[Genre]: Genfic/Alternate Universe
[Warnings]: Language, violence.
[Word Count]: 3577
[Summary]: One hunt ends, another begins.
Previous Parts: Chapter 2 ||| Chapter 1
Ed took a deep breath, one hand on his face. He felt odd, jerked awake again from dreams he couldn't quite grasp on to. The room was empty when Ed sat up. Al was gone for certain this time; he had taken the car the next town over earlier in the day because there was a particular book in the library's old reference section and it was just easier to go there than try to get a book transferred without a local driver's license or library car. Al had been gone a long time and Ed couldn't help with a lurch of his stomach that Al had met with the demon again.
He still felt weird, and Ed looked down at his hands. Something - something about his hands, about his arms and now that the dream had dissipated again he was left with the vague feeling like he was forgetting something vitally important.
No matter. Ed shuffled to the other side of the room, picking up a few of the books Bobby had shoved into his hands as they had piled out from his junkyard the last time they were in Dakota. The books were old, mostly, a couple were just general information on alchemy but two were ancient, yellowed journals. He didn't know why Bobby felt it was so important he take the books, this whole random alchemy thing was just some thing that was tied into the Seal they were pursuing. It would dissipate just like the dreams, as soon as they'd finished the hunt.
But still... Ed clicked on the desk lamp and leaned back in the chair, taking the top book off of the stack. No harm ever came from knowledge. The book Ed had selected was one of the more general knowledge alchemy books. Nothing in particular seemed to pop out at him as he paged through it. There were lots of symbols that seemed vaguely familiar - they'd run across most of them while doing research before.
Ed sighed, about to close the book when a small symbol in the corner of the page caught his eye. It was familiar in a way he couldn't parse, a snake nailed to a tree - and abruptly it felt like his mouth was full of blood and dust. Ed dropped the book and gagged, flinging himself out of the chair and staggering toward the bathroom before throwing up into the sink.
He scrubbed the back of his hand over his mouth and gagged again, glancing up in the mirror out of reflex. Ed hadn't slapped the light on, but in the wan light drifting from the lamp Ed had left on his reflection was different again. It didn't even have the courtesy to be the same different reflection; this time his hair was shorter, his face different, more weathered. Ed grabbed the first thing that came to hand, a glass sitting on the counter and with a snarl flung it at the mirror.
The glass and the mirror both shattered. Ed cursed as he stepped back blindly, his anger earning him dozens of tiny cuts and a bathroom full of broken glass. He staggered out of the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him and sliding down against it, knocking his head back into the door itself and closing his eyes.
Blood was trickling down his face from the cuts. Before he could lift a hand to swipe at them, a gentle hand wiped the trickle away. Ed's eyes snapped open and he looked up to see Castiel entirely too close to him, very gently wiping the blood from his face.
Ed didn't have anywhere else to go, the door was latched and solid behind him; but there was something calming about the methodical way Castiel was wiping each small cut. Ed watched him wordlessly, but Castiel did not meet his eyes, focusing instead on his wounds. Wiping the last cut, Castiel's hand hovered on Ed's face for a second longer than necessary. The angel did not straighten from his crouch but he did move a little back, away from Ed.
"What was that for?" Ed murmured, exhausted.
"You need to contain your anger, Dean." Castiel's voice was quiet.
Ed snorted, knocking his head back against the door again. "This is getting fucking ridiculous," he said. "Just, seriously. I can't look in the goddamn mirror anymore because it's an even bet I won't even see myself looking back."
"You are seeing yourself." Castiel stood, turning and looking around the room. He hesitated, then looked back at Ed. "There are many more realities such as this," he touched the wall with one hand. "So many other possibilities. This is just one, of many."
Ed blew out a breath in annoyance. "Yeah, sure." He shrugged his shoulders. "If that's the case, why not give up on us and just move on to the next group?"
Castiel looked at him silently for a moment. Ed felt his stomach clench and looked away. "This is not going to be easy," he said. "This Seal in particular. I fear we are being lead down a false trail. Everything will change and yet nothing will. Lilith cannot be permitted to break this Seal."
