sam got hold of Dean’s jaw, making him look at his brother. “Maybe,” Sam grated out. “But how much time do you think we have? My nightmares are getting worse all the damn time.”
Dean opened his mouth to retort and couldn’t come up with anything. He closed it and looked down—Sam was still forcing his head up, so that was awkward as hell—then sighed. “I don’t like—”
“I researched the ritual we’d need so much that I’m starting to dream about the damn thing. I can do it, and it’s not going to get me possessed or anything. Really. I swear.” Sam loosened up his grip on Dean’s shoulder, suddenly looking very tired. He tried to smile at Dean. “If I’m wrong, you can kick my ass, okay?”
“You know, I don’t even really like joking about that now,” Dean muttered. He let the weight of his head fall against Sam’s hand, taking some comfort in its warmth. There were calluses and tiny scars all over Sam’s palm, but they felt good rubbing against his cheek, and besides, to him Sam smelled like home, which was the closest he could get to that now.
The hand on Dean’s shoulder slid down to press against its front in warning, and Dean knew perfectly well what about, but he just—Sam smelled good. He’d already eaten and he was fine. It wasn’t that so much as—he pressed his face harder into Sam’s hand, turning it and his mouth barely brushed Sam’s wrist before Sam suddenly jerked away. Some kind of low, soft protesting noise came out Dean’s mouth, a sound he could barely recognize as coming from himself, and he’d snatched Sam’s arm and tried to yank his brother back before he really knew what he was doing.
A sharp edge pricked at his throat and he jerked himself to a stop with his head about two inches from Sam’s neck. He was still, but Sam wasn’t and the knife jittered up and down Dean’s Adam’s apple, scraping hard but not breaking the skin yet. Sam was breathing almost as hard as Dean was, and oh, God.
After a moment, Dean managed to get hold of himself. He pried his fingers off of Sam’s arm and pulled backward; it took a second for Sam to get it and let go. When he did, Dean scooted away and got entirely off the bed. He couldn’t look at Sam yet, so he just stood around, jiggling his foot. “Sorry. I’m—Sam, I’m sorry, I didn’t—”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know,” Sam muttered. And he did, and he forgave Dean for it—that was in his voice—and Dean just wished he were dead. “Um. Maybe…”
“I need a shower,” Dean said, pretty much blurting it out. Which made them both fucking wince. He shook out of it, then went over to the bathroom while he still could get himself to do that. To hell with Luther being in there; it was easier not to kill him than to ignore how badly Dean wanted to press his mouth to his own brother’s skin and drink in that life.
* * *
Since the whole sunlight-daytime issue was a problem for both Dean and Luther, they mostly traveled at night and in the early morning now. Dean still managed to have a pretty good tan when he’d fed enough, but Sam had gotten pretty freakishly pale. He turned his hand over in the weak dawn light slanting over the dashboard and frowned at it, wondering how long it’d be before people started commenting. It probably wouldn’t have been too bad near the coasts, but in Kansas—especially rural Kansas—he was going to stick out like a sore thumb.
Somebody knocked at the window. Sam jumped and jerked his hand down beneath the wheel, then twisted around to see Luther at the front passenger side. He glanced around, but didn’t see Dean anywhere. Luther apparently guessed what he was thinking and glanced sideways, his shoulders heaving in an exasperated sigh.
Well, it wasn’t exactly what Sam wanted to do, but they were parked out on a public street and there wasn’t a reason to keep Luther outside. He clicked off the lock, then waved at the door. Then he twisted around, propping his arm up on the side of the window. The door opened, the seat creaked, the door closed.
“No luck with the county records?” Sam asked.
Papers rustled and something tan-colored intruded into Sam’s field of vision. He took the folder and flipped it open one-handed. Inside were only a few photocopied sheets.
“Not really. Can I ask a question?” Luther slouched down to get as far away from the light as possible. He pushed at some wisps of hair that were in his eyes, then reached back and pulled his whole ponytail loose to redo it. “Where are we going in Kansas?”
The sheets didn’t look too useful, so Sam closed up the folder again and stuck it in the bag flopped over his feet. He checked his watch: the place Dean was breaking into was farther away, but he still should’ve been back by now. “Pawnee. Then Lawrence.”
When Luther answered, there was an odd little hitch in his voice. “There, huh. Well. That wasn’t too difficult.”
