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Sunday, August 15th, 2010 04:51 pm
Part 2 - Mammoth Spring

Sam wakes up early, but then he usually does. Usually he does a coffee and donut run, too, which puts Dean in a good mood for breakfast. But this morning, he stands by the edge of the window and pulls back the curtains just enough to let him look out, but not enough to wake Dean with the morning light.

It seems an impossible task to go on as they always have. Not with the thoughts churning in the tumbrel of Sam’s brain. So he stares at the river. At the river and not at Dean, who is a sleepy, warm mound under the covers. Sam tries not to think. Thinks about other things. Thinks about where they are.

Most rivers flow fed by runoff and rainwater and snow melt. But the Spring River is pushed by water that boils from the ground so saturated with minerals that it flows pale as ice in some places, green as jade in others. Now, with the sun still behind the hotel, the river is in shadow, a dark and glossy black path of movement at the bottom of the hill. For such a cheap motel in the middle of nowhere, the view is amazing. But then, being in the middle of nowhere, probably no one cares.


(The Waters of Mammoth Spring)



Dean stirs in the bed, and Sam’s attention snaps there, unable to keep itself away, and he’s unable to forget what Dean had said: and in the morning we’ll go on like we always do. Or maybe Dean was seriously drunk and won’t remember. Or maybe he will remember and they won’t go on like they always do, and Dean will leave him by the side of the road.

He feels more lonely than if Dean had never touched him.

“Dean,” he says. He figures they might as well get this part over with. “Dean, get up. Daylight’s burning.”

Dean makes a sound that translates into where’s my coffee, bitch?

Sam answers. “They have a continental breakfast downstairs, but you hate those, and so—”

Dean pushes himself to a sitting position. The blankest and sheets fall around his hips, but instead of looking at his hair that looks like a hastily brushed dog, or that lush mouth all relaxed with sleep, Sam makes himself pay attention to opening the curtains. Dean makes another sound and Sam thinks the sounds mean: five minutes. Shower.

*

It takes a little longer than five minutes, so Sam’s stomach is making its protests known to everyone in the little spot in town along the main street that Dean drives them to for breakfast. Dean’s his usual morning self, not very jovial and mostly quiet and so, thus far, they are going on as they always have. Dean bumps into Sam, his muscles taut beneath his leather jacket. Sam looks at him, but all Dean seems to want is to get Sam to hurry so he can slide into his side of the booth, as always, and smiles at the waitress and begs for coffee with his eyes. And with such eyes, still soft with sleep, the coffee soon arrives.

As Sam watches him take the first hot black sip, he realizes he shouldn’t be staring. Not at Dean’s eyes, which are always green, but surely not this green. Nor is he going to stare at Dean’s mouth or anything that is Dean. Which is hard, considering that Dean’s sitting right across from him. What is the difference between looking and staring? He finds, suddenly, that he has no idea.

When the waitress comes back, Dean orders enough food to feed three lumberjacks. Sam finds his mouth watering at the thought of biscuits and gravy, so he orders that.

“You know they’re going to mess it up,” says Dean.

It feels familiar to straighten in his seat and rearrange the salt and pepper shakers like he’s getting irritated and trying to contain it. But it’s an old argument, started at least a year ago when both Sam and Dean had both had the best biscuits and gravy in some podunk café in the middle of Illinois. The gravy had been hot and silky and spiced with pepper, and the biscuits had been so fluffy, they’d both joked about having to hold them down with their hands lest they float off. But not only can neither one of them remember the cafe (let alone the name of the town), they’ve never yet encountered anything as good as those biscuits and gravy.

“I gotta keep trying,” says Sam. He pushes his hair back from his eyes and realizes that Dean hadn’t cut his bangs short enough again.

“You’ll never find them,” says Dean right back. He clinks his spoon back and forth in his mug, even though there’s nothing to stir because he drinks it black. Sam thinks Dean does this because he likes the rhythm; it gives him time to think.

“It could happen,” says Sam, finishing the argument. It’s practically a ritual by now.

When the food comes, they eat. It’s not bad, and if there’s not enough pepper in the biscuits and gravy, Sam can add that. And wash it down with some flat tasting orange juice.

