Sam and Sarah have a little chat, Cas comes up with a plan and the brothers deal with their witch problem.
"I swear, if you even think the word 'Midol' I will end you."
A/N: This chapter borrows characters and some dialogue from 7x05 "Shut up, Dr. Phil".
Margaret Stark Art Gallery
New York City, New York
Monday June 7 2010
To say that Sam was stunned was saying the absolute least.
For a moment as he considered the familiar woman standing in front of him, wielding his own gun with an ease he would never have credited her with. He flashed back to how she had looked five years before: face pale, braided hair astray and eyes wide in terror as she clung to him while he shielded her from that homicidal little girl's spirit.
The memory was gone a second later, replaced with dismay at the realization that he had been right about Sarah being involved in the case. She seemed too comfortable with what Maggie was for this to be a recent discovery, either.
His brain sputtered back online and he thought determinedly of a way to get out of this sudden turn of events, trying not to wince at every scenario which led him to seriously injuring the woman. Even if she was working with the witch – or God forbid was the supplier of demon blood somehow – he didn't want to hurt her.
"Who are you?" Sarah repeated, looking from Sam to Dean and back again.
"Not the ones you should be pointed the gun at, that's for damn sure," Dean spat, eyes flashing angrily. Apparently, Sam wasn't the only one disillusioned with the way things had turned out.
Sarah was cut off by Maggie's annoyed snort as the witch stepped forward, waving her hand with intent. Sam and Dean found themselves hauled upward and pushed tightly against the nearest wall, their feet dangling about a foot off the ground. The hard edge of a portrait dug into Sam's back, and there was an uncomfortable pressure on his windpipe.
"You're already skating on thin ice, missy," Maggie sneered at Dean, "You're lucky I don't have you coughing up your lungs yet. I hate nosy little hunters like you."
"Hunters?" Sarah queried, her grip on the gun loosening somewhat. She eyed Maggie beseechingly. "That's what they are?" She glanced to them and back. "That means they couldn't have been the ones that did that to Marcie."
"Not necessarily," Maggie scowled, showing no sign of releasing them. Instead, she increased whatever magical force was keeping them immobilized. "They're sneaky little toads…"
"Hey, we had nothing to do with that," Sam panted out in protest.
"You're wasting your breath," Dean bit out at him, glaring at Sarah. "And you – I thought you were supposed to be cool."
"Why would you even think that?" Sarah wanted to know. "I've never met you before in my life."
"Sam told us," Sam said, deciding on a gamble that might at least put her off her guard. Dean made a pissed-off noise beside him, but Sam ignored him. His decision seemed to be the right one, at any rate, because Sarah started to lower the gun.
"Sam?" she repeated, surprise lacing her words. "Not Sam Winchester? You know him?"
"Intimately," Sam said, which wasn't a lie, really. There was a minute narrowing of her eyes and a look like suspicion, and he thought through what that sounded like and winced, before amending, "We're cousins."
He winced again, because that didn't sound much better.
"They're lying," Maggie interjected conversationally.
"He told you about me?" Sarah wanted to know, lingering suspicion in the question.
"He said you helped him and his brother with a haunted painting a few years ago, up in New Paltz," Sam mumbled with effort, the pressure keeping him pinned to the wall distracting him slightly from watching her features. "He said you took it real well." He flinched as another burst of invisible power pressed him more tightly to the wall, "Then again, if you're hanging out with witches, maybe he was wrong."
"Racist," Maggie muttered.
Sarah frowned at him and said, "You don't know what you're talking about."
"I know she cursed her ex-husband's secretary," Sam argued. "Anne? She choked to death on her own blood a few hours ago –"
He groaned as Maggie made a squeezing motion with her fist, and began to cut off his oxygen supply in earnest. Beside him, Dean made a startled croak which convinced Sam the witch had done the same thing to him as well.
Sarah was facing her friend. "Is that true?"
Maggie made a scoffing sound, but when Sarah raised an eyebrow at her, she then huffed in annoyance. "He started it."
Sam's vision was beginning to go spotty.
"You saw what he did to Marcie? It was payback!"
"It's people's lives! Besides, you said you didn't do that anymore."
"I said I didn't do it often," Maggie corrected, "and you weren't complaining last time. Remember? The Tanzanian warlock that cursed you when you outbid him on that Goya?"
"I was throwing up leeches, it wasn't like I could have said anything anyhow –"
"Uh, hello? Choking to death?" Dean gagged.
"Maggie, let them down. Please," Sarah sighed. "There's obviously more going on here than we know."
Maggie looked like she really wanted to ignore Sarah's words. A moment later, though, she adopted a falsely cheery expression and Sam felt the invisible hand on his throat disappear. He hauled in a painful gulp of air just seconds before he felt himself released from his invisible bonds and landed clumsily on his feet.
A second later he and Dean went flying across the room again.
"Was that really necessary?" Sarah was asking as Sam recovered himself, though she sounded kind of amused. Beside him, Dean was rubbing at his throat and glaring at the two women with a look that promised violence as soon as he figured out how to do it without getting his ass kicked.
"Yes," Maggie was answering without a hint of remorse. She crossed her arms and focused her attention on Sam and Dean, looking expectant. "You've got about two minutes to explain yourselves before I change my mind." A dirty look at Sarah, and then, "Ask me if I'm kidding."
"She's not," Sarah assured them casually.
Sam raised an eyebrow, despite everything a little bit amused by the fact that an ex-auction house worker and a trophy-wife witch were actually playing the good-cop-bad-cop card on him and Dean. Sarah for her part didn't look as though she was working an angle, but seemed genuinely interested in hearing what he had to say. Still, he wasn't going to be taken off guard by her again. He'd done that once already today and it had landed him and Dean in this whole mess.
