Fandoms: Supernatural/Teen Wolf
Characters: Sam, Stiles, Dean, Lucifer, the nogitsune, others.
Word count: c29,000 words.
Warning: hallucinations, panic attacks.
Summary: Having been awake for days, tormented by hallucinations of Lucifer, Sam is at the end of his rope. In order to try and help him, Dean drags his brother to a small California town to meet with one of Bobby's contacts.
But everything isn't what it seems in Beacon Hills, and while Dean tries to unravel the town's mysteries, Sam commits himself to the local mental institution, Eichen House. His roommate, Stiles Stilinski, is a boy with secrets of his own, but Sam and Stiles will have to learn how to work together while struggling against their own demons if they want to survive what lurks in Eichen House.
A/N: Written for the sncross_bigbang challenge until it died out before art claims. I decided to finish the story and post it anyway. This fic is an AU for SPN's episode 7.17 "The Born-Again Identity", and for Teen Wolf's 3.20 "Echo House." Thank you to my friend sevenofspade for her help!
I should maybe specify that the depiction of Eichen House in this fic being faithful to Teen Wolf canon, it means that it has little to do with actual mental institutions in real life.
Link to the fic on AO3
“I’m okay,” Sam said, and then coughed into the crook of his elbow. It was an exhausted sound, barely more than a weak expulsion of air.
“Yeah, you look fine,” Dean said in a drawl.
He glanced into his rearview mirror for traffic, then back at his brother, whose bruised eyes gave him the air of someone who’d been repeatedly punched in the face. Sam was huddled on as though he was cold, crunched over himself like a wrinkled tissue. He was leaning against the door on his side—Dean was pretty sure it was because it took too much effort for him to sit up straight—and cradling his hurt wrist in his lap like a broken baby bird.
“How long have you been up again? Three days?”
“Almost four days,” Sam murmured into the fabric of his jacket.
“How long can someone stay awake before they’re toast? Don’t answer that,” Dean said, even though Sam hadn’t said anything, hadn’t even opened his mouth to speak.
He felt a restless, jittery sort of energy run through him, maybe from all the coffee he’d drunk. It made him drum his fingers against the wheel and jiggle his left leg; his other leg was busy pressing down on the gas pedal with all his might. He hadn’t put any music on, vaguely hoping that the familiar purr of the Impala would lull Sam to sleep and not wanting to distract him from it, but so far Sam was staying stubbornly awake. Dean could pretend he didn’t know much about sleep deprivation, but in fact he’d googled the shit out of it and learned enough to freak himself out: heart failure, hallucinations, psychosis—a nice laundry list of problems was awaiting his brother. Although with Lucifer roaming inside his brain, Sam was probably halfway there anyway.
From the corner of his eye he saw Sam startle and wince, but his brother kept his eyes fixed on the road, refusing to give any more acknowledgement to whatever Lucifer had come up with to drive him crazy.
“This guy’s supposed to be good,” Dean said a little too loud, and Sam’s eyes momentarily left the road to give him a sideway glance.
“Who’s it again?”
“Some sort of druid guy Bobby knew.” A moment of silence floated by; it still didn’t feel right to be talking about Bobby that way, like a thing of the past. “Anyway, I called him, so he’ll be waiting for us.”
“Did he say he could help?”
The guy had been pretty circumspect, actually, but hadn’t outright said he couldn’t help, and this had been all the encouragement Dean needed to drag their asses across the country. None of the other people he’d called had even hinted at the possibility of help.
At Dean’s answer Sam’s face shut down, shadowed with doubt and the sour edge of something else—likely resignation. They’d been through that dance before, with Sam acting all gloom and doom and Dean wrestling fucking windmills with the power of positive thinking. He was a goddamn optimist, in a way, even if life had done its damnest to beat it out of him. Not the enthusiastic kind, mind you; more like the grit-your-teeth-and-keep-going kind, but it got wearing after a while to always be the one who clung to the hope that they could get to the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It gave him a jolt to see that look on his brother’s face again, and he nudged him in the ribs. None too gently, it seemed, because Sam winced. Lack of sleep made him brittle and sensitive, like with every passing hour he lost a little more substance.
“Hey,” Dean said. “Don’t make that face. We’ll fix this.”
“You don’t have to—”
“Do we fucking need to have that conversation again?”
“You don’t have to fix everything,” Sam finished softly.
Dean ground his teeth, feeling the ache spread from his jaws to his temple, giving the jumpstart to a headache. “This, at least, I have to fix.”
Sam sighed and said nothing. Too tired to fight, probably.
Silence stretched for a while, Sam so quiet that Dean would have thought he’d fallen asleep if he didn’t know any better. Some part of him did hold onto the hope that Sam was asleep, foolishly enough, and he let himself entertain the illusion by not checking on Sam for about ten minutes. If he wasn’t watching, for all he knew his brother could be sleeping. Sam shattered this daydream all by himself when he spoke up, “I think you should leave me somewhere while you go check that this guy’s on the level.”
“Well, yeah, I thought you would be staying at the motel. I mean, I’m not gonna drag you through town if this guy’s a bust.”
“This wasn’t what I meant.”
“What did you mean, then?”
“I didn’t mean a motel. I meant something more like a psychiatric hospital.”
Dean almost swerved them off the road.
“Jesus Christ, Dean!” Sam yelled. The shock from the car almost crashing had breathed second life into him and he’d sat up in his seat, his cheeks flushed with emotion.
“What’re you talking about? I’m not gonna drop you to the nuthouse like you’re a fucking head case!”
“I—” Sam jumped and tightened his jaws, probably in reaction to something his demonic headmate had done or said. “I am a head case.” He lifted his bandaged arm off his lap. “Look what happened already. I almost got ran over by a car! I can’t trust half of what I see or hear. He could—” Sam cut himself off, biting back on the words he’d been about to say, like he’d gone too far already by giving Lucifer the honor of a personal pronoun. “I can’t be left on my own. And you need to go see this guy.”
Dean gripped the wheel hard enough that he felt like the skin was going to snap at the knuckles. “We’ll talk about it when we get there,” he said.
Sam sagged back into his seat, looking spent. The will to argue seemed to have leaked out of him. “What’s this place?” he asked instead.
Dean had told him all this before. He’d talked about Bobby’s druidic friend and had named their destination, but sleeplessness made Sam’s memory flicker like a dying radio.
