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13 April 2012 @ 05:43 am
Killing Me Softly: True Colors (Chapter 5)  

The music began as a low, droning hum that surged incrementally until it was coursing from all directions, cresting on a tsunami of light that careened straight toward him.


Killing Me Softly

Chapter Five

True Colors

**O**

The music began as a low, droning hum that surged incrementally until it was coursing from all directions, cresting on a tsunami of light that careened straight toward him. He stood helplessly rooted to the ground, stunned—doe-eyes wide. The wave towered over him and thundered into him, a vibrant, demanding squall of pulsing resonance. His senses capsized as he was dragged along the seabed. The devastating surf tumbled him end over end until his lungs hammered with need, and he was forced to take a long, heaving breath of the liquid strain. Thought ceased for a period of time until he found himself lying dazed in a tide-pool of sonorous, misted color. There was something he was supposed to be doing, he suddenly remembered. He raised himself on wavering, unsteady legs. A clear sense of warning and danger throbbed through every cell in his body. He noticed that his wristwatch had fallen off and was lying in the pool in front of him. When he bent to pick it up, a stream of light swept it away. He followed it closely, trying to pick up his watch, but every time he tried the torrent snatched it back. Soon he was running, gasping for breath as he tried to grab hold of it. With a huge leap he thrust his hand out and caught hold. Drawing it back he could hear the soft tinkling of bells as gold sparks dripped from his hand. He glanced down and found that he hadn’t retrieved his watch after all. In his hand he held a perfectly formed peach.

Sam bolted upright nearly losing his laptop in the process. He flung out a disoriented arm and caught it just before it slipped off his lap. The dream was still reverberating and ping-ponging around his skull, and it took a slow moment for him to remember where he was. His brain downshifted and he rasped out several shaky breaths, blinking owlishly as his eyes focused and he took in his surroundings. With a pang of fear he looked at the bed where his brother had been laying unconscious. He had to rub his eyes to make sure the scene unfolding before him was not still mixed with dream imagery.

Dean was sitting quietly, his knees drawn up supporting a sketchbook that he was placidly absorbed in, like a kid stretched out on his tummy, heels clicking together pouring over a coloring book on a lazy Saturday morning—tongue crooked against his upper-lip as he doodled. He absently scratched at one of the EEG wires attached to his head and looked at Sam.

“Y’kinda woke with a start, there, Tinkerbell. Dreaming of pirates again?” he teased with a winsome grin and then gave his attention back to his drawing.

Sam was speechless for a few beats. “Dude? What the…?” He stood up quickly and watched his brother closely. Aside from the mélange of wires attached to his head and chest making him look like a victim of some twisted science experiment, his brother looked peaceful, relaxed—certainly more present than he had been since his accident. Yet at the same time, this in itself was unsettling. It was off kilter. For one thing, just the sight of his brother so engrossed in a sketchbook was completely contrary to Dean’s normal kinetic nature. Dean doesn’t just sit and draw for fun. There had been that time with Lucas, but that was completely different. “What are you doing, Dean?”

“I’m earning my Scoobie-snack, dude. Doin’ what I’m supposed to,” he said. Noticing Sam’s confusion he shrugged. “I got bored waiting for you to wake up. Cleo and Leana brought me some of their artsy crap, so…” He dusted off the page he was working with and then continued to draw.

“How do you feel?” Sam asked suspiciously.

Dean easily read his brother. “I’m fine, dude, try not to get your girly sparkles in a jingle,” he assured him without a glance. “I feel much better, a little sloppy from whatever the hell they gave me last night and a little headachy, maybe, like I read too long in the dark or something, but that’s about it. I feel pretty damn good, in fact. It’s nice to be able to finally think again.”

“So the music and lights are…”

“Oh, they’re still there, stronger than ever, but they aren’t being bitchy anymore. They’re tryin’ to kiss and make-up with me.” He closed his eyes and leaned back, like one basking in the sun. “Feels like a few shots of Jack in my belly and a pool-cue in my hand.” He smiled and scratched at the same troublesome EEG wire. He sat back up and blew on his paper to scatter the pencil dust.

