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Up Against Your Will 1/4

Title: Up Against Your Will
Author: akire_yta
Pairing: Mike/Kevin
Rating: PG for language and supernatural themes
Word Count: ~30,000 words
Disclaimer: Made up, not mine, based on real people, no insult or infringement intended. Song lyrics from The Jonas Brothers. Don’t Google Yourself.
Prompt: for kira_snugz who asked for “paranormal fic! ghosts or fairies and things unexpected. humor is a bonus.” I didn’t get the bonus, unfortunately (unless you count Bonus)
Summary: A story about growing up, finding your place, and learning what you truly believe in. And blowing up monsters with homemade grenades.
Notes: I didn’t set out to write a skippy-fied Supernatural, but that’s kind of what I did, with some extra influences from Merlin, the Dresden Files and a few other places. Huge thanks to ink-on-the-page for the handholding, meta-listening, and scene-breaking help, and to < lj user="audrey1nd"> for the great beta read. I have UK spelling, so sorry, but not even Kevin’s pretty curls could get me to drop the 'u' from colour. Title from “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen


~//~

Kevin froze. The dilapidated factory was full of mice and vermin, and the echoes made it hard to track noises to their source. He strained his ears, relaxing slightly as he heard the faint squeaking and clicking of tiny claws across the cracked concrete.

Turning away from the noise, Kevin took a deep breath and slid cautiously through the gap left in the doorway left by the door rotted half off its hinges. The old machine floor was a mess of shadows and tangled machinery, the dust a choking miasma that made knives of silver out of the moonlight spilling through the broken windows set high on the far wall.

Kevin turned at Nick’s tiny hiss of annoyance. “Anything?” he whispered.

Even from a few feet away, Nick was barely more than a dark shadow. The single bright red glow of the LED on top of the machine in Nick’s hands captured Kevin’s attention and drew it in for a second before Kevin shook his head and moved back a few paces, spreading out automatically even as he swept his gaze over the rusting hulks once more. Behind him, he heard Nick grumble something under his breath. “Nothing?” he whispered hopefully.

“No,” Nick growled softly, coming to stand at Kevin’s shoulder. “I’m getting something, but I can’t get a fix on the direction.”

Kevin swallowed down the sudden burst of fear and the automatic inclination to say something stupid. That wasn’t his role anymore, he didn’t get those luxuries. “Okay, well I think that means we’re in the right place,” he said instead. “But where exactly?”

This close, Kevin felt Nick shrug. “Maybe they’re just echoes, imprints on the building itself?”

“Man,” Joe said, too loud. Kevin flinched. “Imagine coming to this crappy job every day even after you’re dead. Okay, okay,” he whispered loudly as Nick shushed him. “Just saying, if your little detector can’t get you a direction, maybe it’s because it’s all directions.” He leaned in meaningfully. “Like, all around us. Like, this is the source. Like, this is a really bad place to be, given it’s…” his watch flared in the darkness. “Two minutes to midnight.”

Kevin crushed the flare of panic in his belly before it could take hold. “We’re leaving,” he snapped. “We’ll come back in daylight and map the place properly and try again tomorrow night. Come on,” he shifted his bag around on his shoulder and turned.

The doorway was filling with silver light, the specters flowing in like quicksilver, blocking their exit. Beside him, Kevin felt Nick and Joe crowd in close. “More on the balcony,” Nick whispered.

“And in the…” the floor shook as the ghostly echo of the machines themselves rumbled awake, coaxed into motion by the spectral workers. “Machines,” Joe finished lamely. “Man, ghost machines? That’s just not fair.”

Kevin was fumbling in his pocket. “We need to get out, now,” he panted, heart racing with the surge of adrenaline as his fingers closed on the stick of chalk in his pocket. It rasped as he dragged it over the uneven concrete floor, but the circle marked the ground in an unbroken line. Kevin connected the two ends with a whispered word of prayer. Instantly, the noise of ghosts and machines faded, like they were hearing it through a thick curtain.

“Nice circle,” Nick said flatly. “But in case it escaped your notice, now we’re trapped.”

Kevin tossed him the chalk and began scrambling through his carrier bag. “Buying time,” he shot back. “I think I saw a…that could maybe even the odds…” His fingers closed over the tooled leather of the book, and instantly Kevin felt calmer, more centred. “Get ready to make a run for it.”

