Word Count: 12,000
Notes: Written for the 2013/2014 spn_reversebang. I had the immense good fortune of working with the fantastically talented badbastion, and have to offer her up many many thanks for not only providing such inspirational artwork, but also for being such a wonderful partner in crime. This is so late, guys. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.
Warnings: violence, blood, gore, dark!Winchesters, multiple pov's, major and minor character death (Try and roll with me on this one guys. Death is sorta the whole point here, except in all the ways that it really, truly isn't. That being said, please feel free to pm me if you have any concerns.)
Summary: No one knows how they died, but one man knows how to bring them back. One night a year he resurrects them, and uses them as a tool to exact revenge on the people who have betrayed him. Of course, it's almost impossible to control a Winchester.
It’s the best kept secret in Lincoln County, one of the few things in this place that has nothing to do with Billy the Kid, although you could argue the case. It might. Distantly, at that. This a place famous for its last stands, hail mary’s when there’s nothing left to lose.
The night is incredibly cold and clear for now, but Hawthorne’s bones know how to read the weather. His scars ache, his knee screams with every step and his once-broken ribs groan as he twists to make sure the kid is still following him. Rain is coming.
“Almost there. Just a little further,” Hawthorne tells him, squinting into the darkness, getting his bearings. Behind him, the kid snickers, quietly mimics his blue blood accent, poking fun, but Hawthorne lets it slide. He’s a descendant of Salem and proud of it, the many-times-removed great-grandchild of a man who would not suffer a witch to live, mostly because he had been one himself and was always too cautious to get caught.
The kid is struggling to keep up, teeth clacking and shivering from the cold, all skinny arms and skinny legs. Barely twenty and pale as if he’s never seen the sun before, ribs like a ladder in his tight-as-skin t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off and elbows poking through his slinky black opera gloves. This kid who had followed him here on the promise of a tab of molly and the best blowjob he might ever have, better than anything money could buy. Too stupid or too horny to know that it’s never a good idea to talk to strangers.
Sometimes it’s so simple it’s almost laughable.
Four slender silver rods mark the corners of a sunken patch of land, entirely missable in the darkness, but Hawthorne put them there, and anyway, he could find this place blind or blindfolded. A thrum in his blood draws him here, a positive charge to a negative one or vice versa. A grave, dug shallow and wide enough for two, the final resting place of the Winchesters. Maybe not so final.
No one knows how they died. Together, and violently, that’s for sure. Some say it was a werewolf that did it, or some jacked up shapeshifter-djinn hybrid. The demons say it was an angel and the angels say it was a demon. Others say that it was each other, that they’d always been on the right side of crazy, that they’d died in some sort of lunatic suicide pact. The only thing that Hawthorne knows is that they were the best. Hunters knew it too, and rumor tells of some folks who took pieces of them after they died and before some charitable soul dug their grave, and those pieces were traded on the black market like ancient relics. The Winchesters, patron saints of lost causes. A snip of Sam Winchester’s hair in a gris gris, a dab of Dean Winchester’s blood in your protection spell will do the trick.
Hawthorne spins, drops to his knees, vibrant cold seeping through his pants and into his joints. The kid leers at him, swagger in the last few steps the poor sucker will ever take. He palms the back of Hawthorne’s head, sets his feet wide, hisses between his teeth when Hawthorne pulls his cock out, licks up the underside and swallows him down.
The blood is always easiest, the spunk is sometimes harder. It’s a damn good night when he can get both at the same time, and tonight is shaping up to be a very good night. Hawthorne works him until he’s hard, keeps going until he’s panting, thigh muscles shivering under his palms and cock pulsing in his mouth. He’s calm, heartbeat steady and head in the game, at least until he slips his hand into his boot, closes his fingers around the handle of the knife just as the kid starts to shoot into his mouth, and then it’s on.
In one fluid movement, Hawthorne gets to his feet, slashes the knife across the kid’s throat. It’s easy, so easy, hot knife into butter easy, and the poor sap never sees it coming, with his head thrown back the way it is.
Take one life in order to give two. The scales are tipped in his direction, karma scrubbed clean. For now.
Steam rises up from the kid’s body and the slick, black coat of blood on his own hands. The moon is a spotlight in the break in the scrub trees, high in the sky, full and silver. It glints on the rim of the small golden cup that Hawthorne draws from inside his coat. He spits the kid’s come into it and tips it down to catch the fading arterial pump from the gaping slash in his neck, then lets the body go, kicks it until it’s face down, drags him to the edge of the clearing before returning to the grave. There’s a glazed over gleam of the victim’s eyes and the rictus set of his mouth, the gash across his throat in the shape of a clown’s painted-on smile. The kid had been staring at him, and he doesn’t want an audience.
Hawthorne drops a bullet into the cup, a silver slug that Sam Winchester was said to have used to take down a werewolf that he might or might not have fucked beforehand. Blood puddles around the soles of his boots, seeps up to fill his footprints. It should be enough.
The spell is old, picked up from a Peruvian witch doctor who didn’t live much past the sharing of it. Sweat from the sun and tears of the moon, seminal fluid and blood. Something borrowed, something blue, and a few words spelled out phonetically on parchment that has been creased and re-creased.
There’s a crack of thunder when he begins the incantation, white lightning dancing between the silver rods in the ground. The hair starts to stand up on his arms, the back of his neck, and the air grows even colder, warm currents running through it. Tornado weather, hot air blowing in one direction and cold air in the other, shifting microcosms, and a shadow seems to pass over the moon, or perhaps it’s just Hawthorne’s vision. A pit grows in his stomach, some curl of heat not entirely unlike sex, those few moments right before he comes. The ground starts to feel unsteady below his feet, shifting quicksand, and gravity doubles, presses down on his shoulders, then there’s this sound, or more of a lack of sound, some heavenly vacuum that swoops in and sucks all of the air out of the world.
Hawthorne breathes, or tries to. He counts his heartbeats. The blood on his fingers is drying and making them sticky and stiff. The silver cup in his hand is cold. His tongue feels thick. His mouth still tastes like come. Everything goes very, very still. The spell isn’t going to work, and it’ll be a year until everything lines up and he can try it again, long enough to find another relic and find another victim and another loophole.