“Bobby’s friend lives in California. Should bring back some memories, right, Sammy?” He flashed Sam a smile, but Sam didn’t look like he’d seen it, or at least he didn’t react to it. “Somewhere up north. I believe the name of the town’s Beacon Hills.”
It doesn’t look so bad, was Sam’s first thought when he and his brother entered the hall of Eichen House. It was wide and well-lit, with arched glass doors and square white columns. Without the people in scrubs wandering around, it would have looked like a nice seaside resort.
“It’s not so bad,” he made the effort of saying out loud for Dean’s benefit. Standing by his side like a very intense bodyguard, his brother was scowling at everyone in the hall like he was thinking about testing them with holy water. Or worse.
“Man, this place gives off a terrible vibe,” Lucifer commented, loudly cheerful. “Sammy my boy, I’ll think we’ll have a lot of fun here.”
Sam ignored him, as he always did—except for that one time, you idiot, you let him in, shut up, shut up—but unfortunately Lucifer’s words had overridden whatever reply Dean had made.
“Sorry, you were saying? I—I didn’t hear you.” Dean gave him a pained look. “Look, Dean, this is just proving my point. I can’t be left alone, and you can’t drag me around town.”
This made Dean scowl even harder and he looked like he was going to argue. Sam stifled a sigh. They’d had that argument already, back at the motel. Dean had obviously hoped that Sam would feel too drained to bring up the topic of hospitalization again, but Sam’s stubbornness was all that still sustained him. He’d looked it up on the Internet and found about Eichen House, and then it had been a battle of wills to convince Dean. Maybe he’d only won because he looked so awful his brother had taken pity on him, but in the end all that mattered was that they were here now. Sam only wanted to find a bed and try to rest. What he really wanted was sleep, of course, but that didn’t look like it would be happening any time soon, and he would take what he could. If his mind would just—
The pristine white walls of Eichen House’s hall started bleeding. The blood ran down from the ceiling to the floor until they were covered with it and it looked like they were standing in a slaughterhouse. Sam resisted the urge to close his eyes. His ears rang with the sound of Lucifer’s manic laughter—mocking him for his futile resistance—and the only thing that kept him from covering them with his hands was the knowledge that it would do nothing to stop the sound.
“Dean,” he said, his voice strained. “Let’s get this over with. Please.”
Dean narrowed his eyes, but once again Sam must have looked sufficiently terrible to kill his will to continue this fight.
“Fine,” Dean said, with just a little bite to the word. “If you’re sure.”
Sam let him take the lead through the whole procedure, and barely remembered anything about it afterward. They took his belt, and his phone, and for a moment Sam thought his brother was going to drag him by the arm out of the hospital right here and then, but he merely gritted his teeth and told Sam, “I’ll come and get you as soon as I can.”
An orderly led Sam through weirdly echoing hallways. Lucifer was making idle comments as they walked, but he was acting strangely subdued compared to his usual self and it wasn’t very hard to tune him out.
“We’re having a little problem right now: the teenager ward is crowded and we don’t have enough beds for all our patients,” the orderly explained. Sam didn’t understand why until she opened the door to a room he supposed was his, and Sam saw that one of the two narrow beds was occupied by a teenage boy with dark hair.
The kid sat up on the bed at their entrance. “Hey,” he said, frowning at Sam. “Where’s Oliver?”
“Oliver has gone back home,” the orderly said. “Here’s your new roommate.”
“You’re not gonna make any trouble, right, Stiles?” the orderly said with a pointed look.
“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it,” mumbled the boy—what kind of name was Stiles? He fell back on his bed, scowling at the ceiling.
“Make yourself at home,” the orderly said to Sam, who nodded dazedly. “We’re locking you up for the night.”
She closed the door behind her, and when Sam heard the clicking sound of the lock he had the impulse to call her back, say he’d changed his mind. It only got worse when Lucifer looked at Sam’s new roommate and said with unholy glee, “Sammy, you got yourself in a bit of a situation.”
What do you mean? Sam wanted to say, but didn’t. It didn’t seem to make any difference to Lucifer because he answered as though Sam had spoken out loud, “Oh, I can’t tell you. I’ll be a lot more fun to let you find out by yourself.”
Sam walked heavily to the empty bed and dropped down on it. It felt good to be off his feet. He lay down over the covers, and for an instant the prone position brought a relief so intense he almost thought it might be enough. In a matter of minutes, though, he started to feel restless and desperate for sleep again, but then Lucifer started bouncing on the bed so that still wasn’t in the cards.
He almost startled when Stiles said, “Soooo, what’s your name?”
“Welcome to Eichen House, Sam. I’m Stiles—and no, that’s not my real first name, it’s a nickname based on my last name, but my real name is unpronounceable and even my dad calls me Stiles.”
“’Stiles’ is fine,” Sam said hoarsely. Speaking had started to feel like a chore.
He heard a rustle as Stiles shifted on his bed. “You look terrible, man. When was the last time you slept?”
Sam chuckled weakly. “It’s been a while. Can’t sleep.”
Stiles’ little snort sounded almost amused, and it puzzled Sam enough that he turned his head on the pillow to look at the boy. He squinted at him and saw that Stiles looked tired too, his eyes shadowed and his mouth pulled tight. Another insomniac? This was indeed an almost amusing coincidence, if one had a twisted sense of humor. Although Sam doubted this kid also shared headspace with the Devil.
As if cued by Sam thinking about him, Lucifer started to cackle madly.
“You can’t sleep either?” Sam said, trying to sound something else than utterly exhausted.
Stiles shot him a look Sam couldn’t decipher. “You could say that, I guess. I can’t sleep.”
There was something odd about the way he emphasized can’t, but Sam’s brain had been shrinking for days and he couldn’t put his finger on it.
His new roommate was quiet. Too quiet, even, and at some point during the night Stiles might have wished that Sam was a little more outwardly crazy, if only to keep him entertained. But if Stiles had felt a twinge of unease when he’d realized that he was going to share a room with a grown-up man built like a mountain, he didn’t anymore. Dude was obviously at the end of his rope, eaten away by lack of sleep: pale face, bruised eyes, every one of his movements heavy like he wore his clothes doubled with lead. He had a bandaged wrist and Stiles wondered if it was the result of self-harm. Looking at Sam was like staring his own future in the face, what would become of him if his friends didn’t quickly find a way to get him rid of his clandestine passenger.
