Initial A/N: Here we are at the end of our ride. I hope you all enjoy the final chapter.
I own nothing and intend no copyright infringement. :)
The Winchesters waited for a couple of seconds, staring at the door. Dean glanced at his brother, then reached out to turn the knob as Sam held his breath. As the door opened, the younger hunter let the breath out; surprised, but not really. He'd known what to expect, but actually seeing it was a different matter. Both brothers stepped into the hallway, looking down toward the other end. "It's the one on the end wall. The others are all locked or stuck or whatever, but it's the only one that will open. You'll see how evil it feels as we get closer to it. You hold this door open and I'll take some of the stuff down there so we don't lose anything to our own side accidentally. Okay, Sammy?"
Sam could only nod his head in agreement, leaning on the door as he helped Dean pick up the bedspreads from 'their' room. Letting his foot hold the door open, he kept an eye on his brother as he hurried down the hall, slowing as he approached the evil door. Sam's heart beat a little faster and his breath quickened as Dean got closer to it. Not trusting that the other doors were still locked, his eyes darted from one to the next and back to his brother, but nothing issued from any of them. He made a mental note to check them as he and Dean passed by, however.
The older hunter turned and hobbled back towards Sam, happy to get away from the oppressiveness by the basement. His leg had throbbed as he approached the door, but he wasn't quite sure if that was real or his mind causing it in reaction to his trepidation. Either way, he was very glad to have his brother watching his back this time. He noticed the look of concern on Sam's face as the younger man's eyes darted around the hall. That's my boy. Keep an eye on everything, Sammy. Smirking as he saw his brother relax, Dean gave him a gentle back-handed slap on the chest as he passed by to get the bedspread from this room, too. The two hunters gathered the rest of their stuff and headed down the hall toward the basement; Sam checking each door as they passed. The older man heard the quiet rattle of the doorknobs, knowing it was his little brother. Good boy — just in case.
As the hunters approached the basement door, Sam began to feel an oppressiveness descend on him. It seemed to get stronger as they got closer, upsetting his concentration a fraction. "Was this oppressive feeling here before?"
"Yeah, but it's getting worse. It was only by the door in the basement the first time. It's even worse now than when I was just here with the other bedspreads. I think the spirit knows we're coming and it's trying to stop us. It's not only spreading, it's stronger than before, Sammy. We're going to have to be double alert down there."
"Do you really think it's trying to get to our side?"
Dean shrugged. "Maybe. Whatever's going on, we have to stop it."
Sam nodded at his brother's back. "Yeah, I know." His lips set in a determined line, eyes giving off a steely glint.
They reached the basement door and stopped, eyes locked for a moment until through some unspoken agreement, Dean reached out to the doorknob, twisted, and pushed the door open. The oppressive feeling increased ten-fold as the door opened, sending shivers down both brothers' spines. Sam placed the items he was carrying on the floor, picked up the two bedspreads his brother had left there, and tossed them to the bottom of the stairs, not sure what to expect as he did so. The hunters stood for a second, Dean remembering the sound of the tools hitting the other side of the door, and Sam giving a little shudder in response to the unknown evil.
"As much as I'll ever be."
"Here we go." Dean moved out, beginning the descent of the stairs, eyes busy taking in everything that could be seen in the beam of his flashlight. He sensed Sam right behind him, knowing that his little brother was doing the same. Each man held a flashlight in one hand and a weapon in the other. Dean was carrying the weapons bag; Sam had the remaining bedspread. Stepping in unison, the brothers finally reached the basement floor.
Sam shone his light on the tools in the corner. "Are those the murderous garden tools?"
"That's them. How about throwing one of the bedspreads over them? Might make it a little more difficult for them to be able to fly."
"Yeah, good idea." The younger brother put his weapon down, trusting Dean to have his back while he performed this task. Shaking out the bedspread he was still holding, he threw it over the pile of tools, standing there for a second to see what would happen.
"Earth to Sammy."
Startled, Sam glanced toward his brother. "Sorry. I guess I was expecting something to happen. Maybe not until we start to work?"