The first few drops of rain fall on his head, he knew it was coming, freezing on the ground upon impact, click clacking against the tree branches. He starts to turn away, but then a concussive blast hits, strong enough that Hawthorne’s knocked to his knees and tossed forward as if he’s nothing more than a straw-stuffed ragdoll caught in a whirlwind, pinned against a tree trunk that acts like some sort of doorstop, at least until the thing cracks half way up the trunk, splits outward with a crash that makes Hawthorne bite his tongue.
The earth is starting to bulge before him, balloon up and swell, wriggling and squirming movement like a nest of snakes right below the surface, and he scrabbles in that direction, struggling against this strange g-force. The ground is warm to the touch, baked in the sun in the middle of August warm, not stuck in the teeth of February cold.
He digs, dirt under his fingernails and he really should have thought to bring a shovel. He’s a necromancer by blood, inheritance and vocation, but right now he feels like a rookie, first day on the job. His fingers scrabble against something warm, a glancing touch of flesh, soft as a newborn, which in a way, he supposes they are, and then they’re crawling out of the ground, naked skin steaming and shiny in the low light. Hawthorne counts four hands, four legs in the writhing mass of earth and falls backward, scuttles a few feet away.
They’re on their bellies, etching snow angels in the mud and the blood, making small, labored groans as they scramble to their hands and knees and start to crawl. They look like something out of a Maya creation myth, the Hero Twins freshly spit of out the underworld, fashioned of mud and bone and blood.
They struggle toward each other, movements wooden, stiff and straining, eyes shining whitely through the filth and fixed on each other, and they seem to get their bearings, figure out up from down at least.
Dean’s substantial, wide across his back and built to fight, but Sam’s huge, shoulders like a linebacker and hands that could wrap around Hawthorne’s neck so easy, with plenty of room to spare, half a head taller than his brother. Hawthorne had been told about his size, had always figured that it was like so many other tall tales that surround the brothers, larger than life and entirely blown out of proportion. This one small facet is true though, and gives Hawthorne hope for the rest of it.
They are gaining strength by the millisecond, climb to their knees when they’re only inches apart. There’s a pause, a deep breath they seem to draw in unison, and Dean reaches out, flattens his palm against Sam’s heart for a moment, then slides his hand upward, creating clean tracks on Sam’s skin through the mud and blood to notch his fingers to the side of Sam’s neck, as if he’s checking for a pulse. Sam sighs, leans into the touch, presses his thumb to the dip below Dean’s bottom lip, fits his hand to the angle of Dean’s jaw, so intimate and close and Hawthorne almost feels like he shouldn’t be watching this, that he should look away. He can’t though. He can’t.
The only thing they see is each other, unaware of Hawthorne cowering a small distance away, mindless of the deafening cracks as a few final trees topple. They fall against one another, chests together, hips rubbing furtively and restlessly. Newly born into this world after a decade beneath the ground and the only thing they know is each other. They kiss, open mouthed, Sam slicking his tongue in right away, and they suck and bite at each other’s lips, greedy and rough. Violence is the only thing they’ve ever known, their whole lives constructed by it, beginning and ending with it and there’s no reason that this should be any different.
“That is...unexpected,” Hawthorne whispers, and he’s only partially upright, finds himself sliding weakly back down to the ground as if they’re stealing his strength to regain their own, which might be the story for all he knows. He’s also not sure if this is new, some side effect of the resurrection or if it’s yesterday’s headline, but from the way that Dean pulls his brother on top of him, the easy, familiar way Sam settles between the curve of his thighs, the way they rut against each other, their locked-in-place rhythm and the need for friction and heat, something tells Hawthorne that this is nowhere near the first time.
There’s something so perfect about it, the instinctive, immediate way they move together. Dean licks along Sam’s throat and makes a clean spot, laps at the dirt and the blood like he’s thirsty for it. The muscles in Sam’s ass strain, bunch and gather as he slides against his brother. Dean’s teeth are gritted, slick and white in the gloom, his eyes are shut down tight, his whole body a mass of wiry, well-developed muscles and obvious desperation. Hawthorne kneads at himself through his loose-fitting pants, low pool of heat in his gut growing more and more necessary, cock heavy and throbbing against his palm.
Sam’s thrusts begin to grow wild, out of control, back curved toward his brother as he pushes one of Dean’s legs up over his shoulder and grinds against him, hell of a lot of stamina for a guy who just got back to shore after a decade out to sea. Dean’s panting, low animalistic sounds between his clenched teeth as he digs into Sam’s lower back, his free leg flattening out under Sam’s weight.
This is Hawthorne’s miracle, his beautiful, unlikely miracle. Give him the Stanley Cup and the Heisman Trophy and his own goddamn star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he pulled it off.
They finish, bodies shuddering, moaning, growling into each other’s mouths, spunk shot so hot and thick between them that Hawthorne can smell the spike of it above the ozone and the blood, and it’s only then that they notice him, untangle their long limbs and roll to a crouch, knuckles skimming along the forest floor to give them balance. Hawthorne had been carrying a small seed of dread in his gut since the earth began to rise up, and now it’s starting to unravel, grow exponentially. The gaze they lay on him is flat, dead, pure primate curiosity, but then they look at each other and there’s something else. A spark. The tiniest spark, and maybe the corner of Dean’s mouth twitches up a little, and maybe Sam’s eyebrow quirks, and that’s when Hawthorne starts to think he might be in for it.
Hawthorne straightens, uses the splintered tree trunk for leverage, tips his chin up and squares his shoulders. He pushes his long, pale hair back, exposing the side of his face that he usually keeps hidden and waits for a hint of a reaction. There’s isn’t one. They’re not here to judge him; that’s not why he brought them back.
“You’re mine now, gentlemen,” he says, voice pitched deep and authoritative. It does the trick. They take a couple of shuffling steps toward him. “Pack your bags. You have an appointment, and I intend to keep it.”