Sam sat back down and gathered his thoughts. Dean had been out of the loop for a couple days now. He didn’t know exactly how to tell him, or even what to tell him. He cleared his throat. “Dean…,” he began.

“Yeah, Dew-drop. I think I got the memo. It’s not just a concussion.” Dean looked up and sighed but went right back to his drawing. He nodded his head toward the page he was working on. “So I figure, we got, what…a little over four days or so before my drawings suddenly appreciate in value?

“Sorry, Dean. We’ll figure it out. I put in calls to Jim, Caleb and Bobby. They’re all working on it.” He wasn’t going to mention calling Dad, no sense in making things worse for his brother, since, as expected, there had been no response. “I spent all last night going through the journal, but I couldn’t find anything.” Sam stood up and approached the bed. He tried to get a look at what Dean was working on, but his brother blocked his view.

“Hey, no peekin’ until it’s done, dude.” Dean shooed him away with his hand and didn’t relax back into his work until Sam had backed off. “’Sides, I need to get some colored pencils or something. This isn’t really getting the job done.” He glanced up at Sam who was wearing his worry and concern like one of Cleo’s loud, flamboyant shirts. “Don’t look at me like that, dude.” Dean chided. “I’m all right.”

“Yeah, sure you are,” Sam said, dubiously. “Well, we have to figure out what we’re going to do. One thing’s for sure, there isn’t anything they are going to be able to do for us here. We probably need to clear out of here as soon as you feel up to it.”

Without missing a beat Dean snapped his book shut and tossed his pencil on it. He started to peel off the heart monitor and EEG pads with a cocky grin. He didn’t have to be told twice. He nodded toward the small closet. “Grab my clothes for me, dude.”

Roughly thirty seconds later a frazzled, wide-eyed nurse threw open the door. As soon as she realized her patient wasn’t in some apparent life-or-death struggle she scolded, “What’s going on here? Dean, what are you doing?”

“I’m pullin’ up stakes, sweetheart,” he said, unraveling the tape from his IV catheter. “So, get whatever papers I need to sign and we’ll be on our way.” She stood goggling for a few seconds before she spun around and left the room, clearly on a mission.

“You know she’s gone to make some calls,” Sam warned, tossing Dean a clear plastic bag with the clothes he arrived in.

“Yeah, probably.” He winced as he pulled out the IV line and pressed the pad of his thumb against the crook of his arm until the light trickle of blood stopped.

By the time he had finished getting dressed he was agitated and fidgety. He grabbed the small bag that held his amulet, ring and bracelet, but his hands trembled as he put the items on. He hadn’t been given much more than five minutes of freedom before the confluence of light and sound shrilled malicious threats at him and his thoughts began to cloud. Breathe. He was breathing through it. It’s all he could remember to do. He could breathe—and taste peaches.

“Dean, man, sit down.” Sam had noticed his brother start to pitch unsteadily. He reached out a hand to steady him and guided him to the chair, sitting him down. Dean appeared to have withdrawn into himself again. “Dean, hey, hey, hey!” he snapped his fingers in front of his face and tapped his cheek.

Dean groaned and put his head in his hands. “Loud!” he jittered. “Too loud and bright, Sammy.”

Remembering Calli’s description of Alex when she had asked him to stop writing, Sam grabbed the sketchbook and pencil off of the bed, flipped it open to a random blank page and handed it to Dean. “Here, Dean.” He put the pencil in his brother’s hand. Dean’s breathing began to even out as soon as he resumed drawing. “You OK, now?”

“Actually, I think I’m pretty well fucked, Sammy. This sucks so loud,” he said, sourly. His pencil jabbed at the paper in frustration, but after a minute or so his breathing leveled out and his face became almost serene. Sam watched his brother nod his head as though he were engaged in a conversation that Sam couldn’t hear. “I’m good now,” Dean said with a hint of a smile at some secret pleasure.

