Author: dotfic / Ronnie Van Zant
Rating: Gen, PG-13
Author's Notes: 7,500 words. Set between "Folsom Prison Blues" and WIAWSNB. The CW's official site for the show spells it "Henrickson"; that's the spelling I'm going with, just so I can stop worrying about how to spell his name already. Title is from Don Quixote. Prompts: 3. Bodyswap! Because Freaky Friday is never not funny. and 4. Agent Henriksen's learns that the truth really is out there, and the very people he's been hunting are the only ones who can help me out. Much appreciation to my beta readers who are not named here yet because it might be a dead giveaway. They deserve to have their names shouted from the hills.
Summary: Dean is having a weird-ass day. So is Agent Henrickson.
Sometimes life screwed you over, and sometimes it handed you a gift basket tied up in a big fat ribbon.
He went out to get coffee at two a.m. Five hours spent looking over maps and lists of dates, and the headache was going like a brass band in his head. So he was just stepping out of a twenty-four seven convenience store, coffee cup in hand, when he spotted them in the alley across the street.
After the Green River fiasco, he'd tracked the Winchesters to Indianapolis, but hadn't known what their target was going to be. And now, there they were, right across the street, breaking into a penny ante art dealer. He had his gun; he just needed backup.
The cold spring drizzle stinging his face, Victor stepped back up on the curb, out of the circle of the street light, and put the coffee cup on the hood of the rental car. He called the number of Agent Reed's motel room rather than his cell, because Reed often slept right through his cell phone ringer.
"I need a team down at 712 Massachusetts Avenue five minutes ago," Victor said to Agent Reed's confused waking mumble.
He waited for a sharp confirmation, and closed his cell with a snap. Victor grabbed the coffee, ducked back into the car and began to wait, feeling as twitchy as a jackrabbit. He pulled the binoculars out of the glove compartment, then watched as Sam boosted Dean up and through a small window, and then as Dean reached down from inside and helped Sam up. They were both dressed in jeans, long-sleeved black t-shirts, black knit caps, and gloves (they'd caught on to one of their few repeated weaknesses, finally).
Two minutes crawled by. Five. Victor glanced at his watch and his knee jiggled up and down as he drained the last of the coffee, crumpled the cup, placed it in the tiny trash bin. The street light made the rain drops on the windshield shine.
He always followed procedure, and Gramps hadn't raised no fools. But when seven minutes went by with no sign of Agent Reed, Victor got sick of waiting.
Planning and research and deduction were all crucial, but a good agent also had to know how to use the materials at hand and how to seize an opportunity.
This? This was an opportunity.
Dean aimed the flashlight down into a glass case. The beam bounced off the sides, reflecting back on itself. "That's it."
"Yeah, looks like it." Sam reached into his pocket and took out a glass cutter. "God, I thought I'd never have to see that thing again."
They didn't have time to talk about it, and even if they did, Dean really didn't want to. "Just cut the glass."
The object in question was a small ceramic pot no larger than his palm, with markings all over it none of them had ever been able to identify as any known language, living or dead. The mixed colors of the glaze, a crazy mix of blue merging into green and then brown, were faded; it was probably very, very old. Old like the ancient Greek vases Dean had seen in his high school art history textbook and that one tenth grade school trip to a museum.
Crouching, Sam cut out a circle of glass with a deft twist of his wrist. He set the glass circle on top of the case, then reached in and took out the tiny pot, holding it like it was a scorpion that might sting at any moment.
"Stop right there." A voice spoke from the shadows.
Dean turned, gun aimed. Beside him Sam got to his feet, glass cutter held in one gloved hand as if it were a fighting knife, the ceramic pot still held in the other. Dean hoped Sam didn't drop it. They'd been lucky last time; this time, maybe not so much.
"Drop your weapons; hands in the air." Agent Henrickson walked a few steps closer to them, both hands on his gun. Damned if the son of a bitch wasn't smirking just a bit.
Dean held his ground. "Drop your gun."
"Dean, don't be an idiot." Henrickson took another step forward. "I've got a team surrounding the house right now. You might be able to shoot me, but I'll certainly be able to shoot one of you as I go down."
Liar, Dean thought. If Henrickson had the house surrounded, he wouldn't be saying it. Beside him, Dean caught movement as Sam's hands twitched and his body tensed. He nudged Sam's ankle with his foot, and Sam held still.
Seconds ticked by while Dean and Henrickson kept their guns aimed at each other. Dean did start to feel like an idiot. Actually, he already felt like an idiot. They'd been careful as always, and no way the feds should have been able to track them to Indianapolis, but they had, which meant somewhere, he and Sam had screwed up--wait, no, that Dean had screwed up.