“Yeah, well, it’s no Jack’s Grill,” says Dean, pushing his toast into the yolk of his eggs and shoving it in his mouth.

“Well, what is?” asks Sam, shaking his head. “At least we know what town that’s in.”

By the time they pay the bill, Sam feels his shoulders coming down. It feels normal now, and maybe it’s that he’s not hungry and they have a case to focus on. Sam can’t stare at his brother if he’s got work to do.

He follows Dean while he checks that the Impala and does not think about Dean’s hands upon him in the dark. When they’re just about to step away, Sam remembers something.

“Do I need Dad’s journal?”

“No,” says Dean as he walks away. He pushes his hand at Sam like he’s pushing away the idea of it. “We know what’s going on. It’s a kelpie, or something very like it. It came up as a blip on the weird radar, and so here we are.”

Sam catches up to walk beside Dean, shoulder to shoulder along the sidewalk. “But why here? We’re in the middle of Arkansas.”

Dean shrugs, and his look at Sam feels right and easy. Like it should. Besides, neither of them are stupid enough to climb on a kelpie’s back, if it is a kelpie, so there’s practically no danger.

“Well, we still have to make sure we’re going after the right thing, Dean.”

Dean nods as they head up the street. The road, and therefore the sidewalk, slopes up away from the river. The stores seem a little countrified, in keeping with what big city folk like to see. There’re wooden walkways and wooden stairs into shops. There are coffee shops and candy stores, and little cafes with useless tables out front, and streams of people passing to and fro in the delicious late September sunshine. The breeze from the river keeps the air sweet and people seem happy.


(Downtown Mammoth Spring)



“Look,” Dean says, pointing.

He seems drawn, much to Sam’s surprise, to the patterns and colors of the cloth draped in the nearest shop window. Normally, Dean is all business, and notices only what needs to be noticed. Though he tends to take in everything else, just in case.

When Sam looks at him, brow furrowing, Dean points again.

“Look at the sign.”

Sam looks at the sign: Member of the Guild of Irish Weavers and Spinners.

“So. Irish? Kelpie? Hello?” Dean smirks in that way that says he thinks it’s all too obvious.

Sam bites back a scathing retort about stereotypes because Dean might be right about this one.

“Let’s go in,” says Dean.

Dean leads the way and Sam follows. There is a dry, dusty soapy smell, and a tang of wet wool, of burning wood and melting fat. It’s strong but not unpleasant, and Sam moves into the store, feeling the wood creak under his feet. Of course, a store as nice as this one is would be able to afford to fix that, but, of course, that would take away from the rustic charm.

The store is filled with cloth for any use that Sam can name, and even some he can’t.

Along every wall, filling the dark shelves, there are table runners, and placemats, and floor throws, and soft wraps, scarves, and hats, and socks. There are swathes of cloth that look like the might be good when Christmas came, simply to hang up and look festive. There are shirts and sweaters and rolls of patterned cloth that can, as the sign indicates, be made into kilts. He’s a little overwhelmed at the start and drawn in by the line of sweaters of creamy white, cables and patterns standing up beneath his fingers, curling away like sea foam

He is surprised to find Dean at his elbow, holding a strip of white cloth with ivy woven in at the borders, as fresh and real as if the greengrowth had come to life within the cloth.

“What’s that?” Sam asks, ignoring the familiar scent of Dean underneath the heavy scent of lanolin. 

Dean turns away and goes back to put the cloth where he found it. Sam follows, and when he reaches Dean, he gives his brother a push with an elbow to make him talk.

“Mom,” says Dean. “Mom had something like that. Before, you know, before. It only came out on Sundays. On the table, under the candles.”


(Table Runner)



Sam has no memory of this, which only makes sense, seeing as he wasn’t even into solid food when the fire had come. “It’s pretty,” he says now, his brain unable to come up with anything more than that because he’s never lived anywhere long enough to have something as nice as that for use only on Sundays.

There is a moment as he looks at his brother, at Dean’s profile, as the mouth tightens and those eyes darken, the lids falling down as if to close something off.  Sam sometimes thinks of it as Dean’s switch, totally in Dean’s control, and fluid, oiled every day. On. Off.

