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Devastation and Reform 5/15

March 9th, 2008 (09:01 am)

A/N: Last chapter before things really start happening. Thanks to those who review--it means a lot :) Continued thanks to 

sendintheklowns and Rachelly, who are my cheerleaders extraordinaire. Even when I don't like what I write, they always seem to. All other notes in chapter one.  Previous chapters here.



Chapter Five

Dean was his brother, which meant that fighting and nitpicking were inevitable. His brother loved him, and Sam loved his brother, but sometimes being together all the time made things hard, especially when they didn't see eye to eye.

Which, lately, seemed to be more often than either of them wanted to acknowledge.

They were just very different people—that much was plainly obvious in the simplest of situations. And Sam's "destiny," or whatever it was, was most definitely not simple.

Dean's attitude about it all did more than just grate on his nerves—it perplexed him. Dean always wanted to shove Sam's worries aside, to ignore them as if they were nothing. As if Dean didn't remember what had happened in the cabin, what had happened in the car. As if Dean himself would have been dead if not for a deal their father made. As if Dean didn’t remember being shot and beaten by his own brother. Dean told him these things weren't his fault, that they didn't mean anything, but Sam knew he was wrong.

They were more or less defenseless against the Demon and whatever it had in store for them, yet Dean treated it all like it was nothing to be concerned about. Like Sam was crying over a lost toy or a scraped knee.

Then again, that really was Dean's way. His way of coping. His way of trying to make it all right. As if all they had to do was just believe it was okay, pretend it was okay, and eventually it would be.

Looking back at his life, Sam had to admit that it'd worked—in the short term, anyway. But things had a tendency to catch up with them, which Sam knew the hard way.

After all, he’d pretended not to notice that his mother died in his nursery. They never talked about that, no one ever said anything--what it was, how it happened--anything. That had been enough to make Sam doubt--enough to make him be afraid. He ran all the way to Stanford to get away from that, to get away from who he was, from his family.

It found him in the end. Jessica had died because of it.

Now their dad was dead too, with nothing to his name except two sons, a FBI file, and a secret. Sam had tried running from it. He had tried pretending that it would all work out in the end. It hadn't worked; in fact, it had made them nothing if not more vulnerable. Now he just wanted to face it, no matter what Dean seemed to think.

Dean’s intentions were good, but ignoring the Demon wouldn’t make him go away. Pretending like it wasn’t happening wouldn’t make Sam’s destiny any less evil, it wouldn't save Sam at all.

No, Sam needed to stay active, to keep fighting.

That meant hunting. That meant finding evil and eradicating it. That meant saving people. That meant staying sharp, staying focused. Being prepared.

That meant figuring out what was happening to these people in Flat Rock and what Michael Whitefoot had to do with it.

Luckily the locks were cheap in Michael’s apartment building and there was no security to speak of, so no one even saw them as they sneaked back in.

Sam took a beeline to the kitchen counter, sifting through the piles found there. He remembered Michael’s notes—the herbs were one piece of evidence, but he needed to know what Michael knew, just how far he’d taken it. That was the only way to retrace the kid’s steps.

"Here," Sam said, picking up a pile of scribbled notes. "Look at this."

Dean was busying poking critically at items strewn on the kitchen table. "Find something?"

"They’re his notes, just like we saw before. But now that we’ve seen the real thing, you can tell these look like the notes to perform the ritual," Sam said, studying them as he joined Dean in the kitchen. "Definitely looks like the Native American language Elliott used."

"Well, he's been doing some unusual shopping," Dean added, nodding toward the table. "These definitely are some pretty unusual herbs—not the kind of stuff you'd be buying at Wal-Mart."

"So he did do the ritual," Sam concluded, thoughtfully, his eyes looking again at the paper in his hands. Suddenly he stopped, his forehead creasing more. "Wait a second," he muttered. Something was off...something was...


"Where's the copy of that ritual we borrowed?" Sam asked, his eyes still fixed on the scrawling handwriting on the sheet in his hands.

Dean groped through his pockets before extracting the document Elliot had lent them. "Find something?"

"Maybe," Sam said, holding the original copy with Michael's notes. Then he paused and shook his head. "He did it wrong."

Dean moved closer, looking over Sam's shoulder.

"He did it wrong," Sam repeated. "He must have copied this, but he copied it wrong. He left out an entire section. No wonder it didn't work."

"So he starts the ritual, but doesn't finish it."

"At least not properly."

