?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
13 April 2012 @ 09:59 am
Killing Me Softly: A Case of You (Chapter 9)  

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints

Killing Me Softly

Chapter Nine

A Case of You

**O**

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I'm frightened by the devil
And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid

I remember that time you told me you said
"Love is touching souls"
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet


Joni Mitchell—A Case of You

**O**

Undoubtedly she’d been working too hard. She knew that she often straddled a fine line between devotion and obsession, and there’d been times when she’d neglect to eat properly. She really needed to take better care of herself, this whole experience being a prime example of that. Spinach and sardine omelets for breakfast from now on, she made a solemn vow. She was a neuroscientist for crying in a frickin’ lickin’ bucket. She knew, better than most people, exactly what the brain was capable of. Maybe she had imagined the whole thing. Maybe Dean had a form of contagious dementia. Contagious adult onset autism? Sure, why not, it could happen. Right? She waved her hand in front of her face, but she had to constantly adjust the distance in order to focus, because, wow, was she ever just to the right of being completely blotto. Damn. Well, there weren’t any colors there, just a small blurry hand. She checked her ears. No odd sounds. So, what, then? The supernatural? There was just no way. The whole thing was just so ridiculous, and yet Dean was still missing, and her head and throat were still sore from what the girl had done to her. To top it all off, she had just asked the brother of her patient to pull over so that she could puke. This just after he had told her that a monster—and we’re not talking about a euphemism, here, but a real, honest-to-God-boogey-man-in-your-closet monster—had attacked her and had kidnapped his brother. Dr. Rania Liron was completely out of her element, and the only thing she was absolutely certain of, was that she could kiss any chance of a peer review on this case goodbye.

Sam kept his eye on Rania as he drove. She’d already had him pull over once to vomit. Dean would kill him if she lost her Scotch all over his baby, so he had to make sure she gave him plenty of warning. She was slumped in the front seat flapping her hand in front of her face and sticking her fingers in and out of her ears. She didn’t look so good. “You need me to pull over again?” he asked.

She studied her hands for another moment and then set them in her lap with a sigh. “No, I’ll be fine. We’re almost there, my house is the next driveway on the left, please.”

Sam nodded and followed her directions. “Everything is going to be OK, Rania. I know it’s a lot to take in.” Over the years there had been a few times when they’d had to explain what they did to civilians for one reason or another, either to keep them safe or simply because they’d seen too much. In Rania’s case it was a little of both. But it was always hardest on those who were highly scientifically minded. He could see her internal struggle.

“I’m not sure anything will ever be OK again,” she said with a lost look. “I just want to go home and sleep this, whatever this is, off.”

Cleo, who was sitting in the back seat, leaned forward and hugged the smaller woman’s shoulders as best she could. “You’ll be all right, honey.” Sam parked the car in front of the house. “You stay here, Sam. I’ll get the poor thing inside.” Cleo helped Rania out of the car and walked her to the door.

Sam sighed and watched the two head toward the house. While he waited he dialed Caleb and filled him in on what had happened.

“Sam,” said Caleb. “Did the spell work?”

“Yeah, it did, it’s the director’s assistant, but it doesn’t matter much anymore. She has Dean, man.”

Caleb took an audible breath. “She what? How the fuck did that happen?”

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later. I really hope you have something for me. I need to find her and Dean and end this. I think I bought Dean some time with the procedure they performed at the hospital, but there’s no telling what she’s doing to him in the mean time.” Sam sounded desperate and tense.

“Sam, we’ve been scouring all the lore we can find on Dark Muses, we’re still coming up empty. As far as the lore is concerned, she’s impervious. We’re trying to see if she has any weak spots. We’re gonna get this, I promise you, Sam. Find Dean. We’ll keep digging.”

There was nothing else Sam could say. “OK, Caleb. Keep in touch. I’m at my wit’s end, man. I can’t let him down. I can’t.”

“I know, Sam. We’ll get him back. Hang in there,” Caleb said and hung up. Cleo was just coming back out of the house. She packed her large figure into the passenger seat.

