Title: The Dark Waters Call
Category: Gen, Drama/Angst, Humor
Spoilers: Through I Believe the Children Are Our Future
Summary: While hunting an encantado, Dean falls under its spell. Now he must rely on Sam to help navigate through his bizarre hallucinations and delusions to avoid the dark call that threatens to consume him.
Word Count: 9,800
A/N: Written for an anonymous prompt (93) at hoodie_time, who wanted temporarily insane!Dean with angst and drama with or without use of an encantado. I fit in the monster, but like most of my writing, I couldn't leave out the humor, so it's not just drama and angst. Thanks to meg_tdj for the beta.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.
When they arrived at the dockyard, the storm had reached its peak. Above, the clouds churned, a mix of smoky and black, while the rain pelted the ground below. Movement was hard through the whipping winds, though not impossible, and the battered lights strung up along the edge of the harbor offered some illumination.
Sam and Dean raced toward the edge of the harbor to an empty port. The encantado ran ahead of them, bearing down on the ocean, victim still in hand as it dragged her to its watery grave. Around them, the anchored boats rocked like toys in a child's fevered bath, while the waves crashed and spilled water over the tops of the wooden docks. Neither did anything to make their pursuit easier.
Dean slipped once, but kept going. Sam had a good lead on him on account of his ridiculous stride, but Dean was determined to get the son of a bitch this time.
The encantado, still in his human form, glanced back once, and realizing its time was short, dumped the poor girl on the dock in front of them.
He was making a break for it.
"I got him!" Dean shouted, pointing to the girl to signal Sam to help her.
Sam hesitated, but just for a second, and stopped to check on the girl. Dean zipped past them.
A flash of lightning forked the sky, offering Dean another good look at the encantado. He was near the dock's edge, getting ready to jump, and take their one chance with it.
Dean paused to wipe the rain from his eyes. Then, he whipped out a shuriken and threw it.
The shuriken nailed the encantado in the middle of the back. Dean let out a chuckle as it hit the dock like a stone. Out came the silver dagger.
He rushed to the encantado, ripped out the shuriken, and hovered over its writhing body. When he turned the thing over to get a good look at its face, it hissed and opened its mouth, the snake-like fangs breaking the illusion of humanness, and dared him to come closer.
"Oh no. No going cobra on me." Dean shoved a sock in the thing's mouth to keep the venom down.
The encantado kept chomping despite the dirty sock thoroughly stuck in its mouth. Dean grabbed the creature by the wrists and tied them with some rope. The thing squirmed under Dean's grip, sloshing around on the water-soaked boards, but they both knew it wasn't going anywhere. It still wore a hat to help hide its dolphin-like forehead, though most of its skin had reverted back to a mix of rubbery hide and fish scales. Its soulless eyes glared back at him.
Dean was so over sea-creature hunting for the day. Snakeboy had snacked on enough kids.
With a deep breath, Dean raised the dagger and slammed it down in the middle of its forehead.
He hadn't expected the knee-jerk reaction from the encantado as it took its last breath.
The encantado let out a blood-curdling scream and, as the blue foam bubbled from its slack mouth, it kicked with a fury that matched the strength of a demon. Dean flew back like a rag doll, his head smacking against one of the posts that jutted out of the floorboard and frame. His vision streaked into smudges of color. Sounds went dead.
The next few seconds were a blur. He remembered the streaks fuzzing back into shapes, and the pop in his ears as the sounds of rain and waves and Sam screaming returned.
Dean groaned and tried to move, only to find a hand on his shoulder. "Don't move," Sam said. "You hit your head hard."
When he reached his hand back to his head, he winced. Sure enough, he had a lump the size of an egg. Great.
Good news was the encantado was dead. Dean stared at its lifeless body. The rain kept hammering its corpse, the foam and blood running off its face and chest and pooling in the already made puddles on the dock's surface. All they had left was to dump the body in the water and let it melt back into whatever it used to be.
There was a tap on his arm. "We should go. Do you think you can walk?"
Dean nodded and instantly regretted it. "I'm gonna puke."
Luck happened to be on his side. He didn't puke, or faint, or do anything remotely unmanly as he straightened his back.
After Sam had dumped the body, he helped Dean to his feet. He was a little wobbly, which was expected, but nothing he couldn't handle. Still, he let Sam help him walk to the car. Just this once.
As they were walking down the dock, which suspiciously swayed like the boats on the water, Dean noticed the girl was where Sam had left her. Confused, he frowned and gave a sideways glance to his brother.
Sam shook his head. That was all Dean needed to know.
"Let's get outta here," Dean mumbled. "I've had enough of this place."
Sam didn't let him sleep most of the night. He insisted Dean stay awake while he kept an eye on him, in case the concussion proved to be serious. Dean had had enough concussions to know when one was good, if that were even possible, and when one was bad. This was nothing compared to hitting gravestones head-on. Finally Sam had given in and let him sleep for a few hours.
He'd be sorry next trip when he woke to shaving cream on his face.
When Dean woke in the morning, the girl at the dock was all over the news. Sam's tip to the police had obviously paid off. It didn't make him feel any better.
"Bobby got any idea why Snakey went postal?" Dean asked, stifling a yawn. He rested his head on his hand while he sipped his coffee. It was doing nothing to ease his sleepiness or his splitting headache.
Sam shook his head. He glanced at Dean from above his laptop, before bringing his attention back to the screen. "They're normally peaceful. Well, relatively," he added. "These creatures are either on shore for romance or parties, not murder."
"Something's causing them to go Hannibal."
"Could be demons," Dean said.
Sam shut the laptop. There was that unmistakable faraway look in his eyes that told Dean he was plotting some idea. "There has to be something at the playground that will give us some clue."
