Season Two

Episode Eleven: Selling My Soul

By Irismay42 & Kittsbud

Part One

 

Don Pepe Restaurant
Newark, New Jersey

Forced laughter drifted across the table making Erika Gudrun want to recoil in distaste at the company she was keeping. Her three well-dressed companions seemed eager to please one another – probably too eager, but then she knew their kind. With these people it was always about putting up fronts, making pleasantries while secretly planning to stab someone in the back.

Still, that was why Erika was here. She wanted, no needed their help to conclude a deal. In truth, she had hoped to meet with someone further up the food chain and it irked her to think Giovanni was all she was going to get tonight. He was a fat little Italian who definitely ate too much and partied more, and from the way his amorous eyes looked at her she was sure he wasn’t a very faithful husband.

Giovanni’s sidekicks were much the same. Since the beginning of the meeting they’d filled their faces with pasta and wine and stared at her as if she was on the menu along with the consumables.

Erika hated their rich mob culture and the way they naturally assumed all pretty women were provided for their taking. Nevertheless, if she could use her stunning looks to conclude the deal and finally get to meet Luciano Ferinacci, then it would be worth it.

She flicked her long blonde hair suggestively, deep blue eyes teasing Giovanni with her beauty. If she had to deal with these pathetic little soldiers to get to Ferinacci, she would.

“Whatsa matter, sugar? Music getting you all fired up?” Giovanni leaned forward, placing a huge paw over Erika’s hand. She fought the urge to slap him and instead smiled as he continued to brag about his Italian ancestry. “You gotta love a little Verdi, huh? Nobody does opera like us I-talians.” He winked and then looked to his “boys,” knowing they wouldn’t dare to not find his behavior amusing.

Erika winced as strains of “Celeste Aida” filtered through the restaurant. While classical music wasn’t offensive to her ears, she had her own ideas about what could be considered acceptable. “Actually, I prefer Wagner.” She pulled back her hand, a very unladylike smirk forming on her features for the briefest of moments. Perhaps a more offensive approach was needed after all.

The blonde’s eyes narrowed and she fixed her sparkling blue orbs on Giovanni. “I had assumed we were here for more than a musical interlude. But then, I’d also assumed I wouldn’t have to deal with second best.”

The plump Italian’s smile faded just enough for Erika to know she’d hit him where it hurt – his ego. With a slight huff, he pointed as the waiter began to bring more food over. “Maybe you’ll warm up to us after you eat, sweetheart, because you don’t get any higher up the chain of command than this no matter what deal you got to offer.” He examined the meal placed before him, uncertain if he still had an appetite. I swear this bitch is just asking to get capped…

More platters were brought over and placed before each person at the table, including Erika. She eyed the meal, wondering just how the men had room for more after what they’d already eaten. Still, if they died of a coronary later it would mean less Mafia on the streets of Newark. “I’ll stay and eat,” she conceded. “But I still want guarantees. I want a meeting arranged with Ferinacci or the deal is off.”

She picked up a fork and delicately scooped a small amount of food into her mouth, hating the rich aftertaste almost as much as she hated her companions. But then, it would all be worth it when she finally got to Ferinacci. No matter how much Giovanni fought it, no matter how sure he was he didn’t take orders from women, he would agree to her terms eventually, everyone did.

Giovanni chortled as he shoveled in his own food so fast it would have been easier to use a spade. The more he laughed, the more his cohorts felt compelled to join in, until eventually all three seemed to mock the flaxen beauty in their midst. “Luciano is just about the biggest name in town, babe, and you think you can boss him around?” The goon wiped his mouth with a napkin, attempting to give the impression he actually had table manners. “It’s your funeral, sister…”

Erika’s lips parted and she flashed pearl-white, perfect teeth at Giovanni, her seductive, yet powerful voice mocking him back. “Oh, trust me, I don’t think my funeral is an option…” She took another petite mouthful of food, but didn’t elaborate on the comment, her striking smile never wavering as she watched the men.

Giovanni’s brow creased into a myriad of wrinkles as his expression turned from one of mirth to something more pained. At first, Erika suspected she had gone too far and the deal was off, but this was something more – something strange and deadly the blonde had seen before, but had not been expecting. Not here, tonight.

As she watched, the fat Italian began to gag, his throat bobbing reflexively as he clutched at it in agony. His cheeks began to redden, and a frothing white trickle of saliva began to dribble from his contorting mouth.

A concerned waiter rushed to the table, tossing down the meal he was carrying with more obvious concerns now at hand. He tried loosening Giovanni’s collar as he shouted a call for help, but the Italian seemed to writhe in agony in his grip. With one last pain-filled croak the mobster’s heart stopped beating and he slumped backwards in his chair, swollen tongue lolling from his mouth, bloodshot eyes bulging from their sockets.

Erika watched the scene play out as Giovanni’s companions began to mimic his death throes, but she didn’t attempt to help them. There was no time for that, and besides, they deserved to feel the pain they had inflicted on others. Her only remorse was the bitter-sweet fact that their demise so soon probably meant her meeting with Ferinacci was still no closer.

With a deep sigh she moved to grab her purse and leave. Since the mobsters’ sudden sickness the restaurant had become a hive of activity, and she hoped that would give her cover enough to escape. It wasn’t like she needed to worry about becoming sick herself. That, after all, was a physical impossibility.

“Miss, you shouldn’t leave. Didn’t you have the same meal?” The harried waiter’s facial expression knotted in fear as he half-expected the young woman to collapse like her dinner companions.