“She’ll be OK, Sam. She’ll sleep it off. Poor thing, bless her heart, she just needs time to process it all.” Cleo bobbed her head and patted his arm.

“How come you’re not having a hard time with this, Cleo?” Sam asked.

She shrugged. “Art has taught me that there is more to this world than what we can see. I wish it were all, friendly ghosts and spirit guides, but I guess you can’t have the light without the dark, right?”

“I guess,” said Sam without bothering to tell her that friendly ghosts or any benevolent spirits, for that matter, was rarely something he’d ever encountered. He wasn’t as jaded as Dean on the subject, but he was starting to have his doubts about any higher-ups being on their side. But no need to bring Cleo down. “Listen, it’s late. I’m going to take you home and keep looking for them.” He pulled out of the driveway. “Where can I drop you off?”

“Where are you even going to look, Sam? Louisville isn’t just a hole in the wall. Let’s go back to the community center and look there first. I have Leana’s address at my office. We can get it and check her place.”

“But Cleo…” Sam began.

Cleo cut him off by raising her maternal hand of doom. “Just give in, Sam. You can’t fight me. Now do as I say.”

**O**

When he was good, he was very, very good. Now that her artist wasn’t putting up a fuss he seemed eager to make up for lost time. It had taken a while to fix him, but she’d finally managed it. It had also taken a while to convince him to do as she asked, longer than anyone else she’d encountered, in fact, because he had viciously fought her tooth and nail, but she’d eventually prevailed there, too. The trickle had become a steady stream, and his essence was coursing out from him with every single, passionate brushstroke he made. The sensation was unimaginable. Heady. Powerful. Exhilarating. She thought he had been magnificent before, but that didn’t even come close to this. Without injury or alcohol slowing him, without his brother’s influence around him, her artist had become willing, diligent, obedient and extremely generous. She’d been reaping the rewards of her hard labor for over a day, now. She watched him work. His Song formed mathematical equations that corkscrewed and contorted into his very own delicious theme. The more she provoked him to paint, the more his fractal themes splintered off and stretched out toward her, each one more satisfying than the last. She absorbed him greedily until she felt more than a little high. And the inundation continued on unabated hour after hour. Part of her knew he would fade more quickly this way, but abundance and gratification combined into a strong intoxicant, leaving her like a kid on Halloween night overindulging on her bag of treats. It was too good to simply stop. She rose and lightly pet his lower back as he worked and looked at his painting with a little distain.

“Don’t know why you would want to paint that ugly old thing,” the muse snorted. “I think there are other, more worthy, subjects, don’t you?”

He looked at her surprised and slightly hurt. “I thought you would like it,” he said. He stopped painting, suddenly unsure of his next stroke. It pained him that he had disappointed her somehow. “I can fold up shop on this one if you want. Should I stop?” He’d do whatever he could for her. He’d been working very hard and doing his best, but helping her was more important than his personal enjoyment of the picture. If she didn’t like it, he’d paint a better one. Dean started to remove the canvas from the easel.

As he spoke, Leana had noticed that his outflow immediately ebbed to a sluggish trickle. His face was crestfallen with shame and self reproach. She stopped him as he began to take the painting off the stand. “No, don’t stop,” she said. For whatever reason, he had drawn inspiration from the painting, and she wasn’t about to stop the floodgates over her personal dislike. She kissed him and he responded to her whispers, but she noticed that his lips were dry and his body was shaking slightly.

She touched his temples, and his legs buckled. He sunk to his knees as his brain rollercoasted and his mind soared to remote lands, he was flung so far afield that he thought he should send postcards: Sammy, I’m so fucking baked, dude! Haha. Wish you were here. I hope you find me soon, Sammy. Leana’s voice was a sonorous presence in his head, and he listened with rapt attention. He heard her whisper promises of her gratitude if he continued to paint, if he held nothing back, if he gave his all. She needed him, she said. She wouldn’t be able to live without his help. “I promise,” he said weakly. “I promise I’ll take care of you.” He opened his eyes and reached out to her. She was wreathed in his blue aura, more so than he was at this point. He could still see wispy strands emanating off of him and absorbing into her rich blue light. It shamed him how little was flowing and Dean chided himself for it. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll fix it.”