"And he loses control," Dean concluded. "Must have summoned some freaky cat spirit and somehow it took control of him instead of helping him become more of a man or whatever it was he was trying to do"

"It would explain why no one's seen him lately," Sam added.

"And why witnesses say it looks part man, part cat. Maybe the thing's possessing him in a way, a merging of some kind."

"Yeah, but how do we undo it?" Sam asked. "We need to get Michael back to normal so he stops hurting people."

Dean shrugged. "We finish it."

Sam cocked his head at his brother. "You think it's that simple?"

Dean shrugged. "Why not? Michael only made it part way through, right? So we just restart the ritual and finish it for him."

Sam raised his eyebrows, considering this course of action. Dean’s solutions always tended to be more simplistic than not, but that didn’t make him wrong.

Moreover, it's not like he had any brilliant ideas. "It's a place to start."

With a cocky grin, Dean shrugged. "And I didn't even have to go to college."

"We'd have to do it exactly," Sam stressed, purposefully ignoring his brother. "Or we'd run the risk of making it worse."

Dean rolled his eyes, refocusing himself in exasperation. "We've got bigger things than that to start off with," Dean pointed out. "Like where did he do it? To give room for all the spirits, he'd need someplace big--bigger than this apartment."

Sam looked thoughtful, then groped in his back pocket for the newspaper clipping that had brought them here in the first place. "Well, he'd choose someplace familiar, right?"

"Sure," Dean agreed.

Sam splayed the newspaper in front of him, scanning the article. "Wait a second," he muttered. "Can you get me a phone book?"

Groping through the cabinets, Dean found one and gave it to his brother, who flipped to the map immediately.

"What about where he worked? Gilberts Paper Warehouse. It's a central location to all of the attacks."

"And Ryan was found there."

Sam nodded. "And they both worked as part time security guards."

Nodding, Dean's mind worked. "The messages on Ryan's machine..."

"What if Ryan was helping Michael prepare?"

"And then Michael loses control..."

"The puma takes over..."

"And Ryan's the first victim and the only backup he may have had is dead now," Dean concluded. He shook his head. "So much for the best laid plans."

Sam sighed at the grimness of their conclusions.

"Dude," Dean said, nudging him slightly. "What’s wrong with you?"

"Even if we do finish this, it doesn’t change the fact that Michael will have to live with what he’s done."

Dean shrugged, a bit callously. "He’s the one who started it."

Sam just shook his head, looking down at the scribbled notes again. "The guilt he’ll feel though…I don’t know how he’ll recover from it."

"Yeah, well, that’s not really our problem," Dean said easily.

Looking up, Sam shot Dean an annoyed glare.

"What?" Dean asked with a feigned innocence. "Our problem right now is to stop this thing before it kills someone else. That’s our job, and I intend to get it done. We’ll deal with Michael and his crisis of conscience later."

Sam didn’t reply and didn’t look up again, just let his eyes linger on the page. He could almost feel Michael through it, feel his hope, his purpose, and Sam didn’t know how to deal with that.

"Come on," Dean said, nudging him again. "Let’s grab some of his supplies and head out."

Too worn out to argue, Sam sighed, pocketed Michael’s notes, and went about sifting through the lesser known herbs on the kitchen table.


They waited until nightfall, using the shroud of darkness to keep them hidden and capitalizing on the prime time for ghosts to come out and play. They needed to be fast and efficient, and the night provided less distraction and a higher likelihood of success. It's not like they really valued their sleep much anyway.

Stepping out of the car, Sam felt his muscles ache. His body was exhausted, he was pretty sure. He hadn't been sleeping much at all lately and the way this hunt was heading, it wasn't exactly calming his nerves any.

Sam always wanted to believe in something greater, in some sort of cosmic plan. Because of that, he wanted to see signs, see things as if they were meant to be. Signs that he'd be okay, that he could be redeemed, that they'd make it out alive and well from this quest for vengeance.

Too bad all the signs were pointing in the opposite direction. Everywhere he looked, he was reminded of his destiny. Of good people going bad. Of good intentions getting screwed up. Of people being used against their will.

His innate connection to Michael scared the crap out of him, but he couldn't keep himself from seeing it. It was everywhere. The kid just wanted to be better, to do the right thing, yet the deck was stacked against him, and he was probably on a homicidal rampage. If they solved this case, if they brought Michael back, Sam could only imagine the weight that would rest on the young man's shoulders. He'd never be the same.

Sam knew that feeling. Knew it as well as a lost week and a killing rampage of his own.