Then again, going about it the usual way wasn't going to cut it this time. He was going to have to play the cooperative hunter until he and Dean knew more of what was going on. Besides, if he managed the situation right, they might kill two birds with one stone, hunting down Nicki's demon blood supplier and getting a witch to create a spell for them to open a Hell gate.
"We're not going to try anything on Maggie," Sam assured slowly, ignoring Dean's 'speak-for-yourself'' snort. "We just want to talk."
To Sam's surprise, Sarah sighed and expertly removed the magazines from the gun, tossing them in one direction and the gun in the opposite. Then she faced him, hand on her hip. "So talk."
"You're down by thirty seconds," Maggie put in.
"We've been trying to track down a witch for a while now – not to kill. We need some help," Sam explained earnestly. "Along the way, though, we got a bit sidetracked by a case. There's someone dealing in demon blood – they've already supplied it to at least one person that we know of. It caused a lot of trouble, so we followed the trail here to see if we could stop it."
Sarah addressed Maggie curiously. "Demon blood? That's actually a thing?"
"A really old thing," Maggie confirmed grudgingly. "Old and dangerous."
"We thought it was a witch or a demon doing it," Sam went on, surprised at the witch's candor. That was new.
"And you followed the trail to me, did you?" Maggie inquired frostily. "Or is this just one of those bang-up jobs you people do where you make the evidence fit whatever crazy conclusion you came up with?"
Dean couldn't suppress a snort. "You're lecturing us on morals? Am I the only one who sees the irony here?"
"Oh, you're about to see a lot more than irony, honey," Maggie threatened.
"Bring it –!"
"Look, all we had to go on was an IP address and a Hotmail username," Sam interrupted quickly, before Dean's mouth got them into more trouble, "and it led us to your gallery. And with what happened at the event this afternoon, and then to your husband's assistant, we –"
"You just jumped to the conclusion that it was me, right?" Maggie returned. "Why would I hurt my own PA? Do you realize how hard it is to find a personal assistant these days without some kind of childhood trauma? That was Don."
"Christ, married witches?" Dean groaned.
"Besides," Maggie continued, as though she hadn't heard him, "if the only lead you've got was an IP address and a – a what was it? A username?"
"QueenBeeStark," Sam revealed grudgingly, because even he could recognize it wasn't a lot to go on.
"Ugh, I wouldn't socialize with someone who used such a tacky, self-promoting name, let alone use it myself," Maggie disdained, "I don't even use Hotmail, I have a corporate email account linked to my charity."
"Right, yeah, that's convincing," Dean sneered, "because you being a witch makes me really want to trust you."
"Face it – you came in here, guns blazing over something that could have been anyone and –"
"Found you, didn't we?"
"Enough, both of you," Sarah interrupted, just as Sam was about to do the same thing. She focussed on Sam. "What is it you want?"
"Right now? To stop whatever's been dealing demon blood," Sam said. "It's involved in what happened to Marcie, at least, because the coin we found beside her was covered in the stuff."
"Then whoever's doing it is both monumentally stupid and monumentally insane," Maggie said. "There's a reason witches don't work with demon blood, not least of all because it's too volatile." She smiled grimly. "It's sort of one of those 'bite the hand that feeds' kind of substances."
"We think the wine glass was meant for you," Sam said. "I asked you before if you have any enemies, and you didn't answer."
"Are you serious? Now we're helping the witch?" Dean exploded, at the same time that Maggie rolled her eyes and said, "Of course I have enemies – I spent the past eight hundred years screwing with people's lives, why do you think I'm so involved with charity work now?"
"What, you think funding soup kitchens and feeding orphans is going to save your immortal soul?" Dean deadpanned. He pretended to think, "Oh wait, you sold that already."
"It's insurance," Maggie sniffed.
In the distance, there was a sound like a door banging open.
"Maggie?" someone called from the entrance hall, and everyone looked up as Don Stark strode into the room. He seemed to falter for a moment, taking in the four people gathered, and then recognition set in when his gaze fell on Sam and Dean. "You two!"
Once again, Sam and Dean were thrown backwards, skidding painfully across the floor as Don waved violently with one hand.
"I'm gonna start wearing fucking body armour," Dean mumbled furiously
"Stay the hell away from my wife!" Don snarled, stalking forward, hand still raised. He glanced aside, and in a normal voice, "Hi Sarah."
"Don," Sarah said in a strained voice.
"Did you get that email I sent you about the terracotta –ow!"
Maggie had stalked over and was smacking him upside the head. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm trying to – ow! – save your – stop that! – life! They're hunters –"
"As usual, you're a decade late and a dollar short," Maggie growled, trying to slap him again even as he moved away. "I'm handling it. I don't need you riding in here in your shiny corvette every time I break a nail. I've been telling you that for eight hundred years!"
"Again with the women's lib," Don rolled his eyes. "You expect me to just sit by while a bunch of hunters go after my wife?"
"Dude, she just killed your assistant," Dean pointed out.
"Shut up, you," Maggie said, reaching out and sending Dean face-first into a painting.
"No, Maggie, that's a fair point," Don drawled. "Another case where you jumped the gun without finding out the whole story."
"The whole story? You tried to kill my PA – and you cheated on me! Humiliated me!"
"That was a long time ago," Don protested.
Sam saw the anger burgeoning on the faces of both witches, and realized they were minutes away from a meltdown that might end up killing everyone in the room. It was clearly time to switch tactics.