The Dark Muse helped him rise. “I know you will, Dean.” She guided him back to the easel. “Don’t worry about the painting. If you love it, I love it. Keep painting. Just don’t stop, and give it your all. Give me your best,” she urged with a kiss.

He turned back to the painting with renewed commitment, and now it was Leana’s turn to strive for balance. She felt a giddy blast of pleasure as the stream became a deluge, and his glowing symmetry hit her with the force of a fire hose. She tipped backward and landed sprawling on the mattress, too intoxicated to care. She wanted it to last. She wanted to draw this out and enjoy it forever, but as his life gushed into her she couldn’t think to stop. She watched him spread the paint on the canvas with the agile hands that had made her choose him to begin with, and she was pelted with theme after theme, his life leeching away as she captured and processed it. Her mind began to tilt and waft as she reached the point of no return. It did perplex her a little bit, though, as she swam in his waters that some of her own thoughts seemed to be altering. He’d been the most stubborn artist she’d created, but he had turned out to also be the strongest, and the more she consumed him, the more his themes fought her own for dominance. For one thing, she suddenly had a huge craving for cheeseburgers, and that made absolutely no sense to her at all.

**O**

“I don’t see anything in this room,” Cleo said. “Looks like we’re clear here.” She closed the door to the sacristy at St. Cecilia’s, just another building in their non-stop search for Leana and Dean. They’d been searching for going on three days now, Cleo and Sam. That first night they had practically taken the community center apart, room by room. They had spent hours there, and when that had turned up empty, they had finally moved on to Leana’s apartment. It had been a little disconcerting that Sam so easily picked the lock, but at least he had gotten them in the door. Nothing had been inside, though. No people, no furniture, no clothes, no nothing. It was apparent that whoever Leana really was, she hadn’t been staying there. The next two days Sam had been adamant about canvassing the sewers, so they had spent almost the entire time in places that Cleo never knew existed and truly wished she’d never seen to begin with. Two showers later, she still hadn’t recovered.

Sam had said little, he’d moved from site to site, deftly going through each place systematically, but he was consumed with guilt and worry and it was taking its toll on him. When she napped in the car, or when she had stopped at home to shower and change, he had continued the hunt. The poor boy had barely slept at all, despite Cleo’s constant fussing over him. On two occasions she had snagged his keys and refused to give them back until he had eaten something and napped a few hours, but that was all she was able to achieve. He’d made several calls to his friend Caleb who was still trying to help, but each phone call had ended with Sam running his hands through his hair non-stop for minutes at a time. “Sam, did you hear me? That room is all clear,” she said again as he reached for the door anyway. His shoulders were sagging with exhaustion.

“I heard you, I just want to make sure,” he said. He opened the door and did a sweep of the entire room. He lowered his gun and hung his head a little. “That’s it for the church. Where else had any of the other victims been?”

“I don’t know Sam. I wasn’t with folks all the time, and she may have taken Dean somewhere else entirely. We could check out some of the buildings on campus. We can also check the concert hall where Thom died. Unfortunately, this is like looking for the proverbial needle, here.” She patted Sam’s shoulder. “You’re a mess, Sam. You can’t keep going on like this.”

“I’m all right,” he shrugged her off a little more aggressively than he meant to. She’d been a non-stop ‘support’, almost to the point of aggravation, but she had gotten him into all the community buildings without any hassle. She really had done her best to help him, and he really did appreciate it. He just couldn’t handle her mothering right now, not with Dean…god knows where. “Sorry,” he said. “I just can’t let my brother down. I just can’t,” he said.

“You aren’t going to, Sam. You are doing everything you know how to do, and if Dean were here, he’d tell you so himself.” Sam leaned against the wall and put his head in his hands. His chest was heaving with anxiety and fear. “Come on.  Let’s keep moving,” she said.  “Let’s head over to the concert hall and make sure that’s clean, then we can move on to U of L.”

