|You Say the Dead Need No Physician, 1/4
||[Aug. 14th, 2010|06:52 am]
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In a crumbling motel somewhere outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, Sam avoided remembering the apocalypse. You know, the one that didn’t actually happen, because he and Dean had averted it, at the last minute, naturally. Now he and Dean were here, together. They’d forgiven each other – when Lucifer was chained, Dean had looked at Sam and Sam had looked at Dean and all the old anger and mistrust and resentment had melted away into the ground. It really should have been enough. No more angels, the demons were just the ordinary kind, and they were back to saving people, not the world. Sam has everything he wants: a calling, a car, and Dean beside him. It should have been enough.
Sam listened to his brother breathing in the other bed. Even in sleep, Dean’s shoulders were tight, the muscles in his arms tensing as he clenched and unclenched his fists. Sam wanted to reach over, to smooth his hand down the strung bow of Dean’s spine, to allow himself just one moment of comfort, a reminder that Dean was with him for good. Instead, he kicked the covers down and went into the bathroom, bile curdling in the back of his throat. He splashed cold water on his face, and debated taking a shower. He sat down on the toilet instead, and stared at the floor until his eyes and neck ached. There was dirt and mildew ground into the corners, and Sam was certain he could hear cockroaches rustling in the pipes. That decided it; he went back to bed and watched the ceiling, Dean kicking fitfully in the other bed.
Sam dreamed about a story, a story he couldn’t quite remember, about a woman who married a man who gave her a key to every room in his house, and said that she can open every door but the narrow one at the top of the stairs. As long as she never opened that door, she could live in happiness and comfort. As is the way of dreams, Sam was sometimes looking through the eyes of the wife, and sometimes through the one who told her not to open the door even as he handed her the key. Like a dream of falling where you never actually hit the ground, he kept jerking awake before the door was opened.
In the morning, they left for Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston, for all its beauty, is spiteful. The serene pastel houses, the hum of the birds, the wide-eyed tourists in horse-drawn carriages: a rich perfume on unwashed skin. Spiritually speaking, the city is an infected wound; it sits upon a swamp that sits upon a fault line, and the sea air exerts a suffocating pressure. Things cling on here, trapped in the miasma. The city makes its living from the ghosts of its fine ladies and gentlemen, and sweeps away the ghosts of those enslaved by those same fine ladies and gentlemen; it’s their misery that lives on. While this is true all over the South, Sam has always found it most oppressive in Charleston; the city’s peculiar stiff propriety not only fails to conceal, but makes vicious mockery of its essential rot.
Still, he’ll make the best of it, and lay off the Baudelaire while he’s at it. There is fun to be had here, with the coeds from the College of Charleston roaming King Street (which Sam preferred in its scruffier incarnation of ten years ago), idiotic ghost tours, and good food. That’s another thing: Dean always liked Charleston, and every time they swing down to the Lowcountry, he declares his intention of eating his weight in she-crab soup. When Sam told him about the job, Dean’s eyes lit up in a way they hadn’t for weeks. It’s a small blessing, but one Sam is prepared to keep.
Another blessing: they’re living in style, for once. Their contact, Maggie Rhett, was an old friend of their father’s. Well, not a friend, John didn’t have friends, but a satisfied client – John exorcised a poltergeist from her parents’ house many years ago. She’s now the manager of some swanky bed-and-breakfast on Queen Street, and is putting them up for as long as they need.
Dean drops Sam off at the hotel while he parks the Impala in the nearby garage. The lobby is Victorian fussy, but handsome nonetheless; the dark flowery wallpaper is a bit much, but he likes the clean lines of the marble fireplace and the cheerful rugs. All told, it could have been worse, and he just hopes Dean manages not to sneer openly when he arrives. He asks the woman working the desk if Ms. Rhett is in.
“That’s me, but call me Maggie,” she says. “Sam?” He nods. She’s African-American, in her late thirties, with a friendly smile, close-cropped hair, and an air of efficiency. “I’m sorry about your daddy, I heard he passed.” Sam nods again, thanks her. She pauses for a second, then pulls up the reservation on the computer. Grins.