"Look, what Don did…we're not saying it's right, but when a relationship cracks, usually both parties have a hand in it," Sam attempted, looking at Sarah for support, but she was shaking her head viciously.
"You're defending him?" Maggie demanded, and then reached out to Sam. He crumpled forward, pain like fire in his veins lacing through him.
"Whoa! Okay, okay!" Dean exclaimed, pulling himself up again. He glared at Sam, a silent 'what the hell are you doing?' in the expression. "Okay, look – n-nobody can defend Don. Right? Uh, totally. But, uh, we get that you feel betrayed…because you were."
"Don't suck up to her," Don said, throwing out an arm and sending Dean up to hit the ceiling and then drop. Sam winced, sure that he heard something crack.
"Okay, okay, look –" he interrupted hurriedly, aware that his plan was completely falling apart. "I don't think Don was lying when he said he regrets the whole cheating thing."
"'Thing'?" Maggie hissed. "Sit down."
She pressed her palm flat and Sam's knees buckled.
"Affair," Sarah put in, wincing at the abuse Sam and Dean were going through. "I'm sure Don regrets the affair, Mags."
"The only thing he regrets is getting caught," Maggie returned, although she didn't make a move to attack Sarah. "It's part of a pattern, okay? Do not make me bring up the Renaissance."
"Oh! Oh!" Don snapped. "You're one to talk! 1492 ring any bells?"
"The man was about to set sail!" Maggie yelled. "He could possibly fall of the edge of the earth. I took pity – so what's your excuse?"
"The Medici chick was me coping! I'd just watched the love of my life waltz off with some big nosed, redheaded –"
"Ugh, this is ridiculous," Maggie groaned, raising her hands in annoyance, although this time it was thankfully free of any magical doozies aimed at Sam and Dean. "This is why I can't talk to you."
She turned on her heel to leave, and then stopped by the entrance of the gallery, staring back menacingly.
"Sarah, I want them all off my property by the time I get back, or you're fired." She then jabbed a finger at the Winchesters. "And if I ever see you two again, I'm going to boil your entrails in front of you."
She didn't even spare Don a parting remark, instead disappearing out the door in a huff.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence.
"That actually…went better than expected," Don volunteered after a moment.
"She's actually really nice once you get to know her," Sarah said after another moment, shrugging helplessly.
Dean shot her a disbelieving look, not quite in the forgiving mood just yet. "Yeah, I'll bet."
"Hey, watch it," Don snapped. "That's my wife you're talking about."
"Soon to be ex-wife," Dean reminded him.
Don's eyes narrowed and he raised his hand threateningly. "She's not the only one who can boil entrails, you know."
Dean snorted. "Buddy, I spent forty years in Hell. You don't scare me."
Sam nudged him roughly, giving him a warning look, and Dean rolled his eyes. It was highly unlikely Don knew anything about the apocalyptic shit-storm that had been the Winchesters destiny, why Sam was bothering to be so overly-cautious about revealing information like that, he didn't know.
Still, he dropped the matter and fixed Don with a cold look. "Why do you even care, anyway? I mean, you tried to poison her."
"I did not!"
"We found the coin," Sam said. "It wasn't hers."
"I don't use coins," Don replied, with the same contemptuous tone of voice that Maggie had used when she denied using Hotmail. Dean rolled his eyes again. It was just their luck that they had stumbled upon the witch-version of the Cleavers. "That's Maggie's thing. She likes the plausible deniability that comes with them. Me? I like to get my hands dirty."
"Wow, is it such a mystery why we don't trust you?" Dean asked sarcastically, and then said to Sarah, "And you're friends with these people?"
Sarah pursed her lips and crossed her arms at him, obviously unimpressed with his line of questioning. Dean didn't care, he was still stung by the fact that his judgement of her had been so off.
"So, wait," Sam cut in, his eyes narrowed in the familiar thinking expression that not even a feminine face could change. "Maggie went after your assistant because you had gone after hers…but if you're saying you didn't –"
"– which we're not saying we believe," Dean put in helpfully.
"– Then that means there's another witch out there, targeting your wife. Either trying to kill her, or maybe trying to pit the two of you against each other so you can destroy each other," Sam finished.
"Met any witches from the fifteenth century?" Dean asked. "Maybe someone who uses an Italian aikido?"
"Aquile," Sam corrected.
"Whatever," Dean remained unconcerned. "Maybe someone working with demon blood?"
"Maggie said demon blood is too dangerous to work with," Sarah pointed out helpfully.
"It is," Don agreed. "It's too potent. It completely magnifies the spells so much that they backfire more often than not. So whoever's using it is not terribly concerned with surviving to cast their next spell, or…"
"Or?" Dean and Sam prompted.
"Or they're extremely powerful," Don concluded. "They could be sworn to a demon that's particularly high up on the food chain."
"Which one's more likely?" Sam asked.
"The first. As far as I know, there are very few demons more powerful than the one Maggie and I are beholden to," Don said, smirking ruefully.
"And that is…?" Dean promoted.
"Oh, right, like I'm going to tell you?" Don scoffed. "My luck, you'd get some harebrained idea about summoning that bastard down here. We're not exactly on speaking terms this century, and I like it that way."
"Then how are you able to do your witchy crap, if you're not in bed with a demon?" Dean wanted to know, ignoring Sam's eye twitch at his wording. Served him right; as far as Dean was concerned, he had 'I told you so' rights for eternity on that one.
"Not every demon has a thing for mindless devotion," Don explained, "If that were the case, they'd possess those pretty-boys from Twilight and get their worshippers that way. Some just want a natural disaster committed in their names every few years. It's kind of a quality over quantity thing." He shrugged. "The point is: I don't need to be under the hairy eyeball of a demon right now. That thing's like the mother-in-law from Hell. Literally."