Dean turns to go further into the store, making Sam follow by the pure virtue of his going.

A girl behind the long wooden counter looks up as they approach. She has red hair that crinkles into gold, like it was shot through with threads. She doesn’t seem to see Sam at all, but when she sees Dean, she smiles. Sam sighs. Feeling invisible is old news.

Just as they get to the counter, Dean turns to Sam and says, low, “Think she’s a true redhead?”

Sam chuffs Dean’s head with the back of his hand, hoping that the girl didn’t hear. But the store is hush hush quiet, so it is likely that she did. The stain of pink on her face tells Sam that he is right.

“Hey there,” says Dean.  He leans up against the counter on one elbow, in full slouch, tipping his head and looks up through his lashes. Dean’s beautiful when he does this, but then Sam has always thought so, even if it irritates him sometimes how easily Dean does it.

“Hey,” she says with the slightest of southern honey in her voice. Well, it is Arkansas after all. Her mouth is sweet and her hair curls around the back of her ears just he way Sam thinks Dean likes it. 

The girl notices Sam, and for a second they stand there, looking at each other. Then Dean gives Sam a jerk of his head, which means: go away, I’ve got this one.

Feeling a huff of annoyance, Sam marches across the wooden floor and out the heavy, old fashioned door because of course Dean has this one. If it is a pretty girl, he always has this one and it has nothing to do with what happened the night before. Nothing. But as Sam steps out from the temperate air of the shop and into the vagaries of autumn sunshine, he shivers.

It’s stupid. He shouldn’t be affected like this, but of course he is. He suddenly can feel Dean’s hands on him, sweet and soft, Dean nuzzled up behind him, a curve of skin and breath. Doing for Sam what he couldn’t do for himself. And now, it’s like Dean woke something up inside of him, like a sleeping creature, which being now awakened, wants more.

Don’t start what you can’t finish, Dean.

But Dean has and does and as Sam sits on the top step in front of the shop, he thinks this is a battle he’ll have to fight on his own. The feelings of desire will fade in time, or it should, if he leaves it alone. Leaving things alone, however, is not Sam’s strongest talent.

*

The door to the shop opens, and Dean stomps down the wooden stairs, jerking his chin for Sam to follow him. Sam follows, trotting at his side.

“You’ll be pleased to know that the she is true redhead, and that I got her talking.”

Sam ignores why Dean would even know anything like that, and asks instead about the case.

“Talking?” asks Sam.

“Talking about kelpies.”

“Yeah?”

“More specifically about jealous neighbors, namely a Mr. Robert Shane, whose wife doesn’t weave as well as everyone else in town.”

“She just told you all that, flat out?”

“I have my charms, Sam, and I know how to use them.” Dean waggles his eyebrows in a suggestive fashion, but in light of what happened the night before, Sam is not inclined to encourage him. After all, those charms were used on him, and he still doesn’t know what to do with it.

“Seems strange,” Sam says, as they walk along the sidewalk, separating around some red and yellow newspaper dispensers and oddly placed light posts, and then coming together on the other side.

“What does?”  Dean’s question trails off as his eyes scan the street. Sam knows he is looking for another weaving shop.

Sam tugs on Dean’s leather jacket and points, glad to be touching Dean, even as he’s glad for a second of normal, because this is something he does all the time. Dean nods and they cross the street, jaywalking against the slow traffic.

“What does?” Dean asks again as they are just about to open the door and go into another quiet cave of wool and cloth and beautiful, red headed girls.

“Well, that she just came out with it, that she already knew who it might be.” The kelpie is obviously a recent addition to the tourist trade in Mammoth Spring, otherwise people would be acting a lot more skittish than they are. But, as the sun pushes some warmth into the air, and people pull the joy out of the morning, no one acts as if anything is wrong. 

“Beats the shit out of me, Sam,” says Dean, ignoring the scowl of a mother with two young children who are eating ice cream from messy cones nearby. “But we’re not the only ones who can read and who know about weird things, supernatural things. Plus, she’s Irish, and she—”

Sam waves him off. “Enough with the stereotypes, Dean,” he says. “And quit thinking with your dick, let’s just go see what else we can find out.”