“Kirk and McCoy? Cute.” She eyes the reservation, and glances up at Sam. “I only had a king room – it’s high tourist season. Is that okay?”
“It’s fine,” Sam says. “Really, this is too much; you don’t have to do this.”
“Least I could do. Besides, this way, you’re on-site – or as close as you can be without being troubled. Just don’t let it follow you back here.” She smiles again, and Sam can’t help smiling back.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “Though, if you want, I can set some wards –“
“Not necessary; my husband’s grandma is a root doctor, and she fixed us up.” She laughs. “I’ve seen your daddy’s idea of protection. We can’t have those massive salt lines on the doors and windows, the guests would complain.”
At that moment, Dean comes through the door. Sam is grateful there are no other guests in the lobby, as his brother, still carrying the four-hour drive and weeks of fitful sleep in his shoulders, looks like he’s come to rob the place. Sam is suddenly aware of his too-thin t-shirt sticking uncomfortably to his back. He introduces Dean to Maggie, and Dean nods tiredly, too far gone to even work up a leer for Maggie’s benefit.
“You boys should go upstairs, get some rest. And a bath,” she adds, wrinkling her nose. “We’ll talk later tonight, after dinner. You’re in room 203.” Sam takes the key, and he and Dean shoulder their bags and head upstairs.
The room is light and airy, with pale wood floors and subtle blue-and-white checked wallpaper. The bed, though, is ridiculous – a gigantic four-poster with a lacy white bedspread and a fluttery canopy to match.
Sam’s stomach flips over; he and Jessica stayed at a place with a bed like this, on a weekend trip to Napa. That ridiculous bed was Sam’s favorite part of the trip, lying next to Jessica, a pretty girl in a pretty girl’s bed, and it was his privilege to be there. Before he’s aware of it, something sick and low crawls up his spine at the thought of lying next to Dean in that bed. Luckily, Dean doesn’t notice.
“Hey look, Sam,” Dean snickers, “Barbie’s dream bed. Just like you always wanted!”
Sam swallows. “I guess that makes you Ken, right?” he asks innocently. He waits for Dean to work out that Ken had no genitals, and easily dodges the swat when it comes. “You want first shower?”
“Yeah, thanks.” Dean sets his bag down on a chair and digs for his shaving kit. He finds it and heads into the bathroom. Sam concentrates on putting his clothes away in the antique dresser.
“Dude! You have got to see this!” Sam comes to the bathroom door, and stares: the tub is one of those old claw-foots, as is to be expected, but it’s enormous. It had to have been specially made. It may even be big enough for Dean, if not Sam, to stretch out comfortably. A cornucopia of fancy bath products and candles decorates the counter, the towels are fat and fluffy, and the showerhead, in a separate stall, is one of those massage deals in gleaming brass. Dean, whose needs are ultimately simple, is practically swooning. Sam laughs out loud at his brother’s look of concussed glee.
“Just don’t piss off Maggie, man, or she’ll never let us come back.”
“I am going to kiss her feet,” Dean vows.
Sam claps him on the back and heads back to the bedroom. He doesn’t want to fling his road-encrusted self onto that pristine bed, so he kicks off his shoes and strips off his shirt and settles into an armchair by the window, kicking away the ottoman. He closes his eyes and listens to Dean splashing happily. He catches a whiff of lavender smoke, and grins; Dean must have lit the candles, though Sam will never get him to admit it.
He tries to relax. They have an interesting case, and they’re not scamming anyone to stay here. Dean seems to be shaking off a little bit of his anxiety, and Sam can’t be anything but happy about that. He forces his shoulders down, and concentrates on how good the shower is going to feel.
Dean comes out naked, and hunts in his bag for a pair of clean boxers. Sam looks away, but not before he gets a glimpse of his brother’s cock, pale and vulnerable in the thick nest of his pubic hair. Sam stands up, joints crackling, and heads into the bathroom. Last he sees, Dean is eying the bed, clearly debating whether he wants to be the first to sully it.