**O**

She sat up slowly. It had been at least five hundred years since she had binged this badly. For the better part of two days, now, she had saturated herself in a greedy, bibulous fervor, as his voluted patterns had spewed out of him and battered her nonstop. She’d relentlessly spurred him to continue, constantly urging him to give a little more, and as obedience had been one of the major themes of his Song, he had done just as she had asked. But something suddenly wasn’t right. Perhaps she had overdone it. She’d been like a child running free in a sweet shop, or a junky with an unguarded medicine cabinet, and she supposed she was just paying the price for her avarice. There was no denying, though, that she suddenly felt a little strange, and she needed to breathe a moment and digest. Each wheeling and looping fractal that she’d absorbed had not only stimulated her desire for more, it had also transformed her in ways that terrified her. Strange thoughts were coming unbidden to her, and she could not seem to quiet them. She rubbed her forehead and watched her artist as he worked. He’d finished several canvases and had just started another.

He looked pale and ill, but he was working every bit as hard as he had since she’d fixed him. He was still relentlessly emitting his blue fractals, so she didn’t think he had already reached his end. But something was not right with him, either. His balance seemed off and he had to constantly readjust and compensate to remain upright, but he took no note of that or of himself. His eyes and thoughts were fixed entirely on his painting. “Dean,” she called to him, but he made no response or showed any sign that he had heard her. The muse gently coerced him by changing the tempo of his Song, at that he suddenly blinked and glanced at her.

“What?” he said a little worried. “Am I too slow?” He turned back and tried to pick up the pace.

“No, you’re fine,” she said. “Stop for a moment and come and sit with me.”

He looked at her not understanding. If he stopped she would not get what she needed. Surely she couldn’t have meant it. “But what about…?” he nodded toward the painting and turned to add a few more strokes.

“No!” she said lashing out at him. He dropped his palette and brush and clutched his head in agony. “Do as I say,” she warned him as he reeled from the pain and crashed to the floor. Leana immediately regretted her outburst and ran to him and caressed him. “I’m sorry,” she cooed. “Just do as I ask, please.” And this, right here, was part of why she was suddenly confused and apprehensive. She was starting to feel conflicted and wrong inside, and it made no sense to her that she should even feel any pang of remorse at his discomfort. She watched as another of his elongated, helical fractals stretched out and fell onto her. As it settled against her, she felt even more need to ease his distress. He was on his back trying to catch his breath from her attack. She could see his heart beating through his shirt. She’d hurt him when he had been trying to give himself to her. He’d been doing everything she had asked. How could she have hurt him like that?

She laid her hands on him and gave him bliss to try and remedy the pain she’d caused. “Shhhhh,” she whispered comfort into his ear. “I’m sorry I hurt you,” she murmured. Despite enchanting him until his eyes clouded with dreamy complacency, he remained sluggish and weak, and his color did not return.

She eventually pulled him back and his eyes focused on her. “Thank you,” he said trying to swallow and moisten his cracked lips.

“Tell me what is making you ill, hunter,” she asked worriedly. “What is wrong? Tell me so that I can help you.”

He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, but I think I need water. I’m very thirsty,” he said, hating to bring it up or cause her any trouble.

Leana was furious with herself. Of course, he’d been with her for nearly three days and she hadn’t given him anything to eat or drink. She rubbed her own temples and tried to work out why it suddenly made a difference to her. Another blue pattern whirled against her. Even at rest he continued to leak into her. She was ashamed that she had taken so poor care of him when he’d been working so hard. She vowed to fix this. Another blue wave of light hit her. She looked down at her arms, they were teeming and rippling with his motifs.

“I am going to leave you for a little while and get you some water and food,” she told him. She touched him softly and spoke directly into his ear in soft, low tones. “You must stay here and be very, very quiet. If you hear anything, you stay very still and don’t make a noise. Because if anyone finds you,” she hated to lie, but she needed to keep him safe, “if anyone finds you they will kill Sam. You must protect him from anyone evil who comes, you understand?”

“I promise,” he assured her. She didn’t need to say it twice. He wondered where Sam had gotten to. Dean thought sure he was coming here to meet Sam, but he never showed.

“Where is Sam?” he asked. “Isn’t he supposed to be here?”