This wasn’t a cheery thought. None of his thoughts were very cheery, and one of the problems with this not sleeping thing is that when you’re not asleep, nights are long and unbearably boring. He tried to distract himself: sing songs in his head, trying to remember all the lyrics, recite the alphabet backward—although that almost put him to sleep, so he stopped—even do math problems, which would undoubtedly make Lydia very proud of him if she knew. It was never enough to keep his thoughts away from everything he didn’t want to think about. The thing that came up the most was that memory of himself twisting a sword into Scott—that look on Scott’s face, the utter betrayal in his eyes, the pain.
Sam yelled, fell off the bed, and Stiles almost jumped out of his skin. A fortunate thing, actually, because now that he was wide awake Stiles realized that he’d been drifting off to sleep. So he sounded only mildly pissed off when he said, “Jesus, man. You almost gave me a heart attack.”
“Sorry,” Sam mumbled.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, leaned his elbows on his shoulders, and rubbed his face with both hands in a gesture that betrayed a weariness that went beyond words.
“Did I sleep?” he asked. “How long was I asleep?”
“Uh.” Lacking anything better to do, Stiles had checked on Sam not too long ago, and the man had been blinking owlishly at the ceiling then. “No more than a few minutes,” he answered. Then he added, “Sorry,” because Sam had sounded so hopeful when he asked.
“Of course,” Sam muttered. “You asshole.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“No, not you, just—”
Sam gestured vaguely and Stiles followed the direction of his hand, but there was nothing there that Stiles could perceive in the semi-darkness of their room. Was Sam seeing or hearing things? Anything was possible, after all, given where they were.
“I’m sorry,” Sam said. “Did I wake you up?”
“Nah, it’s cool. Told you I can’t sleep.”
“Right. You told me that.”
Sam raised his head and Stiles couldn’t quite make out his expression, but he could hear something in Sam’s voice that pierced through his usual tone of inhuman exhaustion. Something assessing.
“Did you have a nightmare?” he asked quickly, wanted to divert Sam’s attention from him. “Looked pretty nasty from where I stand.”
“Something like that. A nasty piece of work.”
The last words sounded like they were addressed to someone else, and Stiles contained a shiver. For all that Sam looked like he would keel over at a breath of wind, he was a man twice Stiles’ size and he was, uh. Well, he must have a reason to be here.
“Why are you in for, by the way?” he asked before his brain could veto it.
Then he winced: there was probably some kind of mental hospital etiquette that forbid that sort of query. Plus, it invited the same question about him, and he definitely didn’t want to discuss that topic.
“I hear and see things,” Sam said flatly. Huh, so Stiles had been right—how not comforting at all. “Whether they caused the insomnia, or the insomnia is brought by the hallucinations has yet to be determined. ‘Psychotic breakdown’ were the words the doctor used.”
“Oh,” Stiles said, feeling like a shithead. “That’s, uh, that’s rough, man.”
He waited for Sam to turn the question around on him, which would only be fair, and tried to think of what he could answer. He could always say he suffered from the same thing, and it wouldn’t even be too far from the truth: those glimpses he’d caught of the nogitsune since his arrival, they had to be hallucinations. A way for that damn fox to mess with his mind since he couldn’t control him for the moment. Because the alternative, that the nogitsune was somehow able to project himself out of Stiles and manipulate things around him, was so scary that Stiles might shit himself just thinking about it.
What the matter, Jordan?
It’s gone! I can’t find it!
Stiles startled and shot the locked door a look. Fuck, those echoes sounded like the voices of ghosts summoned from hell.
“You heard that,” Sam said.
It wasn’t a question, and Stiles thought of what Sam had just said about having auditory hallucinations. He probably couldn’t trust anything he heard, but the notion that he was using Stiles as a soundboard for reality almost made him giggle from the irony of it.
“Yeah,” he said, trying to keep the chuckles in. Maybe the urge to laugh was a symptom of the sleep deprivation setting in. “Don’t worry about it. They’re, uh, they’re just echoes. Oliver—he was my roommate before you—told me there was something about the way this place was built that made everything echo. Creepy, right?”
More words drifted up to them, bouncing against the walls on their way: going to sleep now… give you something to help…
“How long have you been here?” Sam asked.
“Just for a day.”
He’d been in here for one day, and he already felt like an old hand at this—look at him, helping a newbie settle in. A few months in this place and he would fit in there like he’d never known anything else.
Except you don’t have a few months, do you?
Sam had lapsed into silence again, maybe trying to get back to sleep, maybe just too exhausted to keep talking. Stiles braced himself for a few more hours of being alone in the dark with his own thoughts.
Ironically, Dean had a hard time sleeping after he left Sam behind at the loony bin. It was far from the first time he’d slept in a motel room on his own, but he always got used again to his brother’s presence so fast every time he got him back that he still found the room too quiet for his taste. The sounds from the odd car driving past his window at irregular intervals, the loud arguments from the drunks coming out of the bar that was up ahead the street, the strident cat fights, only served to underline the absence of another person’s noises in the room.
He slept in fits, waking several times to the dark, quiet room with his heart pounding, overcome by the panicked thought that there was something he should be doing. In a way, it had been easier when he’d had Sam to fret over; now he just felt restless and impotent.
He was awake and up at 6, but made himself wait for a decent hour before he visited the druid. He went to get coffee at the diner across the street, and used the restaurant’s wifi to check the local news on Sam’s laptop. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular; it was just a lifelong habit, but what he found made him frown: a lot of animal attacks, mass murderers on the loose, ninja attacks—what the hell?—and apparently the police station had recently been blown up.
“Huh,” Dean murmured, absentmindedly putting his coffee cup to his lips, then grimacing when he found it empty. “Quiet little town ain’t so quiet after all.”
He dug deeper, and discovered animal attacks up the wazoo, missing person cases, mysterious arsons. All his hunter instincts flared up and multiple alarms rang in his mind like a symphony. This town looked like it was very, very bad news, and usually it would just mean that they’d found their next case and it was business as usual, but right now, with Sam as vulnerable as he was… Although maybe he’d be safer locked up in that hospital rather than outside in a crazy town.
“Shit,” Dean said with feeling, shutting down the lid on the last article he’d read: SON OF SHERIFF GOES MISSING, said the headline.
