Eleven: Crocodile Tears
“Just say when, and you'll stop the pain of your
life, bring it to an end. Just say when, and you could
make amends, just say Hello, say Hello again...”
thin voice wound up into the dusk, into the silence
that hung heavy on the air where the bullfrogs and muskrats
should have filled it with raucous life. The sky burned
bloody, shreds of cloud catching the dying light of
the sun, streaking copper and gold across the vault
of the sky. The terminus chased the sun, an arc of bruising
that swept over the marsh, scattered stars in its wake,
mirrored in the muddy water and on the small, glossy
black device that lay, caught in the reeds, half submerged.
again, it's not tha...ard. No dead ends, even wi...the
screen glowed eerily, flickered as water seeped in through
the casing, found the electronics inside and the music
stuttered out of the headphones, dangling, trailing
through the broken stems.
ha... no home... lost your throne, where ... Well...
could all co...ack, but you're be... led by the walking
dead. You s...umble an...crack ...ground, you're pinned
faint glow wavered one last time, died with a final
hiss of static and a low, tinny squeal of feedback.
When it faded, the marsh was silent again, air dank
and oppressive as the clouds covered the sky, smothered
the stars and the thin moon.
the darkness, the spark was easy to see.
white, it grew, shifted, pulsed in rippling waves until
it danced lazily above the rank water, the size of a
man's head, glowing fitfully, trailing short streamers
of pale gold with every twitching motion. The reflection
beneath it was darker, the light in the water a sullen
orange, a banked fire simmering below the surface, distorted
by the waves that spread from a shadow, apropos of nothing.
It reached out, the light spitting and hissing as it
followed the shadow, until the cold glow fell across
something white in the water, caught in eyes stretched
wide, a rictus grin. A hand, that stretched up, rigid
and motionless, fingers locked into claws that grasped
helplessly at empty air. A few, tiny bubbles drifted
between bared teeth, trickled up through the shredded
weeds and silt to the surface.
had to be in the top ten.
peered dubiously at the tiny room, wrinkled his nose
as he filed it in his list of the Worst Motel Rooms
Ever. The walls looked like they'd been painted
with nicotine, wallpaper peeling away in ragged strips
from the damp patches along the ceiling, the largest
of them spreading out like wings from the bare bulb
dangling on its cable. The beds were pressed close together,
as if they were huddling away from the walls, just the
smallest cabinet he'd ever seen tucked between them,
missing its drawer, and the gritty, sticky carpet kept
sucking at his boots every time he moved. Not that he
dared move far; perching on the wobbly, least questionable
chair by the listing table, the laptop open on top as
he wondered just how far out of it he'd been the night
before, for this dump to look appealing.
tried not to look at the bed. The thought that he'd
slept in it, woken up with his face buried in the gray,
his hands into fists, Sam sat and waited, wincing when
the stitched and bandaged slash across one palm twanged
with pain. He checked his watch, couldn't hold back
the tut that echoed quietly in the silent room.
won't be long, Sam. Just gonna run to the diner down
the block,” he muttered to himself, rolling his
eyes with the memory of his brother's words. “Gimme
a minute,” he'd called after Dean, hurried
out of the avocado bathroom to hear the Impala roar
away with a squeal of tires. Desperate to get out of
the room, just for a minute, he'd actually chased out
into the parking lot wearing just his jeans and a faded
t-shirt, and watched as the classic fishtailed onto
his head into his hands, he sighed, gritted his teeth
and wondered if he had time to pour the peroxide from
the first aid kit into Dean's shampoo.
bag slid across the table and thumped into his elbow,
almost before he'd registered the fan of weak light
spreading across the floor. He shot to his feet.
You could've waited, man!”
winced at the whine in his voice, folded his arms across
his chest and scowled. His brother stood in the doorway,
leaning against the frame, a half-eaten burger in one
dude. Didn't think you'd want to come.”
lips pursed against the huff that built up in his throat.
Dean just shrugged and rolled away from the frame, taking
another bite of his lunch as he headed for the table,
mumbling something incomprehensible around the mouthful.
does it take two hours to go to the diner down the block?
Two. Hours. Dean.”
