Part 2/The Old Switcheroo
“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Dean said for maybe the fiftieth time.
Sam turned, watched Dean stuff a handful of popcorn in his mouth, dim lighting not concealing the fact that half of it was on Dean’s chest, kernels resting between the folds of his t-shirt, a couple on his lap. “And I can’t believe you’re eating popcorn from the same bin where Thumper bought it,” Sam replied, relaxing back into the seat.
The Melodrama was almost half-full, not a bad turnout for Buttonwillow on a Friday night, Sam reckoned. Buddy Bourne had let Alf the projectionist/ticket taker set the schedule for the weekend while the Winchesters determined if they’d gotten lucky with Lucky. Their salt and burn last night didn’t feel like it had worked, but Sam knew weirder things happened. That last blast of Lucky’s, when he’d gone after Dean, didn’t exactly feel like, ‘Goodbye, going to Hell now, won’t forget to write’. Still, Sam could hope. One way to find out, and Alf was willing to chance it, had the movies spooling up in the booth.
“I never sit through two movies,” Dean went on. Yeah, right. “Especially when one is dubbed.”
That, Sam could believe.
Sam looked at the photocopied flyer in his hand; Leni had been giving them out in the lobby. Remake Festival! the header screamed. Leni hadn’t looked happy, looked as though she had a mouth full of tacks and was on her way to a watermelon seed spitting contest.
“So, Alf’s theory is — what, again?”
“Double feature — Retour de Martin Guerre, then Sommersby. First one’s the European original. The other is a Hollywood remake.” A group of older folks mixed with students, definitely a busy night. “Lucky will be all happy with the French one, will show up just because people are liking it, and then the remake will get him mad enough to take on the same kinda form we saw last night. Ghost shows up, we spring the exorcism into action.” He jostled the duffle at his feet with one boot. They’d already put hex bags into the walls at all cardinal points, including the entrance to the projection booth. Like a lobster in a trap, Lucky would be able to get in, would get mad, and then the hex bags would keep him locked in long enough to exorcise.
Dean snatched the flyer out of Sam’s hands. “So, if we’re getting rid of Lucky tonight, why are we getting more of this foreign shit for the rest of the weekend?” He passed the paper back, smearing it with a long streak of butter-flavored topping. “Shouldn’t Buddy program pirates and whatnot?”
Sam folded the flyer, put it in the pocket of his jean jacket. “Guess Buddy doesn’t have much faith in our abilities.” Can’t imagine why.
The dubbing was particularly bad, it turned out, not just because the synchronization was off, but because the English-language actor whose voice replaced that of the French actor was a joke — high, almost squeaky. Coming from a big guy like Gerard Depardieu. Dean kept snickering, didn’t seem to remember or care that a dead rabbit had been found in the popcorn maker last week, ate the whole bag.
About a quarter of the way through, he leaned over to Sam and said in a loud whisper, “Don’t tell me she can’t figure out that this guy’s not her husband.”
Sam glared at him. He’d seen this one before, years ago, with Jessica. “Shh.”
“I mean,” not even whispering now, “I think she just wants to get laid. Am I right?” He put his boots up on the seat in front of him. Sam slid further down into his seat. “Hey, why doesn’t that dude with the stupid hat just make him take a lie detector test?”
“Because it’s the Middle Ages,” Sam hissed.
“Cool.” Dean waited for a quiet moment in the film, then crunched up his empty bag of popcorn. “Is Robin Hood in this one? Do they shoot some shit with bows and arrows? Maybe with a trebuchet?” Trust Dean to know what a trebuchet was, and not to figure out that medieval France didn’t have technology like lie detectors. Sam despaired at Dean’s problematic relationship with history.
“Robin Hood was English,” Sam muttered.
“We’re not in England?” Dean asked, loudly. “They’re speaking English. Sort of.”
Someone behind them shushed, and Dean’s brow scrunched up. Not a good tactic, shushing Dean. It always led to an escalation of hostilities.
By the time the credits rolled, and Martin Guerre was exposed as a fraud and hanged until dead, Sam and Dean had a whole section to themselves. People had given up shushing, had just moved. Dean threw his hands up in the air. “So they just — killed him? Bastards! Fuck, the stuff writers make up.”
Sam, head resting against his interlaced fingers, leaned over the empty seat in front of them, then spoke into the thick air. “It’s a true story.”
Silence behind. “You’re shitting me,” finally.