“What?” Sam stretched his legs out as far as they’d go, but even then his knees were bumping the underside of the wheel. His left calf was beginning to cramp up.
Luther made a noncommittal noise. He stared at his hands for a second, then reached for the door handle like he was going to get out.
“Where are you going?” Sam asked
“The backseat. I actually don’t enjoy arguing with your brother, so I thought I’d skip that this morning,” Luther muttered.
That seemed okay, but—“What’d you mean by ‘that wasn’t too difficult’? I’m sorry, are we making life hard for you? Did you want to file a complaint?”
After a second, Luther dropped back into his seat. Hard. The car rattled so a couple crossing the street ahead of them briefly stopped to look. “I just like knowing where I’m going. Which you usually don’t mention to me.”
“Well, you got into this because we thought you could actually point us in the right direction, but so far you’ve been pretty useless,” Sam said, just a hair short of snarling. He checked his watch again. If Dean didn’t show in another five minutes, he was driving over.
“I know about the damned demon. I don’t know about jewelry—is that why we’re going to Lawrence?” For some reason, that definitely disturbed Luther. He put his hand to his mouth and bit at the side of his finger, then pulled it down. Then he put it back.
Sam thought for a couple minutes, but he couldn’t remember ever telling Luther that they were from Lawrence, and he couldn’t think of any reason why Dean or…or Dad would’ve mentioned it either. He considered the chance that Luther was just baiting him, but Luther seemed genuinely uneasy. “Why?”
“Lawrence might’ve gotten a demon visitation back in eighteen-sixty-three. It was hard to tell; Quantrill rampaged through the place and burned most of it down,” Luther said after a long moment. He still looked as if something was bothering him. “But before that, in eighteen-fifty-six…never mind, that wasn’t demon-related.”
“You sure?” Eighteen-fifty-six…Sam rifled through his memory and came up thinking John Brown, but couldn’t quite figure out why. Then he had it—that year a pro-slavery band had raided Lawrence, and then John Brown had gone around hacking guys to death a couple days later. Didn’t seem too relevant at first glance.
Luther slid a challenging look over at Sam. Then he settled back with a snort. “Yeah. That was the first time a hunter caught up with me. And—that ended up complicated, but it was mostly me trying not to die, so you probably aren’t interested in that,” he drawled, tone faintly sarcastic. He glanced out the window. “Dean’s coming.”
“What?” Sam jerked up and squinted past Luther, then sat back down. Dean was on the other side of the parking lot, but he’d be across it in less than a minute.
By the time Sam sat down, Luther was already halfway out of the car. He left the front door open and got into the backseat; thirty seconds later, Dean was ducking into the front seat. He glanced suspiciously between the two of them. “What were you two doing?”
“Talking,” Sam said.
“Irritating him,” Luther said. He didn’t sound like he particularly cared how anyone reacted to it, but that had to be a put-on. He slid down so far that Sam couldn’t see him in the rearview mirror any more.
Dean looked back and forth one last time, then finally turned forward with an explosive exhale. He drummed his fingers on the side of the window as he passed over a manila file. “Whatever. Are we done here?”
“Yeah.” Sam reached for the keys.
* * *
Pawnee, Kansas. The dust stuck in Dean’s throat and stung his eyes as he leaned against the side of the Impala, smelling the earthy-sweet grass spiked through with gasoline fumes. Those were all from their car, since he could smell that nobody else had been around here in years. Decades.
The farthest border of the town had been overtaken by the neighboring Fort Riley, but most of the new development seemed to be on the other side. They were leaving the main part of Pawnee the hell alone.
“Looks like shit.” Luther grabbed a double handful of his coat and pulled it up, then squatted down to poke at the dirt. He sniffed a few times, then scooped up a good pinch of dirt and slowly let it stream down from between his fingers, intently watching it. “Not even any glass left.”
“From what?” Dean asked. He shivered as a passing breeze stroked across his back, then kicked at the dirt. He looked up and around at the buildings, which weren’t more than a few broken-down fences of weathered, gray wood here and there. None of them had any roofs left, and in most places it was hard to tell where the original buildings stopped and started.