Apparently the kid had been found two days after going missing, having merely run away after a mental breakdown. Dean couldn’t blame him—he felt that Beacon Hills must have triggered more than one mental breakdown. He checked his watch, and decided that he could now finally go pay Dr. Deaton a little visit and not be arrested for harassment. Maybe he’d ask the druid for some insight about what was going on in this town while he was there.
The animal clinic where Dr. Deaton the druid worked was a small squat building. Even as early as it was a bike was already parked at the front when Dean arrived. When he pushed the front door, echoes of an argument reached him: “—telling me I have to kill him! You’re no better than Argent.”
“I did not say that, Scott, I just meant that you have to be prepared for—”
The voice stopped abruptly, and Dean knew his presence must have been noticed. He cleared his throat and called out, “Hello?”
A bald black man appeared into the entry hall. “Did you have an appointment?” he asked.
The man looked cool and unbothered, but Dean had enough experience interrogating all kinds of people, including people who were used to keeping secrets, to notice the faint undercurrent of stress in the way the man held himself. His presence wasn’t welcome, he summarized; he must have interrupted something.
“Sort of,” he said. “My name’s Dean Winchester. We spoke on the phone.”
The man’s jaws tightened almost imperceptibly. A dark-haired teenager materialized behind him, calling an inquisitive, “Deaton? Is there a problem?”
The boy saw Dean standing in the hall and looked him over: it was a look that held more curiosity than hostility in it, but also with a hint of wariness that was out of place in someone that age.
“It’s fine, Scott,” the veterinarian said. “We’ll talk again when you come after school.”
The teenager opened his mouth like he wanted to keep arguing, but then snapped it shut, probably deterred by Dean’s presence.
“Okay,” he said, with obvious reluctance. “See you later.”
Deaton’s eyes left Dean for a moment to look at the boy, and his features softened the tiniest amount. “It will be fine,” he said.
A shadow fluttered across the boy—Scott—’s face. “Yeah,” he said.
He walked past Dean to get to the door, glancing sideways at him again, and when they were just inches apart Scott leaned slightly in Dean’s direction and—snorted? sniffed? Then the bell from the front door jingled with his exit and Dean was left alone with Dr. Deaton the druid-slash-veterinarian.
“Am I coming at a bad time,” Dean said flatly.
“Scott’s my assistant,” Deaton said. It hadn’t been Dean’s question. The evasion tactic earned Deaton one checkmark in the suspicious column. “He’s upset because we might have to put down his pet.”
Really? Dean had recognized the look on Scott’s face, because he’d seen it in the mirror countless times: it was desperation mingled with grim resolve, the look of someone who was about to lose something he loved but wasn’t done fighting for it. Maybe the prospect of losing his pet had put that look on Scott’s face; Dean had never had any pets, so what did he know of the undying loyalty between man and man’s best friend?
“That sucks,” he commented neutrally. “I haven’t come to talk to you about pets, though.”
“No, I remember your call. Your brother, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right. Can you help him or not?”
Deaton walked around the counter at the end of the hall. “First, let me address you my condolences.”
Dean recoiled with a jerk, feeling like the words like a sucker punch. “What?”
“You and Bobby Singer were old friends, if I’m not mistaken. His was a great loss for a lot of people.”
“Yeah, well, thanks. Not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment, but this isn’t what I came here for. I need—”
“I’m afraid this isn’t exactly the right time for me. If you could come back in a few days, I would—”
“My brother doesn’t have a few days!” Dean marched across the hall to plant himself in front of Deaton. To his credit, the man didn’t look intimidated in the slightest. “I hauled us half across the country to get here! Look, if you can’t help me, just say it. I’ll find someone else. But if you can help, then I’m not sitting around waiting to fit in your schedule while my brother is losing his goddamn mind piece by piece.”
Deaton’s cool eyes pinned Dean’s for a moment, like he was trying to read the bottom of his soul. Hell, maybe he was, and the thought had Dean take an involuntary step back.
“Mr. Winchester,” Deaton said calmly. “I understand your concern. But I can’t work on your brother’s problem for the moment.”
Does it have anything to do with all the weird stuff happening in this town? Dean thought it, but refrained himself from saying it out loud at the last moment. He didn’t know where Deaton stood in this mess—it sure looked like he was covering for something, and given that he knew what Dean’s job was, it couldn’t be anything good. If Dean let out that he already suspected something fishy, he was going to send Deaton and whoever he protected running for the hills.
“Alright,” Dean said, fists clenching at his sides. “I’ll wait a couple of days. No longer.”
“I hope I’ll be able to help your brother.”
He might even have been sincere; there was no way to tell from the smooth lack of expression on his face.
“Yeah,” Dean said. “I sure hope so.”
Even though he had barely slept more than a handful minutes at a time, the next morning found Sam groggy, like he was waking up from a too deep sleep. He had blinked at the cracks on the ceiling and at the tiled walls long enough during the night that the room now felt as familiar as a childhood bedroom.
On the other side of the room, Stiles slid his body off the bed until he sitting on the edge, rubbing his face with both hands in an exhausted gesture that Sam knew all too well.
“They’ll unlock our room pretty soon,” Stiles said, squinting like he had a headache—which he probably did, if Sam’s experience was anything to go with. “I can give you a tour, if you want. Not that—”
The rest of Stiles sentence was drowned in a blood-curdling scream that sent Sam tumbling out of bed. He landed down on his knees, the shock reverberating in his already sore body, and caught himself on his hurt wrist. When he started to haul himself up to his feet, body creaking like an old house, he caught Stiles looking at him with wide eyes.
In a corner of the room, Lucifer was sneering at him. “Gotcha!”
Sam pinched his lips, refusing to look in his direction. “I’m okay,” he said to Stiles.
“What the hell was that, dude?” Stiles said, dismissing his statement. Fair enough, as Sam probably looked miles away from okay. Not everyone bought into the Winchester’s credo of ‘fake it ‘til you make it.’ “What did you hear that was so bad? Okay, ignore that,” Stiles said before Sam could muster up an answer. “This is none of my business, and I’m not even sure I want to know.”
“No, you probably don’t.”
Their door was unlocked by one of the orderlies. After they’d eaten the bland breakfast they were served, Stiles took Sam on his promised tour of the facility, or at least as far as they were allowed to go. The security was pretty lax—it was second nature to Sam to check these things—but they came across a mean-looking orderly, who Stiles called Brunski, and Sam instinctively catalogued him as someone to be wary of. Stiles told him about a few of the other people he already knew by name. His babble had a hard time piercing through the fog blurring Sam’s mind and dimming his feelings, though, and Sam concentrated on merely following him through the halls.