“Maybe it’s food poisoning!” Voices from other tables began to mingle together in mass panic as word of the deaths filtered through to other customers.

A man in a dark suit whom Erika could only presume was the manager appeared from a small office at the rear. He fidgeted with his cuff links as he approached her – a nervous habit no doubt, but then, perhaps he would have been even more edgy if he’d known just who he was about to address.

“Madame, I really must ask you to remain here until the police and paramedics arrive. It really is in your own interests…” His voice was high pitched and whiny and Erika couldn’t help but think he sounded like a girl.

The blonde pushed her hair back over her shoulder and glanced around the eatery. There were still ways to leave the restaurant undetected, but with so many people now watching her, pulling off that little magic trick might draw more attention than she wanted to receive in certain other circles.

With a sigh, she nodded, accepting that she would have to speak to the police. Not that the law worried her, after all, what could they do to her kind? Erika smiled again, bringing a scowl to the manager’s face as he totally misinterpreted her behavior.

Not that they’d ever believe in my kind, Erika reflected as the bright red and blue kaleidoscope of lights from an ambulance and police cruiser filtered through the restaurant’s frosted windows.

 

* * * *

At first, Sam wonders where the sound is coming from: tick, tick, tick; relentless, like waves on a beach; the sun’s passage across the sky. The hands of a clock.

Tick, tick, tick.

Sam blinks and he’s looking around a stark, high-ceilinged building, metal rafters criss-crossing the cobwebs and guttering strip light: on, off, on, off, in time with each tick, tick, tick of a clock he can’t see. In the distance, he hears the low rumble of airplanes, too many and too frequent, as if he’s standing directly beneath a busy flight path. But all he sees when he looks up is the flickering light.

Footsteps approach, and his nervous gaze slides down the ancient walls, old brick visible where plaster has cracked and fallen. Too many planes and too much vibration and pieces of building turning to dust as the clock ticks on.

His eyes light on a calendar, pages fluttering in the draft from the open door, a picture of a shiny airplane beneath the legend, “Ross Air Freight, Newark, N.J.” in bold, heavy typeface that has faded over time.

The pages still as the door closes and the footsteps draw closer, finally settling back on the month of May.

“Happy birthday, Sammy.”

A voice as smooth as pebbles on a beach, worn with time, floats across the room and Sam turns, gazing at a non-descript man in an expensively-tailored suit who looks at him with naked hunger in his eyes, like a wolf appraising his next meal.

Sam doesn’t even recognize the man at first; not from his confident gait or the self-assured way he holds his head; not even from the familiar expression on his face. It’s almost lustful, and Sam shudders.

The man’s lips twist into an ungodly approximation of a smile, and he stops, mere feet away. But not close enough to touch.

“What’s the matter, Sam?” he asks, eyes widening in feigned offense. “Don’t you recognize me?”

His eyes flash gold, the color of flame and of destruction, and Sam can’t breathe.

“Time’s up, Sammy. I’m here to collect on our little deal.”

Haris.

Haris is here and it’s all over.

Sam doesn’t say anything; just looks into amber eyes and waits.

Waits for it to be over.

The demon takes a step toward him, and Sam can smell his cologne, cloying and sickly; and in that second, when he knows what’s coming, when he knows his time is up and his world is about to come crashing down around him in a maelstrom of inevitable destiny, he suddenly realizes why Dean hates to be alone.

And even though he doesn’t want Dean to see this, doesn’t want him anywhere near when his baby brother finally sells his soul to the thing that took their lives so long ago, he realizes he would give anything to see Dean come charging through that door, guns a-blazing: Big brother, come to save him one last time.

“He’s not coming, is he?” Haris says suddenly. “Time’s up for you, Sammy, and big brother’s late for the party.”

Another step closer, a hand closing on his shoulder, and Sam can hear Haris’ expensive wristwatch thudding loud in his ear.

Tick, tick, tick.

“Time’s up, Sam.”

And he looks up into amber eyes, ready.

He’s not ready for the gunfire though.

Sudden and sharp.

There’s smoke all around him now; voices yelling; dark shapes moving around in the even darker shadows.

Haris is clinging to his shoulder, eyes wide as a crimson flower blossoms against the white of his shirt, and he’s falling to his knees, taking Sam with him.

The world tilts on its axis as Haris collapses, black smoke billowing from a screaming mouth.

But Sam doesn’t hear the screaming; doesn’t hear the gunfire.

Just hears a voice, calling his name.

But the world has lurched sideways and all he can see is smoke and dirty floor and a man whose dead eyes stare only at the ceiling.

And then suddenly he sees himself.

Reflected in hazel irises of eyes wide with fear as another hand grips his shoulder where Haris’ hand had been.

Dean.

Dean is here.

Dean came for him.

He’s yelling, mouth opening and closing, but Sam can’t hear what he’s saying, can only feel the single word, repeated over and over.

Sam.

He gazes up into Dean’s terrified eyes, unable to understand the expression on his brother’s waxy face, unable to understand the tears on his brother’s pale cheeks.

He wants to say his brother’s name; wants to tell him it’s okay, I’m okay. Don’t be scared.

But he sees the anguish in Dean’s eyes and looking deeper sees the anguish in his own reflected there, and he realizes he’s not breathing and Dean’s tears taste salty on his lips as they fall.

“No, Sammy! No. Please. Please Sammy!”

He hears the plea fall from Dean’s mouth. Hears his brother’s choked sobs.

And realizes that’s all he can hear.

The clock has stopped ticking.