"I've got all night," Henrickson shrugged, but his gun didn't waver. "You wanna keep playing mexican stand-off, be my guest. But one of us is going to have to take a piss eventually. So let's save ourselves a lot of trouble and end this now." His voice hardened. "Put your weapon down."
Dean flicked the flashlight up, and the beam caught Henrickson in the eyes. Henrickson blinked and averted his head, only a fraction, but it was enough. Sam's roundhouse kick knocked the gun from the agent's hand, and the weapon clattered to the floor. Dean flashed a grin at Henrickson, who looked several shades less smug than he had a moment ago.
"Put your weapon down," Dean said. "Oh, wait, that's right. You already did. Sam, find something to tie this asshole up with and let's get out of here." Henrickson moved and Dean barked, "Hands up." Henrickson obeyed.
"Okay, but you hold this." Sam held the pot out to Dean.
"Aw, crap." Dean reluctantly took the thing in his free hand, his eyes never leaving Henrickson, who was glaring at them, his mouth in a tight line. "So. The house is surrounded, huh?" He couldn't help rubbing it in a little. It was just too much fun to taunt this guy.
"You know what the sentence is for shooting a federal agent, Dean?" Henrickson said conversationally. "It's pretty harsh. We can add kidnapping to that charge. Assault too."
"Do you ever shut up?" Dean said.
"Nah, I like to talk. People say I'm charming." He smirked.
Dean was really starting to hate him.
Sam found rope in his backpack and moved towards Henrickson like he might approach a snarling, rabid dog. The back of Dean's brain stirred with a very bad feeling about this; Henrickson's hand twitched, telegraphing, and before Dean could shout a warning, Henrickson made his move. Sam blocked, then kicked Henrickson back. The agent advanced towards Sam and then spun and leapt at Dean instead.
It took him off-guard; Henrickson hadn't telegraphed that. Dean got off a shot and heard Henrickson grunt in pain before Henrickson thudded into him, knocking them both to the floor. He had the presence of mind to keep his palm closed around the colorful little pot, even as he tried to use his gun as a club to get Henrickson off him. But he needed his other hand free. Henrickson's knees dug in his chest as his arm came down hard across Dean's neck. Dean coughed and struggled. In his hand, the ceramic pot flared with light, the colors blazing like they were newly painted and shining in the sun a thousand years ago.
Red-hot pain lanced through his thigh; hands were on on his shoulders, pulling at him roughly, and he heard Sam's voice anxious and sharp saying his name before he passed out.
The first thing he became aware of was sound; a male voice speaking rhythmically.
It sounded like Latin, which made no sense, but that's what it sounded like. The chanting stopped, and he heard the scrape of a match, smelled the after-scent of the burning.
He opened his eyes and saw a stained ceiling with peeling paint. Then he noticed a framed photograph of a racing car on the wall, a TV set with a pay-per-view card on top of it, and a dresser strewn with empty soda bottles and half-eaten bags of chips. Bullets lay like marbles among several thick, leather-bound books, a box of rock salt, and a revolver.
Turning his head, he saw Sam Winchester seated at the table by the window, and his pulse jumped. The bastards had taken him hostage.
On the table was a square of foil, with the item the Winchesters had stolen from the gallery in the middle of it. At the edges of the foil, the last few wisps of smoke rose and drifted away from an arrangement of what might have once been some kind of herb, based on the stink.
Sam reached for the revolver that lay within easy reach.
Shit oh shit.
But he didn't aim it at Victor. Instead, Sam gripped it by the barrel and and brought the handle down like a hammer onto the pot. The crunch of breaking ceramic mingled with a thud like distant thunder, and then all was quiet again.
Jesus H. Christ, these Winchesters were insane.
He'd been careless. Stupid. That's what he got for going in alone. He should have known to mistrust the situation -- as if life had ever handed him things easy, tied up in a ribbon like that. Fuck.
Okay. Reed would have shown up with the team at the gallery and found them all gone. He'd be looking for Victor now, using a wide net. The kidnapping of a federal agent was a serious deal.
For now, he'd try to find out as much about where he was, and as much about the Winchesters, as he could.
Something felt odd; he was itchy in his own skin, and he glanced down. He'd been wearing jeans when he went out for coffee, but funny, he didn't remember his jeans being quite that shade of blue, or having a hole just below the left knee. More disturbingly, the skin showing through the hole was the wrong color. Victor lifted his hands and stared at them, at the unfamiliar skin that was tanned but most definitely not black, and at the shape of the fingers, the numerous scars and callouses.