"That's what happened before. They were just tools until I started to work on the lock." The older man nodded toward the door, taking Sam's eyes with him. "The sound came first. I thought it was rats." He shuddered. "Then, the little hand trowel came at me and embedded in the door." He made a 'twanging' motion with his finger. "I didn't see anyone, the rest of the tools were shuddering, and I took the hint."
The younger hunter grinned at his brother. "It'll work this time. I've got your back; there won't be any lawn tools flying at you this time . . . or rats."
The older man rolled his eyes and turned to get to work on the door lock. Sam chuckled to himself as he retrieved his weapon and flashlight from the floor, following his brother to the ancient lock. He whistled in appreciation for the antique as Dean took out his lock picking kit and began once more to attempt the opening of the door. The older hunter kneeled down on the dirty floor in front of the lock, placed the flashlight under his chin, and frowned in concentration as he began to work on the old lock.
Sam stood behind and a little to the side of his brother in an attempt to see both the bulk of the room and Dean. He shined the flashlight around the room in a constant motion, not wanting anything to catch them by surprise. As the light crossed the pile of tools under the bedspread, he noticed a slight movement and brought his light to rest on the activity. It's trying to happen again. No wonder Dean thought it was rats; it definitely sounds like it from here. He smirked briefly at the thought of his brother's rat phobia, but was immediately serious again as the tool activity increased. Deciding a little more deterrent was in order, Sam stuck the shotgun into his waistband and bent to pick up the second bedspread. He shook it out to only be folded in half. Approaching the corner, the noise and activity greatly increased as the larger tools joined in on the action. His heart raced and his breathing became more rapid until he was able to get the extra spread onto the pile. The tools didn't stop their struggle, but they didn't seem strong enough to make it out from under their covers either. Keeping a wary eye on the activity, the young hunter backed toward his brother; eyes flicking around the rest of the basement and back to the angry tools.
"Yeah, they don't seem to be able to get out from under the two bedspreads. I think we've got that issue taken care of."
"Good. I think I'll have this done in just a minute. It's really stuck, but no match for Dean Win - ches - ter." The determined hunter grunted as he toppled back from the lock, aggravated because the lock had not yet been opened. "Sonuvabitch! I'll show that sucker who's in charge." The angry hunter scrambled back up, returning with renewed purpose to the ancient lock while the younger man, seeing his brother was all right, valiantly tried to stifle a chuckle. Dean returned to his efforts as the tools in the corner once again made an attempt at escaping but were unable to defeat the weight of the two bedspreads.
Sam stood behind his brother again, flashlight held steady on the activity under the bedspreads, alert to the sounds of the struggling tools. He'd just begun to move his light around the dark room when his brother whooped behind him. "You okay, Dean?" He glanced at his older sibling, but continued his guard duties.
"Yeah. I got the freakin' lock open is all. The door's stuck, though. Come and help me with it, okay?"
Backing toward the door and his big brother, Sam cautiously put down his flashlight and weapon to take hold of the door handle. At a silent count of three, the brothers both pulled mightily on the door, sailing across the room and landing in a Winchester tangle of bodies and limbs when the door suddenly gave. Momentarily stunned, they lay there for a second but simultaneously began to try and break free.
"Get off me, freak!"
"You get off, shorty!"
"Sorry. Ow! What was that for?"
"Something's jabbing me in the ribs and it tickles. Stop it!"
"Grow up. I'm not tickling you. Haven't tickled you in fifteen years."
"Damn, Sammy, get your ginormous body off me. Where's the flashlight?"
"I think I feel it; hold on a sec. Yep, here it is." Sam turned on the flashlight, illuminating the room.
"Whew! That's what was poking me. Thanks."
Dean looked up at his now-standing little brother and held up his hand. Sam took it, pulled his big brother to his feet, both turning back toward the open door. The younger hunter shined his light back and forth on the floor, looking for the other flashlight, indicating its discovered location with the steady beam. The older sibling retrieved it, breathing a sigh of relief as it lit up when he pushed the button. Both beams focused on the now accessible closet, the brothers closed in on the opening, Dean reaching it first and sticking his head inside — gasping and pulling back immediately.