“That’s Dan, thinks he’s Jesus. Apparently, there are a lot of Jesuses around here. That’s Gary, here is Meredith. She’s, uh, she’s weird. That’s Hillary—she has OCD.”
A girl with long tawny hair was coming the other way. She moved with a rare kind of confidence, a self-contained power in her limbs that Sam had only ever seen in predators. When she walked past Stiles, she shot him a dark look.
“That was Malia,” Stiles said, twisting around to watch the girl walk away. “She doesn’t like me very much.”
“After only one day?”
“No, we, um, we’ve met before. And, no,” Stiles raised a finger at Sam, “we’ve never dated.”
“It’s not my business,” Sam said, even though he had indeed assumed that this was the problem. He felt like his own teenage years were a lifetime away, but he remembered that there was enough drama to choose from.
Stiles kept talking, but so did Lucifer, and it was easier to tune them both out rather than trying to untangle who was saying what. Stiles’ back was a beacon that Sam stubbornly focused on, making it the center of his world as the rest of his surrounding faded into a dream-like haze. His own footsteps, for some reason, resounded louder than the rest, like they were walking in a tunnel and sound bounced against the walls. Maybe it had something to do with the strange echoing quality of the building that Stiles had mentioned during the night. Or had he? Sam could as well have hallucinated the whole conversation.
“… this guy I don’t know, but he looks mighty creepy…”
“…thought that maybe Dean just skipped town and left you…”
Sam’s head was spinning, and his chest hurt like he’d walked up a mountain. He was about to tell Stiles he was going back to their room, when Stiles stopped abruptly and his back stopped being Sam’s focus point to become a wall that he had no choice but walk into. Or maybe just a low, crumbling wall—Stiles stumbled against the weight of Sam’s body colliding into him, and he yelped.
“Sorry,” Sam mumbled. “You stopped. I—”
“Yeah, sorry, I just—You know what? Let’s go back. Tour’s over.”
A slim, dark-skinned woman with straight long hair hurried across the room they’d just stepped into, obviously intent on Stiles. Stiles groaned, swore under his breath, and walked up to meet her halfway. They talked in low whispers, heads bowed together like they didn’t want their conversation to be overheard, and in spite of himself Sam felt a little more alert, his interest piqued by the mystery.
“…just like you said,” he caught Stiles saying. His voice was tight with annoyance, as well as with something sharper—fear, Sam thought.
“Let me see,” the woman said.
She was speaking louder than Stiles but in a calmer, more even voice that actually drew less attention. She reached for Stiles’ shoulder but he jerked away, then stretched the collar of his t-shirt himself so she could look at something on the exposed part of his shoulder and back.
“Aren’t you curious about what’s going on here?”
Sam jumped at the sound of Lucifer, so close to his ear that he had to be—yep, he was leaning over Sam’s shoulder, although his eyes were on Stiles and the woman.
“What’s on his shoulder? What’s this kid hiding?” Lucifer went on in a conspiratorial voice. “You could ask him, just to see his reaction.”
“This isn’t any of my business,” Sam said out loud.
He caught Lucifer’s delighted smile at being acknowledged, and cursed himself inwardly. This was sort of a game that he and Lucifer were playing—him trying to ignore Lucifer, and Lucifer trying to catch him off-guard and make him react—and Sam felt like he was losing more and more ground. What would happen if he lost enough of it? Would he get completely erased, end up a drooling mess? You couldn’t play the Devil, because the game was always rigged in his favor.
Stiles came back, looking in equal parts pissed off and scared. Even having known him for less than 24 hours Sam felt a twinge of sympathy for the kid. But Stiles’ issues weren’t anything that Sam could fix, and even if he could he wasn’t in a shape to help anyone.
“I have group therapy in ten minutes,” Stiles said. He was tense and twitchy, and his eyes moved frantically without ever resting on Sam, like he was afraid to look at him. “But you can go back to our room. Or, you know, do anything you like, since you’re a grown man and I’m a teenager, so it’s not like I can give you orders or anything.”
“Okay. Uh, but, I think I might have an appointment with one of the doctors?” He seemed to remember something like that being mentioned when he signed in, although the memory was hazy.
“One of the orderlies will probably come and get you.” Stiles’ eyes finally met his. “You look like death warmed over, man.”
Sam felt his lips twitch with wry humor. “This is a quite accurate definition of how I feel.”
“I’ve been awake for 48 hours, and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks before that. It’s gonna get worse before it gets even worse, right?”
Stiles’ voice was tinged with tired resignation, and a thought occurred to Sam: why hadn’t any of the doctors tried to sedate Stiles, if his insomnia was so bad? Sam knew it didn’t work on him, but it should work on Stiles. Why—
Stiles’ eyes slid sideways, and what he saw there made him flinch hard. Sam turned his head to look in the same direction, wondering what had set him off, but all he saw was the tail end of someone turning around the corner. Maybe it was another one of those people Stiles seemed to have a history with despite having been in Eichen House for no more than a day.
A mix of shouting and loud exclamation echoed back to them. Before Sam had the time to wonder what was going on, Stiles swore and said, “Not again!” Then he was off, running in direction of the commotion.
“See, when I told you we’d have fun here!” Lucifer said.
The noises led Stiles through the hallways to one of the patients’ rooms. People were packed at the entrance, and Stiles had to elbow his way through the crowd until he could see what was going on inside: a white man in his late twenties, early thirties, lean like a whip and with a closely shaved head, was standing on one of the twin beds, pressing something against his throat—Stiles made it out to be some sort of thin silvery blade, maybe a paperknife. Orderlies half-circled the bed—the other side of it was against the wall—while Brunski was trying to talk down the patient.
“Come on, Adam,” he was saying, “you don’t want to make me do this. You know it’s not going to end well for you.”
Brunski had a not-so-stealthy needle in his hand, and Stiles thought with distaste that if he were the suicidal guy, he’d take one look at the two evils presented to him and think that the knife didn’t seem so bad at all.
“Adam,” Brunski repeated in a somewhat menacing tone. “Get the fuck down. Gimme the knife.”
