|You Say the Dead Need No Physician, 4/4
||[Aug. 14th, 2010|07:04 am]
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“So, now we know it’s Helen Armitage, and she was one of the victims,” Dean says. He, Sam, and Maggie are sitting in the garden, just like the first night – same glasses of bourbon and everything. He breathes in. “I think it’s her, in that room.”
“The question, of course,” Maggie says, “is why now? She’s been at rest for a hundred and sixty-odd years.”
Why, indeed? The only way to find out is to go back into the doctor’s house. Something cold and dark slithers underneath Sam’s ribcage, but there’s no help for it. Sam and Dean agreed to take this job, and everyone’s counting on them.
He shakes himself. He and Dean survived the Apocalypse, Lucifer, Michael, all of it. He has no business being afraid of something as simple as a house with a locked door.
When they meet Joe and Eric at the shop, it’s the same as before, except the lines on Eric’s face are even more tense. They follow the same arrangements as the last time, with Eric watching from his top floor, and Joe and Maggie guarding the front entrance. The door is a dark, malevolent slash in the house’s gaunt face, and Sam fights the urge to curl his fingers in Dean’s jacket like a child.
When they pass through the Doctor’s door for the second time, everything is still, and Sam thinks for a moment that tonight, maybe tonight, they can see this through. But the furniture starts rattling, the deathwatch beetles start ticking, and Sam’s breath dies in his throat. Dean’s shoulders are shaking, but he throws a terrified, defiant glance over his shoulder at Sam, and races up the stairs. Sam follows him, close on his heels, and he can feel the house trembling around him.
He and Dean head for the bedroom again, and this time, Sam doesn’t even give Dean a chance to argue, but pushes ahead of him into the room, spraying the plant mister frantically. He can feel his brother behind him, his chest rising and falling against Sam’s back, but their breathing is drowned out by a skittering, scratching sound that ricochets around the room. Sam wants to scream, to plug his ears, to claw his skin off to make it stop, but he knows they’ve only got a few moments. He forces himself to look more closely at the contents of the room, but it’s the same as the last time: hutch, china, table, vases, keys. He tries to force his way farther into the room, but a high, thin wheedling sound hisses through the air, and underneath it a garbled string of sounds in what could be a human voice, and Sam’s hands aren’t his own, they’re Ryngo’s and they’re clawing in the grave dirt –
– Just like last time, just as before, Dean’s hands clamp down on his shoulders like anchors, and Sam runs, runs after his brother, runs from that voice howling things he can’t bear to hear, and they’re outside, in the street, and Dean’s hand is once more on the back of his neck, hot and solid and real, and Sam wraps his arms around Dean and doesn’t let go.
Maggie and Joe move to usher them in the direction of the hotel, but Sam, clutching at Dean’s shoulders, shakes his head.
“Let’s go to Eric’s, regroup,” he manages, and his voice sounds like it hasn’t been used in years. There’s something nagging at the back of his skull, and if he’s alone with Dean now, the proximity to his brother will drown out everything else.
Dean, seeming to read Sam’s mind, pulls away and wipes his face. He doesn’t look at Sam, but he stays close on the walk over to Eric’s, and when Eric hustles them inside, Dean sits next to Sam on the couch, his knee warm against Sam’s. It’s something, and Sam is grateful for the contact.
Eric has a tray set up with cookies and hot chocolate, a child’s comfort food. But then he opens a bottle of whiskey and pours a generous shot into each mug. Sam sips slowly, glad of the slow slide of heat down his throat; it doesn’t dissipate the chill from the Doctor’s house, but it’s helping.
Sam lets his eyes drift around the shop, not really seeing anything, just needing something to do while his breathing returns to normal. But then, his eyes fall on Eric’s display of keys. Something, he’s not sure what, slots into place.
“Death is the Golden Key that opens the Palace of Eternity,” he says.
“Milton,” says Maggie. “What made you think of that, Sam?”
“It’s on Helen’s gravestone,” Sam says. “And then I saw the keys in the room, and your keys here reminded me. What are they for, Eric?”
“I collect them,” Eric says. “I’ve always liked the symbolism – any door is open to you, if you only have the key. Plus, many of them are beautiful in and of themselves. Do you want to take a look?”
“Yes, please,” Sam says. Dean looks at him strangely, and Sam can see he’s about to protest Sam’s foray into Antiques Roadshow, but Sam just shakes his head and Dean subsides. He seems happier to stay quiet, anyway.