Dean winced. Neither one of them was too keen on going back to where the encantado had slaughtered a bunch of kids, but the job was the job. They needed to figure out what caused the thing to turn on the local population when there was never a problem before last week.
He thought vaguely about going back to the docks to check for clues. The idea made him perk up a bit until he realized Sam was heading for the door.
Dean grabbed his coat and started to follow, only to be met with a pitiful look.
"Oh no," Dean said.
"I can handle it. You should rest anyway."
"It's a concussion. I've fought monsters with worse."
"I know. But there are no more monsters."
"Right, so no--"
"Look, you promised to treat me with respect and give me some room to move. This is just something simple like I've always done," Sam said. "Relax."
Dean couldn't relax. There was Lucifer and antichrists and angels ready to smite their asses.
He sighed. Respect. Space. Whatever. Dean wasn't going to argue with him.
Dean waved him away with his hand and crashed back into his chair. "Go knock yourself out."
Sam gave him a funny look, almost as if he didn't understand him, but the reply seemed to be enough for him. He gave a curt nod to Dean, and after a lingering gaze he supposed was thrown in there to make him feel better, Sam left.
He spent the rest of the morning with a headache that wouldn't quit. He tried some porn sites on Sam's computer to pass the time, tried taking a nap, and even considered walking down to the docks alone, but it figured his body wouldn't cooperate. Finally, he decided that Tylenol in the bathroom just wasn't going to cut it and he would hit the drug store a block away from the motel.
The store was busy. Some sale on M&M's had everyone in a shopping frenzy.
Dean picked up a bag of the peanut kind and headed toward the pharmacy.
When he reached the aisle he was looking for, he paused in front of the display. Dean rubbed his head. All the bottles looked the same to him. He grabbed the nearest one and glanced at the label.
The small text was a little blurry so he rubbed at it to see if the smudge would clear. It didn't. Screw that. He grabbed another. The text on the bottle blurred to the point he couldn't see a damn thing. Hell, at this point he couldn't tell if he was picking up pills for headaches or menstrual cramps.
He rubbed his head and closed his eyes as a wave of dizziness hit him. Maybe he'd hit it harder than he thought.
Dean grabbed a third bottle and squinted as he tried to read the text. Each of the little words danced with each other, creating a jumbled mess of nonsense. This was getting ridiculous.
Mumbling to himself, Dean took the bottle to the counter. The pharmacist smiled at him with a pleasant face. If he had been in the mood, he would have asked for her number.
"I've got a killer headache," he told her. "I need extra strength aspirin."
Her smile faltered a bit before she regained confidence and smiled harder. "Sorry? Can you repeat that?"
"Aspirin." Dean shook the bottle.
"I'm-I'm sorry." The smile was nearly gone. "I don't understand."
"You don't understand aspirin?" He let out a laugh and winced as his head throbbed harder. "Lady, you might want to find a new job."
She let out a nervous laugh of her own, and to his surprise, backed away from the counter. Her uneasy gaze moved from him to an unfixed point behind him then back to his face. Dean turned his head.
People were staring at him. The lady standing behind him looked terrified, her knuckles white as she clutched her wide-eyed son's hand. An older couple stared at him, while a couple of by-standers whispered to each other. A few others stopped, gave him a funny look, and walked away.
Dean gave himself a quick once over in case he'd done something stupid like forgetting pants. He let out a deep breath. He was good.
But that didn't explain why everyone kept looking at him like he'd grown two heads.
After giving his audience a long glare, he turned back to the counter. By now, several other pharmacists had come to join the woman.
"Can I help you?" a gentleman asked.
Dean jiggled the bottle again and slammed it on the counter. "Forget it." He tossed the M&M's in front of the man and opened his wallet. "I'll just take those."
The resounding silence brought his attention from his wallet to the counter. The male pharmacist was staring at him.
Was he speaking another language?
Finally, the man took the candy and the bottle and held them up. "You want to buy M&M's and Advil?"
Close enough. Dean nodded. He couldn't believe he'd picked the idiot store.
He waited for the man to ring up the items so he could get out of there. Every minute he stood in the line, the more anxious he became. People weren't just staring anymore. They were watching him. If he didn't know better, he'd have thought he was going paranoid.
When the pharmacist told him it would cost about twelve bucks, he fished in his wallet and threw a ten and two ones on the counter. He went to grab the bag, but the man stopped him.
"Uh, sir. It comes out to $11.67. You gave me three."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "You're kidding."
No one made any move to indicate they were joking.
He grabbed the bag from the man and ripped it open. Despite the protests from behind the counter, he brought the bottle as close to his face as he could. He couldn't read it. He checked his wallet again. He couldn't figure out the bills in the fold either.
Dean felt the blood rush from his face. This wasn't happening. He was trapped in some kind of nightmare. Forget the candy. He was going back to the motel.
He went to leave when the room tipped again. He took a deep breath to calm himself and held onto the counter for support.
"Is he retarded?" the little boy asked, only to be hushed by his mother.
Dean jerked as the male pharmacist and another man guided him away from the line toward a couple of seats next to the pharmacy, robbing him of the chance to set the kid straight. He tried to protest, but the more he spoke, the faster they led him away. Finally, he let them steer him away from the crowd that had gathered. It was clear that no one could understand a word he was saying, and the last thing he wanted was to create a bigger scene and get the cops involved.
The pharmacist sat him down and offered as genuine of a smile as he was going to get. "I know you're frustrated, sir, but you have to calm down. Do you have someone we can call to help?"
Dean moved to jump to his feet, but the men sat him back down. "We just want to help," they told him.
He dropped his head into his hands. They wanted to help. Dean didn't need help. He just needed answers. After he took a moment to gather himself, he reached into his pocket and withdrew his phone, flipping to speed dial.
Sam was number two. Sam was always number two. So why number two was suddenly number seven, number nine, and number three, he couldn't tell.