The shower is just as amazing as Sam hoped. He braces his hands against the wall and lets the hot water pound between his shoulder blades, unknotting the road. His cock stirs in the heat, but he won’t touch himself, it will just make him feel guilty when he shares a bed with Dean that night. He closes his eyes and doesn’t think.
Sam cradles his sweating tumbler of bourbon on the rocks in his hands. It’s after eleven; the other guests – all elderly, save for a honeymooning couple in the penthouse – retired hours ago. Maggie had led them to a picnic area in a secluded corner of the garden; a spreading live oak decked with Spanish moss shaded them from any curious guests looking out the window, and the wisteria climbing the garden wall releases its sweet, sharp scent whenever Dean, who is closest to the wall, shifts in his seat.
“Down King Street,” Maggie had said, “on the other side of that parking garage, that’s where you want to be. 124 King. You’ll know it, it’s the real narrow one. That’s the house of the doctor to the dead.”
Dean, stuffed full of she-crab soup and shrimp and grits, contented himself with an incredulous snort. Sam picked up the slack.
“Doctor to the dead? All we heard was that there were some disappearances, and that you think we can take care of it.”
Maggie glared. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It starts with him. His name was Heinrich Ryngo, and he set up shop about 1840. He had this idea that the living have enough doctors tending to their ills, but the dead have no one. So, he became doctor to the dead.”
It was a disturbing story, even for them. Dr. Heinrich Ryngo had been the son of the gatekeeper at the College of Charleston. His early brilliance attracted several wealthy benefactors, who sent him abroad to study at the great European medical schools. He returned to Charleston, bought the house on King Street, and gained a reputation as an unusually gifted surgeon. At some point, however, he wound up on the wrong side of the genius/madness line. He delivered a speech, that was, in Maggie’s words, “buckets of crazy,” to the local medical association, outlining his theories: in sum, that the dead live on in their graves, and require someone to minister to their needs – which meant curing them of their condition: death.
“So, Doc Frankenstein was trying to raise an army of zombies?” Dean asked.
“No,” Maggie answered. “Not really. Normally, raising the dead in corporeal form only works – for a given value of ‘works’ – with a fresh corpse. Ryngo wanted to raise those who had been long dead, just dust in their coffins, and give them back their bodies.”
Ryngo started his experiments, working feverishly by day and night; any moments not devoted to his project were spent on his balcony, where he stared unseeing at the crowds hurrying by on King Street. He cut an unsettling figure; tall, lank, dressed in a threadbare black suit and enormous cloak flapping like a murder of crows, his hair hanging filthy and matted down his back, eyes burning through whomever was unlucky enough to catch his glance.
But the worst thing was the smell; the narrow house had a stench unlike anything ever smelled before. At first, Ryngo blamed the nearby apothecary and butcher, but both of those shops gave off only the ordinary stink of their professions. This was different; it was a ferociously heavy, gagging horror that hung unmoving in the malarial Charleston air. The worst of it was that through the viscous evil reek could be detected a whiff of something pure and sweet, the scent of gardenias. Even the rats fled from it.
Eventually, it became too much to bear. As a hurricane skidded toward the coast, its preceding winds stirred the unholy stench outside the narrow house on King Street to unbearable levels. A mob gathered in the street, electricity from the oncoming storm crackling through them, and bayed for Ryngo’s blood. The city guard, egged on by the mob, broke into the narrow house to find him. On the first floor, all was mildew and decay – paper peeling in rotted strips from the walls, dry rot eating through the floor and furniture, deathwatch beetles ticking frantically – and the reek was even more horrifying. Guardsmen choked and gagged, one vomited in the corner, but the captain of the guard, he covered his face with his handkerchief and dashed upstairs.