“Thinking with my dick, huh?” Dean looks at Sam, full on with those glittery green eyes of his, just for a minute, and Sam knows he has to lock this down before this particular conversation goes any further.

Sam gulps, and looks away, knowing that if they were still keeping score on the Eye Chicken game, Dean would be totting up the points and crowing about it all day. “We can’t just go after him without more evidence.”

“Agreed,” says Dean, smiling, still looking at Sam. And either he’s thinking about the Eye Chicken game too, or because last night was just a one off and they really are going to go on the way they always have, or he’s messing with Sam because he can, and Sam simply does not know.

He shakes off Dean’s gaze with a shrug of his shoulders and looks down the street towards the closest sweet shop. “Want to get some ice cream?” he asks.

Dean nods and looks away, smirking.

*

They eat their ice cream cones and trundle into at least three shops to look around to stir up some stories. Dean uses his silky charms to get more red headed girls talking, while Sam looks at sweaters and scarves and thin, fine table runners. One of the shops even has a large loom in it, with a little card propped up on it that talks about warp beams and heddles, shuttles and reeds, even though the whole thing looks like a huge game of cat’s cradle to Sam.


(Loom)



While he stares at it, and stops himself from crawling under it to see if that way he can figure out how it works, Dean talks with the sales girl. She has blonde hair this time, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering Dean.

Sam turns away to poke at some pretty fierce looking wool combs when he notices an older woman wearing a white shop apron staring at them both with narrow eyes. Suddenly he feels like he’s all thumbs and elbows and that Dean’s got a “lock up your daughters” sign on his forehead.

He opens his mouth to warn Dean, but the woman comes over to Sam and moves the combs away from his hands.

“You’ll hurt yourself with those, young man,” she says, “if you don’t know how to handle them.” Her nametag says Irene.

“I don’t,” he says, looking over at Dean, trying to send signals with his mind that Dean should shut up now and move on. “I’m writing a paper, that is, me and my brother are writing a paper on cottage industries—” He pauses, watching Dean reach over to push a strand of Blond Girl’s hair behind her ear.

“Like weaving,” Irene supplies.

Sam turns his attention fully on Irene. She is not beautiful; her hair is scraped back in a bun and her skin is seamed from being out in the weather, and he wonders if that is because she shears her own sheep, and he wouldn’t doubt it. But her eyes are sharp and he gets the feeling she knows he’s lying. It makes him uncomfortable, not just because she caught him at it, but because there ought to be a better way. They ought to be able to talk to local people who are under the threat of something supernatural and be honest with them.

Dad and Dean have worked hard to train this impulse out of him, but, at this point, they are about to fail again, because there’s a power in honesty, and Sam knows this. They’ve not gotten very far with Dean’s meet and greet sweet talking of all the pretty shop girls in town; maybe it’s time for a different tactic.

He opens his mouth, only nothing comes out. He’s not sure if it’s better to be a bit uncomfortable and lie about what he’s doing, or ask straight out: who the hell raised a kelpie and set it free?

“And?” she asks, prompting him. Then, surprising him, she says, “Never mind, Mara called me. I know what you boys are asking about.”

Sam feels bad that he’d not taken the chance and been honest with her before she says this. But he nods, giving in, not even keeping up the pretence for form’s sake.

“The kelpie,” he says. “All the stories lead to that.”

“The kelpie,” she says.

“Yeah,” says Sam. “A green-black horse with diamonds in its eyes and waterweed for hair. Pounding on doors with its hooves and taking away as riders those unlucky enough or stupid enough to climb on its back.”


(Kelpie: http://www.elfwood.com/~celebfin/Kelpie.2613887.html)



“Well, that’s a pretty story, young man,” she says, and her voice is tart. “Did you know that since July, three people have washed up on the shores of the river? Would you believe some kids found their bodies? According to the Chamber of Commerce, it’s ruining everyone’s good time and harming tourism. Not to mention it’s given the local paper some real work to do for a change, determining whether freedom of the press overrides or is overridden by the people’s need to know.”