Burying his head in shame, Dean hit where two was supposed to be, shoved the phone at the pharmacist, and braced himself for another dizzy spell.
Sam came sooner than he'd expected. Then again, the hands on the clock kept spinning backwards and forwards, so he'd lost track once it couldn't make up its mind. His own watch was no help with the singing and all.
Clocks and watches weren't supposed to do that, he reminded himself. He rubbed his forehead. It was just so hard to think through the pain.
Dean leaned over and pressed the heels of his palms to his closed eyes. There were some whispers and hushed voices floating around him with talk of meds and the police, and rudeness to staff and customers. He thought maybe one of the voices was Sam's, and when he glanced up, he recognized Sam's bitchy little face making it clear he disapproved of the entire situation.
"It won't happen again," Sam promised.
"Schizophrenia can usually be handled under the right medication," the pharmacist said. "Try to convince him to take his medication so he can have a better quality of life."
"I will." He glanced at Dean before he took a few dollars out of his money clip and handed them to the pharmacist. They exchanged some words, ones that Dean couldn't hear, but they seemed to do the trick. The pharmacist nodded to Dean and walked away.
Sam's blurry form wobbled over and urged him to stand. "Come on."
"I'm not schizo," Dean said.
Sam shot him another odd look, like the one he'd given earlier that day but more serious and concerned.
Dean sighed. "Not you, too. Dammit."
Sam didn't reply, though his frown deepened, and Dean noticed Sam's pace had quickened. He was practically dragging him out of the store.
His brother thought he was crazy. Super.
"I'm not sure what's happening, but this is more than just a bump to the head," Sam said. When Dean started for the driver's side, Sam grabbed him and steered him to the passenger side. "We'll go to the motel and call Bobby." He paused, giving Dean a face that was filled with so much pity it made him sick. "Do you understand me?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "I'm not deaf."
Sam shook his head and sighed, before turning away and shutting the door behind Dean. When he ran around to the other side and hopped into the driver's seat, Dean was ready for him.
"I'm not crazy. I've been hexed or cursed or something."
"I--" Sam let out another sigh. "I don't know what you're saying."
Dean popped the storage compartment under the dashboard and fished around for his notepad and pen. Once he found them, he started to scribble down everything that had happened.
"Can you understand what I'm saying?" Sam asked. "Maybe just nod or--?"
Dean nodded and finished, thrusting the pad at Sam. He took the notepad from Dean, but one glance at it and he tossed it back.
"That doesn't make sense to me." His voice had grown quiet. "It's gibberish."
The hell. Dean snatched the pad and stared at it. The writing made sense to him. His words. His handwriting. What about his writing and his voice didn't make any sense?
He winced as another wave of pain shot through his head. Frustrated, he threw the pad onto the dashboard. Through the corner of his eyes, he saw Sam give him a nervous, sidelong glance, but it disappeared when he offered Dean a supportive smile. "We'll figure this out."
The ride back sucked. Even though the motel was just a block away, the streetlights kept trying to run them over, and Dean didn't appreciate it all that much. What was worse was every time he pointed to Sam to show him, Sam just gave him that odd look again. After the fourth time it happened, Dean finally realized he wasn't seeing straight and wondered why he had thought the streetlights were a threat in the first place.
Not long after they escaped the streetlights, Dean found himself sitting at the small table inside their motel room, enjoying the dull relief from Advil and M&M's. Sam paced the length of the floor, talking to Bobby, but having established that Dean could understand when people spoke, for the most part, he left the phone on speaker so Dean could hear.
"Yeah. He hit his head pretty bad last night, but this is different. Like Ghost Sickness different."
"I don't got that again," Dean muttered, not that it would help. Sam stared at him and shook his head. Of course he couldn't understand him.
He shoved another mouthful of candy in his mouth.
"But you're done?' Bobby asked. "You got 'em both?"
Sam frowned. "Both?"
"Yeah…they come in pairs." There was a long pause on Bobby's end. "Don't tell me ya only nailed one of them."
Now it was Sam's turn to fall silent. He glanced at Dean, and in that moment what Dean felt in the pit of his stomach he saw mirrored in Sam's eyes: fear.
"What happens if we did?" Sam asked.
"Dammit," Bobby swore. "Didn't you read the stuff I gave ya?"
"We skimmed it," Sam said.
A string of mumbles erupted from the other side. Dean was positive Bobby was cursing them out in Japanese or maybe Russian. He didn't really want to know. Keeping his eyes on Sam, Dean reached into the bag for another handful of M&M's.
He jerked his hand back and hissed, glaring at the prick on his finger. Something had bit him.
Sam stopped and stared at him, quiet as Dean dumped the contents of the bag onto the table. Dean waved his hand for Sam to continue. He didn't need Sam's help in finding the critter that had ruined his afternoon snack.
Sam ran his fingers through his hair. "This is bad, right?"
"Well, it sure ain't sunshine and puppies."
Dean studied the pieces that lay scattered on the tabletop. He was expecting to find an ant or spider hidden in the mass of chocolate-coated peanuts. Now all he had to do was find the son of a bitch.
"What do we do?" Sam asked Bobby.
"Be on the lookout for any changes."
Dean knew Sam was watching him, but he didn't care. He pushed a few pieces aside. Still nothing.
Sam continued. "What kind of changes?"
A few of the M&M's wobbled as Dean's stomach hit the side of the table. He grabbed the edge to straighten it, though curiously some of the pieces kept moving.
Dean jerked back. Two of the M&M's got up and started to walk towards Sam.
"Sam!" He jabbed his finger at the runaway candies. "Did you see that?"
Sam was staring at Dean, the table, then Dean. He gripped the phone a little tighter. "Bobby?"