Adam ignored the orderly, his eyes sweeping over the crowd crammed in the doorway like he was looking for someone, and then stopping on Stiles. He smiled vaguely in recognition and Stiles’ heart skipped a beat. He could swear he’d never seen that man in his life.
“See? I’m doing it just as you said,” Adam said, and just as the “NO!” was making its way out of Stiles’ throat, Adam pressed the blade against his throat and blood spurted from the wound. He crumpled, blood spreading over his t-shirt, and the orderlies rushed to catch him as he fell. One of them pressed a hand against Adam’s throat, trying to stave the blood flow, and Brunski took care of clearing out the crowd.
“Everyone goes back to their room!” he barked at them. “Nothing to see here! You go back to your room and you wait to be picked up for therapy!”
Stiles, and Sam—who had ended up following him—were herded back to their room by Judith, the black orderly who’d escorted Stiles on his first day.
“How common is it to have two suicides so close to each other, huh?” Stiles tried to ask her. “Don’t you think that’s weird? I mean, were those people particularly suicidal? Did they—”
“This is none of your concern, Stiles.”
“Well, you know, as a fellow human being I think that—”
Judith stopped in her tracks to give Stiles a look. “You sound a bit high-strung, Stiles. Do you need something to calm you down?”
She’d delivered the question flatly rather than in the threatening way that Brunski had used to very inefficiently talk down Adam from slitting his throat, but a sharp pulse of fear cut through Stiles anyway. He couldn’t risk the medication making him sleepy. It was hard enough staying awake as it was.
“No, it’s fine,” he said in a strangled voice. “I’m totally fine.”
Stiles thought they would be locked up, but he didn’t hear the telltale sound of the lock being turned after Judith closed the door. He filed that in for future use, but right now he felt too tired and shell-shocked by what had happened to think about going exploring. There was this basement problem, the basement he’d had a glimpse of after Malia had punched him and that he could swear he’d seen before, but all he could think about was the look in Adam’s eyes just before he—He’d looked at him, he’d talked to him like he was someone else, like he was—
Stiles took a deep breath and held it trapped in his chest until it hurt, willing the oxygen to help clear his mind. Adam had looked at him and addressed him like he was the goddamn fox. And Stiles had caught a glimpse of the nogitsune just before it happened, just as he’d seen him when this other guy had hanged himself to the railing. This couldn’t be a coincidence, but Stiles had no idea how the fox might have influenced those people, and what he could do about it that he wasn’t already doing. Other than killing himself, and he wasn’t exactly in a hurry to get to that point.
Stiles shook himself from his dark thoughts to look at Sam. The man was giving him a concerned look, so Stiles said, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine.” Sam smiled slightly. “It’s pretty hard to fool me, you know—my brother is a master at denial.”
“Well, I admit I’ve probably had better days.”
Sam was still looking at him, and after a few long seconds of it Stiles grew uncomfortable under the scrutiny.
“Do I have something in my teeth?”
“What’s on your shoulder?” Sam asked, and the lack of relation between this question and what Stiles had said threw Stiles off-kilter. “Is that a scar? It looks strange.”
Stiles instinctively clenched a hand over the part of the mark that emerged from the collar of his shirt to cover it. Sam’s expression was still friendly enough, but he looked more focused than Stiles had seen him until now, and with it came a sharpness that made Stiles wary, reminding him how much he didn’t know the man. All that bonded them was the natural brotherhood of people who were forced to share quarters, but now that feeling was starting to dissipate, leaving Stiles to see Sam as a strange and possibly hostile presence.
“Just a scar,” he said, and waited for Sam to ask more pointed questions.
Sam seemed to catch on that he shouldn’t push, though, and merely nodded like he was satisfied with Stiles’ cagey answer, which actually made Stiles even more suspicious of him.
“Shut up,” Sam hissed suddenly, obviously not to Stiles.
Stiles felt a chill run up his spine as he wondered what the voices in Sam’s head were telling him. Hey, he thought, at least it gave him good incentive not to fall asleep. Better keep an eye open in case your crazy roommate decides to strangle you while you sleep.
Stiles fell silent after that, lying down on his bed and staring at the ceiling, so Sam did the same, savoring the momentary relief it brought him. The screams his aching body had sent him since he got up abated without the strain of standing up, and the slight lessening of pain felt almost like pleasure. Glancing at the floor, he saw that it was crawling with ants; there were so many of them that the tiles disappeared under a red-brown shimmer—the color of drying blood. Sam turned his eyes back to the ceiling, and tried to think about something else.
He wouldn’t have been sure of what had happened if not for Stiles and everyone else’s reactions. Thanks to them, he felt fairly secure in reviewing the sequence of events as something that had actually taken place: one of the patients had tried to kill himself in front of an audience—given the kind of blade he’d used and the quick reaction from the staff, Sam thought there was a chance he was still alive. Maybe he should tell Stiles this, because the kid had looked pretty upset, but Stiles was the big question mark there. A suicide attempt in a mental hospital seemed unremarkable in itself, but Stiles had alluded to the fact that it was the second one in as many days; which meant two suicides since Stiles had arrived. The memory of the suicidal guy looking at Stiles, talking to him—I’m doing it just as you said—flitted through Sam’s mind. That was the part that stuck out the most to him, as well as the one that he was the less sure had been real.
“Oh, come on, Sam,” Lucifer said. “Do you really think I would deceive you like this? Hurts a guy’s feelings, it does.”
Sam shot a glance in his roommate’s direction. Stiles was blinking at the ceiling, quietly muttering to himself. At some point his eyes stayed closed just a bit longer than a normal blink, and Sam saw him pinch the skin on his forearm before his eyes fluttered open and he swore softly, looking impatient with himself. Watching that scene, something clicked in Sam’s side on what had kept nagging at him about Stiles’ behavior: the boy wasn’t trying to fall asleep, like Sam was desperately trying to do; on the contrary, he was trying to keep himself awake.
It could be that terrible nightmares lurked in the recess of his mind and that he wanted to avoid them—God knew that Sam was familiar with that particular problem—but Sam couldn’t stop thinking about the way Stiles had said that he couldn’t fall asleep last night, and his instinct told him that there was something more going on here.
“Alright,” Stiles said suddenly, sitting up on his bed. When his feet touched the sea of crawling ants on the floor, Sam bit the inside of his cheek not to flinch. “I’m guessing group therapy has been cancelled, and I need to do something. I’m going for a walk.”