Sam turned. As a kid, he’d always loved going to movies with Dean, mostly because he brought so much enthusiasm to the venture — talked to the screen, laughed loudly, even memorably screamed once. That had been Jurassic Park, if Sam remembered correctly. As an adult, though? Maybe not quite the same thing. Still, the look on Dean’s face made their theater pariah status almost worth it. Dean was, improbably, invested.
“No, I’m not. This peasant marries young, goes off to war, never returns. What’s his widow gonna do? Finally, the guy comes back, older, remembers all the right stuff, takes up where they left off.”
“Things like that only happen in movies, not in real life.” Dean seemed to be waiting for Sam’s shrug. When Sam gave it to him, Dean didn’t drop it like Sam thought he would. “Except he’s nicer than the old guy.” Dean cocked his head. “The young guy. The other guy. Whatever.”
Sam grinned. “Yeah.”
“So, how’d they catch him? In real life?”
Sam looked at the silent screen, knew they had about ten minutes before the Hollywood version started. Alf was cleaning up the aisles. “What you saw. The village cobbler had kept a form of the young guy’s foot and realized the new guy had a different shoe size. Your feet don’t shrink as you get older. Plus, the real Martin Guerre showed up during the trial.”
“You’re shitting me!” Dean repeated.
“Scout’s honor.” Over his heart. “They’d been friends in the war, that’s how the other guy knew all the stories.”
“Huh.” Dean stood, stretched. “So, Lucky likes this kind of talky mistaken identity stuff. Not enough action for me, though the hanging was kinda cool. What about this next one?”
Alf came close, looked up, his frizzy hair rising like a column of smoke. “It’s awful,” he warned them. He looked a little scared at his own presumption for suggesting it.
Sam stood next to Dean, scanned the theater, but everything looked fine, no cold spots, nothing odd at all. “Yeah,” he said, satisfied that Lucky, if he was here, was happy enough. “It’s set in the American Civil War with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.”
Dean raised both eyebrows. “Hey, Jodie Foster.” He paused, hitched his shoulder with a cautious grin. “You think…” Both Sam and Alf stopped him with identical looks, knowing what he was going to ask. “What?”
The second half of the double feature was bad, suffered in comparison just as Sam had feared. It had been difficult to concentrate on ghosts during the first movie; it was impossible to concentrate on the movie during the second. His attention kept wandering, trying to figure out when and where Lucky was going to show up.
About half an hour in, the film skipped, stopped, and a huge burn erupted on the screen as the film melted on the frame and slowly caught fire. Sam heard Alf calling from the projector room, his voice tight: “Don’t worry everyone! Don’t panic!” Which was sort of like shushing Dean; it didn’t work, it just made things worse.
The crowd got to its feet en masse, and made for the exits, issuing a sound not unlike cattle heading off for the processing plant.
Sam sighed. Lucky wasn’t making an appearance; he was just shutting down production. “Yeah, so. Plan B, I guess.”
“I think we’re actually at Plan C, Jimmy Neutron.” Dean grabbed the bag at their feet, got up, darted a glance to the backs of fleeing audience members, and withdrew the salt gun. He checked the load. “Your hex bags are crap; he was supposed to come down here, not make an appearance in the projection booth.” It had been a point of contention, the ingredients Sam had used in the bags. Dean had said that crushed Alka Seltzer tablets weren’t an adequate replacement for naturally-occurring natron. Sam had disagreed, said that the Compendium of Rituals had been current some time right around the last Salem witch trials and that modern alternatives would do the trick. “I’ll go up there, try to lure him into the Solomon Circle, and you make sure no one gets trampled to death.”
Sam didn’t like it when Dean was right. The hex bags ought to have worked, but then again, so should have the salt and burn from last night. Theory was shit in this business, and nothing was the same twice. It was all a shot in the dark, literally.
Just then, as Sam realized Dean was laughing at him, he saw Lucky in the row behind, face all sort of fallen in and splotched an ugly blue, tongue lolling, his head flopping to one side. “Dean!” Sam shouted, and Dean turned, bringing the gun up.
Too late. Lucky threw Dean five rows into the old orchestra pit, and then rushed toward him, a blur of phosphorescent ghost trail, and Sam rummaged in the duffle, drawing out an iron bar, the salt gun having clattered to a location somewhere under the raked seating.
With an arc like lightning, he swung the tire iron right through Lucky’s ghostly ass, because the unquiet spirit was banging Dean’s head against the cement floor and Sam thought that he ought to stop it, no matter how often Sam felt like doing it himself from time to time. Lucky hissed, and evaporated like water on a hot skillet. The silence was punctuated by the thudding of fleeing feet, and Dean got shakily to his elbows. Sam helped him up, but Dean shook off the hand, rubbing the back of his head. “Fine, I’m fine.” He drew a deep breath of air. “But I was enjoying that movie, you pansy-assed bastard!”