"Got it." There was some rustling in the background. "If you'd read what I sent…" Bobby grumbled. "The encantado don't usually care about anythin' but booze and girls, unless they get mighty pissed, which, naturally, you boys went and did. The one left usually seeks revenge. Goes after the killer with some kind of mind attack. These things don't play fair, Sam. Once pissed, they go all out. Could cause Dean to go to the nuthouse or worse."
"Worse?" Sam sighed.
Dean had to admit he didn't like the sound of worse, but he was a bit preoccupied by the growing army on the table to care.
"Depends what you're working with," Bobby said. "How's he doin'?"
Dean glared at him.
Peanut and his friends were making a mad dash to the end of the table, their little demon jaws snapping on the candy-coated shell. They might normally melt in your mouth and not in your hand, but Dean sure as hell wasn't going to let Sam be the one to find out if today they had something different in mind.
"Hell, that sounds normal," Bobby muttered. "Anything new?"
Sam chuckled once, but sobered quickly. "He got a little loud this morning; I don't think he realizes what he sounds like. And I think he has a loose grasp on reality. It's all happened so fast…" He frowned. "Hold on." Sam took a step towards Dean. "What're you doing?"
"They're possessed," Dean said, pointing to the berserk M&M's. He stood and reached for his sidearm. "No way the bastards are getting you, too."
"No, Dean. Wait!"
The bullet from his gun tore through the table, sending chunks of chocolate, peanut, and wood splinters everywhere. Sam covered his face from the onslaught, the pansy, while Dean took it like a man. Lucifer might have thought he could sneak his creeps into their room, but he didn't count on Dean being there. Dean was much too smart for him.
"What the hell was that?" Bobby asked.
"Dean just shot the table and a bag of M&M's. Call you back." He snapped off the phone and grabbed the gun from Dean's hand.
Dean glared at him. "What the hell? I just saved your ass."
"Look, I have no idea what you're saying to me, but we got to get one thing straight. Whatever you're seeing isn't real. I know you might think it is, but it's not. This is all something the encantado has done to you. I need you to focus so we can fight this thing, okay? Can you do that?"
Dean slumped down into the chair and gave a forlorn look to the destroyed table. Shooting it has seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that Sam had gone all killjoy on him, it did seem stupid. Besides, now that the table was gone, it gave him a clear view of Pac-Man being chased by ghosts on the surface of the far wall, and he was positive that wasn't supposed to be there.
He was going crazy. The encantado was messing with his head. How could he ever have thought the devil would send chocolate after Sam? Lucifer would have never sent M&M's. He would have sent Gobstoppers.
Determined not to make that mistake again, Dean kept vigil by the window. No Gobstoppers were attacking them on his watch.
For the rest of the afternoon, Dean had sat by the window. Another storm was brewing with this one looking worse than the one from the previous night. Heavy rains pounded the parking lot, while the wind kept battering the signposts by the road. Sometimes, Dean thought he could hear voices carried by the wind, calling out desperate and needy, urging him back to the turbulent waters. He kept trying to convince himself everything was from the encantado, but it was getting harder and harder for him to believe that.
He hoped the storm would keep the demons from attacking them. Still, he prepared himself while Sam wasted time researching encantado. They already knew that the creatures could cause madness, so why throw away time they could use to ready themselves was beyond him. Sometime before the sun started to set, Sam had dragged him away from the window, saying he looked creepy.
Now he was sitting on his bed listening to Sam explain the problem for the twelfth time like he was five.
"I heard you the first ten times," Dean muttered. It didn't stop Sam.
"We know it's affected your ability to communicate, but I'm guessing you can still understand me, right?"
"For the millionth time, yes!"
Sam flinched. "I'm going to take that as a yes."
Dean groaned. This was pointless. He shifted on the bed and tried to glimpse the window over Sam's shoulder. Sam snapped his fingers, breaking Dean's focus. Dean glared at him.
"There's no one out there."
"Not yet," Dean mumbled.
Sam kept going. "We know that the encantado can inflict damage on their victim's mind. That's what I think is happening to you. The encantado that's still alive transferred its psychic link from its dead partner to you."
"The hallucinations you're experiencing have to be from that link."
Dean nodded and scratched at his arm. It itched. He was about to ask Sam if he was breaking out when he heard a low rumble behind him. He whipped his head around to see, but there wasn't anything there.
"Dean, pay attention."
He squirmed on the bed and rubbed his arms against the fabric of his jeans. The itch wouldn't go away.
"These things don't just cause madness, Dean. In some cases, victims can come under control of the encantado, like possession, or even turn into one themselves."
That caught his attention. "Possessed? You saying I can become one of those bottle-headed freaks?"
"I-I don't know what you're saying."
Dean kicked Sam's chair leg. He was getting tired of talking to himself. Maybe this was what the encantado wanted. It made its victims loco by denying them the ability to talk to anyone.
Trapped in his head. That's what it felt like.
The rumbling started again. Forgetting his sentinel watch against Lucifer's forces, Dean glanced over his shoulder to the source of the noise.
As soon as he turned his head, he saw something long wriggling under the sheets. Alarmed, Dean's eyes widened and he jumped back, nearly knocking Sam over. Sam caught him by the arm and steadied him, his own gaze falling to the bed. Based on the confusion in Sam's face, Dean took a wild guess that he was hallucinating again.
Unless he was hallucinating that he was hallucinating and Sam was really as shocked as he was.
The throbbing in his head was coming back, and he was tired. He was tired of the demon candy and the weird noises that kept popping in his ears. He was tired of all the pathetic looks Sam kept giving him, like he was a poor thing that didn't know any better.
"Don't you feel sorry for me," Dean snapped.
Despite the anger he felt towards Sam, he let his brother move him away from the bed and sit him down on one of the chairs in the room. After standing by his side for a few minutes, which Dean guessed was to make sure he was okay or wouldn't fling himself out the window, Sam moved over to the fridge.