"Gah! That's horrible!"
"What did you see?"
"Nothing, but it stinks to high heaven in there. We need to do this quick and get out of here, Sam."
"Agreed. I —"
Whatever Sam was going to say was cut off by the sound of glass shattering on the floor. Two flashlights instantly aimed in the direction of the sound, finding a jar of fruit had fallen off the shelf. The brothers glanced at each other then got busy with their own duties; no further discussion was needed.
Rusty was on his fifth cup of coffee. He was beginning to think he should have made decaf as his nerves had already been jumpy before he started drinking the brew. He'd only made and drank it for something to do, so decaf probably would have been fine. Too late now. Glancing at his watch, he noted that a little over an hour had passed already, but that meant that there was still almost a full hour to go. He briefly considered going to see if the hunters were back in the room, but discarded the idea when he reminded himself of the time difference. They can't have had time to really accomplish much of anything, can they? Wringing his hands, he came to a decision. He grabbed the key that Dean had given him, left the office, and headed toward the door to the hunters' room. I'm gonna need something to prop the door open. What? He looked around the parking lot as he went and found an old brick lying at the end of the walk. Where'd that come from? Shrugging, he picked it up, deciding it was fit for his purpose. Trying to steady himself with a deep breath, the clerk moved his shaking hand toward the lock. He pushed the key card into the slot, let out the breath, and pulled it back out. The light came on immediately.
He started to open the door to make sure, but was distracted by the sound of a car pulling into the parking lot. Looking toward the car, he saw a man exit the driver's side and head toward the office. Crap! Glancing back at the room, the clerk hurried to the office to see what the man wanted. Hopefully, it was just a room for the night and could be dealt with quickly. He wanted to do any motel work as fast as possible to be free when the time came to let the hunters out. Nothing's more important than getting those young men back safely." Plastering a smile on his face as he walked through the office door, he said, "Good evening, Sir. Would you like a room?"
The smell of peaches was filling the basement. It had been pleasant at first, but another jar had fallen, landing a little further away from the shelves. The smell was becoming stronger and neither Winchester, although fond of peaches, was liking the smell mixed with the rancid odor coming from the closet.
"Got any more lighter fluid? I really want to make sure about this."
"How many bodies are in there?" Sam rummaged in the weapons bag, looking for more of the requested item.
"Not sure, but I saw at least five sculls. One of them was bigger, so that's gotta be the missing owner, huh?"
"Yeah, probably. This is the last can. I hope we've added enough to make this work."
Dean shrugged as he emptied the sixth can of lighter fluid into the closet. "I'm pretty sure we're good, but there's never a guarantee; you know that. We've used a whole bag of salt and six cans of lighter fluid. There're old clothes in there that should catch immediately, so with any luck, there won't be an issue."
The sound of another jar hitting the floor from the shelf caused both men to jump, turning their flashlights in the direction of the sound.
"It's getting the range. Light it up, Dean!"
For an answer, the older man took out a disposable Bic lighter, flicked the igniter, held the flame to a stream of lighter fluid that had spilled just outside the closet door, waited a brief moment as the liquid caught with a 'whoompf', and stood up. The sound of glass breaking and his little brother's yelp snapped his attention away from the flame.
"What the hell?"
"I'm okay. Another jar flew from the shelf. This one shattered right next to my foot. Surprised me is all." The younger man's smile turned to a frown and then to a look of disgust. "Ewwww. Pickled beets. Blech! Doesn't mix well with peaches."
Trying not to gag on the odor that was only going to get worse now that the fire was going, Dean glanced at the lighter, and threw it into the closet. At Sam's quizzical look, he replied, "It's a little more lighter fluid. Can't hurt."
"No, I guess not — down!"
The older man instantly hit the ground as a can flew toward him from the workbench. It was full of screws and nails, causing a racket as it slammed into the wall where Dean had been standing.