Sam was just about to offer his brother words of encouragement that he knew would not even remotely help when the door swung open and Dr. Liron came in. “Dean? What’s going on?” She approached tentatively and made a pointed effort to sound calm and soothing, like she was trying to talk a volatile jumper off a high-rise ledge. “Everything all right?”

Dean didn’t look up. “I’m fine. I’m just bustin’ out. Sam’s gonna look after me.”

Dr. Liron looked at Sam in surprised confusion, expecting backup that he didn’t provide. She looked back to her patient. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Dean.” She bent down as though to examine him, but he got up and stepped away from her.

“I know. I’m sorry. I’m feeling much better, though. Really. I’ll just sign the papers and be on my way.” He leaned against the wall and flipped open his sketch pad, stealing a few scribbles as nonchalantly as he could.

Dr. Liron watched him with incredulity for a moment and then turned to Sam. “Can I talk to you outside, please?”

Sam shook his head, “That’s not going to be necessary. I completely understand your concern, but we really need to go. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything you can do to help him here, anyway. No one even knows what this is.”

Dr. Liron gaped at him, “That’s not true, Sam,” she defended. “We may not know what’s causing this yet, but there are drugs and treatments that we could try. You just have to give us some time.”

Sam spoke poised but left no room for debate. “For now we’re just going to try and get him some rest. He doesn’t do well in hospitals, so I’m going to take him home. I promise you if anything happens or he starts to feel worse, I’ll call you and bring him right back in.” He pulled out the card that she’d given him yesterday as evidence.

She stood there for a moment and then pinched the bridge of her nose, unable to process what she was hearing. Eventually her shoulders collapsed in defeat. She shook her head in disbelief. “All right,” she said, her disappointment and concern apparent. “I’ll get you the AMA forms. I really think this is a huge mistake, though. Call me if there is any change.”

**O**

Dean Winchester was far from perfect. Fact of the matter is he could be a stubborn ass at times. When they were children, Dean had won every single staring contest he and Sam had ever had, and they’d had plenty. Sharing close quarters in dumpy motels throughout their childhood often provided fuel for out-and-out, eyeball to eyeball—made you blink, dude!—wars. Sometimes it’s just a matter of pride, though. Like right now, and he was spoiling for a fight. It wasn’t being told that the sketchbook was not enough any more, it was being given no other choice. It was being forced or coerced. Dean Winchester never did well with ultimatums.

He took another long pull on his beer and tried to settle back down with his sketchpad, ignoring the command and the nasty turn the Song had abruptly taken. Sam had left him hours ago. He’d wanted to pick up some class rosters from Cleo and do some research at the library, try and see if they’d missed any other deaths, find some link, because Sam hadn’t found shit yet, and time was ticking away.

He finished off his beer and cracked another one. He was feeling twitchy again. He knew the piece he was working on wasn’t right, but he’d be damned if he was going to just give in. Something was using the Song, using it to demand color and better texture. He drank six consecutive beers—or was it ten? He’d lost count—to try and get it to back the hell off, but no such luck. He was drunk as hell, but it didn’t stop the brutal attack. He tried to outlast it, though. He drank long and deep and felt the alcohol pull him in one direction and the Song in the other. The pain was unrelenting now, a bully pinning his arm behind him and cruelly twisting it with sadistic pleasure until Dean cried out.

“Fuck!” he seethed at it. “Leave m’lone, y’fucker.” He threw the sketchpad against the wall. His hands balled into fists and he pounded them against his head in frustration a few times, causing sharp, agonizing spikes to shoot through his still concussed skull. “Nnraarghh!” he moaned in pain and humiliation. It took a moment for his thoughts to rise above the ache. He was going to have to blink this time. For the first time. “Goddamn it!” He stifled another groan as he capitulated and rose to go do what he was told.