* * * *


Sam started awake, brow cold with trickling sweat while his mouth felt as dry as a desert and his heart hammered relentlessly in his chest: thud, thud, thud. Like the hands of a clock.

He took a breath, eyes scanning feverishly about him, picking out the gray details of the motel room as the early morning light seeped below the edges of the faded curtains and pooled in ghostly hollows of light and shade across his bed.

Nightmare.

Vision.

Death vision.

His death vision.

Sam had had a vision of his own death.

His eyes darted sideways as the realization hit him, following the direction of his brother’s rhythmic breathing until the gray light revealed Dean sprawled out on his stomach, one hand trailing on the floor while the other disappeared beneath his pillow, and Sam wondered fleetingly whether Dean kept his fingers permanently curled around the knife secreted there, even while he slept.

He took another breath, tried to relax as his heart continued to thud against his ribs, closing his eyes in an effort to recall the vivid details of the dream.

Well the when was easy – the calendar on the wall had been displaying the month of May, so it didn’t take a genius to figure out the truth of it. Ironic. Sam was going to die on his birthday. Just like Shakespeare.

He shook his head, wondering how the hell he knew that and suddenly realizing he also knew that Shakespeare’s parents were called John and Mary. Who’d have thought he could have had so much in common with the Bard?

Amazing the amount of crap one head could hold.

Jeez, I’ve got the attention span of – of Dean lately! he admonished himself, trying to get his brain back on track long enough to concentrate on the where. Ross Air Freight, Newark, NJ. That’s what the calendar had said.

Sam was going to die in New Jersey.

Well, there were worse places to go out, he reasoned. Although he’d been secretly hoping for somewhere warm and sunny, like California maybe. Near Jessica.

And he already knew the who. He’d never doubted that Haris would collect on the deal he’d made to save Dean from the demon inside him. Never doubted it for a second. It was just a matter of how.

Which was when the vision had stopped making any sense whatsoever.

Haris’ host had been shot, of that Sam was pretty sure. But by whom? Dean? And what of Sam himself? Had he collapsed because Haris had completed whatever the hell he was planning on doing to him before the inconvenient loss of his host? Or had Sam merely fallen victim to whoever – or whatever – had attacked Haris? If that was the case, then it couldn’t have been Dean who fired the fatal shots. Sure, Sam had seen his brother kill an innocent host before, back in Jefferson City, and when push came to shove he knew there was nothing Dean wouldn’t do to protect his little brother. But then, Dean would never have taken a shot at Haris if there was even the slightest chance of Sam getting caught in the crossfire.

He glanced over at his brother again, just as the older boy twitched in his sleep and mumbled something barely intelligible that sounded suspiciously like “Sammy,” brows drawn together in that perpetual expression of worry that seemed to have descended on him the moment he found out about the deal Sam had made with Haris.

Dean was always worried now. Not for himself; not for the war he knew was upon them. Not even for Dad.

All Dean worried about now was Sam: How he could protect him, how he could save him. How he could get him out of this stupid, stupid deal he’d made with that yellow-eyed sonofabitch.

At first, Sam thought it was guilt that drove his brother; that somehow Dean blamed himself for Sam’s predicament. But he’d gradually come to realize that it was much more than that. Sure, Dean blamed himself, as he always did, even though he never asked to be possessed, never asked Sam to sacrifice himself to Haris so that he might be saved.

But then, that wasn’t what Dean was beating himself up about.

It had taken Sam a while, but eventually he had realized that Dean was blaming himself for failing to keep Sam safe in the first place, for failing to protect him from the evils of the world, the monsters in the closet; the things Dean had been protecting Sam from since he was four years old. It was something that was now so hard-wired into him, so much an integral part of the person he was that Sam knew, he knew that if he came clean, told Dean they had to go to New Jersey and face Haris, face his destiny, Dean would more than likely do nothing less than bundle his kid brother into the Impala and drive as far and as fast in the opposite direction as he possibly could.

But Sam also knew that lying to Dean wasn’t an option either, and neither was merely omitting the details. He’d tried that before, and look what had happened.

He cast his eyes back towards his brother, worry line still etched between the older boy’s brows, and this time when he mumbled in his sleep, there was no mistaking the words he said.

“Sammy – no!”

Sam bit his lip. This was his battle, his fight. He wasn’t going to run away from it, from his destiny. There was no escaping Fate. He’d tried. He’d run all the way to California. Almost thought he’d gotten away with it, too. But Fate had found him, as he had known it would; as it would again.

The only question was did he want his big brother by his side when it happened this time? Sam wasn’t the chubby kid in the schoolyard who needed protecting from the bullies any more. Yet he knew that was how Dean would always see him, no matter how big he got.

He sighed, running a hand across his tired features.

He’d gotten himself into this predicament to save his brother, not to put him in further danger.

No. He had to fight this battle alone.

But that didn’t mean he couldn’t have a little company along the way.

Swinging his long legs out of the bed, he padded over to the worn Formica table wedged into the tiny kitchenette, settling himself on one of the uncomfortable metal chairs before pulling his laptop noiselessly towards him.

Opening the lid, blue light bathed his determined features.

Right now, what Dean didn’t know couldn’t hurt him.

He needed a distraction, that was all…


* * * *


“Hey.”

Dean almost fell out of bed at the sudden proximity of Sam’s blue-green eyes, fingers spasming against the hunting knife beneath his pillow as his brain took a second to catch up with his body.

“Sam, what the hell –?”

“I brought coffee!” Sam waved a Styrofoam cup and a suspiciously aromatic white paper bag a few inches above his brother’s head. “And bagels.”

