The Winchesters go to see a woman in New York about a way to shake their pursuers...and have to make a quick decision.
"I swear, if you even think the word 'Midol' I will end you."
New York City, New York
Tuesday 18 May 2010
"I am not going in there."
Sam rolled his eyes and shot Dean an unimpressed look.
His brother was staring up at the building in front of them with an expression that suggested he was once again standing at the gates of Hell. Part of Sam understood the sentiment – this place was so far from their usual watering hole it might as well be a foreign country – but at the same time, he knew they were here for a specific reason.
The club they faced had once been a fire station, judging from the large garage bays on either side of the domed entrance. It looked as though it had been built in the nineteen twenties, and its façade had been painstakingly restored down to the tiniest detail, with the exception of the deep shade of purple it had been painted.
They could hear the music even in the street – the repetitive drum patterns and synthesized medleys of the weekly R&B hits. While he might not have been as averse to techno as Dean was, even Sam had to wince at the music. He'd never been the type to enjoy clubbing. He'd endured it a few times in college, for Jessica's sake, but it wasn't his cup of tea.
He'd never actually been to a gay club, either, whatever Dean might like to insinuate on any given day. Personally, Sam didn't get the big deal, but Dean wasn't the most open-minded individual when he was in the best of moods, let alone when he was in a snit. And at the moment, he was in was a full-on sulk.
Dean had been bitching since they arrived in New York City late the day before. They had had to spend the night in the cluttered, mildew Cherokee they'd stolen outside of Mason City because there were no vacant motels in the immediate vicinity. Sam privately blamed Dean for that, considering he had refused to enter the city during daylight – when there might have been more places open. Dean had said he was just trying to keep off the grid, but Sam had known it had to do with their last experience with the New York rush hour. Still, he knew better than to say anything. Especially not while Dean was still seething about the Impala.
Bobby had called once they were on their way to New York to assure them that the Impala's wreckage was taking up space in the salvage yard instead of some chop shop. The word 'wreckage' had had Dean grinding his teeth for the two day drive, along with a few not so coherent curses about angels. Sam was pretty sure those weren't all directed at Raphael.
'Cas, wherever you are, I hope you know he's going to kill you when he sees you again,' Sam thought, and then winced at the idea that maybe Castiel might actually already be gone for good. It was a possibility he had refrained from voicing in the past two days, not least of all for his own feelings. Part of the reason he hadn't complained about Dean's less than stellar mood was because if his brother was focussing on something mundane like the Impala, he wasn't worrying about some of their more pressing problems.
Castiel's mysterious disappearance was the number one priority, whatever Dean had to say about Adam. Even though they both wanted to save the poor kid who had had the misfortune of being born a Winchester, Adam was barely more than a stranger to either of them. Whatever Sam and Dean knew about him had been playacted by the thing that killed him. The few hours Sam had spent with Adam had shown him an understandably resentful and angry teenager who wanted nothing to do with them. As much as it was on them to clean up Dad's mess – because that's what it was, when Sam got right down to it – and get the kid out, the fact of the matter was that Castiel meant more to them than Adam did.
And then, after dealing with the Adam and Castiel problems, there were Sam's own personal demons. Whatever brought him back may have taken away any memory of the thirty-six hours he had spent in Hell (though it had probably felt like more down there), but it hadn't taken away the guilt. The knowledge that he had almost caused the end of the world plagued him – probably would for the rest of his life, he knew – but that wasn't what was grating on his psyche.
Every night since being brought back, Sam dreamed unapologetic montages of himself at his lowest and most depraved. He watched himself committing the same mistakes, over and over; sometimes the same decadent pleasure filled him that he had felt when Lucifer allowed him to rip apart the demons that had ruined his life. Except in most of the dreams, it was Dean that he was ruining.
He hadn't let on to Dean exactly what he was going through. Knowing his brother, Dean would drop everything and try to focus on protecting him from his guilt. Considering Sam wasn't even sure he should be protected– and boy, would that be a fun argument to have when it came up – it was just easier not to talk about it.
Better to focus on the problems that might have actual solutions. Because even jail-breaking Adam from Hell would be easier than working through the post traumatic damnation disorder Sam was trying to deal with.
"Are you sure Bobby's not just dicking us around?"
Sam blinked, Dean's question bringing him out of his thoughts, and glanced back at the club.