He felt Joe and Nick move to flank him, and put them out of his mind. The spell he had in mind was delicate, the timing crucial. Beyond the circle, the ghosts crowded closer, drawn by the power and the smell of living people. Kevin put them out of his mind too; pushed away the fear and exhaustion and the smell of dust in his nose and the taste of tin in his mouth. He pushed it all to one side to make room as he turned the pages to the spell he wanted.

It was a lure spell, and Kevin called up the memory of the storage room they had found on the other side of the building as his destination. Holding the memory firm, he began to read, his entire body relaxing into the ritual and rigour of formal magic. “Elacis, nom peritas, si domini,” he murmured as he started the spell, his hand rising of its own accord to grip the silver medallion he was wearing on a chain under his shirt.

Joe’s hand gripped his shoulder, and Kevin slowly nodded his readiness, not breaking the rhythm of the spell as he reached out with his foot and scrubbed a break in the circle.

The spell lashed out, its invisible path measured by the ranks of ghosts who flickered and vanished as the compulsion to be elsewhere passed over them. “This way,” Joe said, swinging an iron bar through the nearest ghost, forcing it to disperse. “Service exit.”

“Go,” Nick said. The revolver clicked in his hands as he loaded the salt cartridges. The sound of the first round firing shook rust from the rafters.

Kevin kept his brothers in his peripheral vision, only partially aware of Joe’s grunts of effort as he swung his bar like a baseball bat, the click of the revolver as Nick reloaded. He forced himself to focus on the words, on the power they contained, the way his own power rose within him when he called. The pack of ghosts was thickening again, drawn back to their fear as the spell work started to break down. Kevin snapped the book shut and pushed it into his bag as he felt the filigree of power begin to unravel as the ghosts overwhelmed it. They were older than Frankie’s research had suggested, older and more powerful and so very, very hungry. He held his hands out, one angled towards each of his brothers, and tried to find his centre for one last burst of power. His inattention cost him his footing, and he stumbled into Joe.

Joe grabbed his arm, hauling him up with enough strength to hurt. “Run,” he yelled, all but dragging Kevin along with him for a few steps until Kevin found his balance. Shifting the focus on his attack, he pulled the short, thin iron poker free from the straps he had sewn onto his bag, and he swiped blindly from side to side, trusting Nick and Joe to cover front and back.

Like a nightmare, the distance door telescoped away into shadows, the ghosts pushing closer and closer. Kevin felt the icy slide as spectral hands grazed his forearms, and he knew they weren’t going to make it.

The shotgun ripped the air like an explosion going off. The sound reverberated around the confined space as an entire flank of ghosts disappeared, driven off by the shower of salt.

“Yippee kayai, motherfuckers!” a voice hollered. In the moonlight, Kevin glimpsed someone leaping off the balcony onto one of the machines before everything disintegrated into chaos. Kevin flinched as another battlecry was screamed right above his head, then a ghost dove towards him and there was nothing but gut reaction, the desperate fight to survive as the noise became deafening and the smell of cordite and ash filled the room.

“Last one out torch the place,” someone yelled just as Kevin’s back touched the metal walls of the factory. A hand grabbed his arm -- Joe, he registered vaguely -- and pulled him towards the sweetness of fresh air.

The three brothers stumbled out into the cool night and immediately ran for the perimeter, their hard breathing the only noise as they hit the chain link fence and scrambled over.

Only then did they turn back. The metal door to the factory banged open, and a group stumbled out laughing and hooting. The last one fired a shotgun back through before slamming the door.

Kevin’s eyes narrowed as one of the group raced out ahead of the others and loped over to the fence. He greeted them with a tip of an imaginary hat. “Hello, sons of Jonas.”

Kevin took half a step forward. “Beckett,” he replied evenly. “What are you doing here?”

Beckett grinned as he slung his shotgun up to rest the barrel on his shoulder. “Oh, you know me, out for a nice even stroll, just me, my guys, and….”

The building exploded into a bright orange fireball behind him. Kevin hit the deck. He looked up into Beckett’s mocking smile. “And some high explosives,” he hooted over the sound of the conflagration behind him.

Kevin got up slowly, dusting himself off carefully as a way of getting himself back in check. “You realize the cops are probably on their way right now,” he gritted out through clenched teeth. He left the “idiot” unspoken.