Dean considered that for a second, closing his eyes and pushing his head back against his pillow. “If you tell me its any time before eight a.m. I’m going to shove this alarm clock so far down your throat you’ll be ticking like that alligator in Peter Pan.”

“That was a crocodile,” Sam corrected him, dumping the food and the coffee on the nightstand. “And it’s six-thirty, Wendy.”

Dean opened one eye. “Hey, don’t mess with the protocols, Tinkerbell,” he muttered. “Anyone gets referred to by a chick’s name in this relationship it’s you.” He opened the other eye experimentally. “Six-thirty?”

“Rise and shine!” Sam sang, way too cheerfully. “Your breakfast’s getting cold.”

Dean sat up, glancing first at the coffee and then at his brother. “Did I forget my birthday again?” he asked uncertainly.

Sam shook his head. “Does it have to be a special occasion for me to do something nice for my only brother?”

Dean squinted at him, suddenly wide awake. “What d’you want, Sam?” he demanded, arms folded suspiciously across his chest. “Last time you were this nice to me you wanted me to tell Dad you got a part in the school play.”

Sam laughed, and for the first time in a long time it sounded genuine. “I thought his head was gonna explode! Almost believed him when he threatened to lock us both in the trunk of the Impala!”

“Sam.” Dean’s voice was deadly serious and verging on homicidally impatient.

“Okay, okay!” Sam held up his hands in surrender, backing up towards his bed, where his laptop hummed inoffensively. “I think I found us a new gig.”

“Sam,” Dean sighed, running a hand through his spiky hair. “We talked about this. The only hunt we should be getting ourselves involved with right now is the one that ends with Haris cleaning out Satan’s toilet bowl for all eternity and you looking at another fifty years and a gaggle of grandkids.”

“Gaggle?”

“Flock. Slew. Herd. Take your pick.”

Sam smiled weakly, pointedly avoiding meeting his brother’s gaze. “Yeah well,” he said resignedly, sinking bonelessly onto the edge of his bed, fingers combing through his long hair before his jaw clenched and he was suddenly yanking open the laptop, all business and fake bravado. “See what you make of this –”

He spun the laptop toward his brother, who never took his eyes off Sam’s face.

“Sam –”

“Look, Dean.” Sam gestured pointedly at the screen, finally steeling himself to look his older brother in the eye before abruptly averting his gaze again. “Just look.”

Dean continued to appraise him for a good few seconds longer before finally allowing him to show him the computer screen.

He blinked tiredly, trying to focus on the front page of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, which shouted a banner headline from the screen: “Four dead, one survivor in restaurant poisoning.”

Dean blinked again, blank expression virtually screaming “WTF?” at his brother. “You woke me up at six-thirty in the morning to tell me about some guys choking on their meatballs?”

“Four guys, Dean,” Sam explained, almost verging on over-enthusiastic. “The cops found lethal doses of cyanide in their food. Yet the fifth person at their table – a woman called Erika Gudrun – walked outta there without so much as a stomach cramp.”

“So her food wasn’t poisoned,” Dean hazarded flatly. “Must have been a set-up…”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, you’d think,” he agreed. “I guess that’s what the cops thought too, especially as she took off before they could question her.”

“And this interests us why exactly?”

“Because the cops tested this Gudrun woman’s food, and it had just as much poison in it as the meals of the men who died –”

“So she didn’t eat any –”

“Other witnesses in the restaurant saw her eating.”

Dean cocked an eyebrow, finally interested enough to swing his legs out of bed. “So she has a cast iron constitution –”

“And apparently a cast iron body.” Sam pushed a couple of buttons on the laptop, revealing another newspaper article, this time from the Buffalo News. “Two months ago, two cars collided on a railroad crossing just as the 0830 to New York happened along. Both cars were flattened. As were the two men in the first car. But the driver of the second car walked away without a scratch on her.” Sam hit another button and a grainy photograph of a rather stunning blonde filled the screen. “Wanna guess who?”

Dean squinted at the computer. “So you think we gotta decapitate her with a Scottish broadsword or something?”

Sam frowned. “So not funny,” he said. “I’m serious, Dean. We could be looking at an honest to God immortal here!”

“Honest to something, anyway.” Dean’s eyes slid back to the computer screen. “At least she’s hotter than Sean Connery.”

“Dean,” Sam chastised him. “Six dead guys, remember? At least. Can we focus here?”

Dean frowned at him. “I’m focused,” he protested, a lecherous grin inching across his face. “I’ve just never seen a really hot immortal chick before.”

“Possibly immortal,” Sam amended. “It could be nothing. She could just be lucky.”

“Damn lucky –”

“Which is why we should go check it out.”

Dean’s eyes lingered on the computer screen a second longer before returning to Sam. “Look, Sam,” he said, suddenly all serious again. “I get it, okay?”

Sam frowned. “Get what?”

“I get that its only two days to your birthday. I get that you’re trying to act like nothing’s wrong, that everything’s normal, everything’s okay. And I don’t know whether that’s for my benefit or not.” Dean reached out a tentative hand, resting his fingers lightly against Sam’s wrist. “But you acting all Captain Denial ain’t gonna change the facts or the way I feel, Sammy.” He met Sam’s gaze steadily. “This is all my fault –”

“Dean –”

“Sammy.” Dean waved a hand to silence his brother’s protests. “Whichever way you look at it, this is my fault. You’re gonna die in two days if we don’t come up with something pretty damn fast. And that’s on me.”