Dean mouthed wordlessly for a second, staring at Don, and then at Sarah, who didn't look at all surprised by this information.
"Our lives are weird," he said after a moment of processing all of that.
"You're only getting that now?" Sam snorted.
Dean ignored him, scrubbing his hand down his face in exasperation as his thoughts raced. The evening was obviously not going to progress in any way that made sense, and as much as he really wanted to start knocking off the self-satisfied asshole and his wife on principle, he was also very aware that right now, they needed his help. From the way Sam inclined his head just so, he was thinking along the same lines.
"Ok, look, we'll make you a deal," Dean said after a pause.
Don raised an eyebrow. "Oh, this I've got to hear."
"We'll help you figure out who's trying to off you and your wife. We'll help you stop them. And instead of us ganking you sons of bitches like I really, really want to, you're gonna do us a favor and we'll leave you alone this time."
"What makes you think I want your help?" Don snorted. "I'd much prefer to kill you here and be done with it. I can find whoever's doing this myself."
"Don," Sarah reprimanded.
"I'm sorry, Sarah, but that's the fact. You know how Maggie and I feel about hunters."
"And you know how I feel about them," Sarah reminded. "I happen to work with a lot of pretty decent ones." She then looked pointedly at Sam and Dean, "And a lot of pretty decent witches. There's no reason you can't all work together."
"Sorry, sweetheart, but this isn't a teambuilding exercise," Dean retorted. "You can't be friends with witches and hunters at the same time. At some point you're going to have to make a choice."
"Maybe, but not today," she told him firmly. She looked at the three of them in turn. "We're all trying to do the same thing here, right? It'd be nice if we could get through it with as little bloodshed as possible."
"And if we don't?" Dean wanted to know.
"Then Don kills you and, and I never speak to him or Maggie again," Sarah replied calmly. "Trust me, they value my friendship more than your lives."
Dean blinked, because, ouch. A glance in Don's direction suggested that was true.
"You've changed," Sam told her quietly.
Sarah gave him an odd look. "What do you mean?"
"Well, from what…Sam said," Sam said, looking a little flustered for a moment. "I mean, he said you were cool with all this stuff, but this is kind of like…Wow."
"I haven't seen your cousin in over four years," Sarah said, with the remnants of an icy tone that Dean knew all too well. "Four years changes a lot."
"Apparently," Sam agreed quietly.
"Moving right along," Dean cleared his throat and returned his attention to Don again. "I don't care how old you are, hunting is what we do. You might have the patience to sit and wait while more people get killed while this thing tries to get to its intended target, but I don't. So if you want this shit over and done with within the next decade, I think your best bet is helping us out."
"Much as I'd really like to cut off your head," Dean added after a moment.
"And say I decide to cooperate? What is this favor you want?" Don asked. "What kind of dark magic would a self-righteous little hunter like you want?"
"We need you to write a spell for us," Dean said. "Something infused with enough power that it can open a door."
"A door where?"
Don's eyebrows raised, and his mouth quirked. "Done."
Dean blinked. "O-kay, that was pretty easy."
"Are you kidding?" Don chuckled. "That deal's a no-lose situation for me. We screw up, you die, we don't, you go to Hell. I get to keep sending Sarah Christmas cards. Good odds for me, I'd say."
"Why are you trying to get to Hell?" Sarah wanted to know.
"That's not important right now," Sam said, sounding impatient. Dean could sort of understand why, they had been lingering here for the last ten minutes while there was a pissed off witch on the loose. And Maggie, too. "We need to get working. Now, while we're here, maybe we can get some more clues from that IP address – the gallery has a computer somewhere around here, right?"
"I think Maggie has one in the office upstairs. It's where she does all her finances," Don said, earning expressions of surprise from the brothers. "What? I helped her build up this gallery, before she wanted to roast my lungs."
A rather awkward journey upstairs later, in which Dean spent more time making sure he didn't have his back turned on Don than anything, they made it to a small, neat corner office. It was locked, of course, and neither Sarah or Don had the key. Sam started to pull out his lock pick, but Don simply rolled his eyes, waved and hand and sent the door flying open.
"She's going to be mad at you for breaking the door," Sarah pointed out.
"Add it to the list," Don replied wearily while Sam booted up the PC.
"Who has access to this computer?" he asked a few minutes later as he pulled whatever hacking job he was doing. Dean's skills when it came to computers were less pronounced, and so he left his brother to it, instead digging into his jeans for his phone. He hadn't checked in on Cas in a while.
"Just Maggie, I would imagine," Sarah said. Then, as an afterthought, she added, "Oh, and Marcie, of course."
"No one else?"
"It's password protected," Sarah said with a shake of her head. "I have to have Maggie sign me in on the few times I've ever needed to check anything out. I'm just a buyer – our business relationship is entirely separate from our friendship."
Dean stared down at his phone, noticing that he had missed seventeen calls and six voicemails, all from Cas's new cellphone. Before he could check his voicemail, it vibrated again. He flipped it open. "Cas?"
"I have been calling you several times over the last hour," Cas said without preamble, sounding annoyed. "Why haven't you picked up?"
"My phone was on vibrate. Didn't hear it."
"Why was it on vibrate?"
"We were sneaking onto private property, I had to turn it down."
"And did that somehow render you incapable of checking your messages?"
"Been kind of busy, dude."
"What is the point of procuring a phone for me if you are not going to answer when I call you from it?" the ex-angel wanted to know, sounding frustrated.
He wasn't yelling, but his voice was pitched loudly enough that Dean had to hold the phone away from his ear. Don was smirking at him again. "Boyfriend troubles?"