The moment he made his decision and stood the room quieted and the light mellowed. A soft, melodic drone mesmerized him, rewarding him with a soft, blissful euphoria that swept over him. His mind tilted and flit in random directions as a warm blanket of delirium spread over him, tucking in its edges and offering a soft, downy pillow of contentment. See? It cooed. This wasn’t such a bad thing, if only he would be good and do what was asked. Dean could do that. He promised to be very good from now on. He opened the door and stared right into the afternoon sun, allowing it to fuse with the Song and sear right through him until his eyes were too dazzled and his mind too captivated to really be aware of his surroundings. Didn’t matter though. The Song held him firm, and he began to weave and bobble in the direction he was ordered to go.

**O**

“Fuck!” Sam fumed under his breath. He wanted to shout, but he was keenly aware of his surroundings. He’d been searching back obituaries in the library for hours with nothing to show for it, finding no other connections, no other links to provide him with any clue as to what he was dealing with. The day was wearing away, and he had precious few of those left. His hands clenched into fists at his side. He had to get back to Dean soon, but he couldn’t bear not being able to bring any news with him. Couldn’t bear not bringing any hope. He had just turned the microfiche off with an angry snap when his cell phone went off. It was Caleb.

“Caleb, man, it’s good to hear from you. You got anything?” Sam breathed out, trying to talk low but unable to mask his urgency and need.

“Been in contact with Jim and Bobby and we all agree on what we think you’re dealing with. Does the name W.B. Yeats ring any bells?” Caleb asked.

“The poet?” Sam tiredly washed his face with his hand and massaged the back of his neck.

“Yep,” Caleb said.

“I think I read a few of his poems in college, but I can’t tell you anything beyond that. What’s he got to do with this?” Sam wanted to know.

“W.B. Yeats was a great poet, but he was also an occultist. Bet you‘ll never guess what kind of supernatural creature he wrote about,” Caleb prompted.

“I’m guessing it was something that turned people into some kind of artistic genius, right?” Sam offered.

“Something like that. Doesn’t sound like he ever personally had a run-in with her, but he wrote about the Dark Muse,” Caleb said.

“A Muse?” Sam hooted. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“A Dark Muse. And they’re seriously fucking bad news.”

**O**

She’d been out running errands and couldn’t believe her eyes, or her luck. It was him, alright. He seemed preoccupied and a little unsteady, like he’d had a few too many, but it was definitely him. She felt a wave of excitement and a flush down deep as he approached.

“Well if it isn’t Green-eyes!” She beamed at him as he approached, but he didn’t seem to take any note of her at all and weaved on past. Her stomach flopped in embarrassment at that, but she rarely took no for an answer, so she wasn’t about to let a non-answer slow her down, either. She reached out and caught his arm. “Hey there!” She latched on and smiled as he spun around and stumbled into her. The smell of alcohol was intense. Wow. And it was only three in the afternoon.

He stood there tottering and bobbling, looking at her with vague confusion for a moment. It didn’t appear that he recognized her at all, but he tried to pass it off. “Heyyy swee’heart,” he drawled lazily, looking her up and down.

“Hey yourself,” she said a little put off by his drunken leer. God, he was lovely, but this boy was one sloppy mess. “Don’t you remember?” Nope, apparently from his vacant expression, not even a spark. “You know, from the bar the other night? Back seat of your car?” Mel prompted.

“Ohhhh heyyy I ‘member you, darlin’, sure. Didn’t recognize you w’your sexy red n’silver swirls everywhere.” He waved a couple of heavy hands, mimicking her general womanly shape. “S’nice. Silver, sparkling, twisty things. You’re pretty.” He gave her a lazy grin and lurched into her for a kiss. She could taste the beer on him. Holy hell he was drunker than Cooter Brown, but Jesus if his lips weren’t too hot not to lollypop just a little. He suddenly broke off the embrace as though he’d been struck. He touched his hand to his head as though in some kind of pain and waved her off. “Godda go,” he said and shoved off.

“What? Why? Are you OK?” she pulled him back. He didn’t look very well. As much as she wouldn’t mind a mid-day hook up, she didn’t want him passing out on top of her, either.

“M’fine,” he said, sluggishly. “Godda go. I promised to be good. Godda get some stuff. S’important,” he said and tottered on his way, leaving one rather confused ex-fling in his wake.