I had to do something. You got any idea how boring it
is, sitting here, watching you sleep 'til noon? How's
your head, anyway?”
was, he realized. The headache that had plagued him
for the last three days, ever since they'd put the Mexican
border in their rear view mirror, was gone as if it
had never pounded at the back of his eyes.
Dean sounded satisfied. “Told you you just needed
I need is to get out of this dump,” Sam grumbled,
dropping back into his chair with a sigh and reaching
for the bag. He almost smiled when he found the neatly
wrapped bagel inside, sniffed appreciatively at the
grilled cheese oozing out over his fingers.
I think maybe I found us a gig.”
younger man nodded, mouth full of cheese and ham, tilted
his head to one side at his brother. Dean smirked, eyes
warm for a moment before they slid away, down to the
hand that sneaked into Sam's bag and came back with
a fistful of fries. “Long Neck Village, Delaware.
There's an old cannery there, been haunted for years,
according to local legend. You know, weird lights, strange
noises, usual kind've thing. Only now, word's gotten
out and they decided to turn it into a tourist trap.”
winced around another mouthful of bagel.
A tour group went in there, four of 'em had to be carried
out. The guide was pretty cut up, Casey said he was
in hospital for a couple weeks.”
at the bakery. Her uncle's sister in law's third cousin,
or something, was on the tour.”
an affirmative. I talked the clerk into letting us check
out late, so we can hit the road soon as we're packed.”
raised a brow at that. “You managed to convince
the clerk of this crap hole of a motel into letting
us check out late? As in; not pay for another night?”
Casey's step-brother's uncle twice removed. I think.”
older man screwed up his empty wrapper, tossed it over
his shoulder and rose as it rolled around the rim of
the trashcan. Sam stuffed the last bite of his bagel
in his mouth and followed his brother to the beds as
he chewed, crouching down to heft his duffel onto the
mattress. There wasn't much to pack. They'd hit the
motel so late he'd barely even taken the time to kick
his boots off before collapsing into sleep and all he
had to do was fold the clothes he'd woken up in and
stuff them into his bag.
yank them back out again when the phone he'd forgotten
he'd left in the pocket of his jeans started buzzing
inside the bag. He felt Dean's gaze shift to him, glanced
up and watched the older man still, one hand buried
in his own duffel, knew it was wrapped around a knife
or a gun. Dean just blinked at him, calm and outwardly
so relaxed that Sam wondered if he really did see the
edge of naked distrust in his brother's stare, of innate
suspicion, directed at whoever was on the other end
of the phone.
looked down, only realizing his shoulders had hunched
when they dropped at the name on the screen as he answered
How you boys getting along?”
grinned quickly, tension bleeding out of his eyes as
he started packing again.
good. Just heading out, actually. Gig in Delaware.”
spine stiffened at the edge in the hunter's question
and he straightened.
of victims, no fatalities. Why?”
can get someone on it. Could use you boys on a job up
put one hand across the speaker, looked up at his brother
got a job he needs a hand on. He'll put someone on to
the Long Neck thing.”
nodded, slung his bag over one shoulder.
get this out to the car.”
mirrored the gesture, turned back to the phone.
got us Bobby. I'll e-mail you the info once we're on
That's good. Thanks, Sam.”
what's the job?”
tried to keep it casual, but Bobby's thanks and edgy
pressure grated against his nerves.
East, in Wisconsin, place called Horicon Marsh. Got
a long history of disappearances, but nothin' too unusual.
Always kept my eye on it, but I never thought there
was anythin' to it. Jus' bad luck or bad plannin'.”
picked up?” Sam guessed, scanning the room for
a pen and paper, finally grabbing one of the tattered
take-out menus on the table and diving into his satchel
for a stub of pencil.
Seven folk gone missing over the past year. Only the
last few've been found, first time it's happened. They
were torn up some. Cops haven't released details, but
I got a hold've the ME's report. Says they died of natural
causes, heart attacks and the like, and their hands
were shredded. Like they'd died clawin' at somethin'.”
stomach churned as he scribbled notes in the margins,
between meatloaf and minute steak, on the other side
of an old memory; his brother's fingers, battered and
bleeding as Sam dragged him from the ground in Elicott
puts the time of death at two to three days after the
vics went missing. Cops are putting it down to people
getting lost out in the marsh, saying the higher rainfall
this year has made it more treacherous, but that's a
load've crock. Somethin's out there, taking folks.”