The severity of his tone was not lost on Ed, nor was the feeling that the angel was leaving out something of great importance. "What's different about this Seal?"
The angel turned his back on Ed. "Things are going to get harder for you in these next few weeks. Do not lose your focus."
Before Ed could open his mouth to retort or query further, Castiel was gone. He knocked his head back against the door again and then sighed. He'd have to clean up the glass before Al got back, otherwise Al would have kittens when he saw the bathroom. Ed got to his feet wearily, there were going to be questions about the state of his face, regardless.
Ed heaved a sigh as he pulled open the door, then looked around the room, nonplussed. The mirror and the glass were whole and unbroken, and upon inspection he could see that his face was completely unmarred. Not a single cut remained behind.
Al was back by mid-morning. Ed was sitting at the table, two of the alchemy books propped open, a sheaf paper half-covered in notes in front of him and a half-eaten breakfast sandwich from the local burger joint at his elbow. "You look like you've been busy," Al said.
Al looked exhausted, like he hadn't slept since he left the day before. He dropped a few books on the dresser and then dropped face-forward, fully clothed on his bed.
Ed watched him lay face-first on the comforter for a moment. "Find what we need?"
Al groaned, and with some effort turned his head to face Ed. "Got the book, spooked a spook, nearly burned the library down and had to outrun three cop cars," he said. "By the way, we can't go back east, and I had to park the Impala in the back part of the lot and swap the plates. Again."
Now that he'd said something, Ed could detect the faint whiff of burning from Al and his clothes. "Why didn't you call me?"
"It wasn't anything difficult, just annoying," Al said, his eyes shut. "I just need a few hours to recharge."
"Right," Ed said standing up and stretching. "We're close to the Seal, I think."
Al made a mumbled noise of assent. "Do we know what it is?"
"Nope," Ed smacked Al's leg as he passed. His brother's feet stuck off the edge of the bed. "I'm gonna check that out today. Also I figure I'll visit our friend the mahr. She can't shapeshift in daylight, so I'll be fine."
"Don't tip her off," Al said into the pillow.
"I'll be fine," Ed repeated. "Jeez, you have no faith in me at all, do you?"
There was another noise that could be assent, or it could be the start of a snore that came from the bed. Ed shrugged into his coat and picked the keys up from the dresser. A smirk tugged at his face as he closed the door behind him.
Ed shuffled a bit on the porch as he waited in the silence after knocking. It was Al who had reservations about their continued impersonations of various members of the government[. ]Ed never had a problem with it. You had to do what you had to do to keep the civilians safe - and that was that.
The porch was wide and whitewashed, and looked entirely too wholesome to belong to some serial killer. Of course the entire thing set Ed on edge but he was used to this sort of thing. He was glancing around for a third time and contemplated knocking again when the door cracked open. A nicely-dressed woman in her late thirties opened the door. She eyed Ed suspiciously. "Can I help you?"
"Sarah Moore?" Ed asked, flipping his ID up in a practiced motion so she could see it. "I'm Agent Martin. If you're not busy, I have some questions for you regarding-" She slammed the door quickly, before Ed could finish his sentence. "-the recent deaths. Jeez, not suspicious at all," he muttered under his breath, before knocking on the door again. "Miss Moore! Just a few questions, ma'am."
"I don't have to talk to you!" the woman called through the door. "I was proved innocent, you can go to hell!"
Ed rocked back on his heels, tucking his ID back into his pocket and thinking about possibly breaking own the front door. "You're not being accused of anything," he called back. "I just have some questions."
There was a silence, and the door opened again, just a crack so he could see one suspicious green eye. "Questions about what?"
"About the death of your husband," Ed said truthfully.
"That's public knowledge, and you feds can go screw yourselves!" Sarah Moore slammed the door shut again.
Despite Ed knocking, Moore wouldn't respond. Ed sighed and called through the door as a final resort, "We're trying to find the person responsible for your husband's death, as well as at least six other people."
There was no response. Ed shrugged his shoulders, ran a hand through his bangs and turned to trot down the stairs and head toward his car. So she wasn't a fan of the government, that wasn't entirely suspicious but at the same time it sent up some nice yellow flags. Ed flipped open his cell as he stood by the car, leaving Al a voice mail about the results. "-and it looks like we'll have to go the b&e route this evening, and then get the hell out of dodge and deal with this Seal business. I'm heading to the library, I'll catch up with you later."
