Author: Mink & Jink
Rating: PG - Gen
Spoilers: None to General
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
He stared at the car from within the relative safety of the church walls.
Stay inside that church you hear me? Take one step out of there and this could all be over.
Dean hadn’t directly followed the order. Not immediately, anyway. He’d spent about two hours with the flood light from the car going up and down the beach looking for some sign of Sam. Some other entry point back into the jungle, a track, a print, a sign, anything at all. It was as though he had disappeared into thin air. Dean gritted his teeth. Something was fucking with them and doing a masterful job.
He'd taken himself back to church. Morning was coming and the old man with it. He would have answers. At least something more than footprints in the sand. The wind blew softly through the eaves, stirring the Spanish moss like cobwebs and brushing through Dean’s sweat damp hair. He'd closed his eyes, letting what was left of his rationale take over to stay the frantic edge of panic. Sam's cel phone was dead or off. There was no sign he'd been forced or coerced. No sign of struggle in the church. No hint of a showdown or even a second party on the beach. No return tracks.
The church looked like he felt. Dim, quiet and isolated. It was somehow a comforting feeling.
It was why they had sought out the church in the first place. So why did Sam leave? He closed his eyes and thought again about the small strip of beach he had found. The fading tracks in the sand and the way the surf came in and out, erasing what was left, leaving only a smooth wet clean surface... Dean opened his eyes.
When you couldn’t go left, and you couldn’t go right there was only straight ahead. Dean hadn’t thought much about the tracks because of how water distorted anything left in the sand. But there were no return markings. His thoughts turned to all of the boats that were dragged up and left on the beach. And the other fishing boats moored out on the calm surface of the channel.
Out in the water.
Dean pulled out all the crumpled maps he had stashed in his jacket. Tossing aside the city centric maps and the downtown zooms, he unfolded the largest of them that he had. It was a relief map that had a vague grid work of the city streets but was more concentrated on the layout of the land, including the coast. It was there in perfect detail. Dean squinted in the dull light from the overhead chandelier, fingers moving slowly over the blue water, eyes narrowed on the various scattered islands that lay just off the city shores in its sounds and channels.
There were dozens upon dozens of them. Dean raked a hand through his hair and sighed in frustration. Most of them were likely marshland, difficult terrain to search though. Some were bird and wildlife sanctuaries, a handful further down were close to tropical. But it’d take weeks to check them all out even if he had some kind of guide that knew their way around every mosquito hole out there.
His last contact in this town was entering the finer stages of rigor mortis in some bedroom and if he walked off of this condemned piece of hallowed ground he could end up like Sam. Taken away to God knows where with God knows who, for Gods knows what—
Dean nearly fell off the end of the church pew he’d been straddling but managed to keep his cool. He stood up awkwardly. No man could turn the world upside down better or faster than his old man. He was slightly ashamed that his father had to come all this way just for them. There was slight worry that his dad was going to blame him for Sam’s vanishing act. He was also slightly concerned that this was just what whatever forced them here wanted. But all in all, he was just really really fucking glad to see the old man’s face.
Dean hadn't a clue what to say. He shifted in place, making fists so he wouldn’t walk up and make the mistake of hugging him. That was for the better. His dad, it seemed, had plenty to say.
“Jesus Christ Dean.” His dad said, looking him up and down.
“W-What?” Dean asked in alarm.
“Yer lit up like a goddamn Christmas tree.”
Dean blinked, looking down at his muddy jeans and dirty T-shirt.
“You’ve been walking around town like that?” His dad shook his head and tossed down his bag. “No wonder they caught up with you so damn fast.”
Dean looked down at himself again and sighed.
“You can see it.” Dean surmised.
His father was all business, rummaging through his duffel and pulling out various objects. Tattered books, travel-worn leather cases, a glass vial or two. None of which Dean recognized. He felt his heart pick up a little in anxiety at his father's urgency.
“Ever been out at night and seen one of those search lights they used to use for enemy airplanes?” He asked. “Light up the clouds? Can see ‘em for miles?
“Uh, yeah?” Dean recalled. “Like the bat signal.”