At the table, Sam glanced over at him and his expression lightened with relief. "Dean!" He got up and came to the bed. "Thank God you're awake; I was worried. Listen, I destroyed the thing. It's done. We can relax." He sat on the edge of the bed, making it dip a little.
Victor stared at him, mouth hanging open, and he could hear Gramps in his head, you tryin' to catch flies, boy?
"Dean?" Sam frowned, his brow creasing. "You okay?"
Sitting up, Victor saw Dean's face peering back at him from the mirror over the dresser. His hands moved automatically to his side for a weapon that wasn't there -- but Sam was the only other person in the room. Turning back to the mirror, Victor lifted his hands to his now clean-shaven face.
"Dean. What is it?" Sam said, more insistent.
Dean opened his eyes. His vision blurred, then focused on clean white ceiling tiles. The faint background hum of high-powered air conditioning mingled with a steady beep that twisted his gut with its familiarity and brought bad memories to the surface. The smell, too, was sickeningly familiar. Or rather, it was the lack of scent that bugged him, the antiseptic nothingness.
His right thigh hurt like a bitch. Dean looked over and saw the heart-monitor and the IV stand. Hospital. Crap.
Sam. Where was Sam? Was he being detained? Had they been caught? He shut his eyes and tried to remember what had happened. It made no sense. Dean was pretty damned sure he'd shot Henrickson. Maybe Henrickson had gotten a shot off at him in return, maybe his backup had arrived, and what the hell had happened to Sam? Dean sat up in the hospital bed, reached down to pull out the IV drip, and let out an embarrassingly sissified yelp.
That wasn't his arm. Because, uh, last Dean checked? He'd been white. He ran his hand over his face and felt the scratch of a beard.
He tugged the needles from his arm and got out of bed, wincing as he put weight on his injured leg, then staggered to the bathroom. The fluorescent light winked on automatically when he opened the door. Dean leaned his unfamiliar hands on the sink and stared at himself in the small mirror.
What the fucking fuck. Victor Henrickson's face blinked back at him. Dean ran his palm over the close-shaved head and traced his fingers over the beard before the thought came to him that his hands were fondling another man's face so he stopped and started to curse out loud, but stopped at the sound of Agent Henrickson's voice.
He lowered his head over the sink and took several deep breaths. This was too fucking weird.
"It'll be fine if we wear gloves, Dean," he muttered sarcastically in the voice that felt strange in his own throat. "We have to destroy it before it causes anymore trouble, Dean. Let's go to the gallery and steal it, Dean."
He eyed himself in the mirror. Grinned without feeling it, as an experiment, watching the dimples form. Dimples, for chrissake.
And he had to take a piss, but to do that he'd have to...
He was so very screwed.
"I'm fine, Sam." Victor sat up, inching back against the headboard as Sam reached out to him.
The kid seemed to take this as usual behavior, because he only lowered his hand without comment. "What happened?"
"Dunno." Victor shrugged. "You tell me."
"You shot Henrickson in the leg, but he didn't go down -- he attacked you. You were struggling with him on the floor and then all of a sudden, your eyes just rolled back in your head." Sam got up and went back to the table. He swept the remains of his odd ritual into the metal trash can. "I pulled Henrickson off you, knocked him out, and carried you out to the car. The feds showed up in the rearview mirror. We were lucky."
Victor thought he was maybe having a really weird nightmare. He remembered being shot; maybe he was lying in a hospital bed and this was a morphine-induced dream. At the moment, though, it seemed like his best strategy was to play along. In fact, this could be an extraordinary opportunity -- the ultimate in profiling.
"Uh, okay." Sam brushed the remnants of burnt herbs from his fingers. "You hungry?"
"Nah. So, what's our next move?"
"Our next move?"
"Now we've done that job, what was it we wanted to do next?"
"Oh. We were going to go...you sure you didn't hurt your head?" The kid looked like he was going to come back over and start poking at him at any second.
"My vision's not blurry. Quit fussing like a mother hen."
That seemed to let some of the tension out of Sam's shoulders.
Victor realized he needed to take a leak, like right now. He got up carefully, expecting to feel dizzy, but he didn't. "Be right back. Why don't you trace out our route to the next job on the map and we'll talk details."
"Right." Sam just stood there while Victor headed for the bathroom.
He switched on the light and shut the door, then leaned back against it. Time to regroup. First he pushed up the sleeves of the black t-shirt and checked his skin for needle punctures. He didn't find any. Then he tried pinching his arm -- Dean's arm -- a few times. The skin reddened but he didn't wake up. He noted how muscular the arm was, which confirmed everything he'd pieced together about the Winchesters.