"Water?" Sam asked.
Sam took out a beer before he went to the sink to fill a glass with tap water. Dean frowned when Sam kept the beer for himself and handed him the water.
"Dude, I don't want that."
"I have no clue what you're saying, but I can guess. Do you really think I'm going to give you a beer when you're hallucinating?"
Dean sighed and grabbed the water. It would have to do. When he brought the glass to his lips, he noticed Sam grab the other chair and drag it to sit next to him. Perfect. He had a babysitter.
Oddly, part of him was relieved. For a second there, he could delude himself that Sam had his back again.
Though, nothing Sam did could ease the anxiety that was growing inside. He knew he was losing it, even when he couldn't pinpoint what exactly was wrong anymore. Dean didn't want to think what could happen if he completely lost himself, or if he lost control of his body to one of those things.
He scratched his elbow. Then there was the thought of turning into one of them.
Dean shuddered. Deciding not to think about it, he turned to his glass and finished the rest of the water. Bobby and a friend of his would be here soon, and they could fix him. Bobby could fix anything.
He held onto that thought and told himself nothing was calling him back to the harbor.
Her name was Debbie Sanchez. She was slim, but had a round face, and while her eyes were warm and vibrant, they held that signature slow burn that Dean had long ago recognized in those touched by the hunting world. Part of him wondered what kind of tragedy brought her into this kind of life. The other part of him remembered how great older, experienced women could be.
Dean flashed her a winning smile from his spot on the floor.
"He can't be too bad," Bobby grumbled.
"So, you're a doctor?" Sam asked, dragging his chair in front of Dean, effectively blocking his view. Dean tapped at Sam to move, but his brother remained hard as stone.
She nodded. "I brought my practice into hunting after my brother-in-law was sickened by a gremlin." She peered around Sam. "Any reason he's sitting in the corner?"
"He thought the bed was going to swallow him and that the chair was in cahoots."
"Oh." She turned to Bobby who just shook his head.
They all could think what they wanted, but Dean knew better. He'd seen the way the chair had shuffled over toward the bed. He brought his knees closer to his chest and gave a wary glance at the mattress.
"And he's not just hallucinating," Sam said. "I think he's delusional. It's not that he just sees things, he actually believes in them."
"Now you're just lying," Dean said, though no one paid him any attention. He muttered to himself and scratched his arms. God, he wished the pain in his head would go away.
"The madness works fast," Debbie said. "The sooner we can use some charms to break the link, the better. Let's just hope that his condition doesn't include a metamorphosis." She pursed her lips. "Though, I would think he'd be showing symptoms by now if he was. Loss of hair, nail disease, tooth decay…"
Dean frowned and touched his hair.
"Debbie knows her monsters," Bobby said.
Sam nodded. "Okay, so what do we need to do?"
"I have some herbs and salves in the back of my truck. We'll try those first and see if they help alleviate some of the symptoms or if he just deteriorates further."
"What if he gets worse?" Sam asked.
"Yeah, what if I get worse?" He could feel the hair on his head, thank God, but he didn't want to take any chances.
"If he does get worse, well maybe we should just cross that bridge when we get there."
"No, I think we should cross it now," Dean said.
Bobby, Debbie and Sam stopped talking to finally pay attention to him. He had the sneaking suspicion this wasn't suddenly a charity event. Something was about to happen that he wasn't going to like.
Sam was the first to rise. He slid the chair out of the way, and after grabbing Dean's arm, urged him to stand. Dean tried to read his face, but it seemed like the harder he tried, the more unlike Sam he looked.
Dean shook his head. Hallucinations. Sam's face wasn't changing. It wasn't morphing and bending to look deeper and darker. Sam wasn't laughing at him. Why would he laugh?
"Dean, snap out of it," he heard Sam say.
After taking a deep breath, Dean stumbled to his feet. By now, he noticed Bobby had vanished. He didn't dwell on it long. Debbie was by his side and took his other arm; the two of them started to guide him out of the corner to the bed.
"No. No, no, no, no," he said, throwing his weight back as he tried to squirm out of their grasp. They jerked him forward, and he dug his heels into the carpet in response. He'd do a lot of insane things--behead a vampire, gut a demon--but there was no way he was getting on that freakin' bed.
"Come on, Dean," Sam muttered as he continued to struggle. "It'll be okay. I promise."
"A lot of good your promises are!"
The two of them were superhuman strong, or maybe the encantado had made him weak. Without much effort, they managed to pin him onto the bed. Dean still fought, but Sam and his silly putty face showed no signs of letting up. At the same time, Dean felt the mattress yapping its jaws at his back.
And when he looked at the ceiling, he saw the flicker of something trying to break through the plaster.
No, it was trying to break into his head. He cried out, feeling the hot white stab his forehead, sending him into rippling waves of black.
"Bobby!" Sam yelled. "We need you!"
Through the black shots of pain and searing in his head, Dean saw Bobby wheel into the motel room with a large black bag on his lap. He unzipped it with one swift stroke, and pulled out a vial of purple stuff that looked like it belonged in Frankenstein's lab.
"Don't you poison me, Bobby." Dean tried to kick at Debbie, but Sam only pushed down more of his weight on Dean to compensate. He felt helpless as Debbie broke away and grabbed the vial from Bobby's hands.
The witch-- and Dean was now convinced that's what she was--popped the cork on the vial and dumped some of the slimy contents on his head.
The effect was immediate. The hot white and black waves stopped, and he felt cold between the eyes, like he'd just been smacked in the face with an arctic breeze. As the cooling liquid numbed his head, he felt his arms go slack, his muscles unwind, and everything seemed so floaty and nice. He almost felt like he was sledding in peppermint candies and snow cones.
"That should dull the pain and the link," Debbie said. Her voice sounded far away.
"How long do we wait?" That was Sam's voice. It didn't sound so irritating anymore.