“All finished for the night, sweetheart,” the woman says, not bothering to turn around as the bell over the door rings, “the spirit world has gone quiet. Perhaps they’ll have more wisdom to impart in the morning.” Her accent lands somewhere between Michigan and Transylvania and falls short on both accounts. She’s got red hair now, redder from the garish neon sign in the window advertising palmistry and psychic readings, and she’s a bit more thin than last time Hawthorne laid eyes, but her bullshit is the same.
Hawthorne glances around the room, nose wrinkling at the cloying mix of patchouli and nag champa, at the sitar music pumping through the hidden speakers, at the twinkling fairy lights, the silk scarves and candles and the cloudy crystal ball on the counter. Claudia has always had a flair for the dramatic, but he has to give her bonus points for hiding in plain sight.
“Are you sure you won’t give it a try? Not even for an old friend?”
She freezes, and the money she’s counting flutters to the floor. Calmly, quietly, she says, “You were dead.”
“It didn’t stick,” Hawthorne informs her, and he has to admit that he’s enjoying this, hasn’t had this much fun in years.
Slowly, Claudia turns around, her expression shocked but still defiant. The years haven’t been kind to her; she looks worn, haggard, lines dug into her skin that weren’t there seven years ago, and for a brief flash, Hawthorne’s empathy kicks in, and he almost misses the vibrant young person she once was. Almost.
The Winchesters flank him. They’re wound up tight, both of them swaying a little, hardly contained kinetic energy wrapped up in hand-me-down clothes, Sam’s t-shirt too small across his chest and his jeans not even reaching his ankles, Dean in an army flak jacket that doesn’t come close to fitting his shoulders, sleeves riding up above his wrists. Hawthorne will have to plan better next time.
They’re still silent, and that’s more than a little unnerving, but they seem to understand him well enough, had known what it meant when he’d opened the trunk of his car and had given them free rein over the limited arsenal he’d collected. Outside of the small house where Claudia makes her living, Dean had chosen a knife and Sam a machete and they’d smiled at each other, wicked and feral, eyes flicking toward the doorway.
Claudia is warded, Hawthorne can feel it in his bones, in the stunted boundary of his power. She wears a talisman around her neck, a series of pictish spirals woven out of silver. When she sees the Winchesters, she wraps her fist around it, and the power surrounding her doubles. Hawthorne sees it now, in the faint white lines that shift around her, settle on her body like wispy cobwebs. The shawl she’s wearing has fallen from her shoulders, and that’s something else that’s new, the ink etched into her skin, both arms bearing arcane protection symbols from shoulder to elbow in the deep red-brown color of henna.
“It won’t do you any good,” Hawthorne says, and thinks about trying to wipe the smile from his voice, figures there isn’t much point. Besides, he’s waited a long time for this. He deserves to have some fun. “My boys here aren’t put off by that sorta thing. After you’ve faced off with the devil, everything else rather pales in comparison.”
The blood drains from her face, her painted mouth falls open and her eyes go wide. “How…” Claudia breathes, then recognition slaps her in the face and she trips backward a step, bangs into the shelf behind her and something goes clattering to the ground. “You said they were gone. I remember...you threw a fucking party when you heard the news.”
Any witch worth his or her salt knew about them, lived in a perpetual state of looking over their shoulders, waiting for the day that the Winchesters would darken their doorstep. He remembers his dearly departed coven and the relief that they had felt, and that particular celebration. Days and days of wine and magic and fucking.
“It turns out that it didn’t stick with them too well either.” He circles around to stand behind the brothers, pets Sam’s shoulder and moves onto Dean, just to prove a point, ignores the way they both flinch at his touch.
“How did you do it?” She’s vamping, buying time. It’s not going to be enough.
Hawthorne smiles. Claudia had been his best student, a memory like a steel trap and an insatiable lust for knowledge. His ego almost takes over, wants him to boast and he nearly tells her, but instead he says, “Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of.”
A small nudge to their elbows is all it takes. Dean moves to the right, Sam goes left to distract her, and Claudia puts her back to the wall, nowhere to go but up. Her lips start to move, low incantations that don’t make it to Hawthorne’s ears, but the results of them are obvious. She’s calling down spirits to do her dirty work, phantoms made of air and bad intentions. Dean’s head gets snapped to the side by an invisible force and he reels backward, wrecks a display case and lands in a pile of splintered glass and chincey rose quartz.
Dean rolls to his feet, mouth busted and grinning bloody as a ghost flickers in front of him, shimmery, pale and indistinctly anthropomorphic. Hawthorne tries to counter her spell, of a mind to protect his investment and all that, and soon discovers that he might as well be reciting a recipe for chocolate chip cookies for all the good it does him. His power is worthless against her, about as useful as shining a flashlight into a black hole. It’s a useful spell. He regrets the day he taught it to her.
Then Sam’s there, covering Dean, steady and as inevitable as a mountain, overpriced metalwork cast in a vaguely feminine shape plucked from the wall that he uses as a weapon, slashing through the ghost. He scatters it temporarily to the four winds, turns to the three that have taken its place, and it’s then that Hawthorne gets it. They’d managed to live as long as they did because there were two of them. It’s always taken two.
The boys are a study in essential animal violence. Dean is balls to the wall, reckless, jumps into it with both feet, gets slammed into shelves and across counters, against the door and into Hawthorne twice, and every time he just gets right back up. Sam is more calculating, doesn’t waste any energy, looks for openings and takes them. They are acutely aware of how the other one moves, this maniac waltz with clean choreography that builds toward the finale when Sam clears a path through Claudia’s wall of ghosts and drops to a knee as Dean throws his knife. A clean shot that buries the knife to the hilt in her windpipe.
The crunch of broken glass beneath Hawthorne’s feet sounds oddly loud in the silence that follows. He feels a surprising pang as he looks down at her. Not regret or remorse, but something closer to pity. He’d loved her once. He’d loved all of them, sure, but of all of his students, she’d been the one with the most gold stars, his little occultish valedictorian.
Reaching down, he yanks the talisman from around her neck, holds it up and watches it spin. “And then there were three,” he says softly.
“Air,” Sam says, standing a few feet away, head cocked sideways and eyes locked on the twirling necklace. “It’s the symbol for air.” His voice is deep, dry and rusty. Moments ago, they’d dispatched no fewer than a dozen ghosts and one particularly talented witch, and they’re hardly out of breath, didn’t even break a sweat.