Sam's evident concern for his older brother fit too. Dean had the kid well and truly wrapped around his little finger -- Sam never had a chance, with a father and older brother like that molding him, forming him. He probably hero-worshipped them, never knew anything else. It was amazing that he'd left them for four years to go to college. It didn't fit the rest of the picture. Mara Daniels had told him about a few things, and he'd caught a few more anomalies in the casefile last night before he'd gone out for coffee. Deaths and dates that didn't add up. A few times, the deaths started before the date of the Winchesters' arrival. But they always stopped after they left.
Anyway, he'd have to worry about that later; it was something that would have to remain caught at the edges of his brain for now, a mental click caught in a perpetual state of not yet.
Damn, he really did have to pee, and things got beyond awkward when he realized he'd have to hold on to another man's dick to accomplish it. It didn't even help to think he was most likely dreaming. In fact, that made it worse.
Well, couldn't be helped. He got the business done, rinsed his hands, and stared into the mirror for a minute or two, fascinated by the face of the man he'd been hunting for almost a year, an angel-faced murderer. No wonder people kept naively opening their doors to these boys.
There were more small scars on the face, one along the hairline, one along the jawline, one near his neck. They'd had a rough life; he wondered what specifically had left Dean so battered. Barfights? Victims fighting back? His brother or father?
Victor splashed water on his face, then spied the amulet swinging against his chest. He caught it and held it up. This wasn't new; he'd gotten a chance to examine it briefly in Arkansas. He still hadn't a clue to its significance. It could be Egyptian, or Zoroastrian. Something to do with the Mithras cult. It was one more piece of the puzzle; these Winchesters were into some weird ass shit.
When he stepped out of the bathroom, Victor felt the press of cold steel against the side of his head.
"Where's my brother?"
Dean found Henrickson's clothes hanging on the back of the bathroom door. Thankfully, they weren't a cheap polyester suit and a striped tie, just jeans, undershirt, blue button-down, and an unmarked windbreaker. He found his gun, badge, and wallet on the table next to the bed.
That would be a first: Dean carrying around an ID that wasn't fake -- even if it wasn't really his. Well, except at the moment, it really was his, as far as anyone else was concerned. He sat on the bed and went through the wallet. Aside from credit cards, $60 in cash, and various government creds, he found two photos. One was of a white-haired old man, dark skin pleasantly creased with wrinkles, who looked anything but frail. Nothing was written on the back. The other picture was older, the colors faded a little. The couple was standing in front of a small white-washed house with a generous porch, his arm around her shoulders, both smiling like they had a fantastic secret. Dean flipped the picture over. Mom and Dad, October 1964.
Dean tucked the pictures away, feeling an odd twinge of something, almost guilt, as if he'd intruded too far. He stood up, careful of his leg, and was about to step out of the room and make an easy getaway when a hulking form appeared in the door, blocking him.
"Sir, are you all right? Should you be out of bed?"
"What?" Dean's mind blanked before he remembered that Henrickson had a partner, Reece or Reed or something. "Oh, no worries, partner. I'm ready to be back in action." Dean clapped the man on the shoulder, and Reed gave him a stare. "Uh...why don't you fill me in on what went down?"
"I came in with the team, but the Winchesters had gone. You were down, unconscious and bleeding."
"Yeah. That son of a bitch shot me. Those Winchesters, they're tough to catch. Like quicksilver." Dean whistled. "Too smart for the likes of us."
"Forget it. Hey, I'm starving. You want anything?" Dean started to move around the huge obstacle that was Agent Reed.
"I'll get it, you shouldn't..."
"No, I'll do it. Need to start moving around on this leg again or it'll get too stiff. You stay here, I'll go pick up something in the hospital cafeteria and get myself checked out of here. Sure you don't want anything? Soda? Chips?"
"I don't think that's..."
But Dean was past him, out into the hall, where there was a suit seated in a chair just outside Henrickson's room. The suit seemed startled to see him. Dean flashed him a smile and walked slow towards the elevators. He glanced back at the suit, who was standing up, staring after him. Dean waved in what he thought was a reassuring way.
The elevator doors dinged open as Reed stepped out of the hospital room to join the suit. They spoke to each other, Reed gesturing in Dean's direction. Dean quickly stepped onto the elevator and hit "L" for lobby.
As the doors dinged shut, he exhaled slowly, feeling a bit lightheaded. His leg still hurt. He rested his palm against his thigh, and it felt warm. Sam could see to it later, but first he had to get to him. Because as far as Dean could figure it, if he was in Henrickson's body, then Henrickson was in Dean's.