The place was pretty packed for a Tuesday night, with people arriving and meeting all along the rather impressive line that wound back to the corner of the street. Couples, mostly, but he also saw a few groups of friends huddled together against the night chill. The venue might have been a problem under normal circumstances, but considering some of the looks he and Dean had gotten since they started hunting together again, Sam figured they might actually blend in for once without having to try too hard.
If he could force Dean in through the door.
He sighed; the cool, damp air carried upon it the smell of sewer and cigarette smoke that Sam could almost taste. "Seriously? You gonna let your inner homophobe take point on this one?"
"What are you talking about?" Sam levelled a look at him, and Dean snorted with disgust. "It's not that I have the problem with. To each their own and all that shit." He made a vague, uncomfortable gesture. "The music's making my ears bleed. And I'm outside. Can you imagine what it's like in there?"
"Yeah, actually, I can. And you're going to have to suck it up," Sam replied. "This is the address Bobby gave us, and unless you want more up-close-and-personal encounters with the latest members of our fan club, we're going in there."
"Can't we meet this chick in a place that isn't here?"
"This is the only address Bobby would give. He said there's a reason for it."
"Christ, he's enjoying the cryptic crap these days."
"That's not fair, Dean, he's trying to help us out."
Dean had the decency to look ashamed, and after a moment he exhaled a loud, grudging sigh. "Fine. We'll go in – but does it have to be tonight? Can't we come back tomorrow before it opens or something? The hex bags and sigils will cloak us fine until then…"
"What's wrong with tonight?"
Dean pointed to the long line of enthusiastic looking patrons, some of whom were rather flamboyantly dressed. "Besides the obvious?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Okay, yeah, it's awkward…on the other hand, according to Becky Rosen, we'd fit right in."
Dean stared, and then shook his head in disgust. "And I'm the one who went to Hell first? Really?"
Sam shrugged. "Well, like all older brothers, you get to do the cool stuff before me."
Dean narrowed his eyes, opened his mouth to retort, and then closed his mouth again. A moment later, his shoulders hunched forward a bit and he grumbled in a low, defeated voice, "Know how I know you're gay?"
Insults were the only way Dean could cover up losing an argument. The usual protocols for this called for Sam to gloat about it, but instead he grinned at his brother and retorted, "Dude, you're the one who watches Dr. Sexy, M.D.."
Dean opened his mouth to protest, but the words were cut off when someone behind them said, "Ooh, I love that show! Did you see the finale? I can't believe that Dr. Sexy almost died – and it's terrible what happened to Dr. Piccolo!"
The speaker sounded male, but when Sam and Dean turned toward him, they were confronted by a tall, mini-skirt wearing blond in a leather jacket and go-go boots. Sam had to admit, if he hadn't heard the voice first, he might actually have confused the guy for a woman. The only tell was his Adam's apple.
Dean's expression turned strained, though Sam honestly couldn't tell if it was because he was uncomfortable being seen with a drag queen, or because he'd actually missed the season finale on account of the near Apocalypse.
Knowing Dean, probably the latter.
When neither of them could think of anything to say to that, the guy flushed beneath his make-up and quickly murmured, "Oh, I'm sorry, that was kinda rude of me. You two were obviously having a private chat, and I – well, you guys look a little lost there, and I thought – know what? Never mind."
"No, it's okay," Sam answered, trying to work the polite angle he knew his brother wouldn't be able to fake right now. "This is, uh, kind of a first for us."
"I figured," the guy said, recovering himself quickly and regaining his smile. "You boys don't look like this is your kind of thing."
"It's really not," Dean said firmly.
"But we were told this place is pretty decent," Sam added quickly, sending Dean a warning glance. "Our – er, a friend of ours said that the owner treats her patrons well."
"Aggie? Oh, she's a doll. She comes around every so often to check up on the place and make sure everyone's having a good time. Her club's not like a lot of the other places down here, where anything goes, if you know what I mean." The guy made a face as if to show what he felt about that. "She's got really strict rules, and she doesn't make any bones about throwing someone out if they don't follow them," the guy said. A moment later, he swore. "Crap, I'm sorry, I'm really being a clod tonight. I'm Gil. I work the bar."
"I'm Sam," Sam replied, adopting a friendly smile. Then, because he was just not in the mood to act like he was dating his own flesh and blood, he added, "And this is my brother, Dean."