Sam turned to him. “Really?”
Dean shrugged. “Really.” He examined his fingers for blood. Finding none, he sighed. “Yeah. I don’t care which way she swings, I wouldn’t kick Jodie Foster out of bed.”
Dean phoned Buddy Bourne and told him to hang tight, make sure all his doorways and window sills were protected with lines of salt. Poor bastard would probably be dead by morning and that freak Alf would continue to play badly-dubbed foreign classics for years to come.
Really, if it hadn’t been for the dead theater owner, Dean might have said ‘enough’ and driven off into the sunset.
Well, maybe that and the fact that Lucky had gotten the better of him not once, but twice now, and Dean wasn’t in the habit of letting ghosts have the last word. To that end, they hung around the theater until well after midnight, but Lucky didn’t seem interested in them any more. Let’s face it, Sam had said, we’re not the ones setting the programming. And Dean had smiled widely at poor hapless Alf, whose face had blanched. Best salt your doors, too, Dean had cautioned.
“What now?” Sam asked, watching Leni pull the accordion gate across the storefront. After the theater closed for the night, Buttonwillow really became a ghost town and that idea made Dean grin.
Easy for Sam to misinterpret, though. Dean turned, considered the slim options. “Beer?” It was Friday night, after all. Someone, somewhere, had to be cutting loose. “Maybe some action down at…whatever bar’s in this godforsaken town.” He hadn’t been paying attention to the drinking holes when they’d been driving through, not really, but if there was a pet store and a movie theatre, there had to be a bar.
Sam’s nose wrinkled. “Drop me off at the motel.”
Jesus, was he still sore about that hex bag thing? “Why? You gonna memorize the Compendium?” When Sam didn’t answer, Dean sighed. “Fine, it’s your Friday night, not mine.” He smiled again, thinking that getting drunk was exactly what Sam needed, and turned toward the Impala. “Me and the rest of the normal people in this town? We’re finding the bar.”
He dropped Sam off, who made some excuse about needing to clean out the guns and wanted to get into the trunk, just for a minute, please. In truth, and Dean knew it because he knew his brother inside and out, no matter the intervening years, Sam only wanted to get his stupid Stanford hands on that Compendium, didn’t he? So Dean let him, didn’t rib him about it, because replacing natron with antacid medicine was the sort of mistake that would drive Sam mental.
Point to me, zero for you, and I win a beer. I’ll let you be right tomorrow, Sam.
In Rick’s Bar and Grill, Dean recognized the first face he saw.
“Hey, Lauri-a-erl,” he stumbled, but didn’t get much further than that, not that it mattered.
With a squeak of surprise, or pleasure, or some other ill-defined exclamation, Laurel from the gas station flung herself at Dean with all the restraint of a German Shepherd at a prime rib. Arms around his neck in a death grip, Dean felt her whole weight come off the ground as she wrapped her legs around his hips. Jesus Christ, they were a friendly bunch in Buttonwillow, weren’t they?
“I can’t believe it! Where did you come from? Why didn’t you phone me?” Then she pulled her face away from his neck, looked him in the eyes. Hers were full of tears, but a huge smile covered her face. “Fuck, you’re looking good.” And then her tongue was drilling for oil in his mouth.
Dean wasn’t inclined to second-guess a reception like this. Especially when Laurel — who, yes, had seemed pretty keen on him earlier in the day — apparently wasn’t going to stand on niceties, like him getting her name right. He was tired, had been roughed up a little by a stupid art-school ghost and he wanted a beer in the worst way, but he was pretty sure that she probably had beer at her place.
They didn’t make it out of the parking lot before things went way south, south in the really great sense of the word, south in the way of Sergio Leone Westerns, south in the sense of abandon, of drink, of girls with flowers in their hair and beckoning red lips. South in the sense of below the belt, where all things worth knowing about happened. Door open, door shut, and Dean could swear that her mouth hadn’t left his for the entire journey from bar to car.
Well, okay, then.
Still, this was…fast. Her hands yanked his shirt up enough to get at his belt and then his fly. She was wearing a thin sundress, spaghetti straps, and he pulled those down her shoulders as she swung a leg over his lap, straddling him, mouth still on his and he couldn’t have offered a protest even if he’d wanted to. Which he didn’t. He so didn’t.