Eric pulls a few keys off the display, and hands them over to Sam. There are brass and silver ones, big heavy ones and thin delicate ones. All have ribbon threaded through them, for hanging, but one has a braid made of something else.
“This is hair,” Sam says, fingering the braid. The hair is brown, brittle and faded.
“Oh yes,” Eric says. “People were mad about random uses of hair, especially for remembrance and keepsakes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Victorians, of course, raised morbidity to an art form, but there are plenty of earlier examples. You’ve heard of the poem ‘The Rape of the Lock,’ right? Hair of the beloved, in order to remember her.”
“Hair,” Sam says. “Do any of the keys in the Ryngo house have hair braids?”
Eric thinks. “Come to think of it, one does. I picked it up in England, in an Exeter antique shop.”
“Exeter,” Joe says. “Exeter is in Devonshire. That just might be the link we’re looking for. The Armitages traveled to England, and naturally they’d visit their ancestral lands. If Helen left a lock of her hair with her relatives…”
“That might be what brought her back,” Maggie finishes. “That’s one hell of a coincidence.”
“Sometimes, these things aren’t actually coincidences,” Dean says, and it’s the first complete sentence he’s spoken since they left the Ryngo house. “But that’s a metaphysical issue.”
Sam grins at Dean’s use of the word “metaphysical.” “It’s worth a shot,” he says. “Right now, it’s the best lead we’ve got.”
“Well, I don’t want you going back in there tonight,” Maggie says, and Joe nods. “Rest up, and we’ll figure out a way to let you get in there long enough to grab the key.”
It’s a plan, a decent one. He looks over at Dean, and Dean nods. Sam lets himself relax, a little.
Dean doesn’t say much when they get back to the hotel, but he doesn’t seem to be avoiding Sam, either, which is something. When they get into bed, Dean glances over at Sam for a brief moment before he rolls away, and Sam feels it like a hand on his skin.
He stares at Dean’s back for a long time before he falls asleep.
Third time’s the charm, Sam repeats inside his head all day, idiotically. Third time, third time. It’s magical thinking of the non-useful variety, he knows, but he can’t help the sense of fairy-tale rightness. They know what to expect, they know what to look for, and they know what to do once they find it. Assuming they’re right, of course.
Everything is like it was before, except this time, they’re carrying angelica roots in their pockets, they’re wearing their mojos around their necks, and their plant misters are at the ready. The plan is for Dean – he insisted – to grab the key with Helen’s hair (they hope) and run; they’ll get it out of the house, and salt and burn it with Maggie and Joe’s help.
Third time, third time. Sam thinks the house is smiling at him, hungry. When they get inside, he can’t help feeling like the darkness has swallowed them up.
Up the stairs for the third time (third time third time), and the house is quiet, waiting. Maybe it’s the angelica root, but it doesn’t feel like they’re being pushed out, the way they were before.
That’s even more unsettling, and Sam locks that thought down.
He’s behind Dean, close, too close probably, Dean can’t maneuver easily, but Sam wants to be able to feel the heat of Dean’s body in the air, even if he can’t touch. Dean isn’t complaining, like he normally would; maybe he feels the same way.
They stop at the bedroom door (third time’s the charm). Now that they’re upstairs, Sam can hear the house waking up, acknowledging their presence with a low, electric hum that isn’t strong enough to make his teeth rattle, but they do all the same. Dean looks back at him, his eyes wide and dark, and the hum gets louder, louder, and it’s not Dean anymore, not Dean’s living face, but he’s mute and white and still, but his eyes, his dead eyes are still terrified –
– My love, my love, till the seas run dry, love –
That thin, wheedling noise from before is back, spiraling high and sharp into the rafters and clawing Sam’s nerve endings to shreds – it’s a scream, it’s more than a scream, and for half a second Sam almost remembers Lucifer’s voice in his throat, but then he’s back with Dean, Dean who’s dead but still moving, breathing, crying, and Sam’s hands scrabble uselessly in the dirt –
Dean is over the threshold, he’s in the room, and Sam drops to his knees, clutching his head in anguish, but he manages to get the plant mister open and splash the Van Van mixture over his face, which gives him a few crucial seconds of clear thought. Dean is inside and Sam hears him cry out in pain. Sam stumbles to his feet, and manages to drag Dean out of the room.