Beckett was waving his crew over. “Oh, those pesky kids, always playing with matches,” he said lightly. “Now, listen up.” His eyes hardened. “Your dad was a good guy, and I owe him,” he said.

Kevin’s hand shot out without looking and caught Joe by the arm. “But?”

William stepped up to the fence, long fingers twining through the wires. “But I might not be there the next time you get in trouble. So I tell you one last time, do yourselves a favour and leave this to us.” His eyes flickered down to the bag slung over Kevin’s shoulder, and he licked his lips. “Besides, the books would probably be a lot more useful to someone with a little more experience.”

Kevin took a step back. “See you round, Bill.”

Bill stepped back too, returning the impasse with a casual salute. Kevin didn’t wait, just turned and led the way back to where they had hidden the car.

Joe squinted at his dark reflection in the window. “Am I missing an eyebrow?” he asked, breaking the tense silence.

Nick patted his shoulder. “I hear monobrows are in this year. Shotgun.” Kevin scanned the fence line, barely listening as they bickered. “Kevin?”

“What? Oh, yeah, right.” He hit the remote, and the doors clicked as they unlocked.

“You okay?” Nick asked as he followed Kevin around to the trunk, casually stripping out the remaining shots before tucking his revolver into its concealed case.

“Just Bill. How’d he know we were here?”

“Coincidence,” Nick offered. “It’s been a fairly well-reported haunting.” As one they looked up as the wind carried in the distant sound of sirens.

Kevin started the engine and eased out onto the dirt track that would skirt the local roads and get them back onto the highway. In his rearview mirror, the horizon was glowing orange with the heat of the fire. Kevin dragged his eyes back to the road and tried to shake the feeling that they were being followed.

~//~

Frankie had fallen asleep with his head pillowed on a thick book. Kevin gently put his stuff down on the small table beside the door and tip-toed across the hideous motel carpet to gently slide the text out. By the weak glow of the lamp, Kevin could make out grotesque line drawings of a medieval exorcism. He frowned, closing the book and putting it in his own bag. Frankie murmured in his sleep but didn’t wake as Kevin rolled him over until he was more comfortably stretched out on the narrow motel bed.

Under the harsh glow of the bulb in the bathroom, Kevin’s reflection looked pale beneath the smudges of soot and dirt that covered his face. The faucet groaned loudly before coughing up a trickle of vaguely rust-coloured water. Kevin let it run over his hands until it was at least lukewarm before he scrubbed at his face. The expression looking back at him was tired, eyes too full of knowing, the light dusting of stubble making him seem older than his years.

He turned off the light, lingering in the doorway to study his baby brother sleeping on the other bed. Once upon a time, he could remember being that young, with a bed of his own and a one-eyed teddy called Mr Fuzzy. All that Frankie could expect now was an endless succession of unfamiliar rooms and thick, dusty books and the unspoken reality that one day his brothers might not come back for him either.

Kevin shuffled over to the other bed and flopped down with a sigh. He didn’t bother pulling back the covers. It would be morning soon enough.

~//~

Over breakfast, Frankie peppered them with questions and Joe, Nick and Kevin kept to an unspoken vow not to mention William Beckett or their near miss.

“Don't talk with your mouth full,” Kevin admonished mildly in the end, trying in vain to stem the endless torrent. Frankie just rolled his eyes and chewed open-mouthed with loud lip smacks.

“Gross, Frankie,” Nick said, pushing him gently on the shoulder, and for a moment they were just four brothers eating pancakes. The bell above the door chimed, and Kevin automatically looked up, freezing mid-chew as he recognized the man walking up to the counter.

“Coffee,” the man grumbled, seemingly only half-awake, but Kevin didn't miss the way he casually glanced around the diner, his eyes landing on Kevin for a moment in recognition before passing on to scope out the other early-morning breakfasters.

“Here you go, honey.” The man accepted the steaming takeaway cup, dumping a pile of small change on the counter. He caught Kevin's eye again, and looked meaningfully at the car park.

Kevin dipped his eyes, and heard the bell chime again. He counted to ten in his head. “Oh,” he said, making a show of patting his pockets. “I left my wallet in the car. Joe, order us some muffins or something for the road, I'll just go get it.”

He moved too quickly, Nick barely getting out “but I've got mi....” before he was out the door.