Spurred to action, Sam picked up the third and last bedspread, and threw it over the workbench just as another can, this time containing screwdrivers, began to lift. "Let's go!"
Dean was already gathering their things, tossing a flashlight to Sam, who snatched it from the air with a practiced hand. The younger hunter retrieved his weapon, shining the flashlight around the room one more time, looking for any other dangers that might try for them. The garden tools under the two bedspreads were trying to get out, the top of the workbench was in constant motion, but the sight that really gave the brothers pause was the shelves of fruits and vegetables. The jars appeared to be lining up to take turns launching themselves at the hunters.
"You first. I'll watch your back. Your leg isn't good enough to get yourself up the stairs if you bring up the rear."
At the 'I can argue this all day and we don't have time for that' look on his little brother's face, Dean moved toward the stairs as a jar of green beans sailed towards the spot where he'd been standing. "It's getting stronger." Dean coughed. "The next one might be a direct hit." The older man did his best to hurry up the stairs, coughing at the stench of the burning bones, smoke, and the smashed jars of fruits and vegetables.
Sam moved behind his brother, coughing and holding his shotgun in his right hand with the flashlight in his left. Another jar flew from the shelf, and the young hunter fired at it, causing it to shatter before coming close enough to do any damage.
The blaze from the fire in the closet had taken hold very well, causing the room to flicker as the flames licked up the wall by the stairs. The heat was becoming unbearable and added an extra aspect to the stench already trying to choke the brothers.
Another blast from Sam's shotgun and another jar crashed to the ground. The hunters were half-way up the stairs. Dean tapped his brother on the shoulder, giving him his shotgun, then hurried the rest of the way up the stairs. Sam had to fire twice more before reaching the top where his big brother was waiting to shut the door. Both men were coughing badly by this time.
"This whole place is going to burn down."
"I know. It had to happen, but what else could we do? I just hope Rusty's there with the key to open the door before we roast."
Smoke began to shove tendrils under the door, acting almost as if it were alive, looking for the hunters, and wanting to grab them to take them back to the fire. Both men backed away from the door, taken aback by the sight.
"Time to go, Sammy." Dean said in a remarkably calm voice.
"Yeah, I think it is." Sam replied in the same tone.
Stepping out together, the brothers headed down the hall towards the room that would hopefully take them back to their time. Dean's leg seemed to be bothering him again, so Sam matched his stride to the injured man's, afraid that the smoke was going to beat them to the door.
"How much time do we have, Sam?"
The younger man glanced briefly at his watch. "About ten minutes. I sure do hope this smoke stays on this side of the door and Rusty pulls through for us."
Dean smirked, "Amen, Brother!"
Sam snorted at the response, put his arm around his big brother's waist, and stepped up the pace just enough that Dean could keep up with his help. "Only a few more steps to go, dude. We'll make it."
Only able to nod his agreement from the combination of the smoke and the effort it took to keep going, the older man breathed a huge sigh of relief as they approached their room. Dropping the weapons bag to the floor, he turned the knob and threw himself through the opening into the old room.
Sam followed, nearly tripping over Dean who had landed on the floor. Recovering his footing, he turned to the door, slamming it shut and collapsing against it as his lungs relished the untainted air. The young hunter glanced down at his brother on the floor who was panting equally as hard, trying to take in as much of the clean air as possible.
"Yeah, in a minute." The older man rolled over onto his side in an effort to get more comfortable.
"We've gotta get away from the door, dude. Rusty needs to be able to open it."
Coughing and nodding, Dean rolled on over, getting up on his hands and knees to crawl several feet away, collapsing once again — this time face down.
Sam made an almost superhuman effort to get his breathing under control, managing to bring the coughing down to tiny eruptions; enough so that he felt able to move his lanky form away from the door. He shoved the weapons bag with his foot as he passed by it, making sure the door would clear it when it opened, and allowed himself to fall next to his brother.
"We gotta get up on the bed, Sam."
"I know. In a minute. Can you make it by yourself?"
"Yeah, I'm good. Think we'll be lucky enough to have the room change on its own?"