**O**

“OK. A Dark Muse,” Sam said. “So what kind of creature is that exactly?”

“Well, they are an extremely powerful type of succubus, we’re talking the demigod, industrial strength kind. Extremely rare, only nine are known to have ever existed. They’ve also been confused with vampires from time to time given at they’re ‘drainers’, but they are much worse,” Caleb explained.

“So is this thing corporeal or are we talking a spirit of some sort?” Sam asked.

“Not sure entirely, but they are always in human form when they interact with people and feed off of them. It can take the form of a man or a woman, but since all of your victims have been male, we’re probably dealing with a female. They like to use seduction as a tool. Basically she opens a link between the victim and herself. She fills him with a creative obsession, then feeds off of the very energy that fuels the creation. W.B. Yeats believed this energy to be one’s very life-force.”

“Jesus!” Sam hissed. “So what if the target just refuses to do it?”

“There’s been some that tried, but the bitch is ruthlessly persuasive. For the folks that try to withstand her, the result is insanity—the kind you don’t come back from, and in the end, they still succumb to their Muse anyway, they just go batshit crazy to boot. Makes you wonder about all the fucked-in-the-head artists throughout time. Her powers of seduction are extremely strong, though, so fight her or not, the end result is the same. Everyone acts upon their creative compulsion and eventually wastes away only to die in a despondent state once their creative force or life force is spent. But your Muse seems to be amping up her game. Dark Muses can often times spend years with their victims. I’m not sure if this means that she’s weakening and needs to feed more often or if she’s just a greedy bitch. In any case, your victims have been consumed within a week or thereabouts, so you are going to have to find her and waste her, and that, Sam, is something we haven’t quite worked out yet. This is a demigod of sorts, so our usual bag of tricks isn’t going to be of much help. Bobby is working on finding a revealing spell that will work on her, and Jim and I are looking into a way to take her out. You just need to hang tight, do what research you can, and take care of Dean.

Sam tried to take it all in. “So, what…how does she do this? If she’s in human form, did she have to have physical contact with him? He’s only been around a few people since we arrived.” He was making a mental list. Cleo, Leana, whoever he had hooked up with at the bar, and a bunch faceless women at the poetry reading. He felt sick. Cleo and Leana are the ones who brought Dean the sketchbook. He was pretty sure he had the field narrowed down to just two.

“I’m not completely sure, Sam. It might be. In any case, you don’t want to be provoking her without a means to fight her. She can only compel or attach to one person at a time, but she’s still extremely dangerous. She doesn’t need any weapons to fuck you up. We’ll find a way to pinpoint her and take her out. Until then, you need to stay close to Dean. A Dark Muse has the ability to make the process either exceedingly agonizing or intensely euphoric, depending. Both are equally lethal.”

Sam could feel his heart laboring. He never felt more powerless. Knowing what Dean was facing made every nerve tingle with fury and fear. “Jesus,” he said flatly. He sighed. “OK, thanks man.”

“No problem. Sam, we’re gonna get this done,” Caleb offered his friend what reassurance he could. “Just another day at the office, right?”

“Hey, Caleb,” Sam dreaded asking, but he just couldn’t resist. “Has Dad contacted you at all?”

Caleb cleared his throat. “No, Sam,” he said honestly. “I haven’t heard from John in months. Do you want me to try and call him?”

“No,” Sam sighed. “I already tried. I’m sure he’ll call me back when he can.” Sam could taste the shit he was shoveling.

“OK, Sam. I’ll be in touch. Everything’s going to be all right, y’hear?” With that, the hunter hung up.

Sam snapped his phone shut feeling anything but reassured. “Fuck!” he belted out in the middle of the library.

**O**

“Dean, what the hell?” Sam opened the door to find his brother with an easel, paints, brushes, the entire damn artistic works. Dean popped his head up from behind the canvas he was engrossed in.