Sam was back at the motel, waiting for them to get on with it and scope out the place so they could come back tomorrow night and talk to the dead. That would be the creepy part, but just standing here was giving Dean the chills. Bad enough for him to not even be getting pissed off by Luther. Okay, the place had a reputation for being haunted, but that wasn’t it.
“From broken bottles, windows, a hundred other things,” Luther muttered. He got back up and slowly turned around. “This was Main Street.”
“You were here, too?” Somehow that didn’t surprise Dean in the least.
Luther nodded, but didn’t seem any more inclined to start poking around and try to find the silversmith’s store. It was night, nothing living that was bigger than a coyote was hanging about, and Dean wasn’t getting any kind of weird ping, but he still didn’t want to go in any of those buildings.
They just stood there for a couple minutes like idiots, staring at the goddamn buildings. It certainly wasn’t the most menacing place Dean had ever been, but—
“What’s wrong with it?” Luther abruptly asked, looking over at Dean.
Dean blinked. “What?”
“What’s wrong with it? Why is it—” The hand gestures Luther made were certainly expressive of his frustration and confusion, but didn’t do a damn thing to explain his question.
“How the hell should I know? I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Dean snapped. He kicked at the ground, wishing he could shoot at something.
The wind blew. Grass rustled. Coyotes howled. The goddamn buildings mocked Dean in their…their dilapidated stillness.
“Why I think it’s a real lousy idea to go over and walk around those walls and I don’t know why, and why you seem to be agreeing with me. Are you picking up anything?” Luther finally said. A small snap behind them made him look sharply around, but it seemed to be no big deal, so Dean didn’t look.
“If you’re not picking up anything, then why would I pick up anything?” Dean gritted his teeth. There was nothing in those goddamn buildings.
He hesitated a moment longer, then pushed off the car and stalked towards the nearest wall, cursing himself up one side and Luther down the other. It took him about forty-five seconds to get there, and he didn’t get jumped or even ruffled, so maybe it was all him and he was just turning into a basketcase.
“Because you’re a different breed of vampire and different sensitivities seem to come with that?” Luther hurried after Dean, but stayed about a yard wide and slightly behind. He also paused occasionally, and when Dean took a look over his shoulder, he caught Luther staring uneasily at the ground.
“I’m not a breed. There’s no fucking more of me coming,” Dean snarled. He walked along the wall till he came to an opening, then ducked through it.
It was a pretty good-sized room, with even a shelf left on the wall and some floor planks piled up in one corner, but it didn’t have anything to say what it’d been used for. A hole in the back led to another, smaller room, but that didn’t have anything helpful ei—wait a minute. God, Dean was letting his nerves get to him. He smacked himself on the side of the head, then whirled about to face Luther.
“You said you’d been here before. So where was Brown’s silversmith store?” he demanded.
Luther had been in the process of slipping through the front…hole. He still looked uncomfortable, taking a lot of care to not touch anything; he even bundled his coat close so it wouldn’t graze the edges of the hole. “I was here before, but that was in the eighteen-twenties. It wasn’t even a town—didn’t have a real bar. There was this trading post where you sold furs and buffalo chips and bought your drinks. I don’t remember any silversmith.”
“Buffalo chips.” Wasn’t that another way to say buffalo shit? What would anyone want with that?
“This is Kansas, Dean. You saved your wood for your house and burned that, or you set the whole damn prairie on fire,” Luther muttered. He edged across the space to look at something on the wall. “Well, they did get a bar sometime. These are the holes where the ends of the counter would’ve been set in.”
Dean rolled his eyes and stomped over to a gap in the wall about four feet left of Luther, going into the next building. “Fucking great. Who needs cable when you’ve got the fucking History Channel in your head?”
He heard Luther half-suppress an irritated sigh, but just kept on going. Let Luther be annoyed; he could sulk while Dean got the work done so they could get back to Sam already.
Of course, Luther liked to get on Dean’s nerves and didn’t sulk, but instead followed after and made comments about what that fragment of wall molding meant, or that well in the back said about the former inhabitants. Fine, he was good for this kind of crap, but so were late-night reruns of Gunsmoke.
It figured that the last building they got to seemed to be it. Like all the others, it was basically pieces of lumber arranged around a vaguely rectangular shape, but Dean turned up a small, shapeless lump of silver when he kicked hard at the ground in one corner, and Luther managed to detect the remains of a kiln or whatever kind of fireplace a silversmith used from a pile of bricks and rocks against one wall. That done, they got the hell out of there, and didn’t say one damn thing about that to each other.
