The Chinese food Dean brought is cold and congealing by the time they break to eat. Jack snarfs a bagful of egg rolls and two containers of chow mein while Sam picks through a box of beef in black bean sauce. His head is spinning with lore. He’s always had a good memory but he’s still working on processing everything aurally; he finds himself groping for visuals that aren’t always there.
Lately, though, they are sometimes there - even when they shouldn’t be. That image today of the burnt vegetation in the woods. It must have been in the articles he downloaded. But he couldn’t have seen a picture-- and yet he did see it, saw the blackened earth and the dry leaves and even smelt the deathly, rotten stench of it.
Jack is chomping happily, or rapidly anyway. “Hey,” Sam says. “Jack. Do you ever miss your powers?”
One of the things Sam likes about Jack is Jack’s commitment to whatever he’s saying or doing. He doesn’t half-ass things. When you ask him a question, he doesn’t deflect, or make a joke. He thinks hard about what you’re asking him and he gives you a real answer.
“No, I don’t miss them,” Jack says. “I’m still getting used to living without them, but I’m glad I can’t do those things anymore.”
“I hurt too many people.”
“You helped a lot of people, too.”
“Do you wish I still had them?” Jack says. “Dean asked me the same thing, the other day. I know I can’t help you guys now the same way I used to.”
“No,” Sam says. “No, I don’t care about that.” If he’s honest, he’s more relieved than anything else. He’d like to think it’s because Jack didn’t like the powers but it’s not, it’s because they terrified Sam. Even after almost a year of knowing Jack, trusting him-- when Jack put his hand on Lucifer’s head and compelled truth from the Devil himself, it made Sam nauseous. Apart from all the alarm bells that sound when Sam thinks about anyone getting inside his head, it’s probably-- definitely a good thing, right now, not to have that in the bunker. Both he and Dean do better when they’re not forced to say things straight out.
“Do you miss, uh,” Jack says, and Sam’s chest does something funny but of course, Jack’s not asking about that. “Do you miss being able to see?”
“Yes,” he says. “Of course.”
“Yeah, of course. Sorry,” says Jack. “I-- um.”
“What is it?”
“I think Dean thinks I could make it better. Your eyes. If I could get my powers back, I mean.”
Sam finds himself suffused with a familiar rage. “Is that what he said to you?”
“I don’t think I could get them back,” Jack says, “but if you want me to try--”
“No. You don’t want them. That’s up to you. And anyway, I don’t-- you don’t have to try and fix me. It’s not-- not great, but I’m coping. Dean’s just messed up about that.”
“Okay,” Jack says.
Sam knows Jack. He likes to stew on things. He likes to blame himself.
“Did you bring Harry Potter?” Sam asks. “We’ve done enough research. You can read me a chapter before bed.”
Dean likes to pretend that Jack’s an adult, who can go out drinking and get teased about women and make grown-up decisions about his life. He’s kidding himself. Jack’s a teen, an adolescent who likes sci-fi fantasy and who’s crazy about JK Rowling since Sam introduced him to her a month before.
They read three chapters, in the end, but Jack’s still long asleep by the time Dean gets in. Sam’s awake, of course. He has a podcast playing on his iPod, a silly true crime thing where two women share the salacious details of their favourite morbid stories. Sam likes them. Sometimes he imagines appearing as a guest on their show. He could really blow their minds, some of the shit he’s seen. Maybe he should start his own podcast. My favourite hunt. Podcast host is probably a good job for a blind guy. Nobody would even have to know.
Anyway, he’s been listening a lot and he’s maybe four or five episodes deep when the door creaks open and Dean creeps in. It’s not that Sam hears him; more like the pressure shifts inside the room. There’s a tiny gust of fresh air from the parking lot outside. Sam pauses his podcast.
Dean is tiptoeing unconvincingly on booted feet. He smells… odd. Like sex, which is pretty much a given; like sweat. There’s a floral note which Sam recognises from the girl at the morgue this morning, freesia-lily scent that’s mixed in his mind with the formaldehyde air that followed it. But there’s something else, too; a grapefruit sharpness that tickles a memory at the back of Sam’s brain. He blinks, thinks, and then the memory solidifies in his mind, the Southern vowels of the second girl, Lucy, the witness they spoke to this afternoon. Her house had smelled like that.
