The next night, his brother's form is crouched outside the door. Just outside the best of the light, down on haunches, hands clasped between knees. The silver ring on the right hand catches more light than the face cocked just out of view, but Sam can see the gleam of eyes and teeth occasionally, when it grins. When it uses Dean's face to grin. Not a skinwalker, not a demon, not a thought-form, nothing as easily defined as a possession. Any humanity doled out was borrowed and learned, not inherent.
It wants nothing to do with the Impala.
One of the only things that comforts Sam is that he knew immediately it wasn't Dean. It tried so hard not to tip him off when it turned to face him and answer him with Dean's voice. It had happened so fast and Sam had known regardless and stayed his hand because he knew he would have to try and save what remained. He had been smart enough to evade it and keep evading it and buy time.
Sam wonders again whether Dean is the prize or a means to an end. It's holding on with both hands and is careful not to harm the body it's in, because Sam can think of dozens of ways it could blackmail him into doing what it wants. It could make the body uninhabitable by degrees if it wanted. But Sam has yet to see a scratch. It needs physical contact to use its power, to take control.
Sam thinks it wants a matched set, then. Winchester bookends.
The voice is jeering but familiar enough to make Sam ache. "Any final thoughts? Anything you might want to say to this face?"
Sam has started referring to the revenant as Once because he can't think of it as his brother, and he can't think of anything that looks like Dean as simply it.
"Oh, that's right," once-Dean says. "You're not completely sure if he's able to hear you or not. That's the big deal. If you were sure, then you wouldn't keep taking the gun out." The voice lowers into something Sam would usually think of as gently cajoling, were it not coming from such a dark place. "If you come out here, Sam, I'll help you be sure."
"No, thanks." Sam is pretending to be engrossed in his laptop. He knows from previous experience that it angers Once to distraction. Dean would simply repeat himself or wave a hand in Sam's direction. Sam feels the difference, all the differences.
"You're such a little bitch, Sam," Once says, and laughs.
The laughter holds promises that words can't touch, and Sam ignores the jab with singleminded determination. This thing is not new. It holds no connection to the job they were investigating at the time Dean was taken; it's simply a creature of opportunity. He knows that now.
"He was right," Once says. "Your brother. All the dark things just love you. Can't resist you. Just blazing away into the dark, begging for attention. That's our Sam. You're a little attention whore anyway, aren't you, Sam?"
What haunts his door uses his name so casually. It can't seem to stop.
Revenants are generally defined as the returning dead, but in some cases will only masquerade as such. They can be found in areas of high paranormal activity and are often not susceptible to traditional methods of expulsion.
Yeah, no shit. Except the salt. Sam is so grateful for salt, always and again.
Unconventional and extreme methods have been employed over the centuries to remedy infestations, including: drowning victims in holy water, burning an infected dwelling to the ground, and adjuration by an opposite number.
Sam pauses to consider the implications of opposite number .
Adjuration is rather an earnest appeal, or a most stringent command requiring another to act, or not to act, under pain of divine visitation or the rupture of the sacred ties of reverence and love.
Once-Dean is much older than crucifixes and Latin; but not older than salt. And certainly not older than reverence or love.
"Are you all the dark things?" Sam says without turning. He wants to look but it gets harder every time. "Do you love me?"
When there's no answer, he has to look. The look becomes a staring contest that Sam won't back down from. Once-Dean's gaze is steady and expressionless, so familiar on the outside and shining with nothing real behind.
Once-Dean stretches into a standing position again and regards him with a blatant lack of expression. "You make all your weaknesses so available," he says finally. "That's hard to ignore. Lighthouses are so hard to ignore."
Sam asks again, even though he's asked dozens of times before and received riddles or jeers. "What do you want from me?"
Now once-Dean is looking upward, at the top of the door, staring at the pentacle hanging from a bit of twine as if hypnotized by it. "It's been very dark."
"And you're just whistling in it," Sam says. "To keep yourself from falling apart. What are you running from, by chasing me?"
The grin breaks out and the eyes are back on Sam's again suddenly. "It won't hurt for very long, Sam. Dean didn't even scream."
Sam looks away again quickly so that it won't see his face.
Exorcism is not the way to go on this one. Sam already knows the traditional won't work and it doesn't flinch at the name of God in any language. There'll be no drowning or burning of the form in the doorway, so adjuration will have to do. If he has to weaken the thing's hold with injuries that will heal later, he'll be strong enough to do that. He can apologize later. If the hold is only a sham and the form is now hollow...if there's nothing underneath to save...then there's the gun. He's strong enough for that too, because this is a promise made the day Sam was old enough to hunt.
Sammy. Anything can happen. You know stuff is out here that can turn us. Don't let me go on into the dark. Promise me you won't let me run loose in the dark.
Sam thinks of an adage about sailors and paraphrases it to suit the form in the doorway. There are old hunters and bold hunters but no old, bold hunters. Dean is likely to be the most cantankerous old man he'll ever know, someday, and he's got to see it happen.
When it gets light again, he doesn't even bother trying to get some sleep. There's no way Once goes all that far to get out of the daylight; he still has limitations of some sort, being in Dean's body. What he's going to do once he finds it, Sam's not sure, but he has ideas. It doesn't matter to him. He's hunting.