"Brothers, huh?" Gil said, though his smile wavered a little in confusion. "That's…interesting. If you don't mind me asking, are you both…?"
"I'm just here for moral support," Sam explained quickly, and then because he just couldn't resist, he went on in a conspiratorial voice, "Dean's – you know, friend – up and disappeared a few days ago. He's taking it kind of hard."
Dean shot him an expression of horror and indignation, while Sam tried to hold back his laughter. For all his virtues, he was, after all, still a younger brother.
"Oh, no!" Gil exclaimed, staring at Dean in understanding. "How long were you two together?"
"Two years," Sam supplied before Dean could ruin the whole thing; he had to work hard to keep his face schooled into one of sympathy. It was made all the more difficult because of the way Dean's eyes bulged and the vein in his jaw began to pulse. "I've never seen Dean that close to anyone. And then, the guy just left. No goodbye or a note or anything."
"Asshole!" Gil said emphatically, shaking his head. "No wonder you look so tense." A look of resolve appeared in his eyes, and then he nodded, almost to himself. "Tell you what – I start my shift in like half an hour. You come with me and I'll help you get at least a little settled in there. It's always hard your first time – no pun intended."
This time Sam couldn't help letting a chuckle escape him, despite the terrible joke.
Dean coughed awkwardly. "It's alright – I mean, you've got better things to do than babysit us, right?"
"Honey, it's my job to look after the customers," Gil told him. "I can at least get you a drink to settle your nerves – I make a mean highball."
Before Dean could more vehemently refuse and thus consign them to a night of waiting in line for a club he'd rather be in and out of quickly, Sam cut in, "You know what? That sounds great. We're in. Anything to make my bro here feel better."
Dean mouthed a revolted 'bro?' at Sam, but Gil didn't notice.
"Great! Come on, then!"
The guy had the same bouncy energy as a five-foot-three cheerleader, which was impressive on someone that was almost as tall as Dean.
"If we didn't have a street full of witnesses right now, I'd murder you," Dean hissed under his breath before they followed Gil past the bouncers and into a narrow black-lit hallway. The music became louder with every step, causing the floor to vibrate.
"No you wouldn't," Sam grinned at him. "Besides, I never actually said anything that wasn't true. He made his own assumptions."
"So much Nair in your future," Dean growled, and that was the last thing Sam heard him say for a while.
The interior of the old fire station had been hollowed out into one huge room, with a dance floor and DJ in the center, while a kind of tiered floor led up to galleries and a few cubicles with tables and lounge furniture within them. Black-lights and an actual disco ball created patterns across the walls and the people. The club was filled almost to capacity, mostly with couples and single revellers who occupied sections of the dance floor or places at the bar, but there were enough groups of friends there to fill in the little space that remained.
Bass heavy music pounded away as they followed Gil through the throng of people, dodging the occasional interested brush against their shoulders or invitation to dance. Sam had been to a high-energy place like this before, though there had been a significantly lower number of guys when he and Jess had gone clubbing. That little bit of experience helped him to better maneuver himself through the crowd with better ease, trying to sync his movements at least slightly to the music. It was difficult, considering his height, but he was still doing better than Dean, who was just marching determinedly forward and trying not to make eye contact with anyone.
Once they reached the bar, Gil excused himself so that he could go clock in, but assured them he would return to look after them as soon as he could. When they were once again alone, Dean rounded on Sam and glared. He had to raise his voice to be heard above the music. "This place is like Hell."
"Oh come on," Sam called back. "You can't seriously be comparing this to the Pit."
"If there had been a soundtrack down there, this would be it. And it's just as crowded here as it was there."
"Don't be melodramatic. Besides, we've been to concerts that were more crowded than this. I don't know what you're complaining about."
"You do not get to compare Ozzy to this," Dean said, shoving a finger in his face. "I've forgiven a lot of shit, Sammy, but that level of blasphemy doesn't get a pass."
Sam knew better than to touch that one with a ten foot pole, and so, he occupied himself with looking around and trying to come up with a game plan instead. Now that they were inside the club, they had to find this Aggie person. Once Gil returned he would ask him where she might be, but not right away. He didn't want the guy thinking that Sam and Dean had just used him to jump the line – which is exactly what they had done. So he would have to play the supportive younger brother card a little while longer.
'Speaking of,' Sam thought, nudging Dean none-too-gently. "Would you relax? We're here for a reason. "
"Bite me, bitch."