Sam sighed. “You didn’t ask to be possessed, Dean –”

“No,” Dean’s eyes flashed briefly. “And I didn’t asked for you to sell yourself to Haris for me either. But I still gotta deal with it, Sam. You think I could live with myself if that yellow-eyed bastard makes good on this deal? Huh?”

Sam just looked at him.

“’Cause I’m serious, man. If Haris takes you, then I’m not gonna be far behind.”

“Dean, don’t talk like that,” Sam admonished him, catching sight of the earnest expression in his brother’s eyes and faltering slightly. “If you die, then I’ll have died for nothing.”

“Exactly,” Dean agreed. “Which is why we gotta come up with something. To save both of us. Because I can’t – I don’t think I can –” it was Dean’s turn to falter, eyes downcast, long lashes blinking furiously. He looked up suddenly, the moment of uncertainty solidifying into a mask of determination. “This Seal of Solomon thing. We need to find it. We do that and –”

“Dean, it’s a legend,” Sam sighed in exasperation. “Which you were quick enough to point out to Dad as I recall! And as I think I said to Dad when he first suggested it, finding the Seal of Solomon is about as likely as us finding the Ark of the Covenant. Or the Holy Grail. Or – or – hell, the Easter Bunny! It’s just not gonna happen, Dean! If the thing existed, don’t you think someone would have found it by now?”

“How do you know someone hasn’t?” Dean asked.

“Dean,” Sam rested his own hand on top of his brother’s. “You just gotta face it. We’re never gonna find it. It’s just not gonna happen.”

Dean’s jaw tightened. “We still got time,” he insisted stubbornly. “We could still find it –”

“In two days?” Sam shook his head. “It’s pointless us deluding ourselves, man. Way I see it, we can spend the little time I have left on some hopeless quest to find the Seal of Solomon, or I can go out fighting; kill as many evil things as I can between here and there.”

“Dammit, Sammy!” Dean jumped to his feet abruptly, snatching his hand away from his brother’s as he began to pace the room like some caged animal. “Will you stop talking like that? Going out? You’re not going anywhere. I’m not gonna let you. I let you go before and I’ll be damned if –”

“Dean –”

“It’s not like you’re going away to school, Sam!” Dean was suddenly at Sam’s side, face bent towards him. “Sammy, this is – this – you’re – he’s gonna –” He straightened, suddenly backing away toward the motel room door. “No,” he reiterated, shaking his head determinedly. “No. I’m not gonna let it happen. He’s not just taking you, Sam. Not without a fight. Not without –”

“Dean.” Sam stood, approaching his brother slowly, hand outstretched towards him. “Just listen to me.”

Dean ran a shaky hand across his face, eyes suddenly lighting on the car keys tossed on the little table by the door. “We can go to Bobby’s,” he said, desperation and near-panic creeping into his voice as he snatched up the fob. “Or Bearwalker’s. Someone’s got to know something. Someone’s got to know where we can look –”

“Dean.” Sam put a steady hand on his brother’s shoulder, immediately stilling his frantic movements, although his eyes continued to dart about the room maniacally, as if he didn’t quite know where to look if he wasn’t looking at Sam. “Hey, look at me man.”

Dean took a breath before slowly bringing his eyes to rest on his brother.

“It’s okay, Dean,” Sam said slowly. “It’s okay. I want to do this. I don’t want to die. But if I have to, then this is how I want to spend the time I’ve got left. Saving people, hunting things.” He quirked the corner of his mouth. “The family business, right?”

Dean held his brother’s gaze reluctantly. “This is what you want?” he asked at length, voice subdued.

Sam nodded emphatically, trying not to let it show that he was slowly crumbling from the inside out. “This is what I want,” he confirmed, nodding decisively before a lop-sided grin stole across his face. “And you might want to put some pants on before you go running off to save the world, bro.”

Dean glanced down at himself, a tiny smile flickering at the corners of his mouth. “I save any damsels in distress, at least they’ll have something hot to look at,” he muttered, before slowly taking in a breath and blowing it out again a little shakily. “Okay,” he continued, a firm hand on Sam’s shoulder as he mirrored his brother’s position. “Then let’s blow this popsicle stand. New Jersey’s got a hot immortal chick and I’ve got a bullet with her name on it. After all, we’re the Winchesters of the Clan Winchester, and there can be only – uh –” he frowned slightly. “Two.”

Sam quirked an eyebrow. “Always, bro,” he said with a somber smile. “Always.”


* * * *


Erika Gudrun’s Home
8.29a.m.
15hrs 31mins…

Sam glanced down at the pale gray coveralls he was wearing and wondered just how many times they’d actually gotten away with this ruse. A few simple words embroidered onto work clothes, a hastily produced I.D. and people tended to take the Winchester boys at their word.

It was a sad fact, but both brothers could easily have adapted to a life of crime and been damn good at it. Sam was the whiz kid who could effortlessly take out a phone or cable line to give a valid reason for their presence – as he had today, taking out Erika’s cable.

Dean on the other hand, Dean was the smart-mouth who could worm his way into any property with just that smile of his – especially if said property belonged to a beautiful female like today.