Once they were back in the car, Dean started up the engine. He was half-surprised when it didn’t give him any problems, like it would’ve in a Twilight Zone episode…but hell, this wasn’t a TV show.
“I don’t really like the idea of Sam doing anything out there,” Luther suddenly said. He glanced at Dean. “Are you actually going to let him?”
Dean put the car into drive and pulled away. He kept an eye on outside, not on the irritant sitting next to him, but no bogeymen popped out and no concrete reasons for his bad feeling appeared. Shame, because then he’d have had something to go on besides his goddamn gut feeling, and Sam wasn’t going to be convinced by that. For that matter, since Luther was having the same attack of nerves, Dean was tempted to ignore his feeling just because—yeah, he was being petty. Didn’t mean he could control it any better to know about it.
Luther let his head thump back against the headrest and sighed. “Look, can you forget for one second that you hate me and think about your brother?”
“Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re not such a big deal to me that you’d ever come before Sam for any reason,” Dean snorted. He finished turning them around and aimed the car for the road. The rough ground was testing the shocks pretty badly, but nothing it couldn’t handle; he’d just have a sore ass when he got back to the hotel. “I didn’t like the idea before we even came here, but Sam says this is the only way we’re gonna get anywhere.”
“And you couldn’t convince him otherwise.” The disbelief in Luther’s tone was so heavy it should’ve made his damn jaw snap under the weight.
Dean wrapped his fingers tight around the wheel. The edge of the real road came into view, which offered a little bit of a distraction. “In case you haven’t noticed, Sam is a grown man with a mind of his own, and he’s very goddamn fond of proving that. He wants to do this, and nothing’s gonna get him to back off. And don’t even think about suggesting that we—”
“I’d have no idea how we could, anyway. He’s stronger than either of us.” Luther flicked his eyes over again, like he’d been expecting some kind of reaction from Dean.
Well, if he thought Dean was going to get all offended over that, then he was a moron. Actually, it was better the stronger Sammy was, since that meant he could handle more things without Dean having to worry; what Dean worried about was what made Sam that strong, and what prices they might have to pay for it. And he was pretty damn sure they hadn’t finished with that yet.
God, Dad, I miss you, Dean thought.
His vision momentarily went blurry, then cleared just in time for him to swerve away from something small and furry crossing the road. Luther cursed and grabbed the handle above the door, but didn’t quite keep himself from sliding into Dean. But he yanked himself off before Dean had to push him, which was about the most sensible thing he’d done in weeks.
“Well, great,” Luther finally muttered. “If this is what Pawnee is like, then I can’t wait till we get to Lawrence.”
Dean stiffened for a second, but then he realized Luther still wouldn’t know anything about their personal connection to Lawrence; he was talking about that demon visit that might’ve happened about a hundred and change years ago. At least, Dean hoped so—he’d have to double-check with Sam on that one. “It’s not like we held a gun to your head and made you come along.”
“Yeah, I completely did this to myself,” Luther snorted. There was enough bitterness and self-hatred in his voice to make even Dean uncomfortable.
After a moment, Luther let out a short bark of a laugh and settled into the corner of his seat, staring out the window. Dean reached over to turn on the tape deck and the soothing shredded chords of Metallica instantly filled the air. This tape was fifty-seven minutes, which was long enough to get him back to the motel with about two minutes to spare. Which was good, since swapping tapes would’ve involved talking to Luther, and he was perfectly happy to avoid that.
* * *
Maybe they weren’t saying so, but neither Dean nor Luther wanted to do this. They made that pretty clear with how slow they were to finish the simple little tasks Sam had assigned them, like put four goddamn candles down on the ground, and with the grunt-answers and the constant glances towards the car. Fine, they thought it was a bad idea. That, Sam could deal with. What got on his nerves was their inability to say anything to him about it so he was stuck with their passive-aggressive bullshit.
“Okay, I think we’re done,” Sam said.
Dean flinched, then kicked at the ground with elaborate casualness. “Cool. Can we go eat now?”
“You had like, three pints of converted blood two hours ago.” Granted, the transmuted stuff wasn’t real filling compared to blood that’d been human to begin with, but three pints should’ve done Dean for a couple days.