But Dean did stop glowering at anyone who looked his way. Still, it wasn't until Gil returned with a drink in hand that Dean finally relaxed, his shoulders loosening up as he gulped down the alcohol without asking what it was or taking a breath.
"You gonna live now?" Sam asked him, amused.
"Another few of these and I think I might," Dean said, glancing at the now empty glass contemplating. "Dude wasn't kidding about settling my nerves."
"I told you," Gil said smugly. "Want another?"
"Don't give him too much," Sam told him. "I care about him and all, but I don't want to be carrying him out of here."
"Not that you'd have a problem with that, would you, hon?" Gil asked, looking Sam up and down. "I'll bet you can lift your own weight and more."
"Uh…sure," Sam said, awkwardly realizing the interested gleam in Gil's eyes. Luckily, someone else claimed Gil's attention and the bartender waved cheerfully as he went off to do his job. Sam exhaled in relief.
Beside him, Dean adopted a mocking smile. "He thinks I'm the one into dudes and he's still eyeing you like a piece of meat. What's that tell you, Sammy?"
Sam replied snidely, "He's got good taste?"
"You would say something like that," Dean rolled his eyes. He finished the dregs of the drink and then adopted a businesslike expression. "Alright, what are we doing now? The sooner we find Bobby's friend the sooner we can get the hell out of here."
"No arguments there," Sam said as Gil passed by again with another highball for Dean and a wink for Sam.
At that moment, an older man came to sit beside by them. Sam wouldn't have paid him any attention, except that he looked even more out of place at the bar than Sam and Dean did. He was sharp-featured and bald, with piercing amber eyes and a hooked nose; he was also not exactly dressed for the club scene. His suit looked like it cost more than the brothers made in a month of poker and pool winnings.
When he noticed Sam watching him, he adopted a cool smile.
"Well you two certainly look like you just walked out of the bush," he remarked, eyes performing the familiar up-and-down consideration Sam had come to expect since entering the club. Thankfully there was nothing flirtatious in this glance, but the amount of judgement in it put him on edge.
"Not interested, pal," Dean muttered, downing his second drink. He sent Sam a scathing look. "'Sides, I'm apparently taken."
"Mazel tov," the man said in an obviously detached manner. Then, he bluntly asked, "Are you the friends of Robert Singer?"
Sam opened his mouth to reply, but Dean cut him off, demanding brusquely, "Who wants to know?"
"My employer sent me to look for the most country-looking unfortunates in the establishment. Considering almost everyone here but you two has obviously at least glanced at a copy of Out within the past twenty years, I'd say that's you," the man replied snidely.
After exchanging a glance with Sam, Dean drained his glass and stood up. "You couldn't have led with that?"
"And diminish the suspense? Perish the thought," the man drawled, gesturing for them to follow him. Sam and Dean hesitated for a moment, and then started after him.
Navigating the crowd was easier the second time, possibly because Sam stuck close enough to Dean that anyone wanting to approach them might get the wrong idea. He was glad Dean was in front of him, because if he noticed what Sam was doing, he would probably throw a fit.
They came to a thick metal door with an 'Employees Only' sign behind the main dance floor, which the old guy promptly led them through. Once it was closed behind them the music lessened, and Sam saw his brother visibly relax – only to seize back up half a second later when two tall, bulky men appeared, effectively blocking access to the hallway.
"Weapons," one of them said, crossing his arms.
"Are you serious?" Dean demanded.
"We've dealt with hunters in the past," the old man said. "It never fails to amaze me what ingenious places you decide to stick things." He smirked. "Maybe a cavity search is in order…"
"Whoa, hold on," Sam spoke up, holding up his hands defensively and slowly reaching behind him to remove the handgun tucked into his jeans. He passed that to the nearest bodyguard, and at his expectant look also passed him the knife in his belt.
Dean made a noise of disgust, but also forked over his concealed weapons – a gun, a knife and a small wooden stake he had brought with him just in case. Neither of the bodyguards or the old man seemed surprised at hidden stockpile, and after giving them the rudimentary pat-down, they allowed Sam and Dean to continue on their way.
The backroom was a large private office-cum-lounge, furnished with industrial looking furniture that had obviously been arranged according some form of feng-shui. The music from the club was even less pervasive here. Across the room, a dark-haired someone was bent over what looked like paperwork.