Sam sighed readjusting the bag of “tools” in his hand. “Man, are you sure she’s going to buy this? I mean, if she looks on the street there’s no cable van…”

“Yeah, well, the overalls cost enough of our hard earned cashola, not exactly gonna hire a van too.” Dean lengthened his gait, already impatient to get the gig over with. If they could finish this quick and fast there was still time. Time for what he wasn’t sure, but he’d sure as hell try. “Did we really have to leave the Impala two blocks away, though, dude? I hate walking around in these monkey suits. I feel like some Disneyland washout…”

Sam smiled, suddenly envisioning his brother in a Mickey Mouse outfit with kids tugging at him – a Mickey Mouse that just happened to have a Desert Eagle stuffed in the back of its belt and a rock salt-filled shotgun instead of balloons. So not gonna happen… Dean hated dressing up for any occasion. If he couldn’t have jeans, a tee and a scruffy jacket he was NOT happy.

Sam knew Dean hated leaving his “baby” anywhere not within his range of vision too, although he’d never admit that was why he’d been casting looks back towards the main road ever since they’d walked away from the raven black classic.

“Dean, you know that thing sticks out like a sore thumb. Not exactly stakeout car material.” Sam let a long finger press Erika’s doorbell and made a mental note that the chime sounded far too much like “Stairway to Heaven” for comfort. Damn if Dean wasn’t going to like this chick. She had the looks. She apparently had an affinity for classic rock – pity she was also probably something they usually killed rather than dated or it would be a match made in heaven – or maybe somewhere in between, seeing as Dean still refused to believe in the existence of an actual “heaven.”

“Yeah, well I didn’t see you complaining about my wheels the night you staked out Meg and got a little hot window action.” Dean wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Only you would get the hots for a possessed chick…”

The white UPVC door opened just a crack and Erika Gudrun’s pale blue eyes peered out, scrutinizing both brothers and the name on their coveralls. Luscious red lips curved into a smile, and she let a hand slowly flick back a long lock of hair. “I was wondering when you’d arrive. My TV’s been out for almost an hour.”

Sam watched as his brother’s eyes took in every inch of the perfectly proportioned woman before him, noting the amorous “Dean grin” as it spread across his face.

“You were saying?” Sam jiggled his own brows, tempted to laugh at how quickly Dean could let the opposite sex get to him. Still, the girl didn’t exactly look like zombie material. Maybe he’d been looking for a hunt so badly he gotten it wrong this time.

Erika’s brow scrunched in confusion, uncertain who Sam was talking to, but after Dean managed to unglue his eyes long enough to flash her a phony badge, she stepped back, allowing them inside her home.

The house was sparsely furnished and not at all what Sam had been expecting. It was clean and organized, but there was no hint of personality – as if Erika used the place out of practicality rather than as somewhere she liked to relax after a hard day at work. It was something as hunters both he and Dean were used to. Somewhere to crash and clean guns, somewhere to eat, to sleep before moving on to the next gig, but it was not the quarters he’d expect for a beauty like Erika Gudrun. What are we missing here?

“The cable box is this way…” Erika walked across the lounge, long shapely legs traversing the room in only a few steps.

Dean watched her moves appreciatively, but Sam could tell that he was already repressing any sexual desires in favor of his job. The hunt. The kill.

Dean wanted this over. Wanted it all over, and he’d made it quite clear if that meant going out at some point right along with Sam then he’d do it. He’s going to get reckless, angry, losing the perception of what’s right and wrong anymore…

And Sam knew that was his fault. Knew that from his brother’s expression Erika was about to feel Dean’s temper far more than most unearthly creatures ever had. Because he blames every supernatural thing, evil or not, for the deal I made. And just because Erika might be immortal, did that really make her evil?

Sam grabbed at his brother’s arm and tried to twist him away from the young blonde girl. Maybe if he talked to her first, maybe if…

Dean’s eyes glowed with rage and he pulled away, locking an arm around Erika’s neck as she unsuspectingly kneeled in front of the dead cable box. Surprisingly, as he dragged her back to the dining room table she didn’t squirm, didn’t even try to fight him.

Dean moved to place a hand over her mouth then realized she hadn’t any intention of screaming. He dropped her down roughly on the chair and yanked her arms behind her back with brute force, securing them there with two yellow cable ties.

Sam’s jaw ticked as he was forced to watch Dean at his coldest. It was like watching a replay of events from Bobby’s when Dean had interrogated Meg. That time it had been their father’s soul that needed saving, but the effects on Dean’s personality where the same.

“Dean…”

“No going soft on me now, Sammy. This gig was your idea, remember?” The elder Winchester stooped, retrieving his favorite Bowie knife from the tool sack they’d brought in. The serrated edge glimmered in the light from the window, and he used the effect, twisting the blade in front of Erika’s face as if daring her to try something.

The blonde watched the knife’s movement, her cobalt orbs never leaving its pointed tip. “Take anything you want. I don’t have much money or jewelry, just please don’t hurt me…” There was a slight quiver to her voice, just enough to make Sam feel guilty.

Dealing with the spirit of a long-dead woman was one thing, killing some female revenant was too, but Erika appeared all too human. A living, breathing being who might just have been damn lucky to have survived a couple of nasty incidents.

Dean didn’t feel so forgiving. He didn’t see the tremble in the girl’s voice as anything but a ploy, a defense mechanism because she knew they were onto her. “If I cut you with this puppy what’s gonna happen?” He stalked around the chair, again mirroring his actions with Meg. “Hell, I’m betting nothing’s gonna happen, right? Maybe if I threatened to cut your damn head off we might get somewhere!”

“Dean!” Sam wanted to pull the knife from his brother’s hand. Wanted to stop things, but there was just enough uncertainty for him to waver. “No more bad movie jokes,” he seethed through clenched teeth.

“Pretty awesome friggin’ soundtrack, though, huh?” Dean shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t Lose Your Head is a classic. What do ya say, Miss Immortal?” He leaned close, unexpectedly letting the blade slice along Erika’s forearm.