“Hey,” Dean casually greeted Sam like nothing was out of the norm. He grabbed an open beer and drank half of it down in one go. “Needed some color, dude, so I went to that art supply shop around the corner. Check it out,” he said holding up a palette and brush. “I’m like fuckin’ Van Gogh!”

“Jesus, Dean. How much did this cost?” Sam set the bags of food he had brought on the table.

“Nothin’. It’s all compliments of the Aframian household. Think that just about cleans out that particular estate.” Dean cackled and spun his paintbrush in his hand like a drumstick. “S’all good, man. Relax.”

Sam pointed to the bags. “Stop what you’re doing for a few and come and eat. Have you had anything at all today?”

“Not hungry, Sammy.” Dean went back to his work.

“Doesn’t matter, Dean. You’re still going to eat.” His brother was drunk. He noticed a damn near case-worth of empty bottles scattered around his work area. Sam shed his jacket and sat down and pulled out the boxes of Chinese food he’d bought. “Caleb called. He thinks he knows what we’re dealing with.”

“Oh yeah?” Dean stopped in mid-brushstroke. “What is it?”

“I’ll fill you in while you eat,” Sam bargained. Dean glared at him for a moment, but then wiped off his brush, grabbed his beer and haughtily slumped himself at the table. His depth perception was shot from all the beer, though, and he hit the chair before he had braced for impact, causing him to blink and burble in surprise. He sluggishly grabbed the chicken kung pao.

“Dude, how much have you had to drink? You just got out of the hospital, what the hell are you thinking?” Sam pestered.

“So what is it?” Dean asked around a mouthful of food, completely ignoring his question.

“Caleb says it’s a Dark Muse,” Sam said.

“A what? You’re fuckin’ with me, right?” Dean finished off his beer and moved to get back up, but Sam pushed him back down and shoved the food carton at him.

“That was pretty much my reaction, but Caleb says they’re the real deal. Powerful, like a damn demigod. Rare, too, apparently. She’s a type of succubus that endows her victims with intense creative abilities but drains them of their life-force at the same time,” he said. Sam grabbed a pair of chopsticks and a carton.

Dean snatched up his kung pao carton, got up and grabbed another beer. He popped the top with his ring and leaned against the counter. “Good times,” he snarked. “Sounds ‘bout right,” he added, and Sam wondered if he was already speaking from experience. “So, what’s next? We know who she is and where?”

“No, but I’m betting we won’t have to look too far. The two people we’ve had the most contact with are Cleo and Leana. I’m betting on it being one of them,” Sam said.

“I find it hard to believe that it could be one of them. It can’t be Cleo, I’m sure of that, anyway.” Dean tipped the bottle to his mouth for a long pull.

“What makes you say that?” Sam asked. He had no trust for either one of them at this point.

Dean shrugged and appeared a little sheepish. “She’s too beautiful. She can’t be evil.”

Sam stared at his brother and raised his eyes in dumbfounded amazement. “Beautiful? Dude, are you blind?”

“I dunno, Sam. You can’t see her the w-way I do,” he fumbled bashfully. “She’s shines like crystal with all these…” he seemed embarrassed, “all these fuckin’ rainbows comin’ out of her. She’s pretty. You know…her light,” he struggled to find the words. “It’s, I don’t know, it’s pure.” He looked away sheepishly and took another long drink.

Sam remained suspicious. “Well, I don’t think a Muse would appear to you like a hag. She’s a type of succubus, dude. They seduce their victims. And, no offense, but you look pretty seduced to me,” Sam said.

Dean tossed his empty bottle, grabbed another and moved back to his canvas and shrugged. “Maybe,” he conceded. “We have a way t’waste her?”

“Caleb and Jim are working on that. Bobby’s looking for a way to pinpoint who she is. Caleb says not to try and poke her until we have a way to kill her, though. Demigod powers are a little out of our league.”

“Awesome,” Dean huffed. He squeezed out more paint onto his palette and resumed his work. “And we only have a few days left. Should be easy,” he said, sardonically.

Sam snorted and opened a beer for himself and got his laptop out and settled in for a night of research. “How are you feeling, by the way?”