In the main bedroom, beside a filthy bed with yellowed sheets, there were thirteen cedar chests. Twelve were silent, but the thirteenth chest throbbed like a heart, sending out pulses of the evil stench with each beat. Under the throbbing, a faint dry whisper croaked out, “Send me back! Send me back!” The captain of the guard opened the chest, and stumbled backward, overcome with horror: it was a corpse, or what was left of one, half crumbled to dust. But no, that dust was knitting and unknitting, dead fingers clenching and clawing – there were scratches on the inside lid of the chest. With a last gasp, it collapsed into dust, and, from outside, an animal screech pierced the air. The captain flung open the door from behind which the scream had come, and found himself on the balcony, face to face with Ryngo.
Accounts differ at this point. Some say Ryngo leaped off the balcony, and was torn to pieces by the mob. Others likewise claim that he jumped, but a gust of wind caught his voluminous coat, and he essentially flew off into the storm like a scavenger bird. In either case, he was never seen again.
With Ryngo’s disappearance, the stench faded. The chests were opened, and all were found to contain corpses in various states of decomposition, their deaths ranging from a few months ago to over a century. Ryngo had thoughtfully provided names, dates and locations for twelve of the thirteen bodies, and the stench finally dissipated completely upon their reburial.
“Before you ask,” Maggie said, seeing Sam open his mouth, “No, we don’t know who they were. The ones we had names for, their names were suppressed from the record, so as not to upset the families; the last body was cremated and the ashes buried anonymously in consecrated ground. The reburials must have been just as sneaky as when Ryngo dug them up in the first place.”
She resumed the story. The house was scoured out and repainted, but none would buy it. It stood empty for a long while. Years passed; King Street became gentrified. No one wanted to let such a prime piece of real estate go to waste, but no one was willing to live or work in the place, either. Finally, one of the antique dealers around the corner on Broad Street bought it; he used it as a storage space/appointment-only showroom, for pieces that he didn’t wish to display in his main shop. That was eight years ago, and the house had been quiet this whole time.
“Until now,” Sam said.
“That’s right,” said Maggie. “We’re not sure what’s going on, but it’s something. And whatever it is, it’s nasty. The smell is back, for one thing – it’s faint, all you’ll get is a quick whiff, but let me tell you, boys, it will singe your sinuses. Then there’s the disappearances.”
“Three so far, right?” Dean asked.
Maggie nodded. “The first man, Stacy Vanderhorst, had complained to his wife that he had been having weird dreams about the house. The second, Steve Hasell, was also dreaming about the place, according to his best friend. And Ben Legare was actually last seen entering the house.”
“What about the owner – the antiques dealer?” Sam asked, though he already suspected he knew the answer.
“Eric Rutledge? He was out of the country during all three disappearances; when Vanderhorst disappeared, he was giving a talk in London, and was attending a dealers’ conference in Nice when Hasell and Legare went missing. He knew all three men – with those names, it’s pretty obvious – but had no means, motive or opportunity. His employees all checked out, too. We never suspected him; he and my husband are old friends, and he asked Joe to look into the disappearances, when the police turned up nothing.”
“What do you mean, ‘with those names’?” Sam asked.
“Oh! I’m sorry,” Maggie said. “Vanderhorst, Hasell, Legare and Rutledge are all old Charleston families – you may have passed Rutledge Avenue on your way in. There are streets named for all of them.”
“Weird,” Dean commented. “Do you think that’s important?”
Maggie shrugged. “I don’t know. All I know is, you two are the ones that might be able to lay it.”
“Us? Why?” Sam asked. “Not that we’re not flattered, but I thought you had quite a few hunters and other experts around this area.”
Maggie hesitated. “This is kind of hard to explain. It’s, well, it’s Charleston. The place is a sinkhole for spiritual activity. And when I say sinkhole, I mean that – things stick, here. Spirits and entities round here, they get, well, particular.”
She paused, and searched for words. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s a real… violence to putting down a ghost. Not necessarily a bloody fight, but it is a pretty brutal assertion of power over what used to be another human being. Most of the time, in other places, you can avoid thinking about it – have to, if you’re going to do the job. But here, in Charleston, it’s different. Let me give you an example. Have you boys ever laid the ghost of a slave?”