Dean sneezes. The cat.
“Did you hook up with two different women tonight?” asks Sam.
“No,” Dean says, too quick. Then he laughs, too late.
Dean likes sex, obviously. But he has certain rules. Sam knows about these because Dean had a habit of delivering them to him over the course of their adolescence, Teachable Moments that made Sam (virginal and gawky and absolutely deprived of any kind of privacy) want to shrivel and die. “Always make sure she finishes first, Sammy.” “No glove, no love.” “Make sure she knows she has your full attention.” That last one implicitly means one girl at a time. Dean’s vanilla. He likes to feel like his sex might be meaningful, even when it isn’t. Yeah, he talks big game about threesomes and that shit, but the last time he acted this way, he’d just sold his soul to Hell.
Sam wants to say to him, “I get it.” He does get it, kind of. He knows precisely what it’s like, the absolute, breathtaking disorientation that comes with losing faith in the connection between your body and mind. Okay, so Sam’s reaction hasn’t looked much like Dean’s, but too many of the forces colonizing his body have been less than ascetic. Azazel had a demon possessing Sam’s prom date. Soulless, Sam slept with hookers and strangers and men. For Sam, getting control of his body has always been about deprivation, about choosing what to put in it. But from what Sam’s gathered, Michael was big on discipline. It makes sense that Dean wants to let go.
Sam gets it, then. And he should talk to his brother about it. Dean was possessed for almost four months. That’s messed up. Soulless was longer, but Sam wasn’t there for that; Gadreel was longer, too, but he wasn’t there for that either. Gadreel and Dean were careful to keep him in the dark. He’s pretty sure Michael wasn’t concerned about secrets; that Dean spent the whole time butterfly-pinned with his eyes wide open. That would fuck anybody up. Sam should talk to him about it.
It might be that this has given Dean a new perspective on what happened five years ago. It should be that now he’s felt what it’s like, he might be able to apologize for Gadreel in a way that makes sense. But it might not. After all, it was technically for him (was it? wasn’t it?) that Dean said yes to Michael this time around. “Last time we got between Lucifer and Michael, you died.” That probably wasn’t meant accusatorially. It’s just that Dean caring about Sam can feel like a standard to meet. In any case, Michael was something Dean did for Sam. Gadreel was something Dean did for Sam. At least this round only left him blind.
He can’t talk about it.
“In the morning,” Sam says, “we should go check out the worksite, the place where Lucy and Michelle were hiking.”
“Sure,” says Dean.
Sam puts his podcast back on.
The site office has a row of hard hats hanging by the door, blueprints unevenly covering the walls and a grumpy, alpha-male foreman who categorically refuses to let Sam onsite.
“Can’t do it,” he says. “Can’t do it, wouldn’t want to do it.”
Dean bristles. “Hey, assclown, you want me to call my regional manager? Want me to get building standards in here for a pop inspection?”
“It’s building fuckin’ standards that I’m worried about, bud. I got health and safety regs to comply with, here. I can’t have a blind guy wandering around.”
“It’s fine,” Sam says, low. “Don’t make a scene. You and Jack can go. I’ll go back to the motel and research.”
“Yeah? How are you gonna do that?” Dean says.
“He can--” Jack interrupts, though he stops when Sam touches a warning finger to his elbow.
“Just go,” Sam says, and they do. “Be careful!” he yells after them, too late. He’s left standing in the office, cradled by the clang and the whirr of heavy machinery outside.
“Want me to call you a cab, honey?” the receptionist asks.
Hangover free, Jack is way too perky for Dean’s liking. This morning, he’s gone full Veronica Mars, making copious notes in his little book and using his cellphone to snap photos of everything they see.
“Dude,” Dean hisses as inconspicuously as possible, hanging back from the foreman as he strides ahead, “Taking pictures of the fricking wildlife is not part of the job.”
“Sam’s not here,” Jack tells him, “so I need to take photos for later. And I like birds.”