"Nope. Better safe than sorry, though."
Scrambling up onto the bed, the brothers tried to make themselves comfortable, even with the faint acrid smell of smoke beginning to sneak into the room. They'd known it couldn't last; they couldn't block the edges of the door without preventing Rusty from opening it from the other side. The smoke was bound to get in. Sam tore the sleeves from his flannel shirt, handing one to his brother and folding one to cover his mouth and nose.
"Eww. Man, what makes you think I want to shove your BO onto my nose?"
"Your choice, dude: me or the smoke. Smoke'll kill you, but I don't think I will."
"Not sure about that, but I guess I'll take the chance." Dean elbowed his little brother, but folded the sleeve and placed it over his face, only leaving his eyes exposed. "Dude! You need to change your shower soap."
Sam snorted, gently smacking his brother on the shoulder. Both hunters settled down to wait, thinking about the fire in the basement and the smoke that was coming down the hall for them, knowing from the strength of the fire and smoke that they had done their job with the spirit.
The redheaded clerk looked at his watch for perhaps the hundredth time in five minutes. It's almost time! Should I wait or go ahead? Finally making a decision, Rusty grabbed the key that Dean had given him like it was more precious than gold and hurried out the office door toward room 113. Reaching the room, he made sure the brick was still handy before inserting the key. To his utter surprise, there were several bricks lying where there had been only one before, causing him to pause, frowning. "What the hell?" he mumbled. "This can't be a good thing."
With a renewed sense of urgency, he stuck the key into the slot and removed it, holding his breath and giving a jerk when the light came on. He stuck the card in and removed it again, faster this time, but getting the same result. Again he tried, but slower, getting the same result. Over and over he tried, but there was no change; the light came on immediately. He even opened the door several times to verify that it was still a motel room, slamming his fist into the door on the final try and screaming out his frustration, not caring about disturbing the guest that he'd checked in earlier.
As Rusty stood in the night, gently banging his forehead into the door and trying to work out what the problem could be, a horrible thought came to him almost causing the clerk to collapse to the ground. I'm too late! They're already dead and the other room is gone. No, no, no, no! They can't be, but why won't the door open? They said I could bring them back; could get them out of there. Sam said I was the key… The light dawned so brightly and with such force, it was like being struck by lightning. "I am the key! I'm the key!"
Turning away from room 113, the clerk belied his age and his paunch, running as fast as he could back to the office. He hurried behind the counter, panting, fumbling open the drawer that held the blank keys, scattering some of them onto the floor in his haste to get one. He held onto his grandmother's locket with one hand as he punched the numbers into the little machine and slid the card down the side to program it. The digital display indicated the card was active, so Rusty took off toward the now hated motel room. Stopping at the door, he tried desperately to get his breathing under control. I don't need to have a heart attack now; not now, please! This is too important."
Finally fairly certain he wasn't going to go into cardiac arrest on the spot, and with his breathing under better control, he put his key into the slot, waited a beat, and pulled it out. The light blinked a couple of times and came on. Yes! His eyes lifted heavenward in thanks even as his hand reached for the handle, opening the door and rushing inside. Remembering himself, the clerk caught the door before it slammed shut and shoved the brick into place to hold the door open. He turned back to the room and gasped as he took in the scene. The room was filling with smoke, making it difficult to breathe. He could see on the other side of the room that the brothers were lying on the four-poster bed, their faces covered with cloths. Pulling his own shirt off, covering his mouth and nose, Rusty hurried to the bed.
Dean was lying on his back with his face turned toward his brother. Sam was lying on his right side facing the older man with his hand resting on his big brother's bicep; both appeared to be unconscious. Damndamndamn! I'm too late! Why didn't I figure it out sooner? Deciding to beat himself up later, Rusty shook Dean's arm and called his name. At first, there was no response, but the older hunter finally turned his head toward the sound of his name, moaning and thrashing as a coughing fit overtook him.
"Dean? Take it easy, Dean. It's Rusty. I've got the door open so we can get you boys out of here. Help me with your brother, Dean. Let's go!"