Sam thought about it. Looking over at Dean, he saw his brother had come to the same conclusion. “Actually, we haven’t,” Dean said.
Maggie nodded. “There’s a reason for that. Most of the black hunters down South, if we hear about something that might be a slave ghost, we take care of it ourselves – and if we need outside expertise, we stick to black folks. Slave ghosts were ordered around by white folks their whole lives; it’s just adding insult to injury to send another white person after them, no matter how much trouble they’re causing. That’s true all over the South.”
She took a sip of her drink. “But here in Charleston, because of the sinkhole, it can be actively dangerous to not pay attention to things like that. Ghosts get stronger here – and if the wrong hunter comes for them, it can get real ugly, real fast. It’s a mistake we try to avoid if we can. And it’s more than just not sending a white hunter after a slave. Some boy tried to put down a ghost in Stoll’s Alley, and she about ripped him limb from limb: she was a rape victim, and was not about to tolerate one more man pushing her around. Here, she was able to fight back. Once we figured that out, I was able to put her to bed, easy as pie. But that’s why we have so many ghosts hanging around, because they’ve grown so particular that they’ll only lay down for someone who has, or doesn’t have, a specific quality, and sometimes that quality is impossible to figure out.”
Maggie paused, and refreshed everyone’s drinks before continuing. “But this ghost… it’s different. Oh, it’s particular all right, so particular that it’s blocking anyone from figuring out what it wants. Most ghosts we can’t lay, it’s because their rules for who can or can’t lay them are lost. But I’ve never heard of a ghost that actively prevented anyone from figuring them out. Once Eric got back and heard what happened, he suspected an evil spirit, knowing the history of the house; he called us up, knowing we’ve got some experience with this sort of thing. Joe put his grandma and great-aunt Amelia on it. And they could hardly get anything: it was like a brick wall had been thrown up between them and the ghost, and nothing Amelia did could punch through that wall. You’ll meet Joe tomorrow, he can explain better. Basically, they figured out it isn’t a slave, but beyond that, nothing. That night, Amelia had a dream about two white boys and a Winchester rifle, which reminded me of your father, so we thought that you boys may as well give it a try. That house isn’t right, and we need to know what’s waking it up.”
She sighed, and sat back in her chair. Dean leaned forward, his elbows on the table. “We’ll do our best,” he said. “When are we meeting Joe?”
“Tomorrow for lunch, if noon works for you. Walk north on King, and make a left on Calhoun. A couple blocks down, across from the College of Charleston library, there’s a little diner. He’ll meet you there, and will be able to fill in some more of the details.”
Sam nodded. “We’ll be there. Maggie, thank you so much for everything – you’ve been incredibly hospitable, over and above the call of duty.” Dean nodded in agreement.
She waved her hand dismissively. “Like I said, least I can do. Your daddy saved my parents’ house, and probably their lives, and now I’m asking you to fix a ghost that wants who knows what from you. At least you can sleep in comfort while doing it.” She got up, and gathered the empty glasses. “Breakfast is 7-9; don’t be late. And boys?” She paused and looked at them. “Stuff your dirty clothes in the laundry bag in the closet, and leave it out for the maid. We don’t want the guests thinking you brought that evil stink home with you, even before you’ve been to the house.”
Sam brushes his teeth, and spends some time rearranging the little bottles of bath products on the counter. He doesn’t want to open the door, doesn’t want to go into the bedroom and lay down beside his brother in that bed, that ridiculous bed. It’s stupid; it’s been a few years, but he and Dean have certainly shared beds before.
And it’s not as if this is a new thing either, this – whatever this is. He won’t let himself get any further than an ache under his ribcage, pulling toward Dean. He remembers being a kid, when he and Dean almost always shared a bed, lying awake at night, Dean breathing next to him. He didn’t know what it was; all he knew is that he wanted Dean to be closer. He’d roll over, his back to Dean, and it hurt to breathe, sometimes.