Oddly enough, the closer they get to the edge of the site where Melissa got frozen, the fewer birds they see, fewer bugs, butterflies, anything. Everything is quiet. It’s like there’s a layer of insulation in the air.
“We can take it from here, pal,” Dean says eventually. The foreman is opening his mouth to object when his walkie-talkie crackles into life. He holds it up to his ear, then frowns.
“Okay. I gotta go handle something. But don’t touch anything, don’t go near any machinery. Especially work experience here. You understand?”
“Look, man,” Dean says, “I’m the fuckin’ FBI.”
The guy sighs. “Whatever, jackass.” Finally, he’s gone.
Dean whips out the EMF detector, just to be on the safe side. No ghost. Fair enough. He wasn’t expecting one anyway, not really.
It doesn’t take long for them to find the trail of dead vegetation that Lucy described. It’s maybe three feet wide, but its presence is glaring; a winding path of destruction in which everything, really everything, is dead. It’s not just the plants, their leaves curled up unhappily, brown where they aren’t scorched black. The soil underfoot is spongy here, mushroom-ripe, and when Dean knocks the toe of his boot against a rock it crumbles into sandy dust. Whatever came this way is nasty.
As they trace the path back into the woods, they both fall silent, almost without thinking about it. Under the trees, it’s gloomy, even at mid-morning. Everything is still.
That’s why Dean about jumps out of his skin when a small brown creature runs across the path in front of him. “Christ!” he says, undignified.
“Wow!” Jack says. “What was that?”
“How in the hell should I know?”
“I caught it, Dean! I got a picture! Will you look?”
Dean scowls at him. “Just put the fricking camera away.”
The trail vanishes between two large rocks at the base of a hill. The gap between them is too low and too narrow even for Jack to squeeze through, and whatever decomposing power killed off the vegetation isn’t strong enough to have destroyed the heavy limestone boulders. Whatever they’re hunting, Dean has a feeling that it lives in there.
Sam’s hunched over his laptop when they get back to the room, the computer perched on the little table next to the window. He’s shed his jacket and tie; his shirtsleeves are rolled up and his collar is open. He looks so pale that for a moment Dean’s brain short-circuits and he panics. Maybe Sam is getting sick. Who knows what else happened in his brain, to his body, when he looked at Michael? Sam should be dead. He drops his hand to Sam’s forehead, carefully careless.
“I’m fine,” says Sam irritably. “It’s this piece-of-shit software. Actually, no, it’s whatever inconsiderate son of a-- whoever designed this website. All these websites. It’s not--”
He presses a key and an electronic voice, female, deadpan, begins to read. “Greek Myth and Legend Reader. The legends and stories of the Ancient Greeks--” Sam taps a key. “Click through. Here. Click here. Read more.”
“Okay?” Dean says.
“No, not okay,” Sam says. “I don’t know what any of the stuff is linking to. I have to sit through the whole thing. It’s taken me an hour and forty-five minutes to scan two sites. This is bullshit.”
“Find out more,” says the woman.
“Fucking Christ,” Sam says, and his hands are fists now and his knuckles are white. He makes a jerky gesture and the laptop skids sharply across the table. Sam loves his laptop. This is bad.
“Sam?” Jack’s been waiting in the doorway but he moves forward now to crouch at Sam’s side. “I can help. What do you need me to read?”
Dean should say something. He’s more use than Jack. He’s got a hell of a lot more history doing this kind of thing. But Sam can’t even research now, not really. Sam can’t research, and even thinking about what that means has Dean feeling congested. He needs some air.
He’s outside the motel room before he knows it, pacing through the parking lot with his cellphone in his hand.
He dials Rowena.
This isn’t the first time he’s called her since he got back. It is the first time she’s picked up.
“Dean? Did something happen to you? Is Sam all right?”
Well, that’s okay. Dean can take that. Sam always did better with the supernatural chicks. And he knows, too, that Rowena helped Sam out when they were looking for Dean-- for Dean’s body. She helped them get him back. Dean’s pretty sure that she and Sam text
Which means-- “You know he’s not okay. Come on, Rowena. He can’t do anything anymore. This is fucked up. I need to fix him. You need to help.”