"A couple of hours. That should give me an idea how bad his case is."
Sam hovered over him. No. Dude, he was flying. Dean would have given him a thumbs up to congratulate him if he knew where his hands were.
He looked worried, but at least Sam's face seemed to have found its place again.
When Bobby started talking, Dean could barely hear him. He was too far away. Soon, all three of them were too far away for Dean to make out anything they were saying. He thought he would be mad, but he wasn't, and decided to just ride the chill that kept washing over his body.
Dean wasn't sure how long he was lost in the peaceful quiet. He hadn't felt that relaxed in a long time. Maybe never. All he needed were some magic fingers and he'd be all set.
Reality kept tugging at his mind, forcing him to leave the fuzzy nothingness behind. As the low hum faded out, the din of several voices took its place. He heard Sam's voice first.
"An encantado doesn't attack unless provoked, right?"
Bobby scoffed. "I'd say killing its buddy fits the bill."
"No, I mean the first one. What caused it to attack kids? That doesn't make any sense. So I went and checked out the playground." Sam pulled out a small bag from his pocket and passed it to Bobby.
Dean tried to raise his head to see what Sam had found. He was mildly annoyed that Sam had waited this long to even bring it up, unless he had and Dean couldn't remember, since investigating the encantado was the entire point of this trip.
He strained his neck harder. Whatever was in the bag, it looked like powder.
"Looks like someone's awake."
Dean jumped, surprised to find Debbie sitting by his side. She had a damp towel in one hand and some green herbs in the other. A small bowl and some other medicinal bits were strewn over a small rollaway.
Sam rose to his feet and came to stand on the other side of the bed. "Dean?"
"Am I better?"
Time seemed to stop. No one said a word. No one moved. But their eyes. Dean saw it in their eyes.
With a sigh, he threw his head back and screwed his eyes shut.
"What now?" he heard Sam ask. "There must be something you can do."
The loud clang of metal on metal filled his ears. Debbie had to be working on her cart. "I can try some more supplements, but I'll be honest. If this didn't work, not much will." She let out a sigh of her own. "He's just going to get worse. This is one of those conditions where it's imperative to start treatment immediately."
"That can't be it. There has to be something we can do."
Damn straight. He wasn't just going to sit here and wait for his mind to completely snap. Dean pushed off the pillows and sat up, only to instantly regret it. The room spun in a blur of color, like whirling on one of those teacup rides, but without being able to get off.
Dean clutched the side and groaned. When he pulled back his hand, the metal frame stuck to his fingers like threads of taffy. The damn bed was melting.
Debbie grabbed his hands and folded them neatly on his lap. "I'm sorry, Sam."
"Then, I'll find the encantado and kill it myself." Sam grabbed his jacket and shrugged it over his shoulders. "That should break the link."
"Whoa, no," Dean said. "That's a terrible idea."
"That's plain stupid," Bobby said. Dean secretly cheered him on. "Just how're you gonna find it?"
He pointed to the sandwich bag. "Sulfur. Demons infected or possessed at least one encantado. There's a good chance the other is, too. If--"
"I was so right!" Dean jabbed his finger at the bag. "I told you there were demons here!"
Sam paused and glared at him before he continued. "If I find sulfur at the docks, it's just a matter of drawing it out and stabbing it between the eyes."
Wait. Dean didn't like that part of the plan.
After disentangling himself from the sheets, Dean tried to slip off the bed to stop Sam. Debbie gently knocked him back into place, smiling at him with that nice bedside manner that normally would make Dean gushy inside. Today, he just wanted to hit her.
No way would they listen to a word he said, considering everything out of his mouth probably didn't sound like words at all. He scratched his chin. He would have to improvise.
Dean pretended to fire a gun and mouthed the word "pow." When he was done, he reached a finger to his head and twirled it around, making a crazy face.
They stared at him.
Dean muttered under his breath. Never was he playing charades again. Ever.
Sam frowned, puzzling out Dean's demonstration before a flash of understanding passed through his eyes. "If I kill this…will I go crazy like Dean?"
Finally, someone got it, though Dean wasn't thrilled about the crazy connotation.
"In theory, no," Bobby said. "But there ain't no guarantee. The two of you could end up in a padded room the rest of your lives. Worse, you could be the next set of baby killers."
Sam seemed to consider what Bobby said. Dean waited for his reaction, wishing he could goad him for an answer.
"That's a chance I have to take," he said, grabbing the keys to the Impala. "You know what to do if things go bad."
With that, he walked out the door and into the storm.
Dean couldn't let Sam go and hunt some demonized encantado alone. It wasn't that Dean didn't think he could do it, but why take the chance? At least if Dean killed the bastard and nothing happened, both of them wouldn't suffer from it.
Resolved to go after Sam, Dean kicked away the cart and tried to jump off the bed. Debbie was quicker than he anticipated, and before he knew it, her finger was pressed on the center of his forehead. Just like before, he felt the instant cooling affect. However, this time he wasn't sent to a peaceful limbo. The cold smacked him hard.
"I'm sorry," she told him. "The pull the monster has on you is dangerous. You can't go."
Those were the last words Dean heard before he was plunged into darkness.
When Dean woke, he wasn't met with the pleasant, hazy after effects he'd experienced last time Debbie had touched his forehead. Instead, he was assaulted with a raging throbbing that surrounded his head, with each beat sending blinding pain through his eyes that skewed his vision. He hurt so much he could barely move.
Dean lifted his head despite the pain.
Bobby was asleep. His wheelchair was parked by the window, a book open on the blanket that covered his legs. His head was tilted to the side, nearly touching the windowpane itself. Dean wasn't sure how much the windowpane liked that, but he didn't have time to ask it right now.