There was no point in bluffing and pretending to really be Dean. He knew the Winchester profiles backwards and forwards. Too many things he didn't understand, and the way they worked together like a well-oiled machine meant it would take about ten seconds for Sam to think of a question he couldn't answer.
Victor raised his hands, trying to look as non-threatening as possible. "We both know you won't shoot me."
"Don't bet on it." The kid swallowed hard.
They stood there for almost a full minute, Sam pressing the barrel of the gun to Victor's head.
"Okay, Sam? This is your brother's actual body, so you might as well put the gun down. You aren't going to shoot Dean in the head."
"Maybe not. But I might shoot you somewhere else." Sam pulled the gun away from Victor's head, but aimed down at his leg instead.
He was about to answer when Sam's cell phone chirped. His eyes never leaving Victor, Sam pulled out the cell with his free hand. "Hello?...yeah... yeah, you're standing right here next to me...no shit, sherlock...then get over here already." He clicked the phone shut. "You. Sit." He gestured with the gun at the bed.
Victor sat, watching Sam's body language and calculating the risk if he tackled him and tried to get the gun. The weaponry on the dresser and in the open duffel bag near the table was tantalizing; but the kid's stare was like scorched steel. Given their history, Victor had no doubt Sam would shoot to wound Dean, even if he wouldn't kill him. Or maybe he would kill him after all -- maybe their loyalty to each other didn't run as deep as the profiles suggested.
It seemed better right then to just sit and wait for himself to show up. He stifled down a laugh.
Sam sat down on the other bed, facing him, the gun lowered but his arm tense and ready. "So you're...Agent Henrickson."
Comprehension lit Sam's features, followed by the pissiest face of annoyance Victor had ever seen. "Shit. It did it again," Sam muttered.
"What did it again?"
But Sam only stared at him.
They waited. Sam shifted on the bed, changed his grip on the gun, got up and planted his gangling form into a chair that looked too small for him instead. The killer look was gone; now he looked like any normal twenty-something fresh out of college. Actually, the kid looked possibly more naive than any normal twenty-something. If he hadn't known the case history, Victor would have bet money Sam had never even touched a gun. But you couldn't tell, just by the looking. It was the cuddly-looking types that were the ones with the body parts in the basement of their nice little houses.
After what felt like half a century, someone pounded on the door. Sam jerked to his feet and walked over to the it, but didn't open it yet.
"No, it's the FBI," Victor heard his own voice, annoyed and muffled through the door. "Well actually, it really is the fucking FBI. Sort of." Then he added, so softly Victor almost couldn't hear it, "Open the door, bitch."
So, Dean was already having the weird-ass day to end all weird-ass days, but really, nothing could top stepping into the motel room and seeing himself sitting on the bed, not in a mirror, or on video, but, y'know, right there. He found himself staring, not that he was vain, or anything like that, but it was funny how he noticed things now that a mirror didn't reveal to him. Jesus, Sam was right, those really were girlie eyelashes.
He became aware of Sam staring at him -- well, not the him who was sitting down, but the him who was standing in the door not looking like himself. Sam's forehead was wrinkling up so hard he swore the crease would be permanent this time.
"Hey, Sammy." Dean tried to sound normal (for various definitions of "normal,") because his brother looked like he might toss his cookies.
Sam shut the door, still holding the gun as if he couldn't decide whether to point it at him or the other Dean sitting on the bed. "Are you...I mean, your leg. His leg. Are you okay?"
"Fine." Dean was lying through his teeth, but it wasn't nothing some over the counter analgesics couldn't help with. First they had to deal with this. He pulled out his gun. "Agent Henrickson, I presume?"
Agent Henrickson blinked a few times as if waking up; he'd been staring same as Dean had. "Sort of." The man smirked. "I'm pretty sure I'm not having a nightmare, which leaves a list of possibilities. Going with Occam's Razor, you must have drugged me and I'm hallucinating. Was it a needle? I couldn't find the puncture point. So maybe while I was out cold, Sam here made me swallow something."
Henrickson was as chilly as if they were in his interrogation room instead of them holding him at gunpoint in a tacky motel. The smirk began to verge on a shit-eating grin. Jesus Christ, this guy was annoying. Also, it was new levels of weird hearing his own voice coming live out of someone else, better than he sounded played back on cassette or voicemail.
Dean glanced at Sam, who shrugged. "Could I have a word with you? Excuse us." He grabbed Sam and dragged him over to the bathroom door, keeping his gun trained on Henrickson. "He can't be this stupid," Dean hissed.