“You know Sam. Okay? You know him. You know how much this must be killing him.”
“May I talk to your brother?”
Dean sighs. “No. He’s not here.” He swallows. “Please. There must be something you can do about this. You brought yourself back to life
, more than once. You can fix Sam’s eyes. It’s only his eyes. It’s not so much to ask.”
“Dean--,” she says again. It’s not a yes tone of voice. “There are costs to the kind of magic I do. It would have to be Sam’s choice to take on that burden.”
“I can pay it, carry it, whatever,” Dean says. “Sam doesn’t have to know.”
“No,” Rowena says. That’s all she says.
“Please. He was-- he did all kinds of shit for me when I had the Mark. You know that. He killed that kid you were so stuck on.” Dean’s words are falling over themselves, he’s talking so fast. “It’s not like his hands are clean. You know? Whose are? Come on, Rowena. When did you develop a conscience?”
“The Mark was different,” she tells him. “You know that. Sam’s… condition isn’t hurting anybody but himself.”
That’s not true, Dean wants to say. It’s hurting me. Every time I look at him, it’s hurting me.
He doesn’t say it, but he might as well have done, because the next thing Rowena says to him is, “Dean? How are you?”
Here’s how Dean is: pretty fucking shitty. He’s shit. Sam’s blind, and Jack’s-- everywhere, and Cas is up in heaven; Mom’s off in some alternate reality rather than stay here with him. He can’t shake the feeling of Michael’s grace out of his bones and somewhere in the back of his mind, to be dealt with sometime, is a sickening new understanding of what he did to Sam with Gadreel. Here’s how Dean is: not good.
“I’m fine,” he says. “And if you won’t help me with Sam, I’m done.” He hangs up. For a split second, he contemplates throwing his phone into the wall. Instead, he leans his shoulder against it and presses his forehead hard into the rough surface of the brick. It’s okay. There are other options. He can figure it out.
There’s an emergency bottle of whisky in the glovebox of the car. He stops by to gulp a mouthful - just one mouthful - before he goes back in. After that, the bottle’s almost empty anyway so he sticks around to finish up. Then it only seems sensible to go replenish the supply. You never know when you might need to clean a wound, or to numb some pain.
He drives a long way out of town to the big liquor warehouse he noticed on the way in, three exits back. Having made the trip, it only seems sensible to get two bottles. Just to be on the safe side, he tries them both, sitting in the parking lot in the front seat of his car.
He’s going to go back. He will.
There’s a knock on the driver’s side window that startles him almost out of his skin.
“Excuse me, sir?” It’s the kid who sold him the alcohol, a spotty adolescent with a squeaky voice. “I’m going to have to ask you to give those bottles to me.”
“What the fuck,” says Dean, evenly.
“I can’t let you drink and drive, sir.”
Dean closes his eyes. He has had enough
of know-it-all kids.
“Look,” he says. “I have a gun. Okay? I have a gun, but you’re a kid, and I don’t want to-- I’m not drunk. So please, just leave me alone.”
The kid backs off. “I’m calling the police,” he yells, shaky, and takes off back inside.
Dean starts the car and guns it down the freeway. Nobody follows.
Somehow, it’s already dark by the time he makes it back to the motel. Evidently, though, he hasn’t been missed. He opens the door to find Sam and Jack sitting on their beds, talking excitedly.
“We’ve got it, Dean!” says Jack. The kid’s practically bouncing. “Sam figured it out.”
“Course he did,” Dean says, rough.
“I was telling him about the animals, at the site, you know? The little brown one? The fast one!”
“A weasel,” Sam says. “I’m pretty sure.”
“Where are we going with this?” Dean asks his brother.
“It’s a basilisk. Because, uh. They kill everything around them, like they ooze poison almost. And for some reason weasels are immune to them. I don’t get it either. But I know that, I know it and uh, Jack checked it out online so, yeah. Basilisk. Like an enormous snake, basically, though some legends give it a head more like a bird.”
“A basilisk! Like in the Chamber of Secrets!” Jack says.
Dean chooses to ignore this. “How do we kill it?”
“Either a mirror, to reflect its own gaze back at it, or a, um, a cockerel.”
“Say what now?”
“A rooster. Rooster’s crow kills it.”
Dean frowns at his brother, whose expression remains blandly sincere. “Are you kidding me?”
“I’m serious. Mirror or a cockerel. And I guess some night vision goggles for you two. Something to filter your sight so you’re not looking at it directly.”
“Will that work?”
Sam’s mouth twitches anxiously. “I hope so.”
“Great. I’m on my way.” Dean’s in the mood to kill something.
“Hang on a minute,” Sam says.
“I know, I know,” Dean says. “Where am I going to find a chicken at this time of day?”
“A rooster,” Jack chips in. “And actually, I saw--”
“No,” Sam says. “What’s with the, ‘I’m on my way’? Last time I checked, there were three of us.”
Dean sighs. “Come on, dude. It’s in the woods. It’s not exactly accessible. The guy wouldn’t even let you onsite. I can’t look out for you and look out for some kind of giant, poisonous, weasel-hating snake at the same time.” He gestures pointlessly at Jack. “And the kid should stay with you.”
Sam’s mouth sets into a tight little angry line. “I don’t need you to look out for me, Dean. I can manage just fine.”
“Oh, sure,” Dean says. “You can manage so fine that you can’t even surf the goddamn internet without throwing your laptop across the room.”
Sam opens his mouth, closes it, and sighs out through his nose in the exasperated noise that never fails to make Dean mad. “If anybody is going to stay at home, it should be you.” He stands up and steps forward, into Dean’s personal space. Dean doesn’t back down. The skin around Sam’s eyes is pink and shiny, the scars’ starfish arms extending down to his cheekbones and up to his brow. “You’re angry,” Sam says. His nostrils flare. “You’re drunk.”
“I’m not drunk,” Dean says. “I’ve just had a drink.”
“Oh, do me a favour. You’ve been getting messier and messier since we got you back.”
“Fuck off, Sam.”
Sam swallows. When he next speaks his tone is level, carefully controlled. “I know that it’s not easy for you, with me like this. But that is how it is now and if we are going to work together, then you need to deal with it and work out how we can make it work.” He pauses. “And I know-- I get why you’re feeling messed up lately. I do. I-- I’ve been possessed. I know how it fucks with your head. But the answer is not to get drunk and go out into the woods by yourself to kill something you know next to nothing about. Jack and I have been doing the research--”
“Could you maybe give it a rest with you and Jack?” Dean says. “You and Jack are living in some crazy fantasy land where you think you’re like Mr Miyagi or some shit to a kid who doesn’t even have powers any more. You and Jack can’t just pretend like nothing has happened. He’s a kid and you’re a blind guy. That doesn’t make either of you a proper hunter. Both of you together don’t make one proper hunter. I am trying to fix
this, Sam, because I am the only
person who is keeping it fucking real!”
There’s a sharp, explosive noise. Every light bulb in the room shatters into tiny pieces.
“What the fuck,” says Dean. “Jack, was that you?”
A piece of the flying glass has cut Sam’s face, his cheekbone just under his eye. Sam lifts his fingers to the wound, touches the tips against his thumb.
“I’ve got to clean this up,” he says, choked, and vanishes into the bathroom.
Sam fumbles his way to the sink, twisting the knob on the faucet until the water runs cold. He lets the icy stream run over his hands until they’re tingling, then splashes it over his face. He hates this. All he wants is to get away, but he can’t leave the room without making himself ridiculously vulnerable. He doesn’t know where he is, doesn’t know how to get anywhere. Even around the bunker, he’s still nervous going outside unaccompanied. Here, on the side of some foreign freeway, it’s just not possible.
He grips the edge of the sink tightly with both his hands, hanging over it as water drips from the hair around his face. Okay, he thinks. Okay. Deep breaths.
The room door slams and from outside, he hears the roar of the car.
Even if he didn’t inevitably waste precious seconds grasping for the door handle, he’d be too late. As it is--
“I’m sorry.” Jack is panicking. “He just went. He went. He took the mirror off the wall, and he went.”
Shit. Okay. Shit. Sam sways.
“Sam?” Jack says, tentatively. “What did you do to the lights?”
The good thing about Sam being blind--
The thing is, now that Sam’s blind--
Jack and Sam can’t--
Here’s one thing: Dean’s the only one of them who can drive right now. That was a pain in the ass when they were crossing three states and he’d only managed four hours’ broken sleep the night before. Now, though, now that he’s powering down the highway towards the basilisk’s lair, he’s feeling pretty good. Nobody’s going to be following him, that’s for sure. He can get in, kill the monster, vent a little frustration; remind himself that there’s still something he’s good for.
Sam’s stupid blind-guy sunglasses are sitting on the seat beside him, the ugly, pleather-framed mirror from the motel propped in the footwell behind. He has no chance of finding night-vision goggles anywhere round here, not immediately, so the glasses will just have to do.
When he pulls up beside the office at the building site, it’s dark and everything is locked up. Perfect. He slams open the trunk with a creak and rattle of metal, shuffling through the weapons. The mirror should do it but Dean’s hunted long enough not to go into a dark forest without a knife and a gun at minimum. He balances a machete in his hand but ultimately decides he can’t carry it, not with the mirror’s awkward weight.
It’s hard to hurry when you’re carrying a heavy, breakable object and the ground below your feet is uneven. It’s even harder when you’re wearing dark glasses and it’s pitch-black night. Dean shakes on the flashlight function on his phone, clamps it between the tips of the fingers that are holding the mirror, and makes his way as best he can through the equipment and excavations of the site. The trees grow taller around him as he reaches the spot where the basilisk caught Michelle. Not much further now. He pauses, hoisting the mirror to grip it more firmly. His muscles are burning. It feels good. It feels good, to be in charge like this, to make decisions, take action. He’s doing the right thing.
The trail of dead vegetation is pitch-black in the darkness, clear amongst the navy-blue of the trees. As he follows it, the ground almost bounces underfoot. The same heavy silence that he noticed in the daytime hangs in the air around. It’s as though the sound of his footsteps is being absorbed into the earth.
When he gets to the big rocks, he realises that he doesn’t really have much more of a plan to locate this thing. That’s okay. He’s pretty sure that these things don’t travel too far. (That’s bullshit. He doesn’t know the first thing about them; what they do, where they live, how they hunt. But he needs this. So he’s choosing to believe they don’t go too far.)
Dean gently lowers the mirror to the ground and reaches up to push the sunglasses more firmly onto his nose. He waits.
Time passes. Fifteen minutes, twenty, half an hour. It might be longer, could be twice as long. He’s not sure. There’s nothing but him and the silence and the faint light of the moon above.
Finally, there’s a noise somewhere in front of him. It’s a hissing sound, but it’s not the sibilant hiss of a snake. There’s a wet, green scent on the air and Dean realises that what he’s hearing is the plants, the sigh of their moisture evaporating as they die.
Okay. Okay. Dean tightens his grip on the mirror, bends his knees to hoist it up to his chest. He’s got this. It’ll all be okay, just as long as he doesn’t--
Straightening up with the mirror in his hands, Dean finds himself transfixed by a pair of orange-red eyes. Below them are two dark nostrils and an impressive set of fangs. Behind them, he has a vague sense of an undulating scaly body extending back into the dark.
Oh shit, he thinks in a tiny voice at the back of his mind.
He thought that this would be instantaneous. It sounded from the accounts, from what Sam was saying, that it should be. So maybe the sunglasses are working. He’s still alive, after all. But they’re not working enough
. Maybe he could move, if he wanted to. But the part of him that could do it is shrinking, edged out by the terror that’s taking its place - that’s taking the place of everything, anything, all the thoughts in his head. It’s like being dropped into a bucket of ice. And he’s caught in a feedback loop because it’s the paralysis that’s feeding the fear, that’s feeding the paralysis. He can’t move his own limbs. He can’t move
his own limbs and that’s exactly the nightmare that’s been waking him every night since he got back.
The frozen feeling is creeping up into his chest and he isn’t sure that he’s breathing any more. He can feel the change to the muscles in his face, feel them stiffening. The mirror is still in his hands. He just needs to lift it. But he’s going to die here instead, frozen, trapped inside his body. All over again.
Then somewhere to the right of him, in the trees back towards the building site, there’s a crashing noise. The basilisk’s eyes flicker for a split-second and Dean feels his whole body relax. There’s just a blink of it, but it’s enough time to suck in a shaky gasp of air, enough time for his muscles to tingle briefly back into life. It feels like time bought.
From the corner of his own eyes, he sees-- it’s Jack. Jack, with a flannel shirt bound over his eyes and a black metal cage in his hand. There’s a bird inside it, frantic and fluttering but it’s silent. Jack’s shaking the cage. “Sam,” he’s yelling. “Sam, I can’t make it crow.”
And then Sam himself, a miracle, is at Dean’s side, prising the mirror from his hands. “I’ve got you,” he says. And he steps between Dean and the snake.
Sam lifts the mirror. The basilisk issues an unearthly shriek, something that shivers Dean’s bones, and then the hissing sound from the plants is amplified, echoing. Beyond the frame of the mirror, Dean sees the thing’s tail thrashing wildly from side to side. Within seconds, it disappears from view and the mirror shatters into fragments with a splintering crash. Sam drops the empty frame. He turns back towards Dean.
The movement returns to Dean’s limbs so quickly that he almost falls.
“Fuck,” he says, “Sammy, I--”
“Get down!” Sam says, and shoulder tackles him to the floor. Inches away from Dean’s face, another long scaly body slides past.
“Sam?” calls Jack from the other side of the clearing. “Sam?”
“It’s okay,” Dean whispers. “He’s wearing a blindfold.”
“No,” Sam says, gasping. “Poisonous.” Of course. The vegetation beside them is already wilting.
Dean cranes his neck and he can see Jack, spinning frantic on the spot. The second basilisk is speeding towards him.
“That fucking chicken,” Dean says. “Why won’t it--”
“Put your head down
,” says Sam, and his big hand is on the back of Dean’s skull, pushing his face down into the earth. There’s a crackle, a flash of light that Dean can just make out and then the rooster is crowing, panicked, a long series of high-pitched cries.
“Oh, thank God,” says Sam. He relaxes his grip and Dean pushes himself up onto his elbows. Jack’s still standing there, still clutching the cage carrying the now-hysterical bird. The two bodies of the basilisks are entwined on the ground in front of him, the head of the second one only feet away from Jack.
“You can take the blindfold off,” Dean yells, and Jack does, yanking the shirt down his face with one hand.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Dean says. He hoists himself to his feet and extends his hand to his brother before he remembers that Sam can’t see him. “Sammy,” he says.
Sam grips his wrist strong and firm and pulls himself upward. There’s an unpleasant plasticky crunch from underfoot.
“Oh, man,” Dean says. “Your glasses.” He bends to retrieve the twisted frames.
“Whatever,” Sam says. He’s still breathless, his chest heaving.
Jack stumbles towards them. “That was scary,” he says.
“You’re not wrong,” says Dean. He looks at the both of them. Christ, that was close. “Thanks.”
“No problem!” says Jack. Sam nods, but he doesn’t say anything. He looks exhausted, but Dean doesn’t really feel like he can ask if his brother’s okay.
“Car’s back at the office,” he says instead, turning to lead the way.
Two minutes later, something hits him and he turns back to look at the pair of them. Jack has his arm through Sam’s, guiding him over the roots and stones.
“How’d you get here?” Dean says. “Who drove?”
“Really?” says Sam. Jack grins at him.
“And, uh, in whose car?”
“That one might have been more of a team effort,” says Sam.
“Figures,” Dean says. “Fricking criminals.” He turns to Jack. “Don’t get any ideas. Some stolen banger is one thing. No fucking way are you driving my car.” The kid’s expression wavers, just a little.
Dean thinks about the thirteen-hour drive back home; about the fact that any time he drinks, now, he’s gotta drink and drive. He thinks about Sam sitting there on the bed that morning, desperate for Jack to wake up. He sighs.
“Not until you are a fucking… stunt-driving fucking pro, okay? I’ll teach you on something else. Something from the garage.”
On the way back to Kansas, Dean comes back from a quick fuel stop humming under his breath. Sam wonders for half a second if his brother managed a hookup in the bathroom, but even for Dean five minutes would be pretty quick work.
“Got a present for you boys,” Dean says. Sam hears the click of the tape machine and then an English voice starts up.
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
“Oh,” says Jack, “But we’ve--”
Sam coughs. Jack shuts up.
They listen to Harry Potter the rest of the way home.
Two nights later, Dean wakes up gasping. He shakes out his limbs, flexes his fingers, tries to shake off the dream.
He’s hungry. Or empty. Something. His phone blinks the time at him. 2:00 AM. It’s late, but not necessarily too late for a booty call. Dean picks it up to flick through his contacts. Even though he tries his best not to play too close to home, there are a couple of people he could get in touch with.
He wipes the back of his hand over his eyes. First, food. He doesn’t bother to get dressed, just pulls his robe around him and heads for the kitchen.
Sam’s sitting at the table, back to the door. “Boo,” he says quietly as Dean enters the room.
Dean switches on the light.
“You want a coffee?” says Sam.
“I was looking for something to eat.”
“We’ve got cereal,” Sam says. “That’s all.” Dean huffs in displeasure. “Sorry, dude,” Sam says lightly. “I can’t exactly do the grocery run.”
“Yeah,” Dean says. He stands for a moment considering his brother. He has something he’s been wanting to say for the past couple days. Right now, in the middle of the night, seems as good a time as any.
“In the woods, that snake.”
“Basilisk,” Sam says.
“Whatever. Both snakes. You saw them?” Dean can still remember it, the speed of Sam’s movement as he reacted to the second creature coming up from behind.
“I didn’t see them.” Sam’s head is lowered, his hair hanging over his face so that Dean can’t see his expression. “I just knew they were there.”
Dean absorbs this. “Okay.” He makes his cereal and pours himself a cup of coffee. He sits down.
The teaspoon next to Sam’s empty cup rises maybe two inches into the air. It hovers above the table, wobbling slightly, then floats unevenly forward until it drops with a rattle onto the table beside Dean’s coffee cup.
Sam’s breathing is fast. It isn’t heavy but it’s all Dean can hear. He looks at the spoon, lying at an angle close to his hand. He looks at his brother. Sam’s cheeks are flushed pink and his fingers are clutching tight together.
“You missed,” Dean says eventually.
Sam breathes out, an uneven wash of sound that might be a laugh or a sob. “Yeah, well, cut me some slack. I’m blind,” he says.
“Jack’s gonna help you?” asks Dean.
“Yes,” says Sam. “I hope. I think he can help me. But this isn’t... this is me.”
Dean thinks about it.
“I’m not evil,” Sam says. “I’m not. And this… it’s not evil. What I can do.” His voice is shaking. “I’m not drinking blood, or anything.”
“When I was out there,” Dean says. “When I saw that thing.”
“I was, uh. I felt like I was. It was like having him inside me again. Michael. I couldn’t move my arms and legs.”
“Okay,” Sam says.
“I couldn’t do anything,” Dean says. “I couldn’t--”
“I know. It’s okay, Dean. I know.”
“No,” says Dean. “No. I-- it was like, it was the same as that whole four months. I was trapped inside my own body and I couldn’t move
. I just had to-- I had to watch it happen. There was nothing I could do. That was what was killing me, Sammy, I couldn’t--”
“I’m so sorry,” Sam says, “that you had to find out what that’s like. I’m sorry.”
“That’s not my point.” What is the point? Dean thinks about it. This matters. There’s a lot of stuff he should have said to Sam but at this point, will never say to Sam. Stuff that he understands, since Michael. So this matters. “It’s your body, Sammy. You do what the fuck you like with it.”
Sam tilts his head. He doesn’t smile, but his whole body relaxes. “Okay,” he says. “Yeah. Okay. I will.”