Dean told him it wasn't his fault.

He glanced over at his brother, piling out of the driver's side and squinting up at the stars.

Dean told him a lot of things, a lot of them well-intentioned lies.

And if all of that wasn't enough, Dean seemed hell-bent on getting them on every wanted poster in the country. Sam had enough to worry about with the possible damnation of his soul, and Dean certainly didn't make the load any lighter by putting their legal status in any more jeopardy.

He sighed a little, pulling his EMF out of his pocket. Dean was oblivious to some things, and acutely attuned to others. Sam just wished sometimes his brother would divert his attention from his potentially evil little brother and focus on his own legally ambiguous behavior for once. Sometimes they had to take chances; sometimes they didn't. Dean didn't seem to care either way.

Dean was approaching the building, his gait slow and steady. Sam followed behind, flicking the small device on and watching it flare to life. The lights flashed loud and the device buzzed with intensity.

With activity like that, there was no explanation other than paranormal activity.

"This place is still off the charts with EMF," Sam said, turning off the detector.

"Well that would make sense," Dean said. "If he did the ritual here, the spirit might still be somewhat centralized here, which is why all the attacks take place in the area."

It was definitely their place. Sam sighed a little, pocketing the device. "So, Michael's probably around here—somewhere."

Dean scrunched his nose, milling around the perimeter of the building. "Maybe," he said. "But who knows where these things go when they're not attacking people."

It was so simplistic, so real, that Sam wondered briefly how no one had figured it out, how no one had put it together. Ryan's death, Michael's disappearance—they were linked, the signs were so obvious, if anyone had cared to look.

But Michael and Ryan were nobodies. Kids from the middle of nowhere, working nothing jobs in the city. They may have had each other, they may have been missed when they didn’t show up, but beyond that, they were anonymous. Michael could have all the dreams in the world, all the plans and hopes, but in the end, there was one important thing he didn’t have: someone to look out for him.

No one to keep him on the straight and narrow. No one to even notice when he was missing. No one to track him down and make sure he was okay. His family may have loved him, maybe even missed him, but they weren’t there for him like he needed.

Sam's jaw clenched and he looked at his brother, feeling more than a little grateful. That was the reason he'd asked Dean to watch out for him, to stop him. It had come out wrong, harsh and fatalistic, but the sentiment was true. If he couldn't stop himself, he'd want someone to do it for him. There was no one else to do that but Dean.

Dean turned from a darkened window. "So, we come back tomorrow night, finish the ritual and be done with it."

Sam chewed his lower lip, refocusing his efforts on the hunt. "How are we going to get rid of security? We know they have at least one night watchman."

Dean seemed to consider this. "Sounds like it's time to give our good friend Elizabeth a call. See if she can help us out with who's on the schedule and how to get them off the schedule."

Sam didn't really have the strength to be incredulous. His brother's abilities were good, but it was his confidence that knew no bounds. If Sam knew anything, if there was a Dean, there was a way. "Fine," Sam acquiesced. "You can be in charge of security, I'll get the ritual in order and ready to go."

Moving back to the car, Dean clapped Sam on the shoulder. "Someday, Sammy, I'm going to have to teach you a lesson on how to have fun."

Sam just rolled his eyes and followed his brother to the car.


Finding Elizabeth was easy. He'd gotten her personnel data from sweet talking the secretary and posing as Elizabeth's cousin Joe Bob who was desperately looking to reconnect with his long lost relative after spending ten years taking care of their dying grandmother in the arctic reaches of northern Canada.

He'd just kept his accent strong, his story unapologetic and dared her to call him on it.

Address in hand, it wasn't hard to find Elizabeth's place. That was nothing more than basic navigation. Sitting in his car in front of her building, he knew that the only trick of this would be getting through front door without looking like a stalker. He wasn't worried or anything—his natural charms were impressive even to himself, but it did require a little finesse, a little careful maneuvering.

Normally, Dean wouldn't care. A plain old hookup was without pressure or expectation. While he'd liked Elizabeth, this wasn't a simple attempt to get laid. This was an important set up for the hunt to come. He needed to clear the way for tonight--for his safety, for Sam's--and so getting in Elizabeth's good graces was imperative.

Getting out of the car, he checked the address once more as he mounted the steps to her duplex. The unit was small and dingy, a faded adobe in the desert sun. The yard was a mess of sand and scraggly weeds. The desert was nothing if not barren; this town didn't stand a chance of looking anything less that desolate.