“Sam is safe,” she soothed and ran her fingers through his hair lightly. “We just want to keep him that way, so you need to be quiet while I’m gone. You should be fine. If anyone does come, you can just talk to me,” she said tapping his head. “You can hear me in your head, and I can hear you. So we don’t need to be in the same room to communicate. I was talking to you for days before I came and took you from the hospital, don’t you remember?”

He really didn’t. He seemed to be losing touch with what he’d done, not just last week, but last year and all the time before that. He knew he was a painter and he knew he had a brother named Sam, and that their job was to help people, to save them from things. But he was not sure what those things were. Another blue vortex spiraled off of him and floated toward Leana. “Yeah, sure, I remember” he lied. Once he got some water maybe he’d recall things easier. It was hard to talk with his mouth so dry. He was so very thirsty.

She got up and made ready to leave. “I will bring you back a cheeseburger. They’re your favorite.”

“They are? How do you know?” he asked.

Another strand of blue light swirled against her. She knew because cheeseburgers were suddenly all she could think of, she wanted one almost more than she’d wanted anything in her life. And that made no damn sense, because she only ate when other people were present and never took sustenance from it. But now her mouth was watering at the thought. “Just a lucky guess,” she said.

Dean watched her leave and shut the door behind her. As the door closed it wavered and disappeared leaving nothing but more wall where it had stood. He was completely shut in. It didn’t matter, though. He had work to do. He rose unsteadily and refilled his palette and began painting eagerly. Leana needed him to finish, and he wouldn’t let her down.

**O**

“No need, Sam. I have the key to this one,” she said when Sam got out his lock-picking kit. She opened the door to the auditorium and they headed inside.

It was dark. “Where are the lights?” Sam asked.

“Hang on,” Cleo said. I’ll run and turn on the house lights. I think I know where they are, one second.

Leana hadn’t been gone more than fifteen minutes when Dean heard movement above him. He looked up and stood very still, worrying that he’d be caught and Sam would get hurt. He couldn’t let anything happen to Sammy. It was his job to keep him safe. He stopped painting and sat on the mattress and hugged his legs and stayed very quiet as Leana had asked. He hoped the muffled footsteps wouldn’t get any closer.

The house lights flickered and came on. “That’s it,” said Sam in a hoarse whisper. He checked the audience seats row by row and then went up to the balcony. Nothing was there. He went back down and searched the stage. He could still see the scattered music stands from where Dean had fallen into the orchestra pit. He stood there looking out, remembering running to his brother. Everything had gone so terribly wrong since that day. He needed his brother, needed to find him, needed to free him. He just needed his brother, period. He stood and stared into the orchestra pit, willing Dean to just materialize, somehow. Sam had rarely felt so powerless and hopeless. He had no clue how he was going to find or help Dean. Cleo came up and stood next to him.

“I’ve checked the greenroom and all the nooks and crannies back stage. There’s nothing there,” she said sympathetically.

Sam nodded and just stood looking at the spot where Dean had lain. He was exhausted and at the end of his rope. He looked out over the theatre and fisted his hands in utter devastation and loss. “DEAN!” he yelled as loud as he possibly could.

Dean heard a long, muffled wail, and he stopped breathing so that he could listen. He wished the music in his head would quiet down so that he could hear clearly. As he strained he realized he could taste peaches. He knew that meant something. He rocked back and forth and rubbed his head, trying to remember what it meant. Peaches. Peaches meant something. Meant…Sam? Sammy was there? “Sammy?” he called out, but his throat was hoarse and dry. He ran to the door but there was nothing but wall there now. He tried to talk to his Muse, tried to tell her that Sam was there, that he could hear him and asked her to please open the door. But instead of the door opening, he fell heavily to the floor in a dizzying torpor. “Leana,” he begged sleepily. “It’s Sam, he’s here finally, let me up. He’s right upstairs in the…” he tried to explain but his voice clamped shut and he couldn’t get any sound out. He watched another blue mandala whorl off of him and disappear, on its way to Leana who must have needed it more than he did.