Sam burst out laughing, while Dean glared, and turned his back on the other people in the room. Lowering his voice, he ground out, "Cas is there a reason you're calling, or are you just going to bitch?"
"I have looked into the history of this Don Stark, and outwardly he seems "clean", as you say, but further research shows that he is connected to seven women who have died in the past year."
"Oh really?" Dean said, glancing back at Stark. "Can you text me their names?"
"Of course. Although, you should know, there is little evidence to support he knew these women beyond –" Cas's voice cut out, and then back in, " – and thus not likely."
"I said –"
There was the cut of sound again, and Dean gave an annoyed sigh. "Cas, I keep losing you."
"Dean – there is – beeping noise – why is there a beep?"
"It's called call-waiting, dumbass, that's what happens when you give nerdy fanboys your cellphone number even after I told you not do."
"Is this the button I use to check – ?"
The dial tone sounded in his ear.
Sam was looking back at him, amused. "He can figure out how to Google, but he can't figure out call-waiting?"
"I still have trouble with that shit, cut him some slack," Dean said defensively.
It was another quarter of an hour before Cas managed to send the names – apparently Dean was right about Yong being the annoying caller – and Dean couldn't help grin at the misspellings in the words. Cas was still all thumbs when it came to texting, it was kind of cute.
Which, whoa. Just, no.
"These women," Don was saying, thankfully bringing Dean out of whatever disturbing, twilight zone he had briefly entered, looking over the photographs and information Sam had elected to bring up on the computer's browser. "I don't know them – well, obviously, I met them, but those are mostly photo ops. The only one I did know personally was Shelly." He pointed to a voluptuous blond woman with full lips and obviously fake breasts. "She was a realtor I worked with on a project in Indiana. Terrible accident last year, she was skiing and fell in the path of a snow blower."
"You sure it was an accident?" Sam prompted.
"Well, I was before," Don returned. "Given what we know now, though…"
"You know what this looks like, right?" Dean said. "All the victims so far have one thing in common. What looks on paper like a nice, close relationship with Don Stark."
"Well, except Marcie."
The three of them looked over to Sarah. Sam was the first to speak. "What?"
"All these women," Sarah explained, pointing to the photos on the computer. "They've showed up in pictures with Don or worked closely with him. They're all mentioned in news articles with him or having been at the same events. Except Marcie."
Don looked nonplussed, and then thoughtful. "That's true. I've met her a few times in the past when Maggie could stand being in the same building as me, but she's always been painfully shy. We barely exchange two words, and she's always looking at the floor."
"Obviously it was enough interaction for someone to get the right idea," Dean said. "Either Maggie thought so too and is a really good actress, or you've got a stalker on your ass."
"Maybe," Sam said thoughtfully, earning surprised looks from both Dean and Don.
"What do you mean, maybe?" Dean pressed, a little miffed. His theory was just as plausible as some of the stuff Sam came up with.
"Well, look at all of these women that died – Don said earlier he likes confident women, independent women – look at who he's married to," Sam suggested thoughtfully. "And according to all these blurbs on the vics, they were all successful, strong…but then you look at Marcie…"
"She's kind of the opposite of that, isn't she?" Sarah mused, catching on. She looked at Sam, and then Dean. "You don't think she…?"
"It's possible," Sam granted.
"But she's in the hospital," Sarah protested.
"If she's a powerful witch, she's not going to worry too much about a hemorrhaging esophagus for a while," Sam said. "She might even have set the whole thing up from the beginning to ensure she survived, just to keep herself safe. I mean, if I were going to take on two eight-hundred-year-old witches, I'd want all my bases covered."
"But that leaves the million dollar question," Dean said, turning to Don, "What the hell did you do to her that – ?" He trailed off, staring at the spot that had just been occupied by Don Stark. "These guys love to storm off, don't they?"
"I think we should find Marcie before Don does," Sam said carefully. "She could be the witch – but on the off-chance she isn't, and Don finds her?"
"She's checked out," the tired looking nurse at New York Presbyterian said, checking her computer.
"But she was in the ICU," Sarah said, disbelieving.
"Well, according to this, she's got a clean bill of health and left here a few hours ago," the nurse replied.
"Did she leave herself, or was someone with her?"
"I wasn't on duty, ma'am, I couldn't tell you."
Sam forced a smile. "Thanks for your help."
He and Sarah left the reception area and headed out into the hospital parking lot. As soon as they cleared the doors, Sam dialed Dean's number. His brother picked up on the second ring.
"Marcie's our DB supplier, alright," Dean said, not bothering with a greeting. "There's a body here chained to a chair in a devil's trap. Been dead for a day, I'd say. And I checked her computer? She's spoken to about fifteen different people – all of them sound like spurned women, in my opinion – about transactions for the blood. And you should see her apartment."
"You found an altar?"
"More than that – vats of what I can only imagine is demon blood, couple dead animals and a hell of a lot of pictures of Don and Maggie."
"So she is trying to get rid of them," Sam said, nodding at Sarah meaningfully.
"Not exactly," his brother hedged. "All of the pictures of Don are intact, the pictures of Maggie – well, the pictures of any woman who's had contact with Don in the last year – not so much."
"Full-on Swimfan, then?"
"In a big way," Dean answered. "Listen, I'm going to pick up Cas on the way to meet you. If we've got a three-way witch-off going on, chances are we're gonna need some of his input on how to make it out with our balls intact."
'Figuratively speaking,' Sam didn't add.
Out loud, he said, "Okay. See you in a few," and hung up.