“Well, you need to eat, too,” Dean said. It was a pretty lame attempt to cover his ass, and he knew it, too.
Sam sat himself down and stared up at his brother. “I did eat. Remember? I mean, since every time I finished a piece of chicken, you were trying to stuff another leg in my hand.”
“Oh, right.” Dean gave Sam one of his charming my-fault smiles, which didn’t do a damn thing since Sam one, had a discernible IQ and two, wasn’t female. He kept poking around a rock with his foot. “Um—”
And he actually looked at Luther for help, who might not be any better about saying what was on his mind, but who at least clearly thought Dean was being an idiot.
“I think this is a bad idea. Something’s wrong with this place and I don’t know what, and I’d like to at least figure out what it is before we actually do anything. Of course, you don’t really trust me anyway, so it’s kind of pointless for me to bring it up, but there.” Well…okay, Luther did have balls. And was in one of his self-scathing moods, which tended to make Sam feel even more annoyed because he started feeling sorry for the son of a bitch.
“Look, I checked. This place is showing high levels of EMF, but it’s haunted so that makes sense. I’m not getting anything else,” Sam sighed. Honestly, they’d spent more time checking out this place than practically any other one he could remember. And besides, maybe vampires had super-senses, but he was supposed to be the magical freak, and the whole area felt completely tame to him. “Does it feel like the demon? Like any demon?”
Luther and Dean shared a look, which was an interesting development. Also a short-lived one, since the next moment, Dean had spun away and was walking over to Sam. “No,” he said. “But it’s definitely got a weird vibe.”
Sam flicked his hand out at their surroundings. “Haunted.”
“Not that.” Dean got down on one knee next to Sam, glancing nervously around. Something really did seem to be bugging him. “Just…do we have to do this now? What’s wrong with a couple more days of research?”
“You just…really don’t listen to me now, do you?” Sam snapped. “I told you—you wanted me to do this with Brown’s ghost as weak as possible. So we’re doing it at his store and not on his grave, and we’ve got to do it on a day when there hasn’t been a reported flashback experience here. Next week is the anniversary of Brown’s lynching, and after the anniversary of the town’s destruction, that’s when the most flashbacks have happened. Week after that, we’ll be in Lawrence.”
God, if it was such a big deal, then why hadn’t Dean brought it up earlier? Why wait till now, and with such a bullshit excuse? For all Sam knew, it was just Dean’s dislike of him doing anything magical cropping up again—actually, that probably was it.
“I do listen to you!” Dean hissed. “Why not do this after we get done in Lawrence?”
“Yeah, and when that happens, you’ll be why not do it in a month, and then—”
Dean threw up his hands, then jerked himself to his feet again. “All right, fine. Fine. Do the damn ritual.”
That…that surprised Sam for a moment; Dean usually didn’t give up that easily. He waited a moment, watching the other man angrily stalk around, but Dean didn’t come back for a second round. Sam didn’t have any idea how long a reprieve it was going to be, so he flipped open his notes and got started while he could.
The wind blew up, then abruptly ceased, and a thick, unnatural darkness clamped down around them. It was so black that when Sam glanced upwards, he couldn’t see the stars anymore. But that wasn’t an unusual occurrence for this spell, so he just kept on going. He could feel the power rising up, pushing and snaking around just underneath his skin, and in the background he vaguely registered Dean cursing, low and agitated. The different parts of the spell slowly aligned, clicked into place, and then…
* * *
One moment, Dean was standing up straight. The next it was like somebody was pressing the whole world against a glass pane, smearing it hard with a spatula or something. He couldn’t breathe—he struggled and tried to call for Sam—and then things were normal again.
Well, no, they weren’t. It was still dark, but vamp-sight let him see Luther flat against the far wall, and a shaken-looking Sam still down on the floor. It also showed him a roof, four whole walls and actual wood planking down on the ground. And he could hear people moving around—lots of people in the building next to them, which had at least three floors, and then somebody stumbling out on the street, and—and horses. He took a sharp breath and smelled sweat, booze, cheap cigarettes, leather.
“Oh…shit,” Sam whispered. “What the hell—”
“Shut up!” Luther hissed. He stared disbelievingly at Sam for a second—there was more than a little fear, too—then slowly turned around. A door had shown up next to him where there’d just been a big hole before, and he dropped down in front of it to…listen to what was going on in the beyond, apparently.