“It speaks.” Hawthorne frowns and tucks the pendant into his pocket. He’s human, mostly, and not above a small indulgence in sentimentality. “And it speaks correctly.”
Inside the small house he doesn’t have the juice to do what needs doing, the remnants of Claudia’s protective spells still very much in place, so he walks between them and pushes the door open, the brothers following on his heels like two deadly, overgrown puppies. He props a hip against the passenger door of his car, crosses his ankles, takes the knife from his boot and draws a line across his thumb, sucks on it to bring his blood to the surface, switches up and gives his other thumb a similar treatment.
“You’ve done well tonight. I’d take you two out for ice cream, but it would appear that we’re running low on time.”
Sam straightens his back and squints at him. His fingers turn white around the grip of his machete. Dean pops his knuckles as if he’s about to go all in for round two, and Hawthorne is nervous, thinks that he might be caught in the act of trying to hold back a pissed off silverback with a leash made of pure, soft 24-carat gold. He doesn’t let it show, however, and goes on, “The man who taught me the spell told me that you can’t be around to see the sunrise. He didn’t live long enough to tell me why, however. Real pity.” Hawthorne pushes himself off of the car, hold his arms spread wide. “Anyway, gather ‘round, boys. I wanna tell you a secret.”
It has to be simultaneous, and it has to be fast. Seven words in Quechua and twin bloody thumbprints to their foreheads and the boys fall to their knees, sparks swirling within suddenly transparent flesh in a way that reminds Hawthorne of old-school episodes of Star Trek.
“Well, that’s anticlimactic,” Hawthorne says to the two piles of bones at his feet. He plucks up one of Sam’s ribs, traces the pattern of archaic symbols etched into it with a fingernail. “Sort of like Christmas. You wait all year for it and it’s over in a blink.”
The first thing Sam knows is pain, searing, hot and cold all at once. He’s back in the cage, not sure how he got there, knows that once he tears his eyes open he’ll see the devil looming over him, extracting his pound of flesh for the day, the hour, the minute. His teeth chatter and his muscles strain and ache, grit digs into his back and collects under his fingernails and there’s a far-away voice, welcoming him home.
Wait a minute. Go back. Reverse.
The pain fades to a low thrum. Spots scatter across his vision, swim into focus and they’re stars, the entire fishbowl of the universe laid bare above him, bracketed by rust colored hills on either side. The strange, alien landscape of the American southwest and that’s when Sam realizes that he’s back. It’s a different kind of cage.
Something skitters against his shoulder. Dean. He could find his brother blindfolded in a room full of strangers, would recognize how the air moves around him, the sound of his breath, and the inexplicable way the world seems to line up, snap into place when he’s within arm’s reach.
Dean’s writhing beside him, naked body twisting and turning. He’s reaching out, skeletal hand opening and closing reflexively, and Sam watches with acute, morbid fascination as the last of Dean’s flesh knits together to envelope his finger bones, perfect and new and entirely unscarred. He takes one of those fingers into his mouth, traces the whorl of Dean’s fingerprints with his tongue, tastes dirt and salt. He sucks on it, plays the demanding little brother until Dean responds, gets his head on straight and smiles at Sam, pulls him in tight and replaces his finger with his tongue. That’s when it gets good.
“Sorry to interrupt this lovely moment you’re having,” a voice from above cuts in. “Finish your chores and maybe there will be time for recreation a little later.”
It comes back in a flash, cloudy, like a dream or a life lived by a different person. A white-haired man and a red-haired woman. A fight, but that’s not important. There will always be fights. The taste of blood on Dean’s mouth like chewing on pennies and that’s what’s important, that’s what matters. Everything else can burn, and if this man doesn’t leave them alone, everything very well might.
The man standing at their feet is tall, slender in a way that makes him look even taller, with pin-straight white hair that falls across his face. He’s half turned away, as if he’s used to hiding something, and immediately Sam is suspicious, never has trusted a person who’s unwilling to face them full on. He holds his left arm close to his body, favors his right leg when he takes a step closer to them. It’s either from a recent injury or a habit formed by an old one. The wind changes direction, and Sam learns that it’s door number two. The left side of his face looks like its been put through a grinder and mangled, his eyelid drooping over a blind eye and his mouth slightly turned down on that side. The other side is beautiful, like cover of a magazine, make everyone in the room sit up and take notice kinda beautiful, full lips and high, pronounced cheekbones. He’s a bit too gaunt for Sam’s taste, who has always preferred a guy with a little meat on his bones. A guy like his brother.
“Fuck off,” Dean says, “can’t you see we’re occupied?” The sound of Dean’s voice, the low purr of it, makes Sam’s blood race. The steady grip that he takes on Sam’s cock helps, too.
“A refresher course, then. I’m Hawthorne, the wicked witch of...well...everywhere, and you will obey me,” he says, a different timbre to the words, and Sam feels a twist deep inside of his chest, a hardly deniable urge to get to his feet and follow this guy all the way to the ends of the earth, jump before he has the chance to say frog.
Sam schools himself as he rises, mentally poking and prodding at the boundaries of this new thing, trying to control it. Dean’s already standing and not happy about it, a sneer on his face that’s edging its way into a snarl, pulling on the jeans that Hawthorne hands him and yanking the t-shirt over his head, and Sam wants to slit Hawthorne’s throat for that alone. Forcing Dean to cover up all that pretty, pretty skin is a crime against both nature and humanity.
Hawthorne limps in a ring around them, a commander inspecting the grunts. He pauses for a second to palm Dean’s ass, and now the motherfucker’s just asking for it. That’s Sam’s job, nobody else’s. “Don’t think that I brought you back because you’re nice to look at,” Hawthorne continues. “It’s a perk, sure.” He crosses in front of Sam and trails his thumb nail along Sam’s abdomen. “But remember this: you’re my weapon. Nothing more. You’re my axe.”
“We’ve tangled with nastier,” Dean says. “What’s the worst you could do? Kill me?”