Sarah was already on her phone, trying to get through to both Don and Maggie. After several attempts and some worried voice messages, she offered him a worried glance. "They never ignore phone calls. Ever."
"It sounds like Marcie went looking for them. Or at least for Maggie."
"She's probably headed for the hotel penthouse. Maggie's been living there for six months now, ever since she left Don."
"We'll head there when D – Erica gets here – unless you're into stealing cars now too," Sam said, his voice colder than he intended.
"And what do we do when we get there?" Sarah challenged, frowning at him. "If Maggie's fine, she's not going to be happy to see you, and I can't promise to be able to keep her from killing you. And if she's not fine, then Marcie's there, and if what Don said is right, she's more powerful anyway. You want to just run in and take your chances, or do you want to come up with some kind of game plan?"
"Any ideas?" Sam returned.
"No," she answered shortly, and they dissolved into uncomfortable silence.
Sam frowned at nothing in particular, and then sighed. He wasn't being completely fair, and he knew it. As Sarah said, it had been years. They had both changed. And beyond that, she didn't even know that he was Sam Winchester, so there was no reason for him to be acting like he'd found out some unsavory secret his girlfriend was keeping from him.
Because she wasn't his girlfriend. He hadn't seen her in more than four, hadn't thought about her at all, really.
'Crap, what if Dean was right?' he thought suddenly, the thought coming out of left field. He was starting to think irrationally, what if it was some kind of sign that he, well, hadn't let off steam in a while? 'No, screw that. That's Dean-logic. So not applicable.'
In an effort to chase away those thoughts, he elected to break the uncomfortable silence.
"So..." he began, slightly unsure as to where he was going with this. He sensed movement out of the corner of his eye, probably Sarah turning to face him and kept his eyes on the the cars going in and out of the hotel parking lot. "Sam said you worked for your dad's auction house."
"Yes," she answered, the slight inflection at the end of the sentence telling him she knew he was trying to ask her something.
"How do you go from that to…well, being friends with a couple of witches?"
This time Sarah shifted in such an obvious way that Sam couldn't help turning to look at her. She was fixing him with the same shrewd gaze as she had when she asked him that loaded question about American Primitive the first time he met her. Only instead of the heated look of someone who was attracted to him, she seemed calculating.
"How did you become a hunter?" she countered.
Sam shrugged. "Sort of the family business."
"Have you ever tried to get out?" she asked.
"Yeah." He offered a rueful smile. "It didn't take."
She snorted. "Well, that's what it was like for me. After Sam and his brother left, after what I'd seen – I tried to go back to normal. I spent weeks telling myself I'd just gotten spectacularly drunk with my girlfriends and dreamed the whole thing up."
"What changed?" Sam asked tentatively.
"I was just curious – I started looking into all my dad's old files, records on pieces we had sold over the years, where they had ended up. Know what I found?"
"Sixteen cursed pieces – and that's only in the last ten years. My family's been in the auction business for generations," she said sadly. "Sixteen pieces that we sold to people who ended up killed or hurt for no reason. And by the time I figured that out, there wasn't anyone I could call or tell. Sam changed his number or something, and I didn't know who else to contact…so I checked it out myself."
"No way," Sam said, part dismayed by such a stupid decision and part impressed.
"Yep. The first time, I made up some stupid story about scouting for an antiques road show so I could get a look at this old Maori warrior mask we'd sold. Turned out the spirit of the warrior was still trapped inside of it and was going around killing and, er, eating people."
Sam stared, fascinated and disgusted at the same time. "Eating? But it was a ghost. Right?"
"I guess while it manifested solidly it didn't matter," Sarah shrugged. "Anyway, I managed to burn the mask and get out of there before the police were called. Since then, I've been tracking down anything my family's auction house has sold and destroyed it if it was cursed. Of course, there are some things I don't know how to destroy. That's where Maggie and Don came in. They get rid of anything I can't."
"How'd that relationship get off the ground?" Sam asked, curious and impressed despite himself.
"I'd built up contacts in this line of work, when my reputation for identifying artefacts became known," Sarah shrugged. "Maggie and Don actually started off as just a business relationship. They hired me to determine the authenticity of a pair of Lhasa fertility idols they were interested in purchasing." She pursed her lips in a rueful smile. "This was when they were still together."
"Anyway, it turned out they were the real thing, so they wired me the money and they weren't cursed, so it was an easy job. I must have impressed them, because they called me again and again – and Maggie started to ask my input on non-magical items, and then we became friends."
"And when did you find out they were witches?"
"Well, I always knew they weren't the average happily married couple on the block," Sarah said with a smirk. "The things they asked me to authenticate kind of gave it away, but it's only in the last year they told me the truth. Or, well, I kind of found out while Maggie was saving my life."
"Right. Uh. Leeches?"
"So gross," Sarah shuddered at the memory.
There was another silence.
"And it…doesn't bother you that they worship demons and kill people for fun?" Sam asked for a moment. He knew it was a bit hypocritical coming from him, considering his history and the whole Ruby indiscretion, but he was having trouble picturing sweet, good-hearted Sarah associating with witches.
"They don't kill people for fun," she said after a moment, and then sighed, "Look, Jane, I know they're not going to be canonized any time soon, but they do a lot more good than evil these days. I think they're trying to make up for the last eight hundred years."
"What could possibly make up for the chaos they're responsible for?"
"…They saved my father's life."
Which put Sam right in his place, because he had forgiven a lot of things for the sake of his brother's or his father's life. He decided not to reveal that, though, instead asking tentatively, "What does your dad think of all this?"
Sarah laughed then. "He only knows about the legit consulting stuff. I mean, he even hires me sometimes, which is great because I can make sure he's not selling anything bad. As for the supernatural…I don't tell him. He wouldn't understand."