"It's not stupidity," Sam said under his breath. "Some people have trouble accepting certain things." He glanced at their prisoner. "I'm not sure I'm accepting it. I kind of miss you being...you."
Which worked out to a compliment, and Dean looked away, focused on the racing decals that covered the bathroom door. "Yeah, well, I miss being me too. I mean, I'm me, inside, but..." He snapped his mouth shut and checked on their prisoner, who was watching them, head tilted slightly. Listening.
"So what do we do with him?" Sam asked.
"I'll think of something."
After their whispered conversation, the Winchesters returned to him. Dean grabbed a chair and sat down. Victor caught the stifled wince, noted the care he took with his leg. Sam leaned against the wall like he was holding it up, slouching, and again Victor got the sense of an image that didn't fit, like the gun shouldn't be in his hand.
"You're both in more trouble than you know. They'll be looking for me." He'd long ago learned to school his voice, making it a flat, authoritative statement of facts, not the frantic bravado of a hostage.
"Good point." Dean pulled out Henrickson's cell, pressed a few buttons, and put the phone to his ear. "Agent Reed. It's Henrickson. Listen, buddy, what with the bust gone wrong and the leg injury...yeah, I need a few days downtime....no, doesn't matter, just going to drive until I find a nice bed and breakfast...I know, the paperwork....would you mind...thanks, man, you're a life-saver. And may I add, a superb agent...no, thank you!"
That son of a bitch. Reed would be insufferable from now on.
Dean hung up and snickered, leaning forward in his chair, elbows resting on his knees.
"Where's the thing?" He asked Sam.
"I destroyed it."
Dean lowered his head, but only for a second. "Finally. We should have done that years ago." He kept his eyes on Victor, thumb running over the grip of the gun.
"It's not like we didn't try."
"Yeah, and this could have been avoided if a certain individual, who shall remain nameless, hadn't dropped it in the Missouri River." Dean squinted down the barrel of Victor's gun, as if assessing the make and quality.
That was when Victor's day got even more surreal than it already was.
"That wasn't my fault!" Sam protested, sounding much too young all of a sudden. "First of all, I was like eleven --"
"--and a clumsy eleven you were. Damn, Dad and I were so glad when that growth spurt levelled off. You kept tripping over your own legs."
"Shut up. And secondly, the stupid thing had turned me into a muskrat, so it's no wonder I dropped it."
"You were such a cute muskrat too, with those whiskers..."
"At least it didn't turn you into a girl."
Sam snorted. "Like you didn't enjoy that."
Dean smiled, and Victor watched his own face dimpling. "I admit the experimentation angle had a certain..."
Since he was holding a gun, Sam couldn't clamp his hands over both ears, but he did it with one hand and one elbow. "La la la la, can't hear you..."
Nothing fit with these Winchesters. Nothing. No wonder they were giving him an ulcer. He'd hunted a number of criminals who worked in teams, and never once had they argued like a couple of kids stuck for too long in the back seat on a very long car trip.
Their guard was down, but he hesitated; this body didn't work like his own, for all its power. Dean was bow-legged, just for starters. But what the hell, he had to try. Victor's muscles tensed, ready to launch himself at Dean.
In a simultaneous motion, the Winchesters spun back towards him, guns aimed. It had taken a split second, like someone had flipped a switch, like the argument about girls and muskrats had never taken place.
"If we have to shoot me," Dean muttered, "Can we not hit a vital part?"
"Don't tempt me," Sam muttered back.
"Sam, how long until this," Dean gestured with the gun from himself to Victor, "wears off?"
"Last time, it was what, a few days? Three maybe?"
"Gentlemen? Excuse me?" Victor lifted a hand. "Until what wears off?"
"Here's the thing. We didn't drug you. You want the Occam's Razor explanation? We've been cursed."
"Dean..." Sam said. "Don't."
"Why not?" Dean said, voice going sharp. "Agent Henrickson," Dean continued, and now he spoke respectfully, the cockiness and sarcasm gone. "That artifact we sto--took from the gallery? It has some magical properties. We've run into it before and thought it was lost, but then we heard about it resurfacing."
"There was an article online about the gallery show," Sam added. "We came to destroy it before it could cause any more trouble."
They were insane, and who could blame them with their upbringing and that whackjob for a dad. But maybe he was insane too, because he was looking right at his own body sitting across from him, and he was looking out at the world using Dean Winchester's eyes.