“The worst thing I could do wouldn’t happen to you,” Hawthorne says. “It would happen to him. And trust me when I say I can be very imaginative.” He digs in until a welt appears on Sam’s stomach, harder still and a thin line of blood beads up in the center of it. Sam gives him the million dollar smile that’s usually Dean’s to spread around. Years ago, in the cage, he’d once remained perfectly still, watched while Lucifer cracked a rib from his chest and licked it clean, healed him and did it all over again. This is right here is a day at the goddamn beach in comparison.
And if Sam plays along, it’s mostly because he wants to quit fucking around, stop wasting time and get his brother’s dick in his mouth. Between gritted teeth, he spits out, “If we’re your axe, then where’s the tree?”
“That-a-way, gentlemen,” Hawthorne says with a grand sweeping motion, indicating a small huddle of buildings in the distant gloom.
Sam gets dressed, wraps a flannel around his waist since desert air has a way of turning on a dime, and arms himself. Two knives and a glock that feels fairly good in his hand, more knives for Dean and an assault rifle. As an afterthought, Dean picks up a set of brass knuckles. He’s showy like that.
Sam takes a few steps toward the road when he notices Hawthorne hanging back.
“You’re afraid,” Dean says, managing to land smack in between irritated and incredulous.
“I wouldn’t call it afraid. Your target likes to spend his free time in the mines, and I’m dreadfully claustrophobic. Being tied up inside of a bonfire and subsequently lit on fire often does that to a person.”
They’re on the outskirts of a nearly abandoned town, Arizona maybe, or the lower elevations of New Mexico, somewhere dry and dusty, one of those places that sprung up fast and cheap when they found precious metal in them thar hills, and went bust just as fast when the mines stopped producing. Nothing much left, only a few clapboard shacks, a catch-all general store that sells cold drinks, t-shirts, cigarettes and stamps. A greasy-spoon restaurant still clings to life, a bar next to it for when the tourist fathers get sick of their tourist children. A faded sign hangs in the window of the place and advertises discount helicopter rides into the Grand Canyon from a company that probably went defunct a decade ago. Another ad talks about spine-tingling, lantern-led ghost tours of the mines by the one and only Rob Hardwood, a picture of the man himself wearing a miner’s helmet and a shit-eating grin at the bottom of it. For forty bucks he’ll lead you into the mine where you can hobnob with the spirits of departed miners.
Sam and Dean walk down the center of Main Street like a pair of gunslingers, pistols tucked into their belts and their thumbs hooked into their pockets. Dean’s asking whether they’re the cowboys or the indians, talking about shootouts at the OK Corral, wondering if that joint over there has enough people in it to start a respectable bar fight, wants to know whether or not it serves sarsaparilla.
“You tried it once. You didn’t like it,” Sam tells him.
“Yeah?” Dean says, eyebrows up. “When?”
“I can’t remember. There’s something...” Things skitter around in Sam’s mind, questions that he can’t hang onto long enough to pick apart, strange images, pictures of Dean on his knees with a gun in his hand. His skin tingles like he has a fever and every step he takes feels out of context.
Dean pulls him up short with a fist wrapped around the back of his collar. “We’re ghosts, Sam,” he says with an edge of long-suffering exasperation that he reserves for Sam alone. “We don’t exist.”
Sam touches Dean’s neck and opens his mouth to argue, point out the pulse he feels ticking on the side of his brother’s throat, but before he can say anything a man stumbles out of the bar, and Sam is smacked with the sudden desire to see what the guy’s blood might look like on the outside of his body.
“Get a room,” the man slurs after blinking at them for a moment. He trips over his own feet for a few steps then rights himself with the unlikely grace of the well and truly drunk, and scowls at the street as if it’s trying to pick a fight with him.
“If it ain’t the local celebrity himself,” Dean whispers and tips his chin toward the photo of the tour guide in the window. His grin is huge, eyes very bright. He’s bouncing on the balls of his feet and Sam wouldn’t be surprised if he starts to clap his hands like a five year old at a birthday party. “Hardly a fair fight.”
Sam breathes a theatrical sigh and watches the man weave along the sidewalk. “It’s never fair.”
“Maybe we should tip the scales,” Dean says, turning to look as the guy walks away. He leans his back against Sam’s chest, tilts his head to give Sam more room to nuzzle at his neck, press his tongue to Dean’s skin. “Maybe we should give him a head start.”
“Five minutes?” Sam suggests. He screws around until he gets his hands under Dean’s shirt and spreads them wide on his stomach, shivers as Dean arches into him, rubs his ass against his thickening cock.
“There’s such a thing as too much generosity,” Dean says around a chuckle. Their mark takes a corner and disappears from view. “C’mon.”
They maintain a safe distance, follow him the three blocks it takes for the town to dwindle out entirely, away from streetlights and curious eyes and then further, following warped railroad tracks that cut through scrub brush, down into washouts and back up again. They play the game, two very lethal cats tailing a mouse back to its hole.
An old Streamline trailer sits at the crest of a slight hill, two cheap folding chairs in front of it and a cooler in between for a coffee table, and that’s where their mark is heading. Rob disappears behind the place, and a minute later a generator ratchets up. A string of bare light bulbs flicker on, pulsing with dim light.
“I know you’re there,” Rob says as he re-emerges and steps into the circle of light. Everything about the guy says normal. Medium build, medium height, non-descript sandy-colored hair, a face that’s easy to forget. Not at all the type of guy who would set a buddy on fire. He hikes a thumb over his shoulder, indicating the far side of the hill beyond. “My operation’s been shut down for a month now. They say there’s a buildup of gas in the mine making it unsafe for tourists, so If you’re looking to steal something, I can tell you that I’ve got ten bucks in my wallet, and the most valuable thing in my trailer is a half-eaten ham sandwich from a day ago. You might as well come over here where I can see you.” The slur has left his voice, he’s rock-solid on his feet, and Sam has to smile. Well-played.
“Might take you up on that sandwich,” Dean says, drawing his gun and leveling it at the guy’s head. “I haven’t had a decent meal in...well...probably a decade.”
If Rob is shocked, he doesn’t show it. “Let me guess. Hawthorne?” He chuckles, dry as dirt. “I shoulda known he was still around. It’s hard as hell to kill a cockroach. I think that we came the closest, though, or at least took him down a peg or two. That pretty boy isn’t so pretty anymore, I bet.”