“Yeah.” His dad grinned a little bit and shook his head. “That’s you.”
“How come it’s my mark and I can’t see a damn thing?” Dean looked up again.
“You worry about that after I get that thing offa you.”
Dean raised his eyebrows. “You can do that?”
His father's tired smile did nothing to reassure him.
“I have no idea.”
Dean deflated just a little.
“But I know I can at least well… tone it down.” His dad looked around the dilapidated church with his hands resting on his hips. “Just enough that you can walk on out of here and not call attention to yourself.”
“Sounds good to me.” Dean rubbed his hands together. “I think I have idea where Sam took off for, or was taken, or whatever, but I’m not sure—“
His father was taking out a series of long blades from his bag and laying them across a pew bench.
“Hey, this mark dampening thing,” Dean asked carefully. “What exactly does it entail—“
“Just lay down.” His dad said as he swiped a soft leather cloth over one of the shortest and wickedest looking knives. “It’ll be over before you know it.”
The nature of a land dictates its spiritual essence. History is the world's catalyst, changing beliefs, mapping ground, gaining territories. New words spread, new thoughts, new blood. The supernatural can only bend to its will.
What kind of battles dictate their sway? Just who ran the show in Savannah? The hearts of the slaves that had lived and died there. The blood and bones that nourished the soil without consecration to God or did that jurisdiction still lie with Him? Was He silent and wrathful, tolerating their presence? Or maybe He just did not care at all. Dean figured, as he lay in this House of the Holy, that he would soon find out. The word "holy" after all, did not belong to Him alone. Some things in magics were ridiculously complex to prepare and then somehow ridiculously simple to undo. Dean lay flat, blinking up at the high ceiling and the faces of saints smiling gently down at him. Fat lot of good they were.
His father's presence was like a rosary in his hand. Even unprepared, he knew never to question the old man. His father stood over him, speaking words he did not understand. Not Latin. Not even ancient Greek. It sounded to his ears like an African dialect, a strange patois he could not decipher. The words, whatever they were, had an affect.
A gasp of fear escaped him before he could stop himself. For the first time he saw the fine lines that ran down his arms, over his chest, his legs. Everywhere. He could feel the red lines smoldering as soon as his father had spoken the rites that summoned them once more to the surface of his flesh.
"Oh my God--" He breathed.
"Nothing to do with it." His father assured him. "Stay still."
He touched his own face carefully, aware of it glowing from under and over his eyes. Dean clutched his head. It hurt. It hurt bad.
“Easy.” His dad murmured, gaze locked on the ebb and flow of the mark across bare skin.
Dean breathed deeply, watching the lines pulse and circulate their light like blood through molten veins up his hands.
“Gotta find the crux.” Was all his father said.
He was examining Dean’s arms and then without any ceremony, yanked Dean’s shirt off over his head. He was following the pattern, tracing the lines as they ran and fed one another back to their source. He had explained earlier what it was that he was attempting to do. If you divert a steam from the river, the flow wanes, the water lowers and the river weakens. These lines, these red patterns were like streams feeding something larger.
Dean focused on the ceiling, on the placid stained glass faces. Mark, Luke, and John. Whoever they were. It was a scene he knew well. After the Resurrection. An angel came unto them to deliver the news. His father's voice again, speaking sharply in the foreign tongue.
Dean blinked at the tiny distinct crack above in the glass, fine particles of dust falling from the window. He frowned. Another crack, louder this time, colored glass splintering, pieces falling like rain around them. From beneath him, he felt a tremor in the ground, the walls seeming to shudder and groan. Someone, it seemed was not pleased.
"Dad--?" He swallowed.
Dean rolled over onto his stomach when his father appeared he was about to do it for him.
“Here we go.” His dad said somewhat triumphantly. “Now, don’t move.”
It was quick. A slick swift cut into his flesh, letting one blazing line flow off into another, the pattern that followed, doing the same. For a moment the build up of heat and energy made Dean grip his hands tight around the jacket he was holding under his face.
“It’ll hurt for a little bit.” His dad explained. “It’ll get better.”