The front car park was empty in the early morning sunshine. Kevin nonchalantly strolled over to their ride, eschewing the drivers’ seat in favour of the passenger side door. Over the top of the car, he saw Frankie and Nick glance at him through the windowed front of the diner before turning away to talk to each other once more. Kevin bent down and opened the glove compartment, his hand sliding under the stack of maps to grip the hilt of the small dagger they kept there.

“Hey kid.”

Kevin looked up. “Hey yourself.” He glanced around. “Where’s William?”

The guy shrugged, sipping his coffee. “Probably still in bed. I figured you looked like an early riser.” He took another sip.

Kevin made a face, feeling his impatience growing. “Listen, hi, nice to see you again and all, but my brothers’ are waiting, so…”

The guy grinned. “Yeah, William told me about your family. Guess I can see a resemblance.”

Kevin stood up, keeping the car door between them. “What else did William tell you?”

He didn’t miss the way the guys’ fingers tightened slightly around the paper cup. “Okay, listen, I’m going to level with you. William told me about the book, and what it does. From your expression, I guess you know he wants it.”

Kevin cut him off with a gesture. “It’s not available for sale, loan, theft or exchange.” He gave his word, he was never letting go of it.

The guy nodded amiably. “Figured as much. Anyway, William sent me to ask nicely, but,” he counted it out awkwardly on his fingers, juggling the paper cup as he did. “A, we’ve established what your answer is, and B, I don’t really see the point of it anyway.”

That caught Kevin a little off guard. “The point?”

He shrugged. “Yeah. I mean, chanting Latin is great for the image and all until something rips your throat out. Then...” He tossed the cup at the bin on the porch and sank it cleanly. “Well, no hocus pocus in the world is going to save you. Whatever, not my call. I’ve asked, you answered. Nice meeting you, sure we’ll see each other around.” He pushed off the van he had been leaning against and turned.

“Wait,” Kevin called after him, pushing up and racing around the van. There was no-one in sight. He looped the van to be sure, even ducking down to glance underneath. The guy had vanished.

“Kevin!” He looked up to see Joe waving a paper sack at him from the doorway. “Time to pay up!”

Kevin slammed the door shut and went to pretend nothing was wrong.

They drove east, skirting the edge of a ridge, racing the sun across the sky. They had no clear destination, so they just drove, steady and easy, passing through the towns that were strung like baubles along the black top. Joe kept retuning the radio, hunting out the local stations, smiling when the music was good, expressionless when it wasn't, only really focusing in when they caught the news broadcasts.

“...and in other news,” the announcer was saying as Joe fiddled with the dials. “Three local youths are back with their families after a high school prank went bad. The three, all seniors at McKinley, were planning a late night birthday surprise for their friend when their prank was pranked, says Deputy Sherriff Murphy. The three were caught doing over one hundred miles per hour on the highway. When questioned, the three were in a near panic, according to the deputy, talking about being chased by balls of light.” The announcer chuckled to himself. “The Sherriff's office refused to comment on whether it believed in UFOs, but has warned people that any pranks getting out of hand will see all involved charged with wasting police time. Now here's Jack with the sports roundup.”
Joe turned down the volume as a new announcer started rattling off the football scores.

“UFOs?” he asked with an incredulous note in his voice.

“Ghosts rarely haunt highways,” Frankie opined from the backseat, never looking up from his well-thumbed copy of Darkwing.

Kevin slowed, indicating for the off-ramp. “UFO or not, I could use a break,” he decided out loud.

“Something to eat that isn't a bakery good would be nice too,” Nick added from the backseat.

“And if we see ET, we'll lend him a cell phone.” Joe always had to have the last word. Kevin was okay with that.

They didn't go out looking for McKinley High -- they found it by accident. The school sports field backed onto the row of shops that made up the downtown area. The alley between the video rental shop and a ladies clothing store dead-ended on a chain link fence that separated it from the running track.

Joe spotted it, calling his brothers over as he unwrapped a chocolate bar for Frankie. “Hey, check it out. Wanna bet they're really good at hurdles and high jump here?”

“No bet,” Nick said, shaking his head as he polished his apple on the front of his shirt. “Man, how small is this place?”

“It's nice, though.” Kevin said, looking around the wide street, dotted with plants in large concrete holders, the pretty flowers just starting to bloom with the arrival of spring. Despite it not being quite midday, the streets were busy, young women pushing strollers and men in button down shirts. “I like it.”

“It feels like it should be in black and white,” Joe shot back.