You got any idea what it could be, Bobby?”
could almost see the grizzled hunter's annoyed shrug,
jumped a little as the front door banged open and Dean
stomped inside, headed for Sam's clothes, still strewn
across his bed for the second time in as many hours.
There's a ton've lore came over with the Europeans who
settled the area, and then some more from the tribes
who lived there before that, but nothin' seems to fit
grinned wearily at the edge of petulance in the older
well, we'll figure it out as we go along. Thanks for
the heads up.”
mechanic hung up with a muttered grumble, and Sam snapped
his phone shut, leaned back in his chair with a sigh.
Lifted one hand to press it across his eyes, pinching
at the bridge of his nose. He listened to the soft rustle
behind him as clothes were rolled and stuffed into a
duffel, denim scraping at canvas. His brother's ring
chinked quietly against the small cabinet between the
beds, gathering his belongings. Sam felt Dean watch
him as he packed, gaze still for a long moment before
Bobby got for us?”
disappearing in Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin.” He
sat up, pulled the laptop closer to him across the wobbly
table, pecked at the keys, calling up a favorite mapping
site. “It's near Beaver Dam. Looks like about
four hundred miles.”
could hear the frown in his brother's voice, but squinted
at the screen, rubbing absently at the dull ache in
hasn't got anyone closer than us?”
driven further for less,” Sam murmured.
older man muttered under his breath and he grinned,
powered the laptop down, sitting back with a wince.
Rolling his head, his neck cracked and he stretched,
peering round at his brother. Dean slung one duffel
over his shoulder, hefted the weapons bag in one hand
and looked steadily back at him.
sure you're up for this?”
ticked one shoulder up in a shrug, nodded.
I'll be fine.”
my line,” Dean growled, heaved out a put-upon
sigh and trudged to the door, shifting the strap over
his shoulder. “You comin' or not? I wanna get
a few of Bobby's four hundred damn miles behind us before
we stop again.”
us checked out. I'll be right there.”
waited for his brother's answering grunt, for the door
to click shut between them before he propped his elbows
on his knees and his head into his hands. His breath
stirred his bangs, slow and even until he held it, lips
thinned together. Heat pricked at the back of his eyelids,
burned in his throat and he swallowed hard, let air
out with a whoosh, emptying his lungs until they ached.
listened to the familiar creak of the car doors, stared
at the shapes drifting behind his eyes, tried not to
see a figure with tiger-striped skin peeling away from
its flesh sneering at him in every last one of them.
He jumped when the door slammed shut outside, smiled
weakly, knew his brother was trying to give him space
and still keep them functioning. Doing their job.
himself to his feet, he wobbled for a moment, caught
himself against the edge of the table, waited for the
world to settle again before he stuffed the laptop into
its bag and tucked it under his arm. He walked slowly
to the door, stopped at the small, fly-speckled window
and peered out as Dean shouldered through the office
door, jogged down the steps and paused at the bottom,
staring at their room. Even across the lot, Sam could
see his brow crease, one hand worrying at the ring on
the other. He wondered if his brother even knew how
easy he was to read.
sighed, pushed away from the wall in the same moment
that his brother started walking again.
want me to drive?”
just looked up at him as they neared the car from opposite
sides, one brow quirked. Sam huffed and folded himself
into the passenger seat, slouching as the car rocked
a little beneath him. Their doors groaned shut in unison,
the engine rumbling to life with a quick twist of the
older man's wrist, the radio burping static at them
for a beat before Dean snapped it off with a growled
curse and sat back, fingers wrapped around the wheel
in the corner of Sam's vision.
stole a glance sideways, saw his brother's clenched
older man didn't answer for a long time, just stared
through the windshield, white-knuckling the steering
wheel. When he finally spoke, his voice was carefully
neutral, rigidly controlled.
think Castiel really... turned back time? Just to give
Ernesto another chance?”
hesitated, felt the tension settle between them again.