"Lady Agdistis – the mud people you wished to see," the older man intoned gravely. In front of him, Dean bristled at the insult, but Sam frowned. The person’s name was familiar to him somehow, but he couldn't think how.
"Thank you, Ethon."
The man crossed the room and disappeared through a door that Sam hadn't noticed before.
"I hope you enjoyed yourselves?" she inquired smoothly as they crossed the room to join her by the desk.
Sam couldn't tell upon first glance – or even his second or third – whether their host was a man or a woman. In fact, if it hadn't been for Ethon's greeting or that Bobby had told them they were meeting with a woman, he wouldn't have been able to make a definitive judgement. The voice was so androgynous it could have been male or female, and the woman herself could have passed for either. She looked at once like the female lead from the Matrix and the psychopathic shrink from Batman Begins. Thankfully, instead of a leather bodysuit she wore denim pants and an open collar shirt.
"I'm going to be bleaching my ears for a week, but otherwise, yeah," Dean grumbled.
"I know exactly what you mean. The music's enough to make Chinese water torture seem fun," she agreed, amused.
Sam blinked. "Isn't this your club, Lady, er, Ag –"
"Just call me Aggie," she interrupted. "Everyone and their mother does. And I'd prefer that to your barbarian mangling of my actual name. And, yes, it is my club. But that doesn't mean I actually enjoy blistering my ears every night."
"Then why do you play it?"
"It just happens to be the type of music to draw a crowd. The more people come in here, the more business I get. We all have to make sacrifices." She smiled a rather sinister smile. "And besides, it blocks out the screaming."
In that instant, she seemed to transform. Her youthful appearance was suddenly at odds with the very ancient look in her eyes, and she was giving off a distinct aura of otherness that Sam usually associated with the creatures they hunted.
From Dean's tense stance, his brother noticed it as well.
"You're not human," Dean stated roughly, his eyes shifting around the room in the instinctual search for a weapon.
"And you're not Hugh Jackman, but you don't see me complaining, do you?" she replied coolly. "Now, are we going to stand here and state the obvious at each other, or are we going to get down to business?"
"What are you?"
"I'm insulted you don't know – well, actually, no, I'm not. There aren't many mortals who've been around my kind and survived. Although, I heard interesting rumours about what happened to some of my relatives down at some hotel in Indiana last month –"
Sam and Dean's eyes flicked to each other meaningfully.
"You're a pagan god," Sam realized. His body went rigid, a standard reaction to the presence of something old and powerful which would probably enjoy picking its teeth with his bones. Frantically, he tried to remember if he had ever heard of a god called Agdistis. "Why would Bobby…?"
"Send you to a flesh eating monster? Go on, you can say it."
"It's not like you sons of bitches have the best track record," Dean grunted defensively, not relaxing at all. "At least not the ones we've met."
"And killed, am I right? Considering you're still alive."
"You going to get all weepy on me 'cause we ganked some of your cousins? Start telling me about equal rights for monsters and shit?" Dean shot back, his tone implying he was looking for a fight. He was too far away for Sam to kick, and so Sam had to content himself with hissing, "Dean!" in a warning tone under his breath.
"Of course not," Aggie said, both she and Dean ignoring Sam. "Those idiots deserved death if they were going to draw attention to themselves. One of the main rules has always been to keep the hunters off our asses – and no, hunters aren't a new thing. We had them back in the old days too. Although, back then they got epics written about them and didn't go skulking around the back roads like hermits. People were a lot wiser back then, too. They knew what we were – and they worshipped us to keep themselves safe. Simpler times, I think."
"So why shouldn't we torch your ass? Save some people?"
"Other than the fact you really need my help?" she asked sweetly, causing Dean to clench his jaw in anger. "I haven't actually killed and eaten anyone since about the time Jack the Ripper was making his debut across the pond."
"Meaning?" Sam prompted.
Aggie shrugged, leaning back in her chair. "Unlike the rest of my…people…I'm more reasonable. I don't get greedy and demand everything, and then get miffed when someone comes looking to spoil my buffet. I take only what I need to survive – it draws less attention, and sometimes, I even get a repeat customer. It's good business." She clapped her hands together once, business like. "Which brings me to you two; you must be in a monumental amount of trouble if Robert called me."