The knife sunk deep into the flesh until Dean was sure he felt its edge hit bone, but there was no blood, no open wound, and as he drew back the blade, Erika’s skin appeared to knit back together seamlessly, like he had never touched her.

“Ever see Nick Cage cut himself in City of Angels, Sammy?” Dean’s eyebrow ticked up a notch. “Pretty much the same effect, except this chick is no angel. She goes around killing guys.”

“Mafia guys,” Sam pointed out, “And isn’t that movie kinda too ‘chick flick’ for you?”

“Murder is murder, mafia or not.” Dean tossed the knife back into his holdall. “And the movie was purely research, dude.” He kinked his neck. “’Course, Meg Ryan wasn’t half bad to look at either…”

Erika listened to the conversation, taking in every nuance of their voices, every expression that gave away what they were really feeling. The men before her seemed to have two personalities, a hard exterior borne of tragedy, and a softer, almost gentle inner that she was not supposed to see.

Of the two, the shorter man carried the most mental weight until he was almost bursting with the load of his own failures. It was that weight that was now manifesting itself in anger, in pain, and she was feeling the brunt of it.

The younger man – brother? – carried a burden too, but he had made peace with it, accepted it as inevitable until his only concern was the effect it was having on his sibling.

Erika found that endearing; a quality often missing in the humans she had known during her lifespan. Perhaps some good could come from this meeting after all. She shifted on the chair and yanked at her bonds, not caring that both her captors could see her attempts at freedom.

“You don’t understand what you’ll be doing if you try to hurt me. I don’t want to hurt innocent people, but there are other forces, things you haven’t encountered yet – things you won’t want to encounter…” She jerked at the cable ties again with such force the plastic should have cut into her wrists, but Erika’s flesh remained unblemished.

Dean hunched over until his face was millimeters from Erika’s. He was so close she could feel his breath on her cheeks and almost hear the thud of his rapidly beating heart. “Oh, but we do want to encounter them,” he spat, eyes dancing as he watched her reaction. “Me and Sammy are gonna kill every last evil sonofabitch out there…it’s what we do. But don’t worry, I promise you’re first…”

Erika jarred her head sideways needing to keep her focus elsewhere. Sam was the one she could influence most. He was the one she should concentrate on. “Please,” she begged. “You of all people should know that being different doesn’t automatically make a person evil.”

Sam felt a burning sensation in his stomach and his mind screamed as if it had somehow been molested on some psychic level. He didn’t know how, but Erika knew about him, knew his thoughts, his weaknesses, as if she was inside his head.

The strange thing was he sensed a connection back, as if concentrating would allow him to read her too. Perhaps it was a part of his gifts that needed practice and nurturing to master. Or maybe, it was simply some kind of feedback from whatever power Erika could tap into. Either way it didn’t matter. I don’t have enough time left to find out. To learn…

Haris…

Sam stepped back, the reminder of his impending mortality making him forget the girl’s possible innocence. She had hit a nerve, and it had left him mentally shaken.

“Boy, you sure know how to kick a guy in the jewels, don’t you?” Dean fumed, wanting suddenly to hurt Erika, make her pay for her wrongdoings. She had hurt Sammy, cut him deep when he was already mentally bleeding like a stuck sow, and if Sam was hurt, then Dean was too.

The hunter clenched and unclenched his fists over and over, a physical manifestation of how hard he was struggling not to slap the girl like he once had Meg. “I might not be able to take you out with a knife or a gun, but I swear I’m gonna find out just what kind of freak you are and send your immortal ass straight back to Hades. Hell, I’ll kill every evil thing on this planet…” if only that would be enough to save Sam.

We shouldn’t be here. We should be finding the damn Seal…

Dean moved back from Erika and took a calming breath. She was staring at him, holding his gaze – just like she had Sam’s before her revelation about him being different.

The sensation was unnerving, and he almost turned his back to her – almost.

“What if I could offer you a deal?” Erika noted the flare of anger at the mention of the word “deal” but it didn’t dissuade her from making her proposition. Her voice was level, showing no panic, no fear of the situation she was in. “The man I was trying to arrange a meeting with the night of the poisonings, Luciano Ferinacci? I think he has something you boys desperately want…no, need…

“I think the Winchesters are done making deals with your kind.” Dean shot his brother a look, realizing Sam had said very little since Erika’s commentary about being different. “Oh, and you think we’re stupid enough to get tangled up with a mob boss like Ferinacci? I think you’ve been watching way too many episodes of The Sopranos.”

Erika flipped back her head and began to laugh as if she was controlling the situation and not the brothers. “I’m more of a Godfather fan,” she sassed. “But then, they’re all quite laughable. Hollywood has no real idea how to portray men like Ferinacci. They simply have no clue of the power the man can wield.”

“And this can help me and Dean how?” Sam sensed the connection again, like Erika had channeled Dean’s anger and seen its origins. She was feeding them what they wanted to hear, but was it the truth?

“I know about Ferinacci. I know his hobbies. The man has a fascination with the occult and demonolatry – even has a fetish for collecting unusual, sometimes historic artifacts pertaining to the subject.” Erika saw the brothers share a look and knew she had caught their attention. “I know how badly you need the Seal of Solomon for your brother.” Her ice-blue eyes settled on Dean. “Wouldn’t that be worth making a deal for? No soul selling…simply an exchange. I give you the information about where Ferinacci keeps his collection, and you give me my freedom.”