“Yes,” he says. He tips his head down to look at his feet, encased in dusty and beat up sneakers. Sometimes, on the road with Dean, doing what they do, he sometimes forgets that real people and real people’s lives are affected by what they do. Or what they fail to do. “We read the articles in the paper about it.” Then he looks up, and looks her right in the eyes. “My brother and I, we can help you.”

“A kelpie is dangerous to mess with,” she says. “Especially one that someone has set loose on the town. On purpose.”

“Mr. Shane,” says Sam, softly. In case he’s wrong. In case he’s a friend of hers. “At least that’s what all the shop girls are saying to my brother.”

To his surprise, she nods, and for a moment, the shop lights glint in her hair, strands of black among the silver. “The shop girls,” she says, “for all their silly chatter, are right. Mr. Shane is a good man, and an upstanding one. At least he was. His wife, Mrs. Shane, regardless of the quality of the wool they raise, can’t knit a mitten.”

Sam keeps his mouth shut; he couldn’t either.

“Her husband raises alpaca wool, a fine and silky even before it’s washed, but the articles made from it by Mrs. Shane are bulky and hard and nasty to the touch. And she’s too prideful to take lessons or let anyone instruct her. But we think it’s Mr. Shane who raised the kelpie in her defense. The people who died were all weavers, you know, blue ribbon weavers who beat her out at the last fair.”

Sam hears the footfall behind him and turns his head to see Dean there at his side. In spite of the feeling that Dean has been half-laughing at him and messing with him all morning, he’s glad Dean is there. Normally Sam is very good at talking with people, all kinds of people; all genuine empathy and sweet manners. But with Dean standing there, bringing with him his smiles and charm, Sam feels a push of confidence that had been erased by the fact that the woman caught him lying.

“We don’t know how he raised it,” she says, giving Dean only half a glance before bringing her attention back fully on Sam. “But we need to get rid of it before it kills more people.”

“We can do that for you, ma’am,” says Dean, with a voice that’s as bold as if he’d been part of the entire conversation.

Sam picks it up. “Have you found a calling stone or any evidence of a calling ceremony, anything like that?”

She shakes her head. “We can’t get anywhere near his land,” she says. “He knows our faces, knows what we would be there for.”

“Tell us where his shop is, Irene,” says Dean, turning up the charm with his smile and his sparkling eyes. “And we’ll take care of him for you.”

“It’s called Shane Spindle, at the top of the main street.” She makes a gesture with her hand that’s almost flippant. “But be careful around him.

Irene doesn’t even look at Dean. She looks up at Sam and considers him for a moment. Then she says, “He’s an angry man these days, he’s has no children, just lots of land and a wife who is, frankly, a bitch.”

Sam feels his face twitch at her language. He uses words like that all the time, and so does Dean. But to hear her say it tells him the force of her emotions; she’s angry about the deaths, and tourism be damned, weaving means a lot to the town, and with so many shops, lots of people depend on it. He can see that.

“We’ll do what we can,” he says, and Dean nods.

They head out to the street, and Sam leads the way to the first coffee shop they come to. He buys without asking Dean what he wants and they drink their coffee while standing on the sidewalk, eyeing the metal café chairs askance.

“Her pride will not let her bend to the knowledge and power of any weaver,” Dean says, his voice rising dramatically, mocking Irene. He takes a large swallow of his coffee as he smirks. His lips are moist with coffee and he licks them.

“Knock it off, Dean,” says Sam, snapping. He doesn’t want to be distracted, how can he be, it’s just Dean, and last night was just a one off.

“Just having some fun, Sam, quit being such a stick in the mud.”

“Well, quit being such a jerk, then.” 

Dean opens his mouth, and Sam can see the choicest of replies clicking behind his eyes. But apparently the needs of the job outweigh Dean’s need to hassle his brother, because he only shrugs. “If he called the kelpie, then whatever he did that with, it has to be close to home.”

Sam agrees. “Then it’s on his property somewhere,” he says. The coffee is almost too sweet and he thinks longingly of the coffee from Jack’s Grill. Of the sweet rolls. The butter. And the good mood they put Dean in. Maybe they can find a place like Jack’s Grill in the next town. Sam takes another swallow.