Nick shook his head. “Just as long as its not about to turn into a Hitchcock thriller,” he added.

“Who's Hitchcock?” Frankie asked.

Nick sighed and rubbed his temples. “Remind me to download some for you to watch on
the laptop.”

Kevin considered vetoing that, but decided Frankie would probably forget about it anyway. Besides, with his choice of bedtime reading, Hitchcock didn’t hold much to fear. “I'm going for a walk,” he said instead. “Anyone else?”

Nick pointed to a picnic table in a small patch of green at the end of the street. “Meet there? One hour?”

It was turning into a lovely day. Kevin walked the perimeter of McKinley, just following the wide footpath. As he turned the corner of the field, the bell rang and the building seemed to come alive with the sound of a thousand voices. Kevin smiled weakly to himself as he walked on -- his parents had tried, before everything went down, to keep his life as normal as possible. He'd made it through most of his freshman year in a school a lot like this one, just another face in the crowd where the main fears were unexpected pimple outbreaks and whether there was going to be a pop quiz in fifth period.

It was probably good that Joe, Nick and Frankie never had that. They had nothing to compare their life now to, and so no real grasp of how abnormal this all was. Kevin murmured apologies as he moved through the crowds of students that were spilling out onto the pavement in front of the main building and tried not to look anyone in the eye.

“...Kara and Jess were in hysterics. I heard mom tell dad they had to be sedated!”
Despite himself, Kevin found his pace slowing, his ears pricking.

“Did you see the paper, they called it 'two balls of light on the highway' -- but I texted Matt this morning, and they were off the highway, by that old shed out nearly the blue ridge turnoff? Yeah, that one. They said the light came from inside the shed, and it chased them out. That's when they got on the highway.”

“Bullshit,” a female voice shot back. Kevin drifted on as the conversation descended into an argument.

His brothers were at the picnic table when he turned the corner. Crossing the street, he ambled over to them. “Hey,” he greeted them.

“Hey,” Nick echoed. “Tell me,” he added with deliberate casualness. “Did you see a sign for a turnoff for Blue Ridge on your way in?”

Kevin smiled, suddenly, fiercely proud of his brothers. “According to the nice lady in the gift shop,” he said aloud, matching Nick’s tone. “It's actually about five miles further up the road, right after the twin stumps on the left side of the highway. She promised me you couldn't miss it.”

Joe looked between them. “What's at Blue Ridge?”

“At the turnoff to the Ridge is a shack,” Kevin began.

“And that's where the kids on the radio saw a moving shape of light,” Nick continued.

“Not a ball,” Kevin continued.

“And not on the highway,” Nick finished.

Joe was staring open-mouthed between them. “How do you know this?” he asked.

“Heard people talking, asked around,” Kevin said at the same time Nick said “Sat next to the local gossips at the lunch bar and got them talking.”

Frankie's smile spread from ear to ear. “You guys are cooler than Batman!” he crowed.

~//~

As promised, the two stumps of long-dead trees were a clearly visible marker just before the turnoff. The dust and gravel crunched under their tires as they rolled off the highway. Kevin slotted their car into the parallel ruts, moving slowly as the path dipped down a slight slope and out of immediate view of the highway. A few seconds later, Joe pointed to Kevin's left. “There.”

Kevin turned the car around before turning off the engine. It was warmer out here than in town, the sunlight radiating off the dusty earth and the blacktop half a dozen yards away. Though they couldn't see it over the rise and the grass, they could hear cars rushing by on the highway. Kevin paced up the slope a few yards, scanning the entire area. There were a lot of tire tracks and rubbish, but no people. “Okay, let’s do this before someone stops to ask why,” he said briskly.

Joe was kicking the ground with a half-smile on his face. “This must be the local lovers' lane,” he quipped as he kicked the dirt with his boots.

Kevin glanced down and up again just as quickly. “Frankie, stay in the car and keep a look out.”

Frankie frowned, but knew better than to argue to that tone of voice. He hopped into the front seat, sitting on his knees to better look around. Joe hadn’t stopped grinning.

“You're going to have to give him the birds and the bees talk one day, dad.” Joe said quietly, with a note of almost wicked glee in his voice.

“I know,” Kevin said. “But I'd rather not do it on a dirt track covered in used condoms, thanks.” He stalked off to join Nick at the car before the blush crept any further up his neck.