Sam always had a finely tuned sense of what was normal, and he knew this wasn’t it. So he fought it, like he fought everything, locked it all away behind a narrow door in the back of his mind.
Dean looked at him, sometimes. Not the way he looked at women, but he looked. Since Sam had come back to hunting, there were moments – not many, but they were there – when they looked at each other. Sam always held his breath, then: sometimes, sometimes, he even thought that this sharp, skittering heat under his skin wasn’t his alone, that maybe –
Dean would look away, or Sam would, and he’d feel hot and restless all day. The air would be thick with everything they weren’t saying.
Some days, he thought he’d choke on it.
“I’m an idiot,” he mutters to himself, and heads into the bedroom. He hadn’t slept, earlier; Dean was buried under the covers by the time he got out of the shower, so Sam had set up his laptop and surfed aimlessly until it was time for dinner. He’s exhausted.
He climbs into bed and rolls on his side, his back to his brother. It still hurts to breathe.
Dr. Joseph Bennett is a tall man, almost as tall as Sam. He is also African-American, darker than Maggie, with long dreadlocks pulled back into a ponytail. He teaches history and folklore at the College of Charleston, and his grandmother and her sister are the two most powerful root doctors in the state.
“So,” he says. “Maggie tell you about the doctor to the dead?”
Dean, his mouth full of chicken-fried steak, nods. He swallows. “How much of that is true?”
Joe grins. “Maggie’s a great storyteller, I don’t blame you for questioning it. But yes, it’s true as far as we can tell. After lunch, I’m going to take you to the document archive at C of C, and you can look through Ryngo’s papers. It’s not much, but it might help you get a sense of him. We’ve got some of his early medical notes – pre-doctoring the dead, he really was as brilliant as the legend says, at least according to my medical historian colleagues – and, more useful for us, the full text of his 1853 speech to the Charleston Medical Association, where he debuted his theories.”
“Buckets of crazy,” Sam says, and Joe laughs.
“That’s right.” He pauses, looking thoughtfully at Sam and Dean. “I guess I should tell you what Grandma and Aunt Amelia said, about how they couldn’t get through.”
“Maggie said it was like a brick wall,” Sam says. “Have you heard of that before?”
Joe shakes his head. “No. More importantly, Aunt Amelia hadn’t either. If anyone can hear the voices of the dead, she can, but this is one that doesn’t want to be heard – and that’s unusual. Ghosts want you to notice them; they’ll fight you, sure, especially if they’ve grown to like being noticed and want to continue stirring things up. But this one? It’s being sneaky. Hiding. If it weren’t for the disappearances and the scent, we wouldn’t know anything was going on at all. Grandma sprinkled some salt in the corners of the house, just as an experiment, and all the furniture started rattling. Amelia wanted to stay and see if she could talk to it, but Grandma, not being a damned fool, dragged her out of there. Amelia did catch something that convinced her it wasn’t a slave; maybe it would have worked if she’d stayed, but she’s eighty-one years old, and she really shouldn’t be chasing stuff that gets violent.” The way Joe says it, Sam thinks this is an ongoing argument.
Joe continues. “That night, well, Maggie told you. Amelia had her dream, and Maggie thought of you. She thinks you’re all right, and I’ll take her word for it. Tomorrow, we’ll take you to Grandma’s, so she and Aunt Amelia can look you over for themselves. Grandma has ordered that no one goes back into that house without her say-so; once she clears you, we’ll get Eric to let you in.”
Dean nods, acquiescent. Sam grins; Dean will never admit it, but ever since Missouri, he’s terrified of old hoodoo ladies, and wouldn’t dream of disobeying. Dean glares at Sam, and to cover up, asks Joe, “How do you know this guy Rutledge?”
“We went to Emory together – roommates.” Joe smiles. “I was a scholarship kid, he was a legacy, but we became friends. He’s one of the foremost authorities in the world on seventeenth-century furniture; we curated an exhibit on Old Charles Towne together.”