The hunter's eyes opened at the mention of his little brother and he turned toward Sam. The younger man was facing him with his arm outstretched toward him. Trying to stifle his coughs, Dean added his voice to Rusty's in an attempt to rouse the younger man. "Sam! Come on, Sammy, we gotta get outta here. Rusty's got the door open. Sam, now!" Both men were shaking the taller man in an attempt to rouse him. Turning to Rusty and trying to suppress a cough, Dean said, "We don't have time for this, man. Help me with him."
The clerk took Sam's legs and pulled the lanky hunter toward the end of the bed, while Dean got behind his brother to push him forward. He shoved, grunting and coughing, desperate to get Sam off the bed. The smoke was getting very thick in the room and Dean began to fear that he and Rusty would succumb before being able to get Sam out. With one final push from Dean and pull from the motel clerk, Sam was at the edge. The older hunter scrambled off the bed and around to once again grab Sam under his arms, clasping his hands over Sam's and holding them up onto the unconscious man's chest. Trying unsuccessfully to suppress his coughs, Dean was only able to nod his head at their new friend; both men moving toward the propped-open door.
Once the three men were free of the room, they collapsed to the ground, the two older men coughing and sucking in the fresh air. Rusty got up to close the door, but Dean grabbed at his ankle as he passed by. The redhead paused and looked down questioningly, neither of them able to speak. Dean pointed at the weapons bag and looked up at the other man, hoping to get his meaning across. Rusty looked in the direction the hunter was indicating, saw the bag, nodded, and reached down to pat the younger man's shoulder as he headed back inside. He attempted to lift the bag but lacked the strength, so gave it a shove with his foot until it was safely outside the room. Kicking the brick away from the door, he allowed it to shut behind him, and collapsed once again to the ground where Dean was trying to rouse his younger brother.
Placing fingers on Sam's carotid artery and finding a pulse, Dean dropped his head on his little brother's chest, whether for comfort or to listen to the beating heart, the worried man couldn't really say. Either way, it sounded good and it felt good, not that he'd ever say that to Sam. The gentle rise and fall of his brother's chest was comforting, indicating breathing, but he didn't like the shallowness of it nor the sound he was hearing from the lungs.
"How is he?"
Dean glanced up at the clerk, grinning at the sight of him literally wringing his hands. "He'll be okay." Come on, Sammy, breathe for me! We made it out, dude. You've got to be okay. Without further words, Dean moved Sam into position, took a deep breath of his own and puffed it into Sam's mouth, watching as his chest expanded then relaxed again. "One more time, little brother, then you'd better start coughing, okay?" The action was repeated, this time with the desired result. Sam lurched up, coughing and gagging as he did so. The older sibling moved behind him to offer support until the coughing passed and he could hold himself up.
Finally able to speak, Sam looked around at his big brother in shock. "D-d-dude! W-w-were you k-kissing me?" He rubbed a hand across his mouth.
Dean snorted as he moved to allow Sam to sit on his own. "You needed to cough to clear your lungs and I needed you to wake up. Although, I gotta say, Sammy, I had no idea…" He easily dodged the half-hearted swing his brother took. "We did it, man. Rusty got us out and I'm pretty sure the other room is gone. Did you have any trouble, Rusty?" He glanced at the clerk.
Having slightly calmed at Sam's revival, but still feeling the effects of the stressful last few hours, the redhead ran his hands through his hair and down his face. "It wouldn't open." His eyes sought both brothers' as if trying to reassure himself they were there. "It wouldn't open."
"Calm down, dude. It's okay. It did open, and you got us out."
"The key you gave me didn't work. I tried and tried, but it wouldn't open." The clerk continued to wring his hands and step from one foot to the other in his anguish.
The brothers looked at each other in confusion, then back to the older man.
"I almost went crazy from fear. I didn't want you to go and the pressure of being the one to open the door for you was driving me insane. When it didn't work . . . I finally remembered what you had said about me being the key and decided it might literally be the truth." He clasped the locket around his neck. "I ran back to the office and made my own key. That one worked. I guess it had to be my key, not one that was made for you and given to me." He shrugged, nearly collapsing as it finally sank in that it was over and they were all safe.