“Here,” Nick said, sliding something along the edge of the open trunk. Kevin took the revolver and quickly tucked it into the band of his jeans, pulling his shirt over the top. Stepping back, he resumed scanning the area until he heard the boot slam shut. “Go around,” he said, more of a command than a question.

Kevin gave Joe and Nick a moment to walk further up the track, looking more like two travelers looking for a quick rest stop off the highway than anything. Kevin tapped lightly on the window as he passed, and nodded as Frankie gave him a quick thumbs up.

The shack lived up to its name, the wood planks warped and disintegrating. Kevin rapped twice on the frame of the door, and had to dust mossy splinters off his knuckles. “Hello,” he called. “Anyone home?”

The door creaked open at his touch. Inside was a mess, empty bottles of cheap beer littered the floor. There were what looked like a couple of home made bongs piled in among the junk, and enough cigarette butts that it was surprising that the shack hadn't burnt down by now. It took two seconds to see everything. He held his hand out over the warped wood, hovering over the surfaces as he moved his hand in a big, slow circle, but felt nothing but warm air. He looked to the window at the familiar chirp of the EM dectector. “Anything?”

Nick's head popped up. “Not sure,” he admitted. “I got a trace, but....” he turned slowly. “It's not centred on the shack.”

Kevin closed the door behind him, blinking as he moved back into full sunlight. “Where is it centred?” he asked.

Nick shook his head, frustration apparent. “Can’t get a fix. Daylight might be scattering things.”

Joe appeared at Kevin's side. “Full moon tonight,” he noted.

Kevin sighed. “I think I saw a motel back on the edge of town,” he said, heading back for the car. “We can catch a nap before sunset.”

~//~

Kevin was the first to wake, as always. Frankie was snuffling slightly in his sleep, and Kevin scribbled a note before tugging on his jacket. He locked the door behind him and walked down the open porch that ringed the C-shaped block of motel rooms. The place was surprisingly busy, and they hadn't been able to get rooms side-by-side. Spying a vending machine, Kevin dug in his pockets for some loose change. He fed the quarters into the slot and pressed the button for a coke -- heavens knew he'd need the caffeine to stay awake tonight.

The machine hummed but did nothing. Kevin pressed the button again, then again. With a little grunt of frustration, he slapped the side of the machine, hard enough to make the casing rattle.

The can dropped with a heavy thunk into the bucket, followed by a second thunk. Kevin reached in with both hands and considered the two identical cans for a moment.

“Wow, violence and theft. I wouldn't have picked you for it.”

Kevin froze, turning his head slowly as the guy William had sent to him this morning sauntered along. The motel door behind him closed with a click as he came to lean against the side of the vending machine.

“I'm a man of many talents,” Kevin said, hearing his voice as if from a great distance.

The guy laughed. “I'm getting that.” He tilted his head, studying Kevin with that same penetrating stare he had used in the car park -- had it been only that morning? “I’m Mike, by the way.”

Kevin looked down, the cold making his fingers numb. He held out one of the cans to Mike. “If we're going to keep meeting like this, the least I can do is buy you a drink.”

He took the can and popped the tab. “Steal it, you mean,” he reminded Kevin

Kevin shook his head and held up his own can. “This is the stolen one. That's the legit one. I wouldn't want to taint you with my ill-gotten gains.”

Mike snorted and bent over coughing. Kevin smugly popped his own tab and waited for Mike to clear the bubbles from his sinuses.

The porch had a little step down to the parking lot. Mike ambled over and sat on the top step. Kevin leaned up against the nearest post, one foot back against the painted wood. Mike didn't press him to sit down, but just turned his body so they were facing each other. They drank together in silence, listening to the hum of passing traffic. The wood felt sun warmed against his back, seeping into muscles tight from the constant driving and fear.

“Do you mind me asking,” Mike said into the quiet. “What happened? Bill said it was your parents, but…”

Kevin considered for a moment pulling the usual act, playing dumb. “They were in the business -- dad was a preacher who saw things, and he was a real big believer in actions as well as words. They tried to keep us out of it, but, well.” He shrugged, fiddling with the tab on the can. “Sometimes that's just not enough.”

Mike nodded. “I had some friends,” he offered, almost in recompense. “They got eaten. Hard to keep calm and carry on after that.” He rolled his eyes, and the way he said it made Kevin think he was quoting from somewhere. “Especially since I figured that getting mad and blowing shit up made more sense.”