Remembered the ice in his brother's snarl when he'd
held a gun levelled at the priest's head, Dean's eyes
too dark in his pale face, even when he let the gun
drop. And he wondered who'd really been given the second
chance in Ciudad del Maldecido.
was more to the question than an old war hero's conscience,
he knew, could almost see the shape of it in the half-glance
Dean shot his way as he nodded slowly, dropped the car
into drive. Almost, but not quite, and all he could
do was watch the scenery slide past, wet fields turning
to forests, to lakes and wide plains, stretching horizon
car slowed, woke him from a doze and he blinked at flickering
strip lights, peeled his face away from the window.
gas,” Dean muttered as the engine rumbled into
the quiet buzz of insects. Sam nodded, yawning, rolling
his shoulders as he followed his brother out of the
car. The older man left the pump working and headed
for the office, boots quiet against the forecourt.
leaned against the car, elbows on the roof, buried his
hands in his hair, fisting them tight in frustration.
His hair caught in his fingers, tugged at his scalp
until it itched, the stitches Dean had carefully placed
in the cut on his palm stinging as they pulled beneath
the bandage. He huffed out a slow breath, pulled in
another and let his eyes drift shut. The pump clicked
off in the same moment that his phone buzzed inside
the car, and he reached in through the open door, snatched
it from the seat. He scanned the screen, flipped it
open as he headed for the trunk and hefted the nozzle
out of the car, hooked it back into the holder on the
side of the old pump.
you boys doin'?”
we're at...” he craned his neck back, squinted
at the sign above the door, so faded he could barely
read it. “Lake Puckaway. Some fill-up joint.”
hinge groaned loudly and for a moment he blinked stupidly,
sleepily at the front of the car, half expecting to
see his brother there, leaning on the open door.
you're a couple hours out still?”
Yeah, I guess.” Sam frowned, fingers splayed on
the roof of the car tightening. “Why? What's happened,
heavy sigh crackled down the line and the furrows in
his brow deepened, eased as a long tongue of light spread
across the dark lot and he followed it, saw a broad
shouldered silhouette swagger through the noisy door
and head for the car. Sam smiled a little, relaxed into
the metal, saw his brother's head tilt to the side.
he mouthed, turning so that the older man could see
his phone. Dean nodded as he neared the car, folded
his elbows against the roof.
it is out there, it's steppin' up its game. Took someone
else last night.”
That takes the body count to eight in the last year?”
watched his brother straighten, jaw tight, eyes flat
Someone's gonna notice soon, Sam. We gotta stop it before
a posse of damn fool civilians head out there, thinking
it's a rogue bear or somethin' and get themselves killed
for their trouble.”
We'll get there soon as we can, Bobby.”
hunter thanked him gruffly, left him with the dial tone
buzzing in his ear.
taken someone else?”
nodded “Last night.”
pushed away from the car, yawned, digging in his pocket
and tossing the keys to the younger man. Sam quirked
a brow at him.
smiled at his brother's snort, felt the expression tighten
when Dean yawned so hard his jaw cracked, strolling
around the car to shove lightly at Sam's shoulder.
drivin' better be better than your snoring, Samantha.”
hunter smirked, folding himself into the passenger seat.
a freakin' grizzly in winter, man.”
uh, no way.” Sam grinned again as he trotted to
the drivers door, hauled it open and peering in at his
brother, already slouched against the other window,
squirming. “Must be echoes from your side've the
huffed, amusement sparking in heavy-lidded eyes.
yeah, whatever lets you sleep at night, princess.”
younger man rolled his eyes, slid behind the wheel and
almost missed his brother's easy sigh as he turned the
key, the engine growling to life with a throaty roar.
He startled, scrabbled wildly at the radio as a guitar
howled through the speakers and shot a glance across
the car, expecting to find Dean laughing at him, a curse
ready on Sam's lips. It softened as he saw his brother,
head tipped back against the seat, oblivious. He left
the music screaming as he pulled out onto the interstate
the corner of his eye, Dean saw his brother's mouth
twitch. He rolled his shoulders, scratched at one wrist.