Dean hasn’t dropped his bead on the guy although his finger is still only hovering over the trigger. Sam knows he could have shot him full of holes and been half-way through a spaghetti dinner by now. He also knows there’s no fun in that. They’re each other’s drug of choice, but fear measures a close second, and this guy isn’t afraid enough yet. He’s hardly afraid at all.
“Closest,” Sam repeats. “What do you know about him?” He flicks two fingers toward his brother and Dean lowers his gun with a growl.
Rob shrugs. “I know that every other word outta his mouth is a lie. I never really figured out why he kept me around. I know I’m not much to look at. Probably had something to do with my particular abilities.” He draws a line in the dirt with his foot, snaps his fingers and the ground opens up with a huge crack, a fissure that’s a few feet long and half a foot wide, and now the man’s just showing off. “Tell me, has he fucked you yet? He likes ‘em big. And hot. Gotta say that you two are right up his alley.”
“Eh, he’s not really my type,” Sam says and slings an arm around Dean’s neck. “Besides, my brother here is a sure bet.”
“Aw, you say the nicest things.” Dean yanks him close, sinks his teeth into Sam’s bottom lip, sharp little stab of pain that means payback and Sam loses his train of thought, fragmented and incomplete in the first place and at this point it’s just gone. It’s replaced with the heat of Dean’s tongue and the warmth of his skin, the smooth shift of his hips when Sam shoves his hand down Dean’s pants and rubs at his cock.
“Brother,” Rob mumbles under his breath. “Wait a minute…”
“Oh, shut the hell up,” Dean says through his clenched jaw and fires his gun twice. The first shot goes wild, pings off of the trailer, and the second one grazes Rob’s shoulder, sends him tripping backward with a low grunt. He regains his footing quickly enough and disappears down the other side of the rise.
“You missed. I can’t believe you fucking missed. He was six feet away,” Sam points out.
“You had your hand on my dick. I was a little distracted.”
“Six feet,” Sam repeats.
“Eat me,” Dean says, tucking his gun into the waistband of his pants and starting off in a determined march.
“Oh, I’d love to. If fact I might have been doing exactly that by now if you hadn’t missed.”
Sam’s three steps into following Dean when the trailer starts to rock and shudder on its tires. The door bangs open and something comes tumbling out. It’s huge, walks hunched over with its knuckles dragging on the ground, comes to a stop in front of Sam and towers over him as it rises to its full height. Sam hears three more shots before he actually registers what they are, feels the compression of air on his face as they zip past him to obliterate the head of the creature in a cloud of dust.
“I didn’t miss that time.” Dean comes up behind him to scuff his fingers through Sam’s hair and stoops down to inspect the thing.
It’s fashioned out of deep red clay, fists twice the size of Sam’s head and twitching like it might have some sorta misfiring nervous system. It kicks out, the heel of its foot connecting solidly with Dean’s face. There’s a snap and a spray of blood and it’s Sam’s turn to start shooting, five bullets where the thing’s heart might be and two more in the gut for good measure.
“I don’t think it matters,” Sam says. He pulls Dean to his feet and starts following the witch, one eye on the creature as it slowly rises, its shoulders looking that much more massive without the benefit of a head.
“Won’t that thing die already?” Dean wipes at his face, flicks the blood from his fingertips. His skin is split across the bridge of his nose and there’s a white flash of exposed bone. It doesn’t slow him down.
“He’s controlling it.”
“Give the boy a gold star,” Dean shoots back and picks up speed on the downward slope of the hill, zeroed in on the small opening to the mine at the base.
They skid to a stop at the entrance to the tunnel, one last look over their shoulders at the mudman still on their tail, gaining ground with its awkward, shuffling gait. The tunnel is low, and the top of Sam’s head brushes the roof of it with every step, can easily touch either side of it without fully extending his arms. They trip over each other in their descent, and soon the smell of methane starts to take over, burning Sam’s nose and making his eyes water.
A faint light guides them, grows brighter when they follow a curve in the tunnel, the sound of harsh coughing bouncing off of the walls. The witch is in rough shape, the glow of his miner’s helmet flickers in and out and his skin is pale, shiny with sweat. The creature has made it into the tunnel, the whole place reverberating with its footsteps.
“Talk about a rock and a hard place.” Dean says. The blood leaking from the gash in his face has slowed to a trickle. There’s high color on his cheeks and his mouth is bright red, absolutely fuckable.
“All it takes is a spark,” Sam suggests.
“You with me on this?”
“I’m with you on everything,” Sam says simply. It’s the truth. When it comes right down to it, it’s always been the truth. “Besides, we’re ghosts, right? We don’t exist.”
“I know you. Both of you. You’re--you’re dead,” the witch stammers, mouth twisting.
“We know,” Dean tells him, taking aim. “Welcome to the club.”
“How much for the two of us?” Dean’s got his hip cocked against the wall and he’s playing with the girl’s necklace, idly fiddling it between his fingers.
She blinks up at him, coy, swirling the straw in her drink, her third slushy pink thing for the night. She’s tiny and sorta punk, short, dark green hair the color of seaweed, skimpy leather skirt and purposefully ripped up fishnets, a shirt tight enough to leave no doubt that both her nipples are pierced. She’d introduced herself as Alley, but not Allison, spelled like the cat.
Earlier in the night, Hawthorne had given them a rap sheet on her a mile long, cryptically warned them that she’s never alone, how that’s her biggest strength and her greatest weakness. He’d been on edge, shifty, made Sam’s hackles rise up more than usual.
They’ve been working recon on her for hours in this seedy strip joint, watched as she strutted onto the stage and fucked the hell out of the pole and reeled in three times more cash than any other dancer. A hush had fallen over the crowd as soon as she’d appeared, the men staring open-mouthed and entranced, trading the dollar bills they’d been shoving into g-strings all night for twenties and fifties. A few lucky men had fallen into her good graces, followed her into a back room and emerged shortly thereafter, dazed and grinning with their pockets turned inside out, walking woodenly toward the door.
“The two of you at the same time?” Alley asks, all innocence, sweeter than cherry pie.