As Ed slid behind the wheel, his cell phone went off with Al's familiar ring. He pulled it out and flipped it open without looking. "What's up?"
Silence. Ed looked at the cell phone and realized the call had dropped. The hairs pricked on the back of his neck and he hit redial - the call went straight to voice mail. Ed cursed and flipped the phone closed. Sometimes technology was more trouble than it was worth.
With no warning, the driver's side window shattered inwards and Ed flinched as for the second time in less than a day he was peppered with broken glass. This time, however, a strong hand grabbed at him, gripping his shoulder firmly and trying to pull him through the broken window.
Ed twisted, struggling, and tried reaching for the glove box. He hadn't a weapon on him, it was daylight and mahrs only came out at night. As he twisted, he got a good look at his attacker's face - it was the man they'd seen her with the other night - and as Ed looked at him, startled, his eyes shuttered between normal and black.
It was stronger than he was, they all were. Instead of trying to pull away Ed grabbed the door handle and slammed the door open. It wasn't enough to hurt the demon but it caught him off guard and he staggered backwards. Ed kicked the door again and it bounced off the man, who was already off balance. He went down hard and Ed didn't bother with a weapon or even the door, he twisted the key in the ignition and slammed the accelerator down. The Impala tore out of its parking space and down the street, the door slamming on its own as he took the turn.
Ed was in a foul mood as he slammed into the motel room. He still had glass in his hair, and the demon had almost twisted his left arm out of its socket. Al, who looked very little the worse for wear, jumped to his feet. Ed ignored Al completely, heading straight to the bathroom and running his hands gently through his hair, trying to comb the glass out without cutting his hands up more than they were already.
"Are you all right?" Al took up most of the space in the doorway, watching as Ed shook his head like a dog.
"Fucking, fucking demon did a number on my car, Al!" Ed slammed both of his hands down on the porcelain sink, anger bright in his eyes. "I'm going to send that freak back to the pit where it belongs, god damn it!"
Al grabbed Ed's arm before he slammed his hands against the sink again. "Ed!"
"Fuck," Ed muttered, but when Al released him Ed didn't hit the sink again.
"What happened?" Al watched, concerned, as Ed took off his suit coat and shook it out.
"I got attacked by a demon, fucking demon, that's what. Outside of Moore's house." He gave the coat another shake for good measure. "Moore wouldn't let me in the house, slammed the door in my face and gave me the finger. Then I called you, but your call dropped and then a demon which looked just like the guy visiting Moore punched out the window of my car." Ed gritted his teeth. "I'm going to make him pay through the nose."
"It's fixable," Al murmured. "Are you fine?"
"Fine?" Ed rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt. "I'm peachy, let's go kill the fucking thing."
There was no sign of the demon as the two brothers stalked along the row of hedges separating the homes. They were both dressed for the road, their books and weapons packed in the Impala, safely parked a little up the block.
Al trotted up the back stairs, silent despite his size. Ed followed carefully, drawing his gun and keeping it at the ready, safety thumbed off. They were as prepared as they could be to kill the mahr; Ed still had silver bullets from their last werewolf incident and Al had the knife made of iron. His younger brother picked the lock skillfully and stealthily, and the door swung quietly open.
"Home invasions'r'us," Ed muttered double-checking the safety before entering behind Al.
Al had his own gun drawn, and they very carefully covered the inside of the house. The ground floor split down a hallway and up stairs, and with his head Ed indicated he'd go right, while Al covered left. There was enough ambient light streaming from the other homes on the block that flashlights were an easy way to be spotted from the street.
He had carefully opened the pantry when Al heard Ed say "Ah, hell." Shutting the pantry door quietly, Al padded down the hallway. Ed had found the bedroom on the first floor and pushed the door open; only to find Sarah Moore lying dead in her bed, throat slit ear to ear and a branch of fir in each hand. Her arms were crossed over her chest, making the body look like some parody of an Egyptian.