Dean lowered the gun, making sure Victor saw the gesture. "You? Are over here." Dean pointed to his own chest. "I am over there. How exactly do you think that happened unless there really is a cursed magical artifact?"
He could still be drugged. Or hypnotized. Or...
Son, when are you going to take your head out of your ass and smell the toast burning? That's what Gramps used to say, when he could still say it, before he became the slack-gazed shell of a man sitting in the Pine Oaks Hospice.
Faced with Victor's silence, Dean made a disgusted sound deep in his throat, rose, and walked away to the dresser to deal with the scattered bullets, while Sam stood, uncertain. The light shining through the red motel room curtains changed subtly as the sun shifted behind clouds.
"Sam, why don't you get on the laptop and pull up the four-one-one on that hunt you found us," Dean said finally.
A hunt, is that what they called it? Victor tried to calm his heartrate and stayed very still; maybe they'd forget he was there and talk openly, as they had argued openly, and he'd get a first-hand view of their M.O.
The request seemed to focus Sam, whose body snapped around towards Dean, his eyes narrowing. "What? No. I don't think that's a good idea."
"How long did you say this would take to wear off? A few days? What else are we going to do, sit around in this motel room and glare at each other?" But Sam didn't move. Dean rested his hands -- no, Victor's -- on the dresser, fingers among the bullets, his shoulders hunching. "If you don't, I will. I do know how to use a computer."
"Fine." Sam slowly went over to the table by the window. He set the gun down next to the laptop. "But I want it on record that I think this is..."
Victor could hear it in the sharpness of the voice and see it in the body language -- Dean was on the edge.
Truth be told, Victor wasn't far behind.
It was easy to get lost in the rhythms of hunting, senses attuned to the darkness around him, the musty smells of the decaying old house, testing the floorboards to make sure they wouldn't give under his weight, watching the shadows outside the edge of the flashlight beam to see if they really were just shadows or something else. He also kept his awareness on their prisoner, even though he saw how Sam was already doing that and then some.
They'd argued about it in the car on the way over, but in the end Sam had to agree that leaving Agent Henrickson alone in the hotel room was courting a Darwin Award.
It was new levels of bizarre to watch himself with his own personal, looming bodyguard. Henrickson wasn't trained for the work they did, needed watching not just so he wouldn't escape. Dean wanted his own body returned intact, thank you very much; bad enough the one he'd borrowed had a bum leg at the moment.
Not that this was the only time Sam had ever loomed, watching Dean's back. Dean realized it didn't annoy him as much as he'd always thought it did, and that he'd never said thanks.
With all of that, Dean forgot to be aware of himself, forgot he was in a body not his own. It wasn't just the injury; his body was shaped differently. He and Henrickson were tall and muscular, but Henrickson had longer limbs and wasn't quite so wide in the chest; the weight distribution was different.
When the lemure rushed him, its mouth gaping raw and red, skin mottled a sickly gray, Dean started his usual smooth side-step, and tripped.
It was damned embarrassing.
Sam's shotgun fired and the thing dispersed, only to reappear behind Henrickson, and as he scrambled to his feet, Dean got a good view of what he looked like when he was paralyzed with terror, which was intriguing because, first of all, it had never happened before, and second of all, it never would again.
This time Dean fired. The spook dispersed as Henrickson staggered back against a rotted bookshelf.
Sam and Dean went over to him, and he gaped at them, his face blank, fingers clenched around the edge of a shelf behind him. "What...the hell...was that?"
"A lemure," Sam said.
"And pray tell, what the fuck is a lemure?"
"Type of ghost." Dean turned away, shining his flashlight beam around. It bounced off the decrepit baseboards and the tattered remains of furniture.
"They're more grotesque than ordinary ghosts." Sam kicked aside a stack of old newspapers that dated from the 1970s by the looks of them. "And they come back to harm their loved ones. This one doesn't have any left, but it's been terrifying the daylights out of the folks who bought the house and want to renovate it."
"Can't imagine why," Henrickson said drily. "Unless it was the maggots oozing out of the thing's ears."
Dean wanted to say it so bad he had to bite down hard on his tongue to prevent the words getting out: do you get it now?
"Anyway." Sam turned in a circle, aiming his flashlight beam and gun into the musty dimness of the house. "We have to go to the cemetery, dig up the guy's remains, and burn them, and that'll put a stop to the haunting."
"You know, grave desecration," Dean added sardonically.
It didn't change everything.
There was still credit card fraud, drug theft, fake IDs, dozens of counts of breaking and entering, the lack of licenses for several of their firearms...the list went on. Even if he struck out "murder."