Dean is clutching something – it’s a key, please god, let it be the right one – and Sam pulls Dean down the stairs. The house shakes on its foundations, and there’s a roaring in Sam’s ears, and he doesn’t know if it’s the wind or his own blood, and there’s something, something awful collecting at the top of the stairs, and it’s an eternity to the front door, to clean air –
– Sam and Dean tumble into the street, into Joe’s and Maggie’s arms, and there’s a salt circle, something like safety, and Sam grabs the key from Dean’s fingers, salts the white-blonde braid of hair, and sets it ablaze.
A beautiful young woman with white-blonde hair materializes in front of them as the fire burns. She’s weeping, and Dean clutches tightly at Sam’s arm. But next to her, a thin, dark man appears; Sam, just for an instant, meets his eyes, and sees something like understanding. The girl throws her arms around the man, and they both go up in flames, but not before Sam sees the look of utter peace on both of their faces.
Back at the hotel, alone in their room, Sam and Dean sit like they did the first time this happened: Sam in the chair, Dean on the ottoman, too close, much too close for comfort.
Dean rubs his face. “There’s,” he starts, and his voice is rough, scratched. He tries again. “There’s no point putting it off. What did you see, Sammy? This, time, the first time. I need.” He stops. When he speaks again, his voice is quieter. “I need to know.”
Sam draws a breath. Quashes the instinct to prevaricate. There’s something fragile here, and if he doesn’t tell the truth, it will shatter.
“I saw. It was like when, when you were dead.” He forces himself to look at Dean. “When I buried you, I couldn’t. I lay down on your grave, and dug my fingers into the dirt. I thought. Maybe you could know, that I was there. Like I could warm you, even under the earth.” He stops. Dean’s just watching him. “And, it was like I was seeing someone else, too, someone with different hands, doing the same, feeling the same, swearing that he’d do anything. It wasn’t me, but, like an echo, or a picture superimposed over another one. And I could also hear him, this other man’s thoughts, he was saying he was sorry, and begging his love not to do something.” He pauses. “It was Ryngo, and his love was Helen, Helen Armitage. She was a ghost.”
Dean nods, slowly. He breathes in.
Sam looks at him. He wants to reach out, he wants to touch Dean, but he can’t yet. He needs to know what Dean knows. “What did you see?”
For a moment, Sam thinks Dean won’t answer. But he speaks, his voice so low Sam can barely hear him. “It was right after I died, that first moment of separation. I could do nothing, nothing but scream for you. I was trapped, and you were so far away and would never, ever reach me, and you’d never know –“ Dean closes his eyes. He won’t look at Sam. But he continues. “It was her. I could hear her. She was a ghost when Ryngo met her, but they fell in love anyway: that’s why Ryngo became the doctor to the dead, so he could cure her, and they could be together. But she had been ripped from him, stayed too long one night. Dawn came, and she melted into nothingness. But when Eric brought back that key, the key with her hair, and put it back into the house, Ryngo’s house, she rose again. She was so lost, so alone. All she knew was that she loved him, and she couldn’t find him. So she went back to the house, the house where she last remembered. And she’s been looking for him ever since.”
Dean looks back toward Sam, but still won’t meet his eyes. “Those men, the ones who disappeared. She took them; she thought she could bring him back. She didn’t know how he’d done it, so she reached for anyone who looked like him – they were all tall, thin, and dark – and thought she could call him, somehow, to take over their bodies. She killed them, and when it didn’t work, she destroyed the bodies. I don’t know how, I just saw them crumble into dust.”
Sam waits; he senses Dean isn’t done. “She loved him, and she was crazy with grief and guilt. Not just for killing those men, but for falling in love with Ryngo in the first place.”
Sam’s heart turns over, his body is too small to contain all this turmoil. This is what Amelia meant. This is it.
Dean finally meets his eyes. “Sam,” he says. “Why are we here?”
Sam wants to look away, wants to hide from Dean, wants not to say things that can never, ever be taken back. But his brother’s eyes are terrified, and Sam is through with lying.
“Helen loved someone she thought she wasn’t supposed to,” he says.
Dean pales. Sam’s stomach plummets, but he has to go on, he has to. “We’re the ones who can put her down, because. Because we understand. What that’s like.”