He had all night, he decided. This didn’t need to be a quickie in the car. Or, not just a quickie in the car. They could take the edge off here, go back to her place, fuck like monkeys till dawn. He ran a hand down her back, rucked up her skirt, adjusted himself minutely in the close space. Oh, man. He pulled her panties to the side, just enough, and then he was in. Mouth on her breast, one side, then the other and her hand was in his hair and she was making noises that sounded like a cat getting stepped on, which only made him feel like he was going to explode. Wait, he whispered and it came out just like he’d been stabbed in the chest. Goddamn if he didn’t love the ridiculous noises women made while fucking. So basic and musical, something good and right in this stupid dark world.
It wasn’t the best angle in the world, but Laurel had done this before, because she knew how to work it, work him, tightened around him like a fistful of dollars, and that was it, no way was he holding back. He shuddered into her, cheek slicked sweating in the hollow at the base of her neck and she let out a low moan, and he matched it. They sounded like a couple of drunks on karaoke night and Dean started laughing, finding release in all the obvious ways.
“Oh-oh-oh-oh,” Laurel breathed into his hair as she steered his exploring mouth onto her breast. Like a hard candy in his mouth. “Oh, Marty.”
Sam awoke with his cheekbone pressed against the open book, table lamp illuminating the pool of spit blurring ancient typeface. He couldn’t quite figure out why he was so sore until he realized that it was morning, sunlight coming through an opening in the curtains, and he was lying face down on the bed, still in his clothes, pillows bunched under his shoulders to better prop himself up while reading. Which just meant that his shoulders were elevated above where his face rested and he looked like an inchworm stuck mid-inch.
Must have fallen asleep while trying to work out why sodium bicarbonate wasn’t an easy replacement for natron. Maybe it was the pink food coloring. Why the hell didn’t Dean wake me? Shit, maybe he’s died of laughter. Sam turned awkwardly on one elbow, rubbing sleep from his eyes, daubing drool with the cuff of his work shirt.
Dean wasn’t in the room; his bed wasn’t mussed. Huh. Sam sat up, went to the bathroom, relieved himself, then brushed his teeth. He came back out, checked his phone, but there were no messages, so he punched Dean’s number on the keypad, speed dial. Used to have lots of numbers on speed dial; now, there was only the one. Quite the year so far.
One ring. Two. Then, Wha? Tha’you, Sam?
Great. Just great. Sam knew the drill, had worked it out years before. “Call me when you’re up.” When you’re decent. Could be waiting a long time, if that was the standard. Short to the point of rudeness, then he snapped his phone shut with a grimace. A bit of time to do some nosing around before Dean’s head cleared water and shook itself off. Sam was still getting used to it, Dean’s moonlight drives, or maybe he’d forgotten about them, forgotten how Dean needed to get lost every once in awhile.
Just for a while, though. Twenty minutes, that’s all it took.
The phone rang and Sam didn’t even have time to say ‘hey’.
Sam! Sam, what the fuck, Sam. You at the motel?
Sam tried to say ‘yeah’, but Dean was still talking, fast. I’m there, I’m on my way —
And Sam could hear, behind Dean’s words, a weird edge of panic, and a pounding noise, like Dean was locked in a small room and someone was trying to get in. “Dean? Are you okay?” As was so often the case, Sam was stuck somewhere between concern and exasperation.
Give me ten minutes, have the stuff ready to go —
And the phone went dead.
It wasn’t as though they had a lot to pack, but Sam packed it, waited for the unmistakable chugga-chugga of the Impala before pulling back the curtain to automatically check; the black car skidded to a stop, followed closely by a pick-up truck so jacked up you might need extra oxygen to ride in it. Dean burst from the barely-stopped car, and Sam flung open the door, arms held wide in question rather than welcome. Hard to get worried when Dean seemed whole and not-bleeding.
Dean gestured to the door — one finger, Get the fuck inside, Sam — and Sam noticed the red welts down his Dean’s neck, and that his shirt was undone and Sam understood where his brother had wandered. One of Dean’s randy adventures gone wrong. The pick-up was going to be a husband or a boyfriend and this was the last thing they needed. Dean pushed past Sam, knocking one shoulder, and Sam heard, like an insect buzzing past his ear, “C’mon, we’re outta here.”
Hell, Sam was well past worried — he was mad.
Then the pick-up’s door opened with an alarmed squeak, a large rodent being strangled, and to Sam’s surprise it wasn’t some burly boyfriend who jumped out, but the skinny garage owner from yesterday. Laurel, if Sam’s memory served him, which it usually did.
“Marty!” she called, ignoring Sam as though he wasn’t holding open the door, one long arm across the opening. She bounced on her tiptoes, trying to see in. “Marty, this isn’t like you! I’ve called Uncle Antoine, he’ll sort everything out!” She then looked at Sam. “It’s the war, you know,” she said conspiratorially. “It kinda makes them a little. You know.” Fingers splayed, she rotated them near her ear like she was juicing a lemon against her head.