"Listen, lady – not that we're not grateful you're agreeing to Bobby's favor, but what exactly makes you so special that you can get angels, demons and hunters off our backs when no one else can?" Dean asked. "I'm sure there's some hoodoo witch doctors down in New Orleans who could cook us up some protection just as easily."
"Oh, I'm sure there are others who could 'cook up' something expertly tailored to your particular brand of shit luck," Aggie said with a cold smile. "I just happen to be the person who will be asking the least for it."
"That doesn't answer anything," Sam pointed out. "What exactly is it you do?"
"In your case? I'm going to transform you."
"That sounds like the catchphrase from some lame make-over show," Dean complained.
"Much as you're both in desperate need of one of those, that's not what I meant," Aggie drawled. "What I do is more…extensive. I can completely alter your physical bodies. So much so that no one will recognize you."
"So it's basically a glamour – like what witches are able to do," Sam contemplated.
"I'm insulted you'd compare me with those little whores," Aggie remarked archly, her tone only half-joking. "Witches don't actually change their looks – they just change other people's perceptions. That's too easy to break. I actually change you. And not in the 'altering reality' way that angels and demons like to play around with."
"And how exactly does that help us?" Dean wanted to know.
"It's a bit complicated, but let's see if I can't break it down a little into a language you might understand," Aggie mused. After a moment's thought, she stated, "Your life sucks because of your genetic code, right? Vessels to those dicks with wings? "
Both Dean and Sam looked up sharply at this. "How…?"
"Oh, don't look so surprised, boys. Even if the entire supernatural world didn't know about the two of you, I could smell it on you a mile away. You stink of archangel." She made a dismissive gesture. "The easiest way to deal with that is to change it – your genetic code. See, I can bend matter and energy in a way that alters you physically – but also on a much more basic level. You get your vessel bloodline from Daddy? I alter your mitochondrial DNA so Mommy's genes have more sway. Or vice versa."
"That seems…kind of scientific for an ancient deity," Sam said after a moment of processing what she had said.
"It's the twenty-first century, Sam, I watch Discovery too – but I can explain it in Koine or Mycenaean if you want," Aggie rolled her eyes. "Or were you expecting some dactylic hexameter rhyming spell calling upon the moon and the stars?"
"Uh…no, that's okay."
She shrugged and continued, "The process will put you off of angel radar, because you won't technically be viable vessels anymore. And I can alter your thought patterns and looks so demons and hunters have a harder time recognizing you."
"So you're basically giving us the supernatural equivalent of Nip And Tuck," Dean said.
"If you want to put it in such crude terms, then yes."
Sam blinked. "And you're going to just do this because you owe Bobby a favor?"
"More or less."
"What exactly did Bobby do for you?" Dean wanted to know.
"It's Robert's story to tell, if he ever decides to," Aggie said, idly pushing a dark bank of hair behind her ear. "Although some of it isn't for such young ears…"
"Do we look twelve?" Dean grunted.
"No, but you do look like young men who don't need to or want to know the sordid details about the sexual escapades of an old friend – unless you're into that kind of thing, in which case – "
Dean held up a hand. "You know what? We're good."
Aggie grinned. "See what I mean? Juvenile."
"You said 'more or less'," Sam interrupted, trying very hard to wipe any images the goddess's words had conjured up. "What did you mean by that?"
"Just that I'm willing to help you out as a favor to Robert, but that it's a little more complicated than simply one favor for another. You're still going to have to give me something in return. That's how it works."
"How what works?"
"It's a pretty straightforward contract," Aggie explained, snapping her fingers. Sam and Dean jumped as they watched symbols and hieroglyphs the color of old blood creep up the skin of their wrists and arms, disappearing beneath their sleeves as they moved. "In a normal transaction, the payment I demand is whatever organs the human body can safely live without – spleen, gallbladder, kidney – even that useless little appendix of yours. Those are great on Melba toast."
Sam tried not to be nauseated at that image. "That's got to cut into a person's standard of life, though."
"Most people are so desperate they agree – they don't care what trouble they might go through afterward, so long as I fix their problem," Aggie explained, bored. "But Robert has informed me he wants you two as intact as I can possibly leave you, so I've agreed to mark down the usual price."
Sam scanned the glyphs on his skin, frowning as he tried to translate the few symbols of ancient Greek that he knew. Upon discovering that he was Lucifer's intended vessel, Sam had also found out that his already decent memory for languages had become stronger. At one point, he had been able to sight-read Coptic. The ability had faded, probably along with Lucifer's presence, but enough of it remained that he managed to get the gist of the words he was seeing.