For one horrible moment, Sam thinks Dean is going to rationalize, going to invoke civilians like Jess and Lisa and Cassie, going to invoke Madison and Anna and Ruby, going to shy away from naming this thing between them for what it is. Sam almost wants him to – Dean’s eyes, his face, are so open, so raw, that it’s agony to look at him. But Sam did this, this is all his fault, and he’s not going to give himself the comfort of not looking.
“I’m sorry,” Dean says, and it’s strangled, awful, like the words are being torn from his throat, “I’m so sorry, Sammy. This is. It’s me, it’s all me, it’s not your fault.”
“No, no, god, Dean, it isn’t just you, it isn’t, and it’s not your fault either,” Sam gasps out, and it’s too much, he can’t let Dean take the blame for this. He grabs Dean’s shoulders and looks into his eyes, heart about to rattle out of his chest, but he has to. “This is who we are, and it’s nobody’s fault. Love happens, and you have to go where it goes.”
Dean laughs, and there’s a high, bitter note in it that Sam wants to shake out of him. “You make it sound so easy.”
“Why can’t it be?”
Dean looks at him now, really looks. His eyes are red, his face streaked with tears from before. He looks awful, and Sam loves him more than anything. Dean reaches out a tentative hand, combs his fingers through Sam’s hair.
“Okay,” Dean says. “Okay.” And kisses him.
It’s chaste, just a press of dry lips, but that door in Sam’s head, the one he’d locked everything behind – it’s smashed into a thousand pieces, and all his secrets run free, sluicing through his veins. He knows now. He opens his lips, just a little, tentatively, and kisses Dean back, slow. The blood pounds in his head, and he can feel Dean’s heart against him, jackrabbit-fast, but all he will take is his time. Dean slides a shaking hand around Sam’s neck, and Sam lets Dean angle his head, opens his mouth wider when Dean presses in, and when Dean’s tongue touches his, Sam can’t help it, he moans –
– Dean pulls back like he’s been burned, eyes already forming apologies, but Sam won’t let him, Dean doesn’t get to claim responsibility for this, and he pulls Dean to him and covers Dean’s mouth with his own. It’s desperate, now, Dean clutching at his shirt, and the chair is awkward, Sam needs to be closer, so he stands, pulling Dean up with him. Dean wraps his arms around Sam, pulling him flush, and Dean is fever-hot through his clothes, and Sam can’t think, everything is gone except Dean’s mouth and hands and body against him. It’s almost too much, if he gets his hands on Dean’s skin, he might have a heart attack, but now he has to know, know everything, and Dean slides his hands under Sam’s shirt, fingers pressing at the small of his back, and Jesus, he needs this, needs it like breathing and he’s never been so hard in his life.
Dean tugs at his shirt, and Sam pulls it off, shock of the cool air on his overheated skin, and he returns the favor for Dean. And then, then, it’s skin against skin, Dean’s amulet digging into Sam’s chest, and Sam tilts his hips, feels the hard line of Dean’s cock against his thigh, and he can’t take it anymore. He manages to get them over to the bed, and pulls Dean down beside him; Dean swings his leg over Sam’s hips and presses him down into the mattress.
He wants this to be slow, he does, he wants to spend hours memorizing every inch of Dean’s skin with his hands and mouth, but this thing is spinning wildly out of control, and Dean’s right there with him, grinding his cock against Sam’s, frantic kisses on his mouth, his jaw, his throat, anywhere Dean can reach, and Sam digs his fingers into Dean’s shoulders and hangs on.
His jeans are rough, uncomfortable, too tight, and he needs them off, now, and it’s like Dean reads his mind because he reaches down and scrabbles at Sam’s belt, and it happens so fast, suddenly his jeans and boxers are off, his cock is free, and Sam freezes, the shock of this intimacy overwhelming him – he’s hard and naked and Dean is right there, about to touch him with his hands and his mouth and they can never go back from this.
It hits Dean at the same moment; his eyes are wide, shocked, and Sam can tell Dean is about to call it all off, he’ll stop unless Sam does something right fucking now –
“Dean, please, please,” Sam gets out before Dean’s mouth is crashing back down on his. Dean’s hands skid over Sam’s ribs, his hips, and Sam arches into his touch, can’t help it, and why are Dean’s pants still on?