He rested his head back on the pillow. He didn't know how long he'd been asleep or if any of the alternative medicine Debbie had given him had started to help. He thought he remembered thinking a little more clearly last time. The ongoing pain kept made it difficult to tell.
Dean did remember that Sam was heading to the docks looking for the encantado.
The docks. That felt like the place he should be.
But where was Debbie? He turned his head from side to side, despite the pain, but didn't see her anywhere. Maybe she had gone after Sam.
He should find Sam.
One at a time, Dean swung his legs over the side of the bed, stopping to test the floor to make sure it hadn't moved. Confident that it was solid, Dean eased his feet onto the surface and slowly stood. The room was a little shaky, and while holding his hands out helped him keep his balance, he couldn't extend them too far in case they detached and ran away.
Getting to the bathroom wasn't so bad as long as he took the bridge. The gators were having a sleepover anyway, so they didn't pay any mind to him.
Dean hit the light in the bathroom. One glance in the mirror and he cringed. He looked like crap.
The circles under his eyes we large and heavy, while the rest of his face seemed hollow and worn. He gave his head a good scrub before he leaned over and splashed water in his face.
When he lifted his head and looked back in the mirror, he frowned, wondering what the heck was all over his shoulders. He took a hand and dusted some of the fluff off before he finally stopped and picked some of it up to examine.
"What the hell?"
His chest tightened with panic. As he felt the top of his head, more and more strands of hair fell off, tumbling onto his back and shoulders.
This wasn't happening. None of it was happening. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, willing the air to fill his lungs in even intervals. Panicking wouldn't help.
Just as he was struggling to get his wits together, Dean gagged. Something was swimming in his mouth. Disgusted, he spit into the sink.
The panic came back full blown.
Eyes wide with terror, Dean reached into his mouth and slid his fingers over the tops of his teeth. One wiggled at his touch. The moment he took hold of it, it slipped out of its socket, the roots decayed and dead, leaving a trail of pus and blood in its wake.
Dean stared at the tooth. His tooth. The tooth that when squeezed turned to dust in his hand.
He rammed the faucets on full and scooped up mouthfuls of water one after the other. He did his best to wash the bitter taste out of his mouth, but the more he sloshed the water, the looser the teeth became.
He spit. He wouldn't freak. He wasn't an encantado. He wasn't going to let it win.
Determined to get his life back, Dean reached into the sink for his other tooth. When he nabbed it from the edge of the drain, his nail snapped off.
Dean stared at his hand, horrified. There was black goo over the nail bed where the nail had once been.
He shook his head. "No. No!"
The skin along his wrist down his arm had started to peel and blister, leaving a light scaly finish where his veins ran. He stumbled back, away from the sink, still fixated on his extended hands. Other nails were popping up, jagged and rigid.
The scrape of Bobby's wheelchair on the floor broke Dean from his thoughts. He thought he heard Bobby calling out to him, but he couldn't make out the words. It sounded like someone speaking into a bottle, all garbled and low.
He couldn't understand Bobby. He couldn't understand him at all.
When he jumped into the doorway, Bobby was waiting for him. He had already started to wheel towards the bathroom, but stopped when he looked at Dean's face.
The disgust was more than Dean could handle and confirmed his greatest fears. He was changing.
Bobby let out a string of noises that made no sense to Dean. But in his face, Dean saw the fear, the shock, and anger that were mixed with his hopelessness over what was happening. It cut through them both.
Dean knew one thing. He was out of time. He had to get to the docks now. He didn't know why. He didn't know what caused him to feel so strongly, but the impulse was there. That was where he belonged.
But there was no way was Dean was to let the encantado get to him without a fight.
Pushing down the throbbing and dizziness in his head, Dean ran over the bridge and bolted for the door. He could hear Bobby's feverish pursuit behind him, the wheels spinning, his gibberish voice calling after him. Dean slammed the door.
As he ran into the wet parking lot, he saw Debbie pulling in with her truck. He considered yanking her out and hijacking the truck, but his body had the urge to keep moving, to head to the dock on foot. The idea seemed insane, with the wind snapping trees like twigs and the rain pouring down. But Dean's feet had never been wrong before, and he knew to trust them.
He turned away from the truck and started down the street.
The run wasn't easy, not with the rain screaming at him or the sidewalk purposefully trying to trip him. The lights that lined the street gave him some encouragement, each one winking at him or cheering with support. The mailboxes were another story, but he didn't have the time to deal with their protests.
The dockyard was just ahead.
Although he was just moments away from reaching the main dock, a part of Dean that seemed forgotten snapped to life. It told him how insane he was, how he couldn't trust anything he saw, heard, or even touched. That part of him wanted to believe that Sam would come through for him, and that his nightmare would soon be over.
That part of him cried along with the rain.
He slowed as he reached the dock. Like the night before, it was battered from the driving rain, and beaten by the waves that crashed the shoreline. Ahead, Dean could hear the boats rock back and forth on the choppy waves, while the lanterns swayed above. Most of the docks were quartered off by police tape. That wouldn't matter. The encantado was here somewhere, he could feel it, and it was watching him, waiting for him, calling somewhere beyond the dark waters.
But instead of finding the encantado, he found Sam.
Sam was propped up against one of the posts, one leg tucked under him with the other jutting out on the wooden planks. As Dean ran through the rest of the police tape to Sam, he saw the straight leg had a serious gash that erupted from his upper thigh all the way down to his ankle. The rain washed most of the blood through the cracks between the wood, but the wound was still open and fresh.
Dean crouched by Sam's side and tapped his cheek to try to rouse him. Sam gasped and coughed. When he looked up at Dean, he offered him a hopeful smile.
"I knew you'd come."
"Yeah, well, I wasn't going to let you do it alone." Dean said. At this point, he was just happy he could understand Sam.
"I broke the link, Dean."
Dean stopped. "What?"