“Did you hear that,” Sam had stopped short and didn’t dare even breathe. He could have sworn he heard a rasp of something followed by a thump. He looked at Cleo keenly. “What else is in this building that we haven’t searched?” he demanded.

“Just the basement,” she said. “There’s a stairwell up front by the lobby.” Sam was already off the stage and running before she’d finished.

Dean could hear hollow footsteps as they came down the stairs, but he couldn’t respond. He wanted to pound on the wall, but his muscles wouldn’t work. All he could do was listen and taste peaches as Sammy spoke.

“Do you have keys for the rooms down here?” Sam asked someone.

“No, I don’t Sam, sorry. I haven’t been down here myself. I know there are a few storage closets and some practice rooms. You can use your lock-pick on these doors, right?” said a beautiful voice. Dean had heard that voice before, but he couldn’t remember where anymore. He couldn’t remember much of anything anymore. The voice was pretty to listen to, though. Dean could hear the sound of a door jiggling as it was being worked on, and he was a little proud of the quick work Sam had made of it. He heard them go in and stomp around. They were right across the hallway. He tried to move, tried to shout, but he couldn’t do or say anything. The only thing that continued on was the non-stop exodus of his blue light, filaments spun away from him, helping Leana where ever she was. He couldn’t understand why Leana wouldn’t let him see Sam, though. Surely she knew he was supposed to meet Sam here. He tried to tell her again.

“I know I heard something,” he heard Sam say.

“Don’t do that to yourself, Sam,” the other voice said. “Let’s keep moving. There are another couple doors to check, and then we’ll just keep moving on. There is a pottery studio that the community center uses near Cherokee Park. We’ll try that one next.”

Dean heard them walk down the hallway and briefly search the other rooms. He heard Leana whispering to him in his head, telling him that it wasn’t Sam and to be good and to go to sleep. She would be back soon and everything would be all right. He believed her, but he didn’t know how he could have been wrong. He’d have sworn it was Sam. The Muse whispered again that Sam was not there. She told him to forget anyone was there and to just sleep. His thoughts fled away as the footsteps that weren’t Sam’s retreated back up the stairs.

**O**

Sam slumped in the driver’s seat in defeat. He loosely held this cell phone in his hand, but there was no need to call Caleb again. If anyone had found anything, he would have called. He had no clue how much time the ECT had bought them, but he had a gut feeling that Dean’s time was running out. He drove aimlessly through the city streets, not knowing where else to look or what to do.

Cleo didn’t know what to say anymore. She could tell that Sam was beyond her ability to comfort. She decided to distract him. “You know, Sam, you’ve told me that you and Dean hunt these spirits and creatures for a living. How long have you been doing this job? she asked.

Sam roused and looked at her. “We were raised in it, mostly. We learned to hunt them from our dad.”

“And your mom? She hunts these things, too?”

“Our mom died when we were very young,” he said with no further explanation and Cleo picked up on his unwillingness to discuss it further, so she didn’t press.

“So you hunt ghosts, spirits, and you said creatures like Leana. You said that Leana is a spirit of some kind, but you haven’t told me what she is exactly. I worked with her for several months and I trusted her. Who…what is she?”

Sam remained quiet for a moment. “She’s a specific type of succubus. A very powerful one. She feeds off of creative energy.”

Cleo tilted her head. “You mean like a Dark Muse?”

Sam gaped at her in surprise. “How do you know that?” he asked wide eyed.

“Well, I’m an artist, silly. Most artists know about the Dark Muse. I may not know monster lore, but I know artistic lore,” she assured with a wave of her large hand. “The Dark Muse. Yates wrote about one.”

“Yeah” said Sam. “I know about Yates.”

“Then you must know about Robert Burns, too, right?” Cleo nodded.

“Who?”

“Robert Burns, the 18th Century Scottish poet. Come on, Sam, you know him. He’s the poet who wrote Auld Lang Syne.”

Sam was tired and wasn’t sure what point Cleo was trying to make. “What about him,” he asked.

“You know, he’s the one who killed his Dark Muse,” she said and watched his face change. “You mean you didn’t know?”

Sam stared at her unbelieving. “Come again?”

Go to Chapter 10