With Sam’s help, Dean gets his pants off, and then, then, they’re both naked and Dean’s whole body is pressed against Sam, nothing between them, and it’s better and more terrifying than anything Sam ever imagined. Dean’s mouth is hot and needy, and his hands are everywhere, and when he kisses his way down Sam’s chest, over his stomach, and all Sam can do is dig his fingers into Dean’s shoulders and hang on. When Dean only hesitates for a second before closing his lips around the tip of Sam’s cock, and then sliding all the way down, as far as he can, Sam loses all capacity for rational thought.
It’s a blur, after that, but there are a few seconds of clarity that Sam is going to keep forever – his hand on Dean’s thigh, Dean’s breath hot in his ear, Dean’s desperate eyes when Sam finally, finally pushes inside his body – but it’s all lost in a dark haze of pleasure, need, love, and something so far beyond any of that Sam can’t even begin to articulate it. Dean buries his hands in Sam’s hair and chants Sam’s name, over and over again, until the sounds have been robbed of all their meaning, just an endless loop of his brother’s voice, low and needed and perfect.
Sam wakes up curled around Dean’s body. Dean stirs quietly, and Sam can’t help it, he tenses – Dean’s going to run, he always runs, and this time, Sam knows he won’t survive it.
Dean doesn’t run. He rolls over in Sam’s arms, and blinks up at him.
“Sammy,” he says, and that’s all he needs to say. There’s fear there, but it’s eclipsed by something else, something that it takes Sam a moment to recognize as happiness, and he can’t help it, he leans down and kisses Dean. Dean grumbles about morning breath, but kisses him back, and slides his hands over Sam’s shoulders.
The door has been opened, and the world didn’t end, and as Dean moves on top of him Sam has a difficult time remembering why it needed to be locked in the first place. And for once, Sam doesn’t need to dream about what lies around the next bend of the road, because he already knows.
Eric throws them all a party, in thanks. Sam and Dean finally get to meet his boyfriend, Greg; Sam wants to dislike him, for dismissing Eric’s fears the way he did, but he seems so genuinely relieved that Eric isn’t worried anymore that Sam can’t find it in his heart to bear a grudge.
Joe and Maggie arrive, with Rose and Amelia in tow. Eric and Greg fawn over the older women; only Rose lets them – Amelia bats their hands away, grinning. Dean sits down with Maggie and Rose, and allows Rose to fuss over him, tell him he’s too skinny, and that they need to stop by on their way out of town, so that they can get some proper food to take on the road. Dean ducks his head, smiles. When he meets Sam’s eyes, he looks so warm and happy that Sam’s throat catches. But then his brother winks lasciviously, and Sam can’t help but laugh, even as desire pools in his stomach. He knows full well what Dean is promising.
Amelia pulls Sam off to the side, links her arm through his.
“I knew you were the right ones,” she said. “I knew you could do it.”
Sam meets her eyes, not sure how much he can tell her. Instead, he just nods.
She reaches up, pushes a strand of hair off his forehead. He closes his eyes; his eyes sting, but there’s no fear, no shame this time. When he opens them, Amelia is smiling, gently.
“Good,” she says. “You’re both good, brave boys. You deserve your happiness, wherever you can find it. And when it comes time for you to rest, when you get tired of the road, you come back here. There will always be a place for you and Dean here.”
Sam can’t help it, he glances at Joe and Maggie. Amelia reads his mind.
“Don’t you worry about them,” she says. “They’re decent people, and that means that they don’t judge other people’s loves, as long as the folks involved are happy. Besides, I think Maggie’s already guessed. You boys do have that glow about you.”
Sam laughs, loud and free, and Amelia joins him. Dean looks up, and raises his glass in a toast. Eric catches him at it, and raises his own glass.
“To Sam and Dean,” he says, “who solved the mystery.”
Maggie smiles at them. “And to Dr. Ryngo and Helen, wherever they are.” When Sam meets her eyes, he thinks Amelia might be right. Somehow, he’s not scared; it feels good to not always have to keep everything a secret.
Yes, when it’s time to retire – and that will be sooner, rather than later, if Sam has any say – this will be a good place to come back to.
Everyone raises their glasses, drinks. Dean’s eyes are on him, and Sam has never been happier.
Dean drives south, heading into the wind, singing AC/DC at the top of his lungs. Sam puts his hand on his brother’s knee, and sings along too. Dean looks at him, and takes Sam’s hand. He doesn’t let go.
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