“How are you going to get out of here?”
“Door’s unlocked, dude.” Sam hadn’t even noticed; he really was out of it. “Either it’s an oversight on Judith’s part,” Stiles went on, “and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it, or she left it open because we totally have a right to wander around. Either way, I’m out.”
He wasn’t asking Sam to come with him, and Sam’s mind wept at the mere idea of getting up again, but something compelled him to do it anyway: whether Stiles was in danger or he was a danger to others, Sam felt duty-bound to keep an eye on him.
“I’m coming with you,” he said, and braced himself for contact with the ant-filled floor.
He stood up gingerly, feeling the small insects climb up his leg, under his pants, shuddering against the sensation of them creeping over his bare skin. Stiles still didn’t look alarmed by the floor, which meant the ants weren’t real, but that thought wasn’t as comforting as it should’ve been.
“Are you sure?” Stiles said, looking at him doubtfully. “Maybe you should stay in bed.”
Sam was too focused on the insects to be able to tell if that was really concern in Stiles’ voice, or more of the wariness he’d shown before.
“I’m sure,” Sam ground out. Any moment now, Lucifer would get tired of that particular illusion.
“Okay. Let’s do this, then.”
Sam followed Stiles through hallways that had no windows. The electric light shed by the overhead lamps fixed at regular intervals on the ceiling wasn’t quite enough to properly illuminate their way and shadows lurked in the corners, but Stiles moved confidently, as though he had a destination in mind.
“Where are we going?” Sam asked. The ants had disappeared, and Lucifer himself was nowhere to be seen for the moment.
“The basement,” Stiles answered in a low voice; for all he’d said that they were probably allowed to get out of their room, he acted like he was taking an illicit stroll on a minefield. “I need to see the basement.”
“What’s in the basement?”
“I don’t know. But there’s always something interesting in the basement; isn’t it how it works?”
The conversation was interrupted by a cry: Sam could hear terror and surprise in it, but it was short-lived, more like a yelp, and no other screams or voices followed it. It lacked a certain dramatic flair that tended to belong to Lucifer’s hallucinations, so Sam wasn’t surprised when Stiles said, “What was that? Where did it come from?”
The echoes made it hard to tell where any given noise came from, so Sam shrugged to signal his ignorance. They both stood still in the middle of the hallway, straining to hear more, but that part of the building was now eerily silent.
“Maybe we just imagined it,” Stiles said hesitantly.
“But you heard it too,” Sam couldn’t help saying.
“Yeah, about that… I’m sorry to disappoint, but I’m probably not the most reliable—Oh.”
Stiles’ eyes were fixed on something over Sam’s shoulder, so Sam turned to look at whatever had caught his attention: a girl stood at the far end of the corridor, dressed in t-shirt and sweatpants like she was a patient. Long dark hair tumbled down her back, but she was angled away from them and Sam couldn’t see her face.
“Hey,” Stiles called. “Hey, did you—”
She didn’t hear him, or maybe she just decided to ignore him, because she disappeared around the corner before Stiles could finish his question. Stiles broke into a jog, heading in her direction, and Sam followed with a heavy sigh. Stiles turned around the corner where the girl had vanished just a few seconds before Sam did, and Sam heard his muffled curse before he saw the body lying across the hallway. It was a girl with dark hair.
“Is she—” Stiles said, sounding like he wouldn’t be able to stand it if she was dead.
Sam kneeled down by the body and tried to feel for her pulse. It was there, slow but steady, and Stiles breathed a small sigh of relief when Sam told him as much. He kneeled by Sam and together they rolled the girl over to have a closer look at her.
“Jesus,” Stiles swore.
The girl’s eyes were open, staring blankly at nothing. It made her look like a fresh corpse, although Sam could still feel the regular pound of her heartbeat under his fingertips. What could have done this? It struck Sam as very strange that this girl—if she was indeed the girl they’d just seen—had turned the corner a few seconds ago to crumple face first into an inexplicable paralytic state. Also, who had just screamed, if it wasn’t her?
Stiles was staring fixedly at the girl as though she was some puzzle he had to decipher, his fingers clenching convulsively. He murmured something but Sam only caught the word “kanima.”
“What did you say?” Sam asked. “A kanima?”
Sam had read about kanimas, although he’d never hunted one. They were lizard shapeshifters who secreted a paralytic poison, so it was all too possible that a kanima could have attacked this girl—the only question was, how did Stiles know about it?
Sam set that burning question for later, and did a cursory examination of the girl’s body. As far as he could see without getting indecent, there was no bite mark or stung mark, no scratches anywhere on her skin.
“No mark,” he murmured. Could the poison be effective through mere contact with bare skin? Sam wasn’t sure, and he didn’t have any of his research resources with him.
Stiles shot him a look, and seemed about to say something when echoing voices reached them. Whatever Stiles had meant to say it became: “We need to get out of here. They’ll take care of her, and if we get caught like this they could think that we’ve done something to her.”
Sam looked at him, at his pale, nervous face. He didn’t really disagree, but what normal teenager reasoned like this? Or, maybe, having never really been a normal teenager himself, Sam wasn’t in the best position to judge.
They scurried off before they could be seen by the newcomers, but the echoing hallways did their job of reporting their reactions at finding the girl. Sam and Stiles got back to their room without meeting anyone else, and once they’d closed the door and were safely cut off from the rest of the world, Stiles turned suspicious eyes on Sam and said, “Who the hell are you?”
After he got back from Deaton’s animal clinic, Dean considered his options as he aimlessly drove the Impala around the town. Despite what he’d said to Deaton, part of him wanted nothing more than to grab his brother and get the hell out of dodge. Let’s say Deaton had told the truth, that he genuinely wanted to help and hadn’t lied about being too busy for the moment—there was no certainty that he would be able to help, and then they’d would’ve lost two days, and Sam would be a little closer to insanity.
On the other hand, if they left now, Dean had no idea where to take them, where they could find help. The first trip had been hard on Sam, and he was unlikely to be feeling better now that he’d been awake for one more day.
Dean slowly drove past the police station that had recently been blown up, and watched the swarm of deputies and construction workers buzz around the building: clearing the rubbles off the sidewalk, carrying boxes around, managing the crowd of onlookers. Who blew up a small town’s police station? A dissatisfied customer? A police car pulled in and a man with a sheriff badge got out. Dean was almost past the station and could only glance at the man, but his attention was caught by the person who walked up to talk to him: it was Scott, Deaton’s so-called assistant. Wasn’t the kid supposed to be in school?