Dean sighed, “I feel fine, Sam. Quit worrying.” He made a few sweeping strokes onto the canvas. “Hope I don’t run out of canvas before the shop opens tomorrow, though.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Oh, yeah, you’re perfectly fine.”

**O**

Sunlight pooled its way across the bed and dripped into Sam’s eyes. He winced away from the saturation and rolled over onto his stomach. He could hear movement about the room, so Dean was already up if he had slept at all. Sam blinked into his pillow and fumbled a hand up to his eye to scrape away the glue painting the rims of his eyes. “What time is it?” Sam asked as he levered up on his arms and turned to look at Dean.

If Dean had made an answer, Sam certainly never heard it. Sam’s jaw plummeted several stories as he slowly, quietly, dumbfoundedly took in the scene before him. He numbly rose to his feet and stood as still as stone. His brother definitely had not slept.

Dean’s painting, having outgrown its canvas had bled, bubbled over, up, and across the far wall in a large mural.  How many seconds or minutes Sam stood utterly speechless, he’d no clue.  It wasn’t for lack of trying to get his mouth and brain to connect, though.  His mouth worked soundlessly as he strove to take it all in. 

The art-history student in him would, perhaps, have known what the sterile critics might have said about it: the texture of Van Gogh with the color sense of Matisse.  Picasso’s restlessness and Monet’s perception.  Yes.  All of that, yes.  But Calli had been right.  It was far beyond any of that.  It wasn’t merely color, form and symmetry.  It wasn’t even truth and light, pain and despair, the Sistine Chapel on a motel wall.  Wasn’t just the fucking Glittering Caves of Aglarond or Mozart’s Dies Irae.  It wasn’t a Masterpiece. It was Dean. Basal and innate.  Jesus, he’d never seen anything like it.  Dean—his walking, talking understated hyperbole of a brother, ineffable and familiar.  The pariah who could charm his way into and out of just about anywhere. The provincial sophisticate.  The painting was the Song in his head, and the Song was Dean’s life chanted in tones of Alizarin-crimson and Prussian-blue.  Sam recognized most of it.  Hell, he could have hummed along: a bass-line of ungrudging sacrifice, a melody of unyielding devotion, and harmonies of crushing responsibility.  Prismatic splashes of his own complex fractals created sunshine in the starry fucking night.  Zeppelin in a pool hall.  Sex in a cathedral. And there were aching strains of heartbreak that Sam had not shared, could not know about, because for four long years he’d refused to pick up the phone no matter how many times it rang.  Until the ringing stopped.  This Song was louder than the Shapeshifter’s but shared a common theme, I know I’m a freak.  And sooner or later, everybody’s gonna leave me.  Sam didn’t have to be a Synesthete to see the quiet crescendo, to taste the gentle violence or to hear the tranquil maelstrom that was his brother. 

And it was beautiful.  Breathtakingly, heartbreakingly beautiful.

It was beyond words or fucking Songs. The Shapeshifter spoke again, Your brother’s got a lot of good qualities.  You should appreciate him more than you do.  No shit.  Sam’s heart leapt at the privilege of seeing those qualities but then tumbled with the undeniable certainty that no invitation had been extended here. This wasn’t meant for him to see, unless perhaps piecemeal and only on his brother’s terms and in his own time. This had been ripped out of him, a violation, and Sam knew he had no right to be there.  He lowered his greedy eyes.  Jesus, Dean.

Dean stood facing him, covered head to toe in rainbow spackles and smears. A beer in hand, he silently regarded Sam through half-closed eyes.   He looked pinched and wrung, unshaven and unsteady.  Oblivious to the monument behind him.  Sam’s voice returned along with a sudden pang of concern at how truly wrecked his brother looked. “Holy mother fucking fuckery fuck!” Sam garbled out.

Dean weaved and adjusted, striving to keep his balance.  He took another sip of beer with deliberate nonchalance.  “Think the well could run dry soon, Sammy,” he shrugged just before his eyes rolled back in his head and he spiraled downward, a snapped twine coiling to the floor.

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