It promptly got worse but Dean knew what his Dad’s assurances were usually worth. Could he not feel the ground trembling? He felt the knife cut across his back three more times until the heat seemed to suddenly dissipate, spread wide and even over his skin. Just about at the point Dean was going to start pounding his face into the wood floor to make it stop, the focal point and source of the worst of it was suddenly flooding away.
Dean experimentally held out a shaking hand. The bright lines were gone, just dark traces left, clean and even as if he’d been branded. He was covered in what looked like old burn scars that were left red and unhealed. But even those were fading as he watched.
He rolled over, held up by his father's steadying hand. He looked around him. Deep cracks had been made in the aged plaster. The faces of the saints above were split open and distorted, tiny pieces of them scattered on the ground like jewels.
“How do you feel?” The touch of gauze was held on his back where the knives had cut.
The house was silent.
“Perfect.” He replied.
Dean watched his father drink his coffee and didn’t say word.
It was strange being in the crowded diner. He kept looking over his shoulder, expecting someone to start pointing and staring at him. He self consciously pulled his sleeves as far as they could go over his hands. As if that would help hide the light if his skin went ablaze right here over a half eaten plate of pot roast and soggy broccoli. His dad didn’t seem very hungry either.
Dean had long since figured out that the phone call Sam had claimed was from their Dad had been a ploy, but he still didn’t ask how the hell his old man knew they were out here in Georgia. One hundred questions sat unasked on his tongue. He swallowed each of them back hard with every gulp of the coffee that was still a little too hot to drink.
His body ached. If he had to describe it, he’d say it almost felt like a bad sun burn. A sun burn that covered almost every inch of him. He took another more careful sip from his mug and figured he should be thankful that that ‘crux’ wasn’t somewhere else a bit more compromising.
With a sigh, Dean pulled out his phone yet again.
“Don’t bother.” His dad said.
“But what if he’s—“
“I think you’re right. They’ve got him out there on one of those islands, and we’re going to find out just which one.”
Dean hunkered down over his coffee and shoved his phone back into his pocket. He didn’t understand why they were just sitting here talking. They should be out there trying to find Sam. Talking to people. Maybe even make some contact with the police--
“He’s alive Dean.” His dad said softly. “If they wanted him dead, trust me, that’s how he’d be and they’d make damn sure we didn’t miss it.”
“Who is Gideon Dad? What're we dealing with here?”
The older man sighed, glancing behind him automatically to see if the booth behind them was empty. He rubbed his hand over his face, the way he did when there was too much to explain.
“A priest. A dangerous one." He stretched, looking as tired as he sounded. "Thought he was dead.”
Dean really had to give one to his dad regarding his gifts in oversimplified summarizations.
“Dad, look... I found letters…” Dean fumbled into his jacket and pulled out the yellowed paper. “I think they never got to you, they were locked up in vault. This chick, named Lily—“
Dean had to pause to gather his thoughts. “Uh yeah, a real old one, it was in the store, Lily’s old apartment?”
“What else did you find in there?”
“Uh, a gun, some cash and oh a eh… a book.” Dean found himself almost unwilling to admit he’d found that thing in there. The thin black book with its odd leather cover. It was as if its presence had been pushed right out of his mind.
“Did you take it?” His father asked, a strange tone in his voice.
Dean found himself searching for the explanation of why he hadn’t and coming up with nothing. He couldn’t say ‘it made me feel bad’. Feel bad? It had made him toss his cookies up in a sink.
“I didn’t think it was that important.” Dean lied.
“Police haven’t found that body yet.” His father said. “I want you to go get that book.”
Dean paused. A two day old body in warm weather he could handle but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to touch that book again. Still, an order was an order.
“When you’re done I want you to go right back to that church and stay there.” He said. “And don’t go flipping around in that book, you just leave it alone. Do you understand me?”
Dean swallowed. "Yes, sir."
His father’s coffee cup was empty. It was time to go to work.
“What are you going to do?”
His dad’s phone suddenly rang from its spot in the middle of the table. Reaching for it, he paused before he flipped the cel open.
“I’m going to go meet with someone who can help us.”
It was just getting dark again by the time he got back from the shop.