People were moving around there, with lots of light laughter and what Dean thought might be a piano. He glanced around again and saw shelves, piles of crates; he was standing next to a three-tall stack of big trunks, like the old-fashioned ones people used to use for luggage. After checking Luther, who was now picking at something in one of the piles, Dean eased his way into the center of the room where Sam was. He reached down and Sam immediately seized his wrist.
The place looked like a storeroom. A sinking feeling started in Dean’s gut and he suddenly wanted to throw open the door and run out to the Impala, but…
“Oh, my God.” Luther backed away from the door. A plank creaked under his foot and all three of them froze, but no one even started to come to check it out, so apparently it hadn’t been heard. Then Luther dropped to his hands and knees and crawled the rest of the way over. He held out a fragment of a paper; his eyes were fluorescing so brightly it was impossible to see his expression, but the green spots were so large that he was definitely in shock. “You smell that ink? This isn’t more than a few days old!” he whispered.
Sam took it, but from the way he let it dangle from his fingers, he couldn’t read it. Dean bent down to take a look.
It was a piece ripped from the front page of a newspaper: real funny-looking font…and then Dean saw the date. “Oh, fuck--wait, wait. This place is known for flashbacks. It’s one of those, right? We—we are not actually in eighteen-fifty-five. We can’t be.”
“What?” Sam hissed.
Dean started to answer, then jerked around to stare at the door. Footsteps were coming their way, and maybe it wasn’t real, but—but he dragged himself and Sam over to a big heap of crates and hid anyway. He looked back, but Luther seemed frozen in place.
Sam elbowed hard at Dean’s side, then twisted free. He looked up and opened his mouth—
Luther gave himself a shake, then gestured sharply at them to stay down and shut up. He hurriedly yanked his coat around himself, then looked at his shoes: beaten-up work-boots. He winced for some reason and lifted one foot, but by then the door was opening and he whirled around to face whoever it was.
A woman let out a shocked little shriek, which made Dean tense up, but Luther jumped too, then made shushing motions with his hands. He took a huge breath—God, that was exaggerated—and said…something about the late hour and needing things and was he flirting?
“What happened to his accent?” Sam muttered. “What’s he saying?”
A thick, musky trace of perfume wormed its way into the room as the edge of a skirt swung into view. The woman stayed in the doorway so the door and Luther blocked most of her from view, but she sounded much more relaxed. She laughed, told Luther to just go on and help himself, it was all leftovers from broke bastards who’d gone running with only that to settle the bill, and the hell was she supposed to do with all of that cheap stuff when more and more were coming in with every stagecoach of hopeful fools?
Luther thanked her with a teasing, understanding kind of laugh. Both of them had weird accents, which weren’t the hardest ones to figure out that Dean had ever heard, but it did take some getting used to. The trickier part was getting all the slang they were using.
After some more back-and-forth—Luther and the woman seemed to be negotiating prices for something at one point—the door closed and Luther immediately slumped with obvious relief, putting one hand to his forehead. “Great. How long did those flashbacks last for everyone else?”
Sam hesitated, then pushed out from behind the boxes. “Only a couple minutes. They also said that it was like looking at a film playing—not very solid. And—and I don’t think this is one,” he said very quietly.
Luther glanced at him with no particular expression on his face. Then he shrugged and moved over to one of the shelves. He lifted out a box and pawed through its contents, then pulled out a bundle of clothing and tossed it over; Dean barely caught it in time. “Okay. That was the madam; she says help ourselves to the clothes and she’ll bill it to the room. She’s only got one free—also, I said you two were coming in tomorrow morning, and that was when we’d pay up.”
“The…‘madam’.” Dean flipped open the clothes he had, and after some squinting, figured out he had a shirt and…chaps? Oh, hell, no. “And pay? How the hell—do they take paper money back now—then—whatever the fuck. God, this is so fucked-up, even for us.”
“We’re in the backroom of a brothel. Not like any legitimate business was going to take over a haunted silversmith’s,” Luther muttered. He yanked out another box and picked a pair of boots out of it, then stuffed it back. He did that a couple times till he found a pair he liked. “Do you have any idea what faro is?”