Dean couldn’t linger any longer—it was never good to be seen lurking by a police station—so he drove away, pondering what he’d just seen. He now remembered the articles about the Sheriff’s kid, and when he got back to his motel room he fired Sam’s computer again to look further into it. He found that the Sheriff’s son—oddly named Stiles Stilinsky, which had to count as child abuse somehow—had actually gone missing twice in a very quick succession: having vanished during the night, he was found in the woods by a FBI agent, and promptly ran away from the hospital. Then two days later, he simply came back to his father of his own will. All in all it was a weird story, but Dean wasn’t sure he should get interested in it, until his eyes caught on the words, ‘best friend Scott McCall.’ Scott McCall as in ‘Deaton’s assistant’ Scott?
Dean sat back on his chair. “Interesting.”
It would be too much of a coincidence if the Scott Dean had seen talking to the Sheriff wasn’t the same Scott who was his son’s best friend. It got even more interesting when Dean noticed that McCall was also the name of the FBI agent who’d found the Sheriff’s kid in the woods.
After having wasted an hour reading online, Dean went for coffee again, and, even though it was a bit early for lunch, bought himself a sandwich to eat. Eating always did wonders for his thinking process.
Chewing on bread and ham, Dean deliberated with himself: everything he’d found was interestingly coincidental, but the real question was whether he should get involved. He hadn’t come to Beacon Hills intending to work on a case, but if he decided to wait for Deaton then there was nothing else for him to do, and staying idle was a recipe for going crazy. Maybe there was nothing supernatural going on here, but if there was, then he needed to do something about it, and if this was what kept Deaton so busy, maybe he
could help free the good doctor’s schedule so he would finally be available to work on Sam.
Dean drowned his last mouthful with coffee, his decision made. It all seemed to hinge around Scott McCall, so he was going to be the one Dean would focus on. He didn’t think he could risk interviewing anyone in his circle, in case Scott or Deaton had already warned them about him. So he’d just have to follow the kid around.
Eventually, Scott had to go to school—surely one of the adults in his life would make him go—so Dean found out Scott’s address and stalked the closest of the two local high schools. He finally got lucky and saw Scott, flanked by two identical-looking buff teenagers, walk across the parking lot of the school. The three of them had motorbikes and drove like bats from hell—or like teenagers on high-powered engines—, which caused Dean to lose them a couple times. He caught up to them just in time to see them get into an apartment complex.
They stayed there all afternoon. Dean was used to stakeouts, but all the practice in the world didn’t make waiting in a car for hours any less boring, and he didn’t have his trusty sidekick with him to help pass the time. He went through half his tape collection, read the car magazine he’d fished from the glove compartment cover-to-cover three times. No distraction could keep his thoughts away from Sam. How was his brother doing? Had he managed to get some sleep, or had he degraded further? Sitting in his car, staring at the building Scott and his friends had entered until he almost bored holes into it, he couldn’t help but wonder if he was wasting his time. Maybe the kids were working on a school project or something, and afterward Scott would just go back home like a nice normal kid, and Dean would have lost his whole afternoon on a hunch.
When he was starting to give up, Scott finally left the building, this time with a pretty Asian girl in tow. The girl, maybe Scott’s girlfriend if the constant smile on the boy’s face was any indication, climbed behind him on his motorbike. She was talking as she put on the helmet he had given her, looking serious and intent. When Scott took off, Dean hesitated before following them: it didn’t look like the kids were up to anything nefarious; what could be more normal than a teenage boy giving a ride on his motorbike to a girl he liked? Had Dean possessed a motorbike when he was in high school—impossible, because his dad considered them as engines of death, which was pretty ironical when you thought about the other components of Dean’s childhood—he would have done nothing but take girls on it.
Still, it wasn’t like he had anything better to do for the moment, and he wanted to see where this would take him. If nothing suspicious happened tonight, he would lay off Scott McCall and figure things out a different way.
Later that night, he was rewarded for his patience: Scott and the girl spent a couple of hours at what Dean supposed was the girl’s house, then left again at an hour where no teenager with good intentions should be out on a school night.
“Bingo,” Dean murmured, drumming his fingers on the wheel with nervous pent-up energy. “What are you hiding, kids?”
They met with a bunch of other kids by the police station. Dean’s car was too conspicuous to be seen there again, so he parked a little down the street and went back on foot, trying to blend with the shadows, following the sounds of a hushed conversation. He was now pretty sure that the kids were up to no good, but he still couldn’t figure what they were going to do. Attack the police station? Did they have something to do with the bomb that went off a couple days ago?
Dean hid behind one of the police cars stationed behind the building. He wasn’t sure where any of the kids were and it was too dark for him to see much, so he listened out. It was a quiet town, not much traffic at this time of the night or many people out. Nothing to keep him from hearing the sounds of a fight, thuds and muffled groans and quick breathing, and he followed them out until he could see shadows moving, struggling next to the bulky shape of an armored car.
Then one of the shadows, a mountain of a man, straightened up and downright growled. As he sidled closer Dean saw that the man had glowing blue eyes and fangs. Fucking werewolves. Dean drew his gun immediately—he didn’t have any silver bullets, but even a werewolf took a moment to recover from being shot in the knee.
The man collapsed sideways like a broken doll, an animal whimper wrenched out of him by the pain of the bullet. Dean ran the distance separating them, gun pointed at the man, and was about to shoot again when a steely voice said, “Don’t move.”
Dean stopped on instinct, because it was the kind of voice you obey, the kind that was backed up by a weapon of some sort. He angled his body toward the voice, glancing in the direction it had come from, but without taking his eyes completely off the groaning werewolf either.
He’d almost forgotten the teenagers, focused that he was on the straightforward threat, but now he could see them all lined up behind him like an execution squad: there was Scott, and the Asian girl, and the twins, and two other girls about the same age as the others—a red head in incongruous skirt and heels, and a brunette dressed all in black, her hair gathered to the top of her head. The brunette was pointing a crossbow at Dean like she knew how to use it, and was indubitably the one who’d just spoken. The twins—
“Oh, hell,” Dean said when he saw that the twins also showed glowing eyes and wicked fangs. Looked like he’d gotten himself invited to a fucking werewolf party. Way to go, Dean.