"What about yours?" Sarah asked. "You said it's the family business. You hunt with your parents, or is it just you and your sister?"
"Both my parents are dead," Sam confided. "It's just me and Erica. And, well, Cas, but he's a new addition."
"Cas," Sarah repeated. "Is that who called your sister before?"
"Yeah," Sam said, and then grinned wickedly to himself in spite of the lie. "He's her husband."
"Wow," Sarah raised her eyebrows. "It really is a family business to you guys."
They were interrupted when a familiar car drove up, and Sam saw Dean and Cas in the front seats.
"Sarah, Cas – Cas, Sarah," Dean said as Sarah and Sam climbed into the backseat. As he buckled himself up, Sam noticed that Cas was holding onto a cardboard box with several items in it.
"He's her husband?" Sarah whispered innocuously, loud enough that everyone heard though. "But he's so…academic looking."
'Which is really a polite way of saying nerdy,' Sam thought to himself, snorting mirthfully as Dean glared at Sam in a way that promised violence later on and Cas just looked confused.
"So, what's our plan now?" Sam changed the subject as they pulled away from the hospital. "We can't exactly go in there, guns blazing on this one."
"Way ahead of you on that one," Dean said, nodding in Cas's direction. "He's got a plan."
"Witches get their power from demons, therefore if we separate this witch from her power source, we should be able to destroy her," Castiel explained in his usual neutral tone.
"How do we do that?" Sarah wanted to know.
"He knows an anti-witchcraft spell that might work," Dean said.
"'Might'?" Sam repeated.
"The spell is Akkadian, and the materials needed for it to be successful are by and large extinct," he gestured to the box in his lap, and added, "I have…had to improvise."
Sam suddenly recognized a scrap of black material in the box. It was the blouse he had worn to the function earlier. "Is that my shirt?"
Cas looked down, and then back up at Sam. "The witch bled on it."
"You cut a piece out of my – that was expensive, you know!"
"Shut up and deal with it, you big girl," Dean declared. "That's the only way we're going to be able to make sure the spell doesn't hit the Starks too. Remember? We kind of need them alive."
"If they're not already dead," Sarah said mournfully.
Dean shot her a look in the rear-view mirror, and then nodded at Sam. "Okay, so this is what we're going to do…"
Just because Cas had been the one to come up with the plan, and he happened to have been one of Heaven's finest strategists, didn't mean that Dean liked it. It depended on a lot of different factors going right at the same time, as well as the hope that Dean and Sam wouldn't get themselves killed waiting for everything to happen as calculated.
The key was Cas and Sarah being able to get to the building's water supply in time. On the way over, the ex-angel had created some kind of potion from Marcie's blood and whatever other materials he had cobbled together, which with the right incantation would supposedly bind Marcie's magic. Sarah had called one of her contacts for the building schematics for the Ritz, where Maggie was staying, and would help Cas dump the stuff into the hotel water supply.
Dean was still iffy on trusting Sarah, especially around Cas, injured as he was, but as Sam pointed out while they drove, her goals were exactly the same as theirs right now. He'd even used the puppy-eyes, which meant Dean was agreeing before he even noticed it.
'Kid's fucking dangerous,' Dean thought as he and Sam slipped into Maggie Stark's hotel suite at the Ritz. It had been easy enough to get a master key-card after flashing the concierge their homeland security badges, but Dean knew it was only a matter of time before their luck stopped. Jody Mills might have been manning Bobby's phones while he was…wherever he was, but managers in these swanky places were known for digging deeper than the one phone call.
They heard voices as they crept closer, coming from one of the rooms farther back. As they got closer, they could make out Don's speech.
"I'm sorry," he said, sounding desperate yet firm. "I really don't remember you, Marcie."
"Marcella!" the woman snarled, and Dean took a chance to glance around the doorframe.
He could only see her from the back, but what he noticed was that Marcie was a waiflike brunette, dressed like a librarian. The look was at odds with the powerful voice coming from her and the way she carried herself was anything but helpless.
He glanced at Sam, wanting confirmation that that was her, and Sam nodded grimly.
A second glance revealed Don several feet away from her. He was standing, but from the way his head was angled back, it looked like he was being held up by an invisible hand.
He seemed to have gotten off lucky.
Behind him, Maggie was pinned to the wall opposite, iron rebar from within the partition impaling her through her abdomen. Blood seeped through the wound and downward, staining the carpet. She was still alive, though, her eyes blazing in pain and fury; still she was being kept immobile. Dean could see the pressure cracks of the wall around her, meaning Marcie was holding her there by her will alone.
Not a good sign, considering Maggie and Don were supposedly more powerful than the average witch.
"Marcella," Don agreed, voice tense and sounding like he was in pain. "Listen, I really don't – "
"Florence!" she spat, sounding angry and hurt. "1493. In the home of my uncle, Lorenzo. You told me your wife was a traitorous whore and…we…you said…"
There was a sharp intake of breath, and then Don muttered, "Oh, shit."
Dean and Sam exchanged identical looks of sympathy.
'Christ, Don, couldn't keep it in your pants?' Dean thought grimly. 'No wonder Maggie wants your oysters on a tray…although, that explains that old coin…'
"…I looked for you," Marcie said, in a softening voice, pleading like she was trying to make him understand. "But you had gone – she took you away!" There was a loud groan of pain and the sound of iron moving, which made Dean think Marcie had just hauled another rebar out of the wall and through Maggie's body.