His eyes widened on the third read-through of a particular section. "Our livers? Are you crazy?"
"I'm only taking a small part – they grow back," Aggie said, as though the issue was just a silly inconvenience. "I take a small part now and another small part when you want to turn back. I also want a decent amount of blood. You're vessels, which makes your blood a lot more potent than the run-of-the-mill Susie-Sobstory's. It should make up for a few of the delicious tidbits I'm letting you keep."
"Hold the phone – are you shittin’ me?" Dean broke in. "We're supposed to let carve us up just so that we can go into some kind of supernatural witness protection? No! No freakin' way!" He was already on his feet. "Come on, Sam."
"How easy do you think it will be to save your brother when you have the combined forces of Heaven and Hell hunting you every minute of every day, Dean?" Aggie asked quietly before Sam could stand up. At their surprised expressions, she continued, "See, Bobby called me for a reason, and it wasn't just because I owe him. In addition to helping you give those Judeo-Christian dicks the slip, I also have a few contacts that consider Hell no more than a run to the corner store. Catch my drift?"
She and Dean stared at each other for a long moment. Sam knew that she had him – had both of them – because she had pulled the family card.
Trying to recover his own composure, Sam asked, "Why are you so desperate to get us to do this?"
"Do you have any idea how inconvenient it is to owe a human?" Aggie replied vaguely. "Also, you're being chased by my three least favorite groups. Pulling the wool of their eyes is a bonus."
Dean slowly sat down, glowering at Aggie, and then caught Sam's gaze.
"Say for a second I was actually considering this – which I'm not. How do we know she's not going to just eat us the minute she's got us vulnerable or give us up the second some hunters show up and play the pressure card?" Dean reasoned angrily, directing his question to Sam while keeping his eyes on Aggie.
"Puh-lease, I have a house in the Hamptons, a bichon frise and a different lover every night," she snorted before Sam could reply. "It's as close to the prestige of the old days that I'm ever going to get. In fact, it's better – way back when, a lot of the he-man-type gods had a problem with us gals having any kind of fun. If I decided to sell you out, your kind would take my information and then gut me like a pig without hesitation."
"Excuse me if that doesn't make me any more confident about this," Dean retorted.
"Well, that's between you and your foibles, sugar, because I don't have to be doing this," Aggie reminded him. "In fact, I can't do anything unless you believe I can help you, or it won't work. Phenomenal cosmic powers still come with a price. So you've got to ask yourself – would Robert have sent you here if he didn't know I could get you out of whatever trouble you've landed yourselves in?"
Sam and Dean exchanged glances, and Sam knew Dean was thinking the exact same thing as he was. Bobby would never have sent them here if he thought they didn't absolutely need to be there. And the possibility that she could point them in the direction of how to get Adam out of the Pit was something that they desperately needed right now. Without Cas in their corner, Sam knew that they wouldn't be able to do it. Hadn't he spent weeks doing nothing but trying to find a way into Hell to save his brother?
"Information first," Dean finally said, sounding frustrated. "There's no way you're getting a taste of this without something more than you 'saying' you can help us spring Adam."
Aggie shrugged, like she had expected this. "There's a guy in Elwood, Indiana. Him and his kind know the backdoors to every realm – Heaven, Hell, Purgatory – you name it, he can probably get you in there."
"And we're just supposed to trust your word on that?"
"When this is over, honey, I'll draw you a map. But other than that, I'm not telling you anything else. You're already getting off better in this little deal than any of my other clients ever do. And I've been doing this a long time."
This time the looks Dean and Sam exchanged were more searching. After a moment, Sam nodded in resignation and Dean sighed.
"Fine," he groused. "Just don't screw around with our ribs. We've got protective sigils carved into them and messing with them would make this whole thing a waste of time."
"We don't deal with bones anyhow."
Sam attempted a confident voice. "Let's do this."
"Just one last thing before we do," Aggie said, ignoring Dean's impatient grimace. "This all has to be done while you're awake, otherwise the magic won't take. The pain endured is a component of the spell – it's all part of the sacrifice you're offering to me. Think you can handle that?"