“Whatever he used,” says Sam, “according to the lore,” he adds for emphasis, “whatever he used to call the kelpie will be buried on one of the points of the compass.”

Sam knows that depending on how big Shane’s property is, this could mean miles of walking to find which corner the bundle is buried in.

“So,” says Dean, brightly. “How old is he, and how far can he walk?”

*

They find Shane’s Spindle at the top of the hill. It has a flight of elegant steps leading up to a building done in white paint and gingerbread trim, and from the top of the steps, the view of the springs is like green glass. The store is more modern than the cute, old fashioned ones down the hill. Also, unlike the other shops, it has more things built for the purpose of weaving, rather than things that have been woven. There are hanks of wool, and spinning wheels, and looms, and carding combs, and shuttles, and spindles, and, according to the brown-inked label, antique niddy-noddies. Whatever those are.


(Niddy Noddies)



In the corner are a few samples of what is, undoubtedly, Mrs. Shane’s work. Compared to the other shops, where the cloth was smooth or rough on purpose, the articles hanging up and priced, overpriced surely, look rather more like a child had been at it, rather than a woman who knew what she was doing. Sam’s looked at enough weaving today to think he can tell the difference.

Mr. Shane pops out of the back room, and, seeing them standing next to his wife’s goods, comes over to them. Sam watches as Dean sizes him up, middle aged, fit, graying around the edges, but sharp for all that. Shane’s eyes aren’t missing a thing as they look them both over, so seeing this, Dean steps away, shrugging.

“I’ll go wait outside,” he says.

This leaves Sam to do the careful questioning.

He starts by admiring the shop. “You’ve got some good stuff, here. More looms and…things than the other stores.”

“I raise the wood on my land,” says Mr. Shane. His voice booms. “I cut and season the wood, and have a little factory built out of an old barn where I build my looms and shuttles and so on. They’re all hand made.”

Sam nods and wishes he had more coffee to keep his eyes from glazing over.

“The only thing I don’t make are those of metal, bolts and washers and harness pins and whatnot.”

“Wow,” says Sam.

“Yes, indeed.” Mr. Shane puffs right up. “My land, my wood. I’ve got trees right up to the banks of the river for at least a mile.” He makes a half circle with his hand. “Right where the Spring River takes its first big curve west.

“That’s a lot of land to grow all those trees,” Sam says.

“I can’t walk the whole thing,” says Mr. Shane, “on account of my knee, you know. I’m marking trees now, for harvest next year, when I’ll hire someone to do the cutting. It’ll take the wood a year to dry and cure after that.”

Shane raises his own alpacas too, and goes on about that for a good five minutes while Sam takes notes about where the alpaca pens are and how far up the road the main house is. Shane seems proud of his patience and his industry, and so he should be. Sam’s not sure Mr. Shane is the one who called up the kelpie, but Irene and all the red-headed shop girls in town seem to think so, and his wife’s bad weaving contrasted with his pride and obvious wealth puts him in good running to be their number one guy.

“That’s so interesting, Mr. Shane,” Sam says. He pulls out a stub of a pencil and grabs a flyer from the counter to write down a fake number. He hands the paper to Shane.

“I’ll be calling in a few days to talk about an order. And, oh, your woven articles here are very fine.” 

They’re not, of course. Mr. Shane’s eyes go dark, and Sam nods to himself. This is their man.

Once outside, Dean is waiting. He’s one store over, leaning up against a post holding up the roof of the porch. He’s got one leg propped up, hands in his pockets, eyes scanning the street. Idly, nothing of concern here, just civilians passing by, no one giving him any mind. There is sweat on his neck, and the edges of his leather jacket have fallen back to show a length of jean-clad thigh. There is sunlight in his hair—

Sam turns away and makes himself concentrate on something else. Like the weather.
The day is getting a warmer now, and it’s pleasant as the wind whisks up from the water and brings the scent of green with it, bright with the last drizzle of summer.

“Well?” asks Dean, not moving from the post. He looks at Sam almost serenely and Sam knows this is because of the fact that he’s had some fine coffee, the weather is fine, and the current hunt is relatively easy.

“We got him,” says Sam.

~

Part 3 - Hunting the Kelpie
Master Fic Post

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