"Huh," the brothers said in unison.
"Rusty, man, you are a genius! We didn't think about that being a literal statement, just that it had to be you to get us out." Dean glanced at his still slightly coughing brother. "We're definitely in your debt." He clapped the older man on the shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Turning to Sam, he asked, "Do you think you can get up, yet? I want our friend here to try his key in the lock again to see what we get."
"Yeah," Sam coughed as he struggled to rise with his brother's help.
When all three men were standing, they turned as one to face Room 113. The Winchesters looked at the door, then at the key, and then at Rusty. The older man looked at the door, then at the Winchesters, and at the key. Standing a little straighter, the clerk placed his key in the slot. The light hesitated, but finally became green. Three mouths dropped open, but it was Rusty who took the handle and opened the door. The men threw their hands up to protect their faces, jumping back to escape the heat from the room full of flames before them.
"Close it, dude!"
Three hands reached for the door, but again Rusty was the one to take hold of it, pulling it shut with a loud bang. The smell of smoke and burning wood dissipated as they stood staring at the door in bewilderment. Sam was the first to recover, removing his room key from his pocket, sliding it into the slot, removing it, and opening the door — onto a perfectly normal motel room. There was no heat, no flames, no smoke, not even the smell of smoke. It was just a room, smelling like any of the other motel rooms they stayed in. Hesitantly, the brothers stepped through the door, both half afraid that it was all going to vanish and they'd be back on the other side. As nothing happened after several seconds, they began to relax, smiles appearing simultaneously on their faces.
"Come on in, Rusty. It's just a room!" Dean beamed at the older man, reaching out to pull him forward.
Reluctantly, the older man allowed himself to be pulled into the room, his eyes taking everything in as he moved. "It's really true, then? It's done? We did it?" His gaze landed on the brothers as he turned around in the room. "It really worked! I don't even smell smoke." Rusty's face broke into a huge grin as he clapped his hands together, laughing and dancing in celebration.
The brothers couldn't help but catch his enthusiasm, breaking into huge grins themselves. Sam even reached for Rusty to dance, too, but his lungs objected to the increased activity, bringing on a coughing fit to be remembered. Dean reached out to grab his sagging brother and helped him to a chair. "You okay, Sam?"
Still wanting to laugh, his face still in a huge grin, the younger brother nodded his head. "I'll be fine. Nice to see a client happy with our work, huh?" He indicated the happy clerk with his chin.
"Yeah, it really is," Dean chuckled as he eyed the dancing man. "I think he might actually keep this up all night if given the chance. I'm not sure how I feel about that, though. This is our room and I don't know about you, but I'm beat. What do you think, shall we throw him out or give it a little longer?"
Sam studied the clerk for a second then turned to his brother. "Is there any beer in the refrigerator?"
The older sibling's face lit up at the thought. "I don't know, but we can sure find out!" He moved over to the small appliance, crossing his fingers as he opened the door. Inside sat an unopened six-pack of chilled brew. Dean pulled it out, giving one to his brother, one to the delighted dancing man, and took one for himself.
Rusty became very serious as he held his bottle up to make a toast. The brothers straightened their faces, giving the clerk their full and serious attention. "To the bravest and best men who've ever stayed at this motel. They solved a very old mystery, and saved lives in the process. To my new friends, the Wilburs!" The three men clanked their bottles together and took deep pulls on their brews as the Winchesters glanced at each other and smirked.
They finished off the rest of the six-pack in amiable conversation until headlights pulled into the parking lot, bringing the redhead back to reality. "I've got to take care of this customer. Boys, it's been really . . . It's been interesting." He took each of their hands in turn as he made to leave.