Kevin had no idea what to say to that, so he raised his can in silent tribute. Mike answered him, leaning forward to tap his can against Kevin's, a dull flat metallic noise in the gathering night.

Mike stared out towards the highway as Kevin swirled the last of the soda around the bottom of the can. “I take it William is around too?” Mike nodded. “Are you working tonight?”

Mike looked up. “No, we just got sick of driving. Had a late start and all, and here seemed nice. You?”

Kevin knew he should lie. “Maybe. Just checking something out, may be nothing.”

Mike smiled, his teeth bright in the twilight. “Want me to make sure William doesn't rain on your parade?”

“Appreciate it,” Kevin said seriously.

“Okay,” Mike said standing up. “On one condition.”

Kevin pushed off the post, squaring his shoulders. “Depends on the condition.”

Mike shrugged but looked him square in the eye. “Tell me about the spell you used last night.”

“I thought you weren’t interested in magic.” Mike stared at him, steady and silent. Kevin sucked on his lip for a moment. “It's a lure spell,” he said quickly. “It creates a mirrored energy signature. It's not powerful, but it’s quick. It's good for buying time, but it's nothing special.”

Mike took half a step closer. “Could I learn it?”

Kevin held his ground. “Can you even do magic?”

Mike shrugged. This close, his eyes were a quicksilver gleam in the darkness. “Don't know, never tried. Never really saw the use. Do you need anything special to do magic?” The word rolled around his mouth like he was savouring it.

Kevin smiled and took a step forward himself. Mike might claim not to be interested, but Kevin heard behind the question the faint but growing curiousity. He took another half-step, so they were nearly touching. Kevin leaned in, going on tiptoe slightly to bring his mouth close to Mike's ear. “Belief,” he whispered. He let his weight shift forward, stepping to the side so he brushed past Mike.

“Is that it?” Mike asked, turning to follow.

Kevin turned on the spot, walking backwards for a few paces as he answered. “If you want more, you need to earn it,” he shot back. “Have a nice night. Here.”

Mike laughed and saluted him. “Fine, I did promise. I’ll keep William on a leash.” Kevin nodded, turned around and continued walking. “See you tomorrow?” Mike called after him.

Kevin didn’t look back, but he knew Mike was smirking at him.

~//~

Kevin let himself in, well aware his clothes smelt of smoke and ash and death. There was sand under his fingernails, and even his eyelashes felt grimy. Frankie looked like he had dozed off, but roused himself blearily at the sound of the door closing. “What happened?” he asked, sounding so young. Kevin's mouth set in a hard line.

“Basic dig and burn.” He didn't need to tell Frankie the site had all the makings of a murder dump -- a disquiet spirit, a shallow grave. The corpse's face was twisted in horror and pain before the salt and fire consumed it, leaving only ashes behind. By the time the fire had died, Nick's EM detector lay quiet, all signs of supernatural activity floating away with the ash on the wind.

“All gone?” Frankie asked in a whisper, his eyelids already drooping. He should be in grade school, not matter-of-factly accepting that his brothers had just dug up and destroyed a corpse.

“All gone,” Kevin murmured back, helping Frankie crawl under the covers and tucking him in.

Even in the low light, Kevin could see the smears his filthy hands left on the sheets.
The shower had okay pressure, for a motel, and Kevin scrubbed until his skin felt raw and soft. Pulling on his sweats, Kevin contemplated the faucet before digging in his battered jacket for a few quarters - his mouth was dry, but the shower water had tasted unappetizing. Clutching his key and coins, Kevin eased out of the room and padded on bare feet back to the softly humming vending machine. As he passed by, Kevin considered the door Mike had come out of earlier that evening, but now the room, like every other one in the complex, was dark and quiet.

The bottle came without the need to resort to violence again, and rather than go back inside, Kevin leaned against the railing as he twisted off the top and drank deeply. He knew he was stalling, but didn’t know why -- the musty room, Frankie's questions, a stranger met in a fire -- all were reasons he'd rather not examine closely. He drank the bottle dry, alone in the darkness before the dawn, trying not to think of anything too specific at all.

He let himself back into the room and climbed between sheets that smelt of bleach. The pillow was thin and hard, and Kevin bunched it up as best he could before lying back, his eyes staring at the dark ceiling. He listened to Frankie breathing, counting each inhale and exhale like a rosary