His dad had never been good on information. Never been too big on whys and what for. Even those closest to him were not privy to details. In a way, Dean almost appreciated this. For him, it had always been a motivator. There was no time for explanation, there was only the order; the mission. His dad had been pretty tight lipped about the priest named Gideon. He could only guess the obvious--a vodon.
The voodoo religion drew no line between the natural and spiritual world. They were one. And that’s what made this gig pretty damn problematic. All things carried an essence, all things were a vessel for power to be extracted and used. Few, however, could control them. Religion and its sway over the human mind had the potential for destruction. Its misuse was a recipe for disaster. Gideon, whoever he may have been, had been a powerful user indeed.
But his father was an old hand at unraveling the divine.
The mark, he'd told him, could have been placed on him anywhere. When he'd stepped across the threshold to the shop. When he'd passed a specific landmark. Certain charms were traps, requiring their victims to physically pass through a point in order to take effect. He might have had accomplices, someone to steal the zippo and link him to the mark.
The dark church closed in around him as he entered, comfortably as if its sanctuary was a physical thing he could sense. In the dark he made his way down the aisle and between the pews until he reached several stairs. The altar wasn’t there anymore of course, taken away when the place was deemed done and over.
For the hundredth time that day he slipped out the quiet cel phone from his pocket and looked at its blank display. Gripping it hard, he shoved it into the back of his jeans. He walked up onto the raised dais where the altar once stood, a wooden platform the only evidence that one was ever there. Taking the bundled jacket he had under his arm, he shook it until the black book fell from within its folds. It thankfully landed closed, making a loud clap against the floor when it struck.
His task completed, Dean stared down at the book and felt reluctant to turn his back on it. He wasn’t even sure how he was going to be able to catch some sleep with the thing under the same roof--
Dean swung around at the sound of his name, his pistol leveled evenly from his shoulder. The voice had been soft, urgent and almost right in his ear. The dark church was silent and unmoving. Its shadows lay undisturbed, the rows of pews sat empty.
He stepped carefully down the stairs, re-aiming his weapon with each shift of his gaze.
Loud this time.
The pistol lowered as he cocked his head listening closely. It wasn’t coming from inside the church, it seemed to be coming from outside the heavy double wooden doors he’d left open when he’d let himself in. Hesitantly raising his pistol again, he walked closer towards the entrance. He cleared his throat and tentatively raised his own voice.
The parking lot was lit up and washed out with stark moonlight. There was no one there. Dean breathed deeply as he talked himself down. Something was fucking with him. Something wanted him to leave. Shakily, Dean whipped out his cel phone and pressed redial. Voice mail.
"Shit. Dad, where the hell are you?"
Sam's voice, more urgent, made him catch his breath. Cursing, he started running, crashing blindly into the undergrowth. Whether Sam was there or not, he'd sure as hell find something. And when he did, he'd be ready.
The beach was quiet, the drifting tide eerie.
Inky waves whispered softly across the sand, the black ocean so wide and expansive it seemed almost able to pull someone in. Dean let his eyes adjust to the new dark as he scanned the shoreline. A lone, tall figure stood out in the distance.
"Sam!" He called out, his walk breaking into cautious run.
As he got closer he slowed. There was something strange about the familiar form. Something too flat and without dimensional. He stopped.
Dean reluctantly lowered his gun, realizing somehow that bullets would do nothing to whatever it was that was standing in front of him. It spoke, its voice as hollow and transparent as its body.
“I thought he was just good enough to bring you to me.” The thing that looked like Sam smiled someone else’s smile. “But Sammy’s so much more than that.”
There was someone standing behind Sam’s specter, something solid in the shadows. Talking, moving his lips silently and making Sam talk, animating his projection like he was some kind of doll.
“W-hat are you talking abou—“
“He’s good for lots of things.” It explained as if Dean was a slow child.
“You son of a bitch, where is my broth--Ahhg!”
“All you are good for is one thing.”
The night lit up with garish red light, glaring out from the lines carved on Dean’s skin, burning hot through his clothes, his limbs and flesh on fire. He fell gasping down to his knees, steam and smoke coming off the denim on his thighs and the sleeves of his jacket.
“All you can do is burn.”