"We'll be leaving in the morning, Rusty so we probably won't see you. Thank you for saving our lives." Dean put his arm around the clerk's shoulder as he walked him through the door, waving goodbye, the older man hurried down the walk to the office. Dean held the door which led to the parking lot open for a second. The Impala was sitting right in front of their room. Standing back, he turned toward Sam, but indicated the outside as he grinned. "Isn't that just about the most beautiful thing you've seen in a long time."
The youngest Winchester smiled as he held his beer bottle up in a salute.
Dean walked into the motel room the next morning as Sam was coming out of the shower. The older hunter put some bagels and coffee on the table as he removed his jacket. "I took some of the bagels and went to see Betty. Knew we wouldn't be around to take her to dinner, so I took breakfast to her." Dean's face was alight with something his brother couldn't identify.
"So I take it you had a good time?" Sam grinned.
"I really did. That lady is really something. I wish our "times" could have jived, but I really did enjoy spending time with her. She's quite a woman!"
Sam grinned at the genuine smile on his brother's face. "You ready to get going?"
"Yeah. Packing won't take long, as usual."
The brothers were moving rather slowly, feeling their aches and pains from the previous day's adventure. Sam's lungs were fairly clear, but his throat was sore from the smoke and coughing. Dean's leg was sore and a little stiff, but he wasn't about to stay in that place one more night. Sam offered to go to the office to check out while Dean loaded the car and his big brother let him.
A few minutes later, Sam returned with a package. Dean looked at him in surprise. "What's that?"
"I don't know. I turned in the keys, told Kim we were leaving, and she gave me this. She said that Rusty left it for us. I thought I'd bring it back to the car to open it."
"What're you waiting for, dude? Open it!" Dean looked like a five-year-old at Christmas, causing his little brother to chuckle as he tore open the paper to reveal a box that had been taped shut. The older hunter produced his knife in a split second and slit the tape holding the flaps together. Sam pulled the flaps open to reveal a note along with a treasure trove of goodies. He gave the note to his brother and started going through the box. There were Twinkies, Oreos, Trailmix, power bars, and at the bottom of the box a large bag of Peanut M&Ms.
"Wow, Sammy, there's stuff in here for both of us. You can have the power bars and Trailmix and I'll take the Twinkies, Oreos, and the M&Ms."
"Uh huh, we'll see about that. What does the note say?"
"Oh. 'Dean and Sam – This is just a small thank you for your help. Who knows what might have happened if you hadn't stopped at the Seashell Motel and taken care of the spirits. Here are some munchies for the road. Enjoy and stay safe. Rusty' What a great guy!"
"Yeah. This whole thing really freaked him out didn't it?" Sam headed around to the passenger side as Dean got behind the wheel.
"It did, but he came through for us. I'll bet he's gone to tell Betty all about it." The older hunter laughed with a little twinkle in his eye as he glanced at his brother.
Sam chuckled and began to go through the box again. "Do you want any of this stuff now?"
"Nah. We can save it for later. I want some coffee and eggs." Dean turned the key in the ignition and the car roared to life, seemingly as anxious as the brothers to get on the road. Dropping the gear shift into drive, the black car peeled out of the parking lot and the Winchesters put another town in their rear view mirror.
Rusty arrived at work several hours later, noting with a little sadness that the big black car was gone. He was pretty sure he was going to miss those young men. Before starting his shift, he took the key he'd made and headed down the walk towards their room. He slipped the key into the slot and pulled it out again. The light came on immediately, but he opened the door to make sure. It was just a room. He started to walk away, but turned back to give it one more try. This time, the light blinked before coming on. In trepidation, he pushed the handle and opened the door onto — a motel room. He almost fainted from relief. It really is over. He looked out towards the road. God bless you and keep you safe, boys. The clerk headed toward the office with lightness in his step to begin his shift.
A/N: Thank you to all my loyal readers. You've really been so very kind and supportive and I love you all. Thanks for coming along on this little ride.
A/N2: I want to put a little plug in here for KazCon 2009 to be held in Lawrence, Kansas August 7-9, 2009. We had an awesome time last year and I know it'll be really special this year. The link to the website, which is still being filled out, is on my profile page. Please check it out and we hope to see you there.