“How about a two-for-one special?” Dean counters and Sam barely hides a derisive snort. He’s had enough of the act, enough of this dockside place that smells like unwashed fisherman and week-old seafood, doesn’t see why they can’t shank her right now and let Hawthorne deal with the fallout. And anyway, Dean’s showing way too much interest in what’s going on under her shirt for Sam’s taste, smirking at her too openly, leaning toward her a little too much.
“I might consider it,” Alley says and takes another sip, smiling around her straw. “Hey, how’d you get that scar, anyhow?” She traces the mark on Dean’s face, his war-wound from the last time they were topside.
“You wouldn’t believe him if he told you,” Sam cuts in. He pulls Dean to him, out of her reach, snugs Dean’s back to his chest, and hooks his chin over Dean’s shoulder. Sam steers him into a slow sway, one hand curled around Dean’s hip and the other tracing the cut of his thigh through his jeans. Dean figures it out pretty quick, reaches up and buries his hand in Sam’s hair and the girl’s eyes widen, interested. People are starting to pay attention, the bouncer most of all, a mountain of a man with black tribal tattoos etched across his bald head. He’s only doing his job, trying to protect the women here, and there’s something honorable in that. Sam would hate to have to take him out for it.
Dean spins, pushes at Sam until his back is to the wall, latches onto his throat and sucks. “I’ve got a case of blueballs that is literally a year old. Another minute of this and I’ll lay you out on the floor right here, let everybody watch,” he whispers into Sam’s ear. He stabs his hips forward, teasing dry friction enough to really get Sam going. “What do you have to say about that, brother mine?”
“I’d say it’s working. Don’t stop,” Sam mutters. His eyes are slitted, fixed on Alley as she steps closer. There’s a curious tilt to her head, her skin is flushed and she’s breathing fast. Dean kisses him, fucks his tongue into Sam’s mouth all hot and fast and perfect, and the girl’s mouth falls open, her tongue flicking along her bottom lip like she wants in on it too.
Sam can’t blame her. He knows what they look like. He smiles. Dean’s not the only one who can be very charming. “Whatcha drinking?”
“Sex on the beach,” she says.
“You wanna try the real thing?” Sam purrs.
“Don’t mind if I do,” she replies and takes their hands to pull them toward the door with an exaggerated swing of her hips and a nod to the bouncer to let him know the coast is clear. Warmth radiates from her fingers, settles into Sam’s skin and creeps up his arm. Dean’s eyebrows shoot up and tell Sam that he feels it too.
The beach is deserted at this hour, the ocean black and almost invisible. The sand is fine and compacted, a dirty ribbon of foam at the high tide mark. Alley leads them to a spot under the long fishing pier, dodging discarded liquor bottles and beer cans. The pound of the waves is louder here, bounces back and forth between the pilings.
There’s a soft scrape, and Sam can see the metallic glint of the dagger Dean drops from his sleeve, and as he reaches for the gun he’s got in his waistband, Alley starts to laugh, deep and throaty. The heat that started in his hand a few minutes ago has stretched across his entire body, a light vibration along with it that makes his skin itch. The air around him feels like molasses, his muscles nonresponsive.
“Not so fast, Sam,” she says. “On your knees.”
Sam drops down so fast it’s as if some almighty heavenly hand has descended to put him there. He’s immediately irritated, disappointed that all of this has come to a head so quickly, had kinda been looking forward to getting Dean to suck him off in front of an audience before the party started.
Dean begins a motion that will end with his knife in her chest, but he freezes half into it with a strangled sound as Alley lifts her hand, palm out like a traffic cop and says, “No you don’t.” The flirty girl is gone, breathy high-pitched voice replaced with cool command. “Do you think I’m stupid? I made you the second you walked into the place.” She struts toward Dean, who holds perfectly still while she paws at his chest, his stomach, his crotch. “I keep my ear to the ground. I’ve heard the rumors, and now here you are. The Winchester boys, live and in the flesh.”
“Enjoy it while you can, sister. It’s not gonna last long,” Dean warns her.
Alley drops down onto Sam next, straddles his thighs, skinny arms draped around his neck. “The boy who let the devil ride him,” she says as she squirms on his lap. “How do I stack up?” She laughs again. Sam can smell her breath, sickly sweet with rum. It makes his stomach flip, cartwheel, pull off whole gymnastic routines. “I almost want to let the two of you live. Almost. So you can go back and tell Hawthorne that I’m so much more powerful, now that he’s not sucking it out of me. One word, one thought, and the sailors here line up around the block to give me whatever I want.”
“Is that why all of you tried to kill him?” Dean asks. Tendons are straining in his neck and his stare is dead flat, hatred oozing off of him in waves.
“One of many reasons,” she tells him. “I mean, the ego alone on the guy was enough to make a girl homicidal.” Alley reaches around Sam and finds his gun, presses the barrel of it beneath his jaw. “Such a shame to wreck a face as handsome as yours.” She cuts her gaze between them and pushes off of Sam. “Wait a minute. I have a better idea. Sic ‘em, boy.”
Dean begins to walk toward Sam, his arms and legs awkward and unsteady, like a marionette controlled by a fumbling puppetmaster.
She doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t have a clue, has no idea that they’re dead men walking, that for them death isn’t the end of the world, more like intermission. She doesn’t know that they’ve been on borrowed time basically since birth, that Sam knows there are worse ways to go than at the hands of his brother, the goddamn love of his life. Much worse. And if Sam could move at all, he’d rise up on his knees and bare his throat, then hold very, very still.
But the bitch of the thing is that this isn’t about him. It’s about Dean, who’s fighting every step, muscles tight and protesting, a grimace on his face like he’s trying to take down a tree with a dull spoon.
What Sam does next is a quiet thing, something nearly offhand and sure to be pointless. “No, Dean. Stop,” he says, and he’s not sure if he wants Dean to quit approaching him or try and wipe the pained expression from his face.
Relief washes over Dean. He’s still on his feet but he slumps, shoulders hunched and his chest deflating.
“Wait…wait,” Alley says, backing up until water swirls around her ankles. She holds both her hands toward Dean and glares at him, purses her mouth as lines of concentration dig in between her eyebrows. “That’s not possible. I had you. You were mine.”