"I broke the link. I stabbed him between the eyes, but he still managed to attack me. He's over there." Sam pointed to the shadows at the edge of the dock. "All we need to do is dump him in the water and it'll be over."
"I'll do it. You stay put."
Dean marched down the dock. The landscape still dipped and churned, much like the sea itself, but none of it seemed so bad anymore. Not only could he understand Sam, but Sam could also understand him. The link was broken.
Now to gank the son of a bitch.
He was halfway across when a flicker of movement caught his eye. Dean turned and peered into the dark. A pause, one, two…the monster lurched and pulled him backwards.
Obviously, it wasn't as dead as Sam had thought.
The thing hissed and clicked, burbling a mouthful of garbled words. As he struggled, he caught flashes of its true form: snakelike skin, rubbery fingers, and a hint of what smelled like tuna.
Dean fought to tug it forward, but it kept pulling him back. The edge of the dock was only two feet away. If only he could turn it around, drive that knife in deeper, and toss it in the water…
"You are dead, you hear me?" Dean yelled. He fumbled to grab the encantado's slippery hands in the rain, but the jerk had him locked in a vice grip from behind. Every time Dean tried to grab it to pull it over his head, the encantado would shift back again, dragging Dean another few inches away from the nearest post.
What was it doing? Not only was the encantado keeping Dean away from the water's edge, but it was also making sure Dean wasn't even two feet within range.
Dean frowned as an idea struck him. Maybe he was truly crazy, and it was just the encantado's influence affecting him, but he could almost swear that the monster was protecting him from something.
Dean forced his weight forward. Again, the encantado hauled his ass back.
Knowing it was probably a stupid move, Dean relaxed his grip. The encantado did the same. This gave Dean the opportunity to twist its arms long enough to see its face.
Most of it was obscured by the dark and the rim of its hat, but within that darkness, Dean could see its eyes. In those eyes, there was pleading beyond anything he'd ever seen in a creature before. It was begging to be trusted.
He was compromised. He knew better than to trust a monster.
But the simple fact remained. Not once had it attacked him.
And it wouldn't.
Dean let go and stopped fighting the encantado. He let his body slide down to the deck and leaned against the post in defeat.
"No!" Sam yelled. "Don't give up, Dean. Don't. We've come too far."
The monster hovered over him, silent and waiting, though Dean could see the glint of silver tucked under its wrist. He was waiting. Waiting for permission.
It was respecting Dean's thoughts and feelings, and more so, his guidance.
Dean felt his heart tear inside. He couldn't see straight. He couldn't think straight.
He didn't want to see this.
"Okay," Dean said, his voice cracking. He couldn't believe he'd said it.
The encantado didn't understand him, and there was no way it could, since it wasn't an encantado.
It never was.
But the lack of communication wouldn't stop it. It knew just by the quiver in Dean's nonsensical sounds that it had been granted what it had wanted for so long: trust.
"Kill it!" Sam shouted. "Dean, get up!"
The monster flicked its wrist, bringing the silver dagger into full view. Without a word, it turned toward Sam.
Dean couldn't watch. He turned his head and stared into the black waters, knowing that with every breath he took, the monster stepped closer and closer to Sam. It stepped closer to that moment which could drive Dean over the edge.
Sam's screams echoed through the night.
Dean groaned and wiped the tears from his eyes, only to find a hand on his shoulder. "Don't move," Sam said. "Relax. It's over."
He moved anyway. When Dean looked up at Sam, he was still holding the silver dagger, only this time it was bloody. In the distance, back where Dean had left it, the real encantado's corpse lay flat against the post, its gash still fresh and open.
"Let me help you up," Sam said. "You're right at the edge."
He was. The illusion vanished, leaving Dean feeling cold and shaken. The two feet of deck he had so desperately wanted to cross had never existed. Dean could have easily walked to his death without ever knowing it.
The idea left him frozen. Then his thoughts turned to other important issues.
He ran his tongue over his teeth, checked his hands and even patted the top of his head. Dean let out of a sigh of relief. Everything was where it should be. The change had been in his head.
Dean swallowed hard, and with a forced grin, he turned to Sam. "Can you hear me now?"
"Loud and clear."
"Good because the gibberish thing was getting old."
"Tell me about it."
The two of them fell silent. They were both soaked head to toe, but they were alive and that was all that mattered.
Sam's face looked pained, as if he was searching for the right words to say. Dean had the sneaking suspicion he was on the verge of an emotional monologue, one that they both would rather avoid.
Dean clapped his hand on Sam's shoulder. "You did good."
His brother's eyes lit up, and that same pleading he'd seen just moments ago vanished completely. At least for now. Some days were good. Some days were bad. Getting to know each other again wouldn't happen over night, as much as they both liked to pretend it would. Dean couldn't guarantee he'd always remember in the future, or that he wouldn't mess up from time to time, but at least today was another step in the right direction.
Sam knew it as well.
And somewhere, Dean hoped that Sam knew just how much he'd appreciated Sam respecting him, having faith in his personal input. All he wanted was for Sam to see something worthwhile in him, and maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. But today was enough for now. Dean supposed he could just tell Sam outright, but then he'd have a monologue of his own. That question, mixed with doubt and hope, would have to remain hidden. Maybe he'd never know.
"Come on," Dean said. "Let's dump this sucker and get back. Bobby's gonna have my head, and I want to get it over with."
The next day, after they were packed and ready to hit the road, and many apologies were had between Bobby, Debbie, and himself, Dean found the answer to his question.
On the counter rested a box. In that box, were halves of two different pies, apple and cherry. His favorites.
And more importantly, the note on the box had a simple message that meant more than the pies themselves:
To My Big Brother.
Dean smiled. They had a long road ahead, but if apple and cherry could get along in such a small box, then maybe, even if just for a short while, they could find a way to respect each other.