“You’re good,” Dean admitted, cocking his head as a sarcastic grin crossed his features. “Real good…but I think Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor were way better...” He folded his arms across his chest. “So, we can add Jedi Mindreading 101 to your rep. What does that make you?” He cocked a brow. “M.I.B. maybe?”

Erika’s smile faded. She had thought these were two intelligent people. Men who she could perhaps deal with at a semi-honest level, but was it possible she’d given them too much credit? “Oh, Agents Mulder and Scully think they’ve found a real live alien?” She jibed, looking to each brother in turn.

Dean shrugged. “I was thinking more Manipulative Immortal Bitch, but hey, if you wanna confess…” The hunter saw a spark of amusement in his captive’s eyes and part of him wanted to warm to her again. She definitely was a fiery, overconfident, and very beautiful something. He just wasn’t sure what.

He began to lean close, but then pulled back, realizing her rich perfume seemed to draw him like an aromatic dose of pheromones. And damn those brazen eyes with oh so long lashes that rivaled his own.

Down boy, thinking with the downstairs brain again.

“How could a mob boss end up with something as ancient as the Seal?” Sam’s almost waxen face begged Erika for answers even though his voice remained neutral. He was too afraid to think she might be telling the truth, too afraid to believe in something and then for it all to be a lie.

Demons lie. But Erika wasn’t a demon.

“You’d be amazed at the things Ferinacci has in his collection,” Erika offered cryptically. “Things that haven’t been seen for millennia.”

Dean watched as the subdued, defeated look on Sam’s face began to change for the first time in days. It wasn’t just a trick of the sunlight through the window. It was real color flushing his brother’s features.

It didn’t matter if Erika was telling the truth or not. It didn’t matter that Erika Gudrun may be a cold blooded murderer. Sam believed she knew where the Seal of Solomon was, and that belief had given him hope that Haris may yet be thwarted.

In that moment, Dean knew beyond a doubt that he would make the deal. Erika could always be found again later. If Sam died on his birthday there could be no second chance for him, no resurrection.

“What will it be, boys?”

Sam met Dean’s gaze and their eyes locked.

Is this too much of a coincidence? The Seal here in New Jersey right where this all started? And right when I need it? Is Haris playing with me? Using one of his pawns for one last laugh? Sam’s mind asked the unspoken questions, and as always, Dean managed to read them in the depths of his brother’s eyes.

He could always read Sammy’s eyes.

The elder hunter turned to Erika, about to yield to her demands. It didn’t matter if it was all a set up, another game from the yellow-eyed demon. All that mattered was Sam was given one last chance, no matter how small. And Dean would fight for that chance, through mafia, through demons, through hell itself if he had to.

“This is the police…”

“What the…” Erika suddenly forgotten, Dean whirled and nodded for Sam to check the window as a disembodied voice boomed from the sidewalk.

The gangly hunter moved sideways until he could carefully peek behind a curtain, prying it up at the edge just enough to get a view with his thumb and forefinger. What he saw made him draw in a breath through clenched teeth. “Dean, there are at least two police cruisers out there…”

As Sam watched and listened, a burly sergeant gave the brothers an ultimatum via megaphone to give up their weapons and exit the building, hands on heads. “It looks like a neighbor is talking to the cops. Maybe she called them? I mean, no cable van, two suspicious guys, Dean…” Sam hunched his shoulders as if to say “I told you so.”

“Yeah, or maybe Deputy Dawg was coming to the party to ask our M.I.B. how the hell she survived a fatal poisoning?” Dean scowled and began checking out the house for possible exits. As he dodged adroitly from room to room he chided himself for ever allowing himself to be dragged back to New Jersey. “Hey, visit New Jersey, have a few laughs, make a few demonic deals…”

“Dean…” Sam joined his brother back in the kitchen after sweeping his side of the house. It didn’t look good. Besides the two cop cars at the front, a SWAT van had parked across the rear alley, effectively sealing it off. No doubt the black-clad officers from inside said van would be making their presence known shortly.

“I saw it from the side window,” Dean admitted. “SWAT team at the rear, Deputy Dawg up front, and evil Jedi girl inside. Dude, we need new jobs…”

“I can help…if you just untie me…” Erika’s voice was soft now, almost beseeching.

“We’re surrounded by cops. What ya gonna do? Use a magic carpet? Maybe some smoke and mirrors?” Dean began to edge towards the window again, needing to see what was going on in the street.

Before he’d taken a stride, something cylindrical and metallic smashed through the large glass panes in front of him, shattering them into innumerable spiky shards that flew outwards like tiny daggers.

The hunter threw up both hands defensively and then tossed his body at the kitchen table, lugging the pine top over with him as he rolled to effectively make temporary cover.

Dean landed shoulder first on the hard wooden floor and felt his muscles jar with the impact. Then, a billowing gray-white smog began to fill the room as the police smoke canister evacuated its contents into the atmosphere.

From somewhere behind he heard Sam cough out, “Great, why did you have to mention smoke…?” and he couldn’t help smile at the irony.

There was nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide from the SWAT team that would soon barrel into the house, weapons drawn. And with the police usually came questions about certain attacks on young girls in St. Louis. Attacks that often saw the victim tied to a chair and cut, just like Erika had been.

As usual, the evidence would tell a lie. A lie that would probably land Dean in a jail cell while his brother lost his soul.

Just when it seemed like they had a chance to save Sam, things had come full circle for Dean Winchester. He was right back where it seemed he belonged – and from where he was sitting, that place sucked out loud.

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The Winchester Chronicles

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