Something around her flickers, like the static on a busted hotel television. It happens again, and now it’s like she’s splitting into two distinct versions of herself that seem to overlay each other, one young and vibrant, the other one weathered and craggy, and perhaps all the more beautiful for it. The illusion lasts for a few seconds before she snaps back together.
“You’re slipping,” Sam says. “Besides, my brother’s the only one who can put me on my knees.”
He feels the bind holding him down lessen a fraction, disappear completely when Dean strongarms him up and says, “C’mere. Get up here. Hate it when someone else gets their hands on you. Go ahead, show her who you belong to.”
Impatient, so immediately turned on he can’t tell up from down, Sam unlatches Dean’s belt and slips his hand in. He shivers, ruts against Dean’s hip, amped up and pathetically in love with his brother, his violent, beautiful brother. Sam wants to get inside of Dean, wants to fuck him sloppy, carve Dean’s chest wide open and make a space for himself, curl around his brother’s heart and stay there.
“Fire is the only one left,” Alley says, helpful in her desperation. “Be careful. He has one foot in heaven and one foot in hell. Be so careful.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Dean says, suspicious.
“Because it’s not your fault. He does this to everybody. He always turns people into something they aren’t.” She’s splitting again, frightened and using up too much power trying to control the brothers. It’s futile. They’re grounded in each other entirely. She’s draining herself dry and she’s got nothing on them.
“Thanks for the tip, but you’re wrong.” Dean tightens his arm around Sam’s waist. “We’ve always been this way. I don’t remember much, but I remember that.”
She’s knee-deep in the water now, trembling and terrified, unraveling.
“How do we take him out?” Dean demands.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Alley replies, two voices speaking at the same time, one a fraction of a second after the other. “Kill him, or try to kill him. Take his control away.”
“How do we do that?”
“How did you do it with me?”
“Riddles,” Dean says dismissively. Heya Sammy, the right or the left?”
“Huh?” Sam says, and barely comes up for air as he nuzzles behind Dean’s ear, nips his neck, wraps his fingers around his brother’s cock. He should be paying closer attention. He can’t though. Dean feels so good, every curve and imperfect angle as familiar to Sam as the sound of his own name.
“Which one’s real? The woman on the right or the one on the left?”
“I think you should shoot both.”
Alley’s blood is as dark as the ocean swirling around her legs. They don’t see her fall. Sam’s too occupied with Dean’s tongue and his teeth, too busy pulling Dean to his knees and getting Dean’s pants yanked down to his thighs. Sam sucks Dean’s dick into his mouth, slick and fast, chokes around it, pulls off to catch his breath and tries again. Dean goes down smoother the next time, goes down perfect.
“Outta practice?” Dean says, smug little smirk on his face, so Sam gives him a some teeth on the next slide down his throat. Dean hisses sharply, yanks Sam’s hair and pinches his nipple through his shirt.
“Are you?” Sam counters and pulls his cock free, shivering as the cool air hits his heated skin. He fucks into Dean’s hand, groans at the feel of his brother’s rough palm while Dean bitches about how screwing around on the beach isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, about how he’s gonna be finding sand everywhere for a week.
“We don’t have a week. Fuck,” he moans as Dean does a particularly skillful thing with his thumb. “Do you wanna waste time breaking into a room, princess?”
“Yeah,” Dean replies. “The honeymoon suite. Champagne and those little chocolates on the pillow.”
“Fuck you,” Sam says and forces Dean to fall on all fours, the pale, smooth skin of his ass laid out in front of Sam.
“Absolutely,” Dean shoots back, spreads his thighs and tips his ass up, his cock hanging heavy between his legs.
Sam licks a slick stripe between the cheeks of Dean’s ass, spits on his rim and sucks at it because that’s how Dean likes it. He wriggles his tongue past Dean’s tight ring of muscle, presses his fingers in beside it because Dean likes that too. He slams inside of Dean, too dry and too abrupt, uses Dean’s hips to pull him onto his cock until he’s balls deep and Dean is shaking, asking for more, begging for anything, because that’s what Dean likes most of all.
“Bravo, gentlemen.” Hawthorne’s clapping slowly, ambling down the beach near the line of surf. His limp is less pronounced now, hardly noticeable, and it might be a trick of the light--or the lack of light--but the scar on his face seems to have receded. “She was so pretty, wasn’t she? Beautiful.”
Sam’s on his back in the sand, half-dressed and sated, pissed off at the interruption. Dean’s sprawled face down across Sam’s chest, dozing, their bodies lined up like a crooked, broken cross.
“Eh, I’ve seen prettier.” He traces Dean’s hairline, plays with his eyelashes until they start to flutter. “I’ve screwed prettier.”
Dean stands, stretches long and feline, takes his time putting his clothes back together. Sam enjoys the view while he has it.
“You ought to treat your toys better,” Hawthorne tells them, and picks up the gun from the beach where Dean had dropped it.
“You should give us better toys,” Dean says. “Next time I want my car. And a bottle of Johnny Walker black, if you can swing it, but definitely my car.”
Hawthorne pulls a face. “Why should I do that?”
Sam pulls his shirt over his head. “Because Alley told us all about you,” he lies in a singsong voice.
“Quid pro quo, Clarice,” Dean says, “mutual back-scratching. Call it whatever you want.” Dean’s creeping toward him, slow and dangerous. Sam’s about to circle in the other direction when Hawthorne takes aim at him, and then Sam finds himself on his back, staring up at the sky, listening to the echo of the gunshot skip across the water.
“I’m sorry, what were you saying?” Hawthorne says.
Sam struggles upright, fingering the ragged hole in his shirt. He can smell burning flesh and a thin tendril of smoke rises from his chest. There’s no pain, only heat, and he snickers. His snicker turns to full-blown laughter and he can’t stop. Dean’s hovering around him, lifts his shirt and whispers, “Fuck,” when he sees the charred gap in Sam’s skin, and that gets Sam going all over again.
Hawthorne’s mouth has dropped open in shock, his skin is more pale than usual, and his grip on the gun is unsteady.
“I’ll need a new shirt, too,” Sam says. “You can pick one up after you go to the liquor store.”