"She's been dead a long time," Ed said with a deep frown. The blood had long since dried into dark puddles around her head and the body had stiffened. "Was she really a mahr-?"
Al nodded at where her feet were stretched out past the edge of the covers. Instead of regular human feet they were split, horse's hooves. "We've got to get out of here, Ed."
After a moment Ed nodded in agreement. Very carefully they headed back out the way they had come in, wiping any trace of their fingerprints from the door frames. They snuck along the hedge and made tracks back to the Impala to slide into the relative safety of the car. Ed had knocked out the remainder of the glass from the driver's side window before they departed and it made the entire driving experience much chillier than usual.
The brothers looked at each other as they sat in silence. There were no sirens, no one had been tipped off to the murder yet but it was time to move on regardless. Ed started the car and they drove casually off.
Dawn found them on the long road between towns. Ed had pulled off the side of the road around one a.m. to take a nap, and he woke up needing to take a piss. Al wasn't in the car, he was sitting on a fence on the side of the road, just looking at the sky.
Ed took care of his business by a tree, then shuffled over to lean against the fence next to Al. They stood in comfortable silence for a long while. "Do you suppose that was the end of the mahr thing?"
"No telling," Ed said.
Al sighed out a breath and craned his neck upwards. The emerging sun was slowly pushing away the dark purple of the night sky. "What now?"
"The Seal, I guess." Ed leaned more on his elbows, looking up like Al was. "Cas said we'd find it in Anson. Still don't know what "it" is, but at least we've got a location now."
Ed stood up and stretched his arms out over his head, before rubbing the back of his neck irritably. "I've got such a crick in my neck," he complained, cracking his neck. He scowled over at the Impala, which was still missing her window. "I've got to get her fixed," he grunted. He stood beside the car, hands in pockets, considering the window for a long moment, before looking over at Al. "Would you freak if I tried something?"
Al was watching Ed anyway. He frowned. "You're going to try alchemy again, aren't you?"
Ed shrugged loosely. "It's worth a shot. Nobody's threatened to end me if I use it, might as well make use of it while it's here." He started kicking the grass by the side of the road, hunting for litter.
"You expecting it to go somewhere?"
"I figure it'll go away on its own or something," Ed found a discarded glass bottle, picking it up gingerly. "See if you can find me another bottle."
Al blinked at him, watching Ed search. "What do you need a glass bottle for?"
"Can't make something out of nothing now, can I?" Ed had come up with a second bottle on his own. He opened the door of the car, balancing both bottles on the ledge where the window used to be. he took a deep breath, one hand on the car itself for a second. Then he shut his eyes, clapped his hands together forcefully, and touched them to the door itself.
Al had to admit it was amazing to watch. Ed stood there, eyes closed and a look of fierce concentration on his face. The bottles shed their shape and size, dissolving and congealing into a serviceable window. After a moment, the blue electrical spark faded out and Ed opened one eye cautiously before opening both of them. He blinked and poked the window gently with one finger. "It worked," he said, sounding amazed. He looked up at Al and grinned. "It actually worked!"
Al slid off the fence and came over to inspect Ed's handiwork. "It did work," he said, pinging the glass softly with one finger. "It's not the right consistency for windshield," he said, "but it's certainly doable for the short term, before we can get back to Bobby's."
"Hell, yeah!" Ed crowed, then looked at his hands, curling them into fists. "This thing might be useful after all!"
"I wouldn't get too used to using it," Al said, opening the passenger side door and sliding in. "I just... dunno, it doesn't feel right, does it?"
Ed shrugged, getting in and closing his door carefully, so as not to shatter the temporary window. "It feels like... I don't know, I'm not sure how to explain it. It doesn't feel bad or wrong or dangerous..." He trailed off, staring off into the distance. "It's familiar, somehow." He glanced over at Al and shrugged, then started the car.
"Just be careful, okay?" Al twisted around, shuffling through the crap they'd tossed in the back seat until he found a map they'd picked up a few days earlier. "You said Anson, right?"
"Let's hit it," Ed said, turning the stereo on to familiar strains of Creedence as they pulled onto the two-lane stretch of road, headed for Anson.