Although Sam knew how squirrelly war made people — hell, their father spoke in coordinates instead of words — he wasn’t following her logic where it concerned Dean. “Um, Laurel?” he said to her. “Laurel, can you give us a minute?”
He didn’t give her a chance to answer before closing the door behind him. “Dean?” he called to the empty room.
“Sam, time to get outta Dodge!” and Dean came out of the bathroom, doing the usual double-check, making sure that Sam had packed everything. It would have annoyed Sam, under other circumstances, Dean second-guessing Sam’s ability to gather material goods, of all things.
Sam stood very still, arms folded. Dean stopped rooting around, dropped the duffle bag on the bed, eyes landing everywhere except Sam.
“Marty?” Sam asked, eyebrows up.
Dean took a breath, cocked his head to the side. “She seems to think that I’m her husband,” he looked up quickly, hands up. “I didn’t do anything —”
But something weird was going on, because even though Sam was sure it was his brother in front of him, the voice wasn’t his. Some other guy’s voice was coming from Dean’s mouth, California vowels skipping like stones, a full half-octave above the usual timbre. And not quite in synch.
“Dean?” Sam asked, felt he had to. “Kristo,” he followed up, automatically.
Dean stopped talking. Or, at least, he shut his mouth. The voice, the one that wasn’t Dean’s voice, still went on. “What the fuck, Sam?” And then Dean opened his mouth and said it, or his lips did, going on when the sound of him talking had stopped.
Lip synching himself.
“Oh, fuck,” Sam groaned, but couldn’t help the burble of laughter that came with it.
“Sam!” Dean complained, but sound and movement didn’t come together. “Goddamn Lucky!” and he turned away, maybe so Sam didn’t laugh in his face.
There was a pounding on the door. “Marty!” Laurel’s voice, concerned. “Marty, I know you’ve changed — but changed for the good! Goddamn, last night. I tell you, before you went away, you never coulda kept it up for that long. If this is my new Marty, I don’t want the old one back. Come on, honey. I got one or two tricks left in me!”
“Dear God,” Sam whispered, staring at Dean, who had the decency to look chagrined. “When did you figure it out? Please tell me it was, like, this morning.”
Dean shook his head with a shrug meant to be disarming. “About five minutes after the first time she-” and Sam cut him off with a hand movement, mostly because it was too weird, some other guy’s voice coming with his brother’s words, and also because he really didn’t want details of Dean’s night with Laurel. A whole night. Non-stop, apparently.
The door was a thin one. Through it, they could hear another car pull up and Sam checked the window again and a pale blue late-model Ford turned into the spot beside the Impala, an older man getting out and then more pounding on the door.
“Listen,” a man’s voice came through the paneling. “I just talked with the real Marty. Phoned from an Army hospital, wondering why his wife wasn’t picking up. Had to stall him, but he’s on his way. I don’t know who the fuck you think you are, son, but you’ve got some explaining to do.” There was the soft sound of protests before this man — Uncle Antoine, apparently — called Laurel a two-timing whore. “He’s a freakin’ marksman, and I’m pretty sure he’s armed. Do you know what the penalty is for fraud in this state?”
Privately thinking that the repercussions for fraud in the great state of California wouldn’t measure up to an ex-soldier’s revenge for banging his ‘widow’, Sam turned to Dean.
Who shrugged. His lips moved. Then, a half-beat later, “There’s a back window in the bathroom. These guys are just stupid enough to not think of it.”
“Where to, Dub Master?”
“You distract them away from the Impala, I’ll meet you at the movie theater and we can frost Lucky’s sorry ass on the Solomon Circle.”
Doable, in Sam’s opinion. He fished the pamphlet out from his backpack. “Children’s matinee this afternoon — Asia Day. A bunch of Japanese anime.” He laughed, thinking of it. Thinking of Dean’s possible reaction to it. “Spirited Away. Alf’s idea, for sure. Leni’s not going to like it.”
But Dean was full of surprises, and Sam was reminded that there had been four years apart.
“Anime, huh?” Dean said, two minutes later, by the back window as Sam pushed him through it. “Stupid big-eyed skinny guys who sweat too much. Akira was good, though. Loads of blood. Cartoons, right? But for the peanut gallery.” The words hung in the air even as Dean was brushing off the dirt from landing outside. “See you there.”
Don’t hang around! We’re just getting to the Good Part (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)! Part three follows…