He sounded stressed out, but otherwise he was doing that creepy calm routine of his, like…like getting stuck in a hundred and fifty years ago wasn’t a big deal. Like losing TV and air-con and cars without having any idea how to get back wasn’t a big fucking deal. Like things weren’t already bad enough because Dad was dead and Sam was in constant danger and Dean was a goddamn vampire , and now they had to put up with this shit, too? Holy fucking—
--Luther snarled at Dean, way low so that he knew Sam wouldn’t have heard it. Maybe felt it, like the sudden crawly feeling you got when you knew something was stalking you, but he didn’t hear it. Dean did, and it jerked him right out of panic and into simmering rage; he slashed his arm out to keep Sam behind him and snarled back.
For some reason, Luther grinned at him. “Okay, that’s better. Could you save the hysterics for later?”
“What?” Dean blinked.
“Jesus, calm down,” Sam hissed, clamping onto Dean’s arm. He pulled at it, then pushed around Dean to go over to the shelves. “Fuck. Okay, this probably is the best idea. I still have my notes. We’ll just have to put up with this for a while so I can figure out how to reverse things.”
Dean…was not taking a while to catch on, thank you. He knew exactly what was going on, and yeah, that was practical, but it wasn’t necessarily something he liked. “Yeah…yeah, but brothel? What about our little hunger issues? And—and fuck! All I’ve got with me is my gun and a hunting knife. Our rifles—”
“For Christ’s sake, it’s not that goddamn hard to get rifles here. Though you’ll have to get accustomed to cartridge-loading instead of clips,” Luther muttered, hastily switching his shoes. He put his hand on a shelf and paused, then shook himself hard. “Jesus. Try to remember how to talk…”
He seemed to be scolding himself right then, so Dean ignored it and started rummaging around for clothes. Fine, they’d ended up time-traveling and he wasn’t really equipped and he was mildly freaking out, but he damn well wasn’t letting Luther dress him.
* * *
Sam stared dubiously at the bed they were supposed to use. It was narrow and short enough so that he already knew his feet were going to be hanging off it, but more to the point, it smelled like semen and two insect-y things had already crawled out of it when he’d pulled back the sheets. Gross.
“I guess it was a good thing we dressed in the dark?” Dean weakly said. He yanked at his collar for the thousandth time in the last few minutes, then looked longingly at the bundle of their old, modern clothes on the corner chair.
Actually, the clothes were probably okay. Nearly all of them had still been folded up nicely, so their original owners hadn’t even unpacked them yet, and Sam assumed—fine, hoped like hell—that most people only packed cleaned clothing. But the bed…Sam looked around, then gave up and sat down on the floor as far as he could get from the bed. “Well, I had a good nap earlier. I’ll just get started on getting us the hell out of here.”
“Yeah. God, Luther must be having a fucking ball. We really do need him for this crap, and God knows where he’ll go with that…” Dean dug his heel into the floor for a couple more seconds, then moved over to the window. “We can’t even leave, thanks to the story he fed that woman.”
“Look, he was covering for us there. It’s not like he had time to come up with some evil plan right then,” Sam had to say. There was a point to what Dean said, but there was also a point to the fact that Luther actually had saved their asses, and with no prompting.
A fraction before a knock on the door came, Dean turned around with a sigh. That told Sam who it was, so he didn’t bother to get up.
Luther eased himself around the door and inside as other people blundered down the hall past him, one a giggling female door and the other harsh and male and very, very drunk. He glanced back into the hall, expression an odd mix of nostalgia and disgust, then shut the door.
“How was faro or whatever?” Dean asked, voice dangerously nice.
“I remember how to play,” Luther dryly replied. He pulled a small leather bag out of his pocket and shook out the contents on the top of the dresser: a combination of unfamiliar-looking paper bills and heavy silver and gold coins. He rapidly divided it into four piles, then pointed at the largest. “That one is how much we owe to Jane, the…mistress of the house.”
Sam had pulled himself up to take a look. “Are you kidding? For this crappy room?”
“No, more for not gossiping about us, or even mentioning we’re around. I…” Luther frowned at the coins “…I…I’m trying to remember if anyone I pissed off would be in town. And where I was—am right now, for that matter. Also, I didn’t think you really wanted to spread the word since the demon’s pretty damn alive right now.”
“Oh…oh, hell.” Dean slumped against the side of the window, staring blankly into space. “We’ve got to get out of here.”