“You're sure Bobby didn't have anyone else who
was closer than us?”
man. I'm sure.” The younger man shook his head,
bent back into the trunk and the duffel he was packing,
propped against his hip. “Like you would've said
no anyway,” Sam continued in a low murmur. Dean
scowled, threw a glare over his shoulder as he stomped
to the edge of the parking lot. He crossed his arms
and glowered out across the marsh, watching the dusk
creep towards him as the sun dipped to the horizon at
his back, stars fading in across the sky, reflecting
faintly in the water.
seemed to go on forever, stretching away and he wondered
how many ghosts wandered out in the marsh, never finding
their way home.
oughta be crawlin' with spooks,” he murmured,
felt his brother's gaze brush across his back. Chewed
at his lip, shuffled his feet as something fluttered
along his nerves.
hunter stared out at the twilight for a moment, until
his eyes burned, trying to place whatever it was that
had him on edge but there was just mud and water before
him and mosquitoes whining around his head.
Yeah, 'm good.”
stepped up to his shoulder, peered uncertainly at him.
The older man swatted another bug trying to land on
bloodsuckers,” he muttered, grabbed the duffel
from his brother and headed for the narrow path winding
out of the lot. “You comin' Sam?”
could almost hear his brother's eyeroll and grinned.
They walked in silence for a time, boots thudding softly
against the path, picking their way through sections
where rain and people had trampled the dirt to mud.
answered absently, watching a firefly waver in the distance.
think Bobby knows?”
frowned, looked back over one shoulder.
ducked his head, rolled his shoulders uncomfortably.
the dimensions. About us.”
he wasn't sure his brother was talking about the weak
spots they'd helped create. About us, Sam said, loaded
the pronoun too heavily for him to miss it. About
them, the others, us in parallel dimensions. Wolfed
out or Yellow eyed.
he started, didn't get any further before Sam looked
up at him, past him, eyes widening, a light in them
that for a second, just for a second turned them pale
and yellow and his heart stuttered, skipped back into
rhythm as his brother lurched past him and started running.
was already turning, pushing off, barely dodging around
a patch of mud taking up half the trail but the younger
man's long legs and longer stride were carrying him
away, Sam sprinting after the light that dipped and
bobbed in front of him. No firefly, too big and too
damn smart, he thought, watching it weave away across
brother yelled something back, indecipherable above
the pounding rush in his head, damp air sawing in and
out of his lungs.
every rule in the book, Dean knew it, rushing headlong
into who-knew-what, gray curling around the edges of
his vision as he tried to suck in enough oxygen with
the taste of swamp and the mosquitoes that had been
an annoyance before were suddenly vital, lodging at
the back of his throat. He choked, hacked it clear,
eyes streaming so much that he never saw the dip in
the raised pathway, the boardwalk following it faithfully,
some recent flood leaving a coating of slime across
the wood. His feet just went out from under him, too
much momentum to control the fall at all and he hit
hard, skidded and rolled straight over the edge of the
walk, head clipping the railing as he spilled out into
fountained around him, crashed back down and he sputtered,
flailed at the trailing weed that tangled around him,
pulled him down until he couldn't tell air from mud.
Dean shook his head, blinked the stars out of his vision,
came back to himself crouched in the edge of the marsh,
side throbbing dully, his temple sparking with brighter
pain. He probed it, hissed as his fingers pressed a
lump already swelling in his hairline, a thin trace
of blood on the tips when he peered at them.
he mumbled, panted, still breathless from the spring
and the fall but already crawling for the raised path
bed. Mud slipped through his fingers, ground thick and
gritty into his skin, clogged his nails as he dragged
himself up the bank, wind biting through his wet clothes
and he shivered when he finally rolled onto the path,
breath clouding in front of his face, thick fog that
billowed against the stars. With a whispered curse,
he rolled to his knees, flicking crud from his fingers
and staring out across the marsh.
called, out in the distance, thin shriek of something
dying, something else surviving, but there was nothing
to see, no light dipping and weaving across the water,
no tall figure loping away from him.
one to answer the quiet prayer that slipped past him
as he sank back to the ground, eyes pinned helplessly
to the empty horizon.
the episode here