Dean's jaw clenched and he looked at Sam imploringly. Sam knew his brother was thinking of what he had endured in Hell – of what he'd done; Dean knew that he could endure any kind of pain that was thrown at him, but was obviously worried about Sam. Letting him go through with this deal was against his older brother's code, and Sam knew if he showed even a little bit of uneasiness at the prospect, Dean would bow out.
And they really needed to get off supernatural radar until they figured out their current problems.
Trying to appear more confident than he was, Sam nodded. "We've both been to Hell. Wasn't a picnic."
He just didn't add that he couldn't remember any of it.
Before Dean could argue, Aggie clapped her hands together. "Excellent. Then let's get this show on the road." She pushed a pen and paper across the desk to Sam. His confusion must have shown in his eyes, because she said, "Address. So my people know where to bring you afterward. Patching you up and transporting you back to your place of residence is all part of the service. Considering you're hunters, I imagine that's some decrepit motel somewhere." She smirked. "Unless you want to stay here during the recuperation process?"
Through the walls, another round of techno beats began.
"There aren't enough ways to say 'no'," Dean groused, grabbing the paper before Sam could make a move and scribbling down the information.
"I hope you're paid up for the week," Aggie told them. "Recovery usually takes at least three days."
She stood up and walked across the room, heading for the door Sam had seen before. "Right this way."
They started after her, when she suddenly turned around and fixed Dean with a penetrating frown.
"You," she intoned, looking as though she was properly seeing him for the first time. "You've already been reformed once."
Dean shifted uncomfortably, and for a moment Sam wasn't sure what she was talking about. And then he remembered those terrible four months of his life. Neither of them liked to talk about that period, for obvious reasons. After the one share-and-care session Dean had forced out of him back when Sam had still been working with Ruby – his stomach clenched with guilt and discomfort at that memory – they had both agreed to never mention it again.
"That gonna be a problem?" Dean was asking.
"No," Aggie said. "It just means I've got to be careful not to break anything when I work. Your body and soul are still fragile. They were held together by…grace, was it? An angel reformed you?" At Dean's barely there nod, she whistled and went on, "It's not there anymore, though."
Dean coughed uncomfortably. "Yeah…kind of noticed that."
"Whoever did it, did a good job," Aggie said, sounding grudgingly approving. "Although, your friend recalled the grace a bit early. Any sooner and you would have been completely rent apart."
Dean tensed. "Recalled…? What does that even mean?"
"If grace is anything like a god's immortality, it stays connected to its host until it ceases to be. You said you felt it disappear?"
"Then he's probably dead."
Dean paled, and Sam spoke up, hoping for a different answer. "But Dean said Cas died twice before and he didn't feel anything. Why's this time different?"
"Really?" Aggie frowned. "Huh. Well, it's interesting. It could mean that the grace had already separated itself from its host before your friend…had whatever happened to him happen. It's rare, but possible." She studied Dean again. "What little of his essence he used to hold you together might have formed a symbiotic relationship with your soul."
"But then why's it gone now?" Dean asked, and then seemed to realize what he was asking, because he added defensively, "Not that I'm crazy about having another dude's, uh, essence all up in my soul."
"My theory? Even though it melded with your soul, it still managed to retain that connection to its former host," Aggie suggested. "It probably returned if its host was in danger or in need of a power boost." She shrugged again. "But this is all a guess, I'm not going to pretend I'm an expert about angels. I try to avoid the bastards at all costs. Like I said, it just means I'm going to have to be careful."
She turned again, leading them down a sterile looking hallway and into a room that looked like a hospital operating table. The older man was there as well, although he had changed out of his expensive suit and into something akin to scrubs. He was standing beside a tray of several wicked looking metal instruments.
"Ethon will be carrying out the surgical part of this little procedure," Aggie explained, leading them into the backroom. "Don't let the geriatric look fool you – he's being doing this exact operation for millennia."
"One hundred percent success rate," the man grunted.
"I thought you said this was a spell," Sam asked.
"Oh, it is. We're just taking our payment up front," Aggie assured them. "He's the one who's going to be carving out pieces of your livers. Once that's done, then the real magic begins."
Ethon smiled, looking like he was thoroughly enjoying this. "Who wants to go first?"
For those of you who are interested, Aggie looks like a cross between Carrie-Ann Moss and Cillian Murphy, while Ethon resembles Richard Marcus and a human Sam Eagle. Yes, I am talking about the Muppet XP.