Ringing her bell, he shuffled his feet, taking a few breaths while he heard the sound of footsteps from within. The door opened, and Dean met a rather disheveled looking Elizabeth with a wide, irresistible grin.

She looked startled, then perplexed, then embarrassed. She was clad in a pair of workout shorts and a faded t-shirt. Her hair was loose around her shoulders. "Um, hi," she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "What are you—what are you doing here?"

He counted on the fact that his smile was disarming and that his lies were too smooth to be detected. Besides, flustered and blustered, Elizabeth was an easy mark.

"Well," he said, shrugging his shoulders invitingly. "I got to thinking after we'd left this morning that maybe you could tell me a little more about Ryan. It's just—been so long since I'd seen him, and I just—well, really wanted to know more about him."

She raised her eyebrows, her expression somewhere between suspicion and bemusement. "I told you, I didn't know him well."

Dean nodded. "Well, maybe if we sit down, have something to drink...then maybe I can jog your memory?"

A smile twitched on the edges of her lips. "Are you hitting on me by using your dead cousin's memory?"

Widening his eyes in mock indignation, Dean scoffed. "It just seems like meeting you under these circumstances—a little coincidental, don't you think?"

Her eyes narrowed, sparking with humor. "I don't really believe in coincidence."

Dean cocked his head. "Neither do I."

With a grin on her face, she pressed her lips together, the blush deepening on her cheeks. "Why don't I get changed?" she suggested, glancing up at him. "Then maybe we can go for a drive and see what comes to mind."

"I'll be right here," Dean said.

Elizabeth disappeared into the house and Dean just shook his head. Some things were just too easy.


Sam was angsting.

Sitting alone in the motel room, he was far too aware of that. Dean chided him about it, his father had all but ignored it while he did it, and Sam himself knew it was a bad habit. He just couldn't help it, not on a hunt, not with all the crap that was weighing on his mind.

This hunt, Michael—they reminded him too much of himself, and he just couldn’t get it out of his mind. Dean had made the connection, and Sam couldn't deny it, not really anyway. Everything these days seemed to be a sign—a bright neon light saying EVIL and pointing directly at Sam Winchester. He couldn't change that, but he could channel it. He could use his anxiety to make sure the world was a better place, a safe place, to make sure he was doing everything he needed to do.

Besides, Sam liked to be careful. He was thorough, meticulous. His father had always appreciated that much about him, even if everything else just seemed to set him off. Research had been Sam's only niche in his teen years, one that he was sometimes content to occupy, and those were the peaceful times.

But it was never enough. Not for their father.

God forbid Sam should ever want something more.

God forbid Sam didn't want to hunt.

Just God forbid.

Sam sighed, scrubbing a hand over his weary face. The memories got him nowhere. His entire life was a string of unpleasant memories and hard to swallow burdens.

He didn't need that now—the hunt was more important. His dad would have given anything to see him thinking like that.

A rueful smile on his face, Sam adjusted the computer screen again, to get a better view in the dim room.

He needed to check the facts, make sure they weren't missing anything about vision quests. The last thing he wanted was to walk into a situation unprepared. Dean had run his errand to get the scoop on the nightshift, and Sam wasn't sure he wanted to know what he was doing to find out.

Pushing the rather unpleasant images out of his head, Sam focused. Queasiness aside, he had bigger issues to deal with.

There was a rustling at the door and Sam looked up in time to see Dean breeze through it. With a dramatic sigh, Dean flopped back on his bed, folding his arms behind his head and leaning against the headboard.

Sam waited expectantly.

Dean settled in contentedly, apparently oblivious to his brother's expectations. Well, not oblivious, more like purposefully tormenting him, which seemed pretty typical.

"So?" Sam finally prompted.

"So what?" Dean asked, reaching out to snag the remote.

Sam grabbed it first, holding it back. "So did you get the place taken care of?"

Dean looked hurt. "Dude," he said. "Do you even have to ask?"

His stomach churning, Sam ignored him. "I was just trying to get some last minute details worked out."

Yawning, Dean nestled deeper into the bed. "What's to prepare? We have the supplies, we have the ritual, and we have the go ahead for tonight. This thing will be over and done with tonight."

Dean's logic was certainly reasonable, but Sam couldn't buy it. Vigilance and being proactive were the only ways to make sure things would be okay; they were his only defense. Straightening, he leaned over the laptop again. Dean could rest if he wanted; Sam would prepare.