"Look, Marcie – Marcella," Don was imploring, "What we had…it was great, really. Wonderful. You were a…spirited girl." Dean winced, because apparently Don wasn't great at digging himself out of trouble, "But I was in a bad place – and Maggie and I, we made up. Because I –"
"Don't say that!" Marcie shrieked. "You can't say that! He told me you would stop, that once I found you, everything would be made right!"
Dean rolled his eyes. Seriously, this was becoming as far-fetched as an episode of Dr. Sexy.
Sam glanced at his watch, and then tilted his head in a 'go ahead' movement.
Dean took a breath, hoping he wasn't about to get his neck broken before their plan could come to fruition, and dove out from behind the wall. Careful to not hit Maggie or Don, he squeezed the trigger, praying that maybe he'd be able to take the witch by surprise and get a kill shot without her noticing.
The bullets slowed in midair, stopping directly in front of Marcie as she turned around. Her brown eyes flashed at Dean, and she sent him tumbling backward onto a glass end table, his gun falling from his grip.
Sam had already vaulted after her, shooting with intent, and managed to get one bullet to graze her shoulder, before he was thrown up against an antique looking oak cabinet. He crumpled downward and didn't move.
Dean cursed inwardly, because Marcie didn't even look fazed by the injury.
"And what have we here?" she mused, turning away from the other witches to face Sam and Dean. Maggie and Don remained immobilized as before, although Don had begun to murmur something under his breath. "Hunters?"
Dean hauled himself up, trying to ignore the creak in his bones and the rattle of the rib he was sure he had cracked earlier that evening.
"Lady, you ever heard of the saying 'he's just not that into you'?" he asked brazenly. "It's actually a book– no, you know what? I heard it was a movie now."
"You insolent little –" she made a cutting motion with her hand, and Dean winced as he felt a sharp throb in his spine. There was a searing burst of fire within him, and for a moment he thought she had severed his spinal cord. When her expression turned confused, though, he realized she hadn't.
As she turned, Dean saw Don continue muttering, and realized he was speaking some kind of spell. He must have been dampening Marcie's powers.
The witch realized this too, because she waved a hand and Don't mouth suddenly closed with an audible snap. He let out a pain moan, and from the drip of blood coming from the corner of his mouth, Dean figured she'd made him bite into his own tongue.
"No interference, amore mio," she said chidingly. "You and I will have our moment. Let me get rid of the vermin first." She leveled an unkind stare at Maggie. "And the dog."
She returned her attention to Dean, stalking forward like a large cat. She stopped in front of him though, a curious expression on her face, which changed to one of glee.
"Oh, this is beautiful," she breathed, and Dean winced, because her breath smelled like metal and sulphur. It occurred to him suddenly how she was so powerful. Not only had she been selling the stuff on the side, she had been drinking demon blood to increase her powers.
'Great,' he thought desperately.
"I can smell it on you, you know?" she purred at Dean, looking from him to where Sam was still not moving. "The magic on you? It's bound so tightly into you…I wonder what would happen if I unravelled it, hm?" She smiled widely. "I bet all your insides would break apart. And you…" She gazed at Dean with hungry glee in her eyes. "I bet your soul would just…shatter. It's so fragile right now…I've never shattered a soul before."
Dean forced a smirk. "Lady, you don't want to go there."
"Oh, really?" She started to pull the Force-Choke crap on him. "Want to try to tell me why?"
Just then, the sound of a fire alarm going off somewhere shattered the air. The sprinklers on the ceiling of the hotel room came on, spraying everyone with water and (hopefully, if Cas and Sarah had done their job), the materials used for the spell.
Marcie paused for a moment, staring contemptuously at the falling water, and then leveled an unimpressed stare at Dean. "I think I'll start by ripping your veins out of you, one by one. Starting with…"
She made a twisting motion with one finger. Excruciating pain flared all over his body, and Dean tried to scream, but couldn't make a sound over the blood that was suddenly spilling up his throat. His stomach heaved at the pain, and the world spun –
Behind Marcie, Sam suddenly appeared, hobbling to his feet like he had been biding his time.
"Akassīkunūši akammīkunūši anamdinkunūši," he rattled off determinedly, Cas's tutoring having stuck better with him than with Dean, "ana girra qāmê qâlî kāsî kāšidu ša kaššāpāti."
The effect was almost immediate.
Marcie froze, staring down at Dean in horrified rage as he continued to cough up blood and bile. She held her hands to her, as though the answers lay therein, and made the same twisting motion again, trying to finish him off.
Dean was dimly aware of Maggie and Don crumbling forward as Marcie's hold on them suddenly vanished, and then Marcie was wailing, "No! NO!"
Dean felt his lungs free up and he could breathe again as she rounded on Sam, who was still chanting.
"Akassīkunūši akammīkunūši anamdinkunūši ana girra qāmê qâlî kāsî kāšiduša kaššāpāti…Akassīkunūši akammīkunūši anamdinkunūši ana girra qāmê qâlî kāsî kāšiduša kaššāpāti…"
"Shut up! Shut up –!" she screamed, and there was a sharp, acrid scent in the air, and as he looked up, he saw that Marcie's entire form had begun to smoke; wherever the spray from above touched her, tiny green flames sprang up.
She tried to go for Sam's throat, but he held her off, and they watched in silence as her skin began to melt and burn off of her body and bones.
Don was crawling over to Maggie, cradling her in his arms. Both of them were drenched in the water, but neither seemed to be affected by it the way Marcie had been. Evidently the witch's blood had tailored the spell exactly the right way. Which was good, considering they had been trying to bind her, not turn her into goop.
"Well," Sam said, after a moment, staring down at the melted skin and bones that had been Marcie, "Cas did say he had to improvise…"