“Old Charles Towne – that’s the colonial settlement,” Sam says, proud that his Wikipedia surfing last night hadn’t been totally useless.
“Yeah,” Joe says. “Actually, that might be worth looking into. Ryngo liked digging through the colonial burial grounds for his experiments – the older the corpse, the better. The oldest cemetery in the city is the Circular Church, on Meeting Street; they’ve got a grave dating from 1695. After you look through the papers, if you can’t think of anywhere else to start, it’s as good a place as any.”
Joe leaves them in the document room of the college library, after getting them set up with temporary passes, and helping them fill out the request form for the Ryngo papers. Before he heads off to class, he stops for a moment, and looks up something else on the computer; he adds a name that looks like “Vander Herchen” to the request form.
“He was the captain of the guard, who broke into the house the night Ryngo disappeared,” Joe explains. “His stuff is real turgid, but you might spot something we didn’t.”
After Joe leaves, Sam sets up his laptop, and he and Dean settle down with the papers: Sam with Ryngo’s, Dean with Vander Herchen’s. Judging from Dean’s pained expression as he skims the first page, Sam thinks he got the better deal. He decides to start with Ryngo’s speech.
It is, as Maggie said, “buckets of crazy,” but as he reads, Sam feels the stirrings of sympathy. The man was ferociously compassionate, driven mad by a desire to cure the ills of the world – and the worst malady was death itself. Knowing what he knows, Sam finds it hard to fault him: “It is a belief too long fostered by both medicine and theology that the dead are asleep and in peace. They are no such thing. They are not asleep; they are not at peace; they do not rest.” Ryngo wasn’t wrong, there – certainly, it was true of whatever is haunting the man’s house.
He reads further:
“It is true that there is nothing on earth, however lovely or beloved, which shall not die and turn to dust and ashes. But, my friends, it is not true that when the body turns to ashes there shall be no more fire. Desire does not perish in the dust. Though it be true that for but a little while this mortal body serves delight, life’s deepest desire is eternal, and love’s longing endures beyond the grave.”
Sam stops. Dean is squinting at the paper in front of him – jackass claims he doesn’t need glasses – and Sam feels a sharp rush of possessive affection, and its corresponding guilt. If there’s anything Sam knows, he knows that fire Ryngo speaks of. Belief in that fire was all that kept Sam going in the months Dean was gone. And now –
“As certain as it is that the dead do not altogether die, so it is certain that those who long for love on earth shall long forever in the grave: there is no anodyne for longing; and Love as yet has found no path returning from the tomb.”
Sam’s eyes sting. There is no anodyne for longing. And love – Love – wasn’t enough, it never is.
There is no anodyne for longing.
Sam stands abruptly, startling Dean. Dean has that concerned wrinkle between his eyebrows, and Sam can’t meet his brother’s eyes.
“Just. Bathroom. I’m okay, I just need,” he manages. Dean nods, not entirely believing him. “I’ll be right back.”
Sam makes it to the bathroom somehow, and hunches over the sink. He rests his forehead against the cool tile. The burger and fries he had for lunch shifts uneasily in his stomach; he thinks he might get sick, but nothing comes.
Sam had thought he was finished grieving for his brother. He was wrong. It was so stupid – Dean is there, back in the library, real and warm and alive, everything he wanted. They are rebuilding their life together, the only one they’ve ever known, and he should be happy, happy, and he is, but. He is selfish, breathtakingly selfish, and now he’s in a bathroom crying for his brother, his brother who is alive– through no virtue of Sam’s, and isn’t that just one more twist of the knife – and Dean has no idea. He can’t. Dean has been ground up and spit out of Hell, but he’s back, he’s here, he’s real, and Sam, his own brother, can’t shout the full extent of his joy, can’t dance and sing and hold Dean to him, because what Sam really wants is to crawl inside his brother and never come back out again, mingle them so thoroughly that no one will ever be able to tell them apart or tear them apart, and –
There is no anodyne for longing. Sam wipes his face.