Another part of himself, and maybe it was the part of him that was currently Dean's flesh and bone, muttered that they'd helped people, they'd been helping people all along, that the reason the deaths stopped in a number of cases after the Winchesters arrived was because they'd stopped them.
But it didn't change everything.
When the lemure rushed them again, Victor took his opportunity. Sam was paying attention to the ghost, not to him. He snatched up a plank of wood and clubbed Dean (himself) across the back.
Sam shouted Dean's name, but had to shoot the ghost, and that hesitation gave Victor enough time to grab Dean's shotgun and bring it to bear on Sam, who gave him a look of such fury, Victor almost took a step back. But Sam dropped his gun, then moved quickly towards the unconscious body that held his brother's personality.
Victor left them there. The lemure, or whatever it was, wouldn't get them; Sam still had his gun. And he hadn't hit Dean (himself) that hard. He'd come to soon enough.
They'd long since taken Dean's cell phone away from him, and Victor had to run about twenty blocks before he found a pay phone, but it was out of order. Wouldn't do him any good to call this in anyway, he realized, remembering his voice. Even if he gave his badge ID, once he talked to anyone in his division, they'd know something was wrong. There was only one way to play it.
For the first time in his life, Victor hated his job.
Another fifteen blocks and he came to a small park. Past the swingsets and the slide, the lights of a police station glowed bright against the darkness.
All he had to do was walk in and say My name is Dean Winchester, and I'm turning myself in.
Victor began to walk across the park, holding back a shudder as he remembered maggots.
First he was vaguely aware of Sam half-dragging him out of the house. Once the cool spring air filled his lungs, his head cleared. His upper back was a stinging black hole of pain, but he'd recover.
Dean let out a steady stream of curses, kept it up pretty much all the way back to the motel, where Sam helped him out of the car and into the room.
"Leave now." Dean tossed a duffel at him. "Before the switch back happens."
"Go! That's an order."
But Sam dropped the duffel and folded his arms.
There weren't enough curse words in the English language. Dean made a mental note to learn how to curse in Arabic, French, and Italian for future use.
Something else mingled with the panic and frustration, the fear for Sam, and for himself: disappointment.
"Maybe if we catch up to him, you can play your role as FBI agent and keep him from turning you in," Sam said, when the bags were all stowed in the Impala.
They looked at each other across the car roof that reflected darkness, the gleam of streetlights, and their faces pale and faint.
Again Sam drove, and Dean was grateful, not liking the thought of Henrickson's hands on his baby.
When the sky started to lighten to predawn, the world suddenly tipped and spun. The soft give of the Impala's seat and the purr of the engine started to fade. Dean tried to warn Sam what was happening, but he fell into darkness before he could get the words out.
The next thing he heard was early morning birdsong. The soft feel of morning sun was on his face and there were hard wood slats beneath him.
Dean opened his eyes, sat up, and found himself on a park bench. The sun was a little above the horizon. He pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, then looked around. A playground lay empty behind him, the swings still in the windless morning. He must've been out for a few hours.
Across the street stood a police station. Alarmed, Dean grabbed the back of the bench and started to push himself to his feet.
But before he could move, two shadows appeared, stretching along the sidewalk to meet him.
Dean looked up and saw Sam and Henrickson a few feet away. Sam gave Dean a don't ask me kind of shrug. Henrickson cautiously moved closer, like he was afraid Dean might punch him. Which Dean might.
Looking like himself again, Henrickson adjusted his windbreaker, the gesture almost a nervous one. "You're still vigilantes. Even if you're saving people." He glanced across the street at the police station. "I was going to turn you in. I ended up sitting on that bench for hours until wham -- I passed out and woke up back in my body, sitting in your Chevy next to Sam."
"When he told me where he...where you...I almost shot him on the spot," Sam said.
Henrickson winced and touched his injured thigh. "Dean already shot me. Isn't that enough?"
"Advance payment for clubbing me with a two-by-four," said Dean.
Behind them a sprinkler turned on with a hiss. The sleepy-looking police station remained sleepy-looking. Dean kept his fingers clenched around the edges of the bench, ready to tell Sam to run, ready for another double-cross.
The quiet dragged on until Sam finally broke it. "So...what do we do now?"
At first Dean thought no one would be answering him, that he'd be sitting on that bench in the sun listening to the chuff-chuff of the sprinkler for a long time, watching the sun turn the spray to silver. Which didn't sound so bad, really--kind of peaceful.
"I don't know about you two," Henrickson spoke real slow, like he was afraid of their reaction. "But I need coffee right now like I need air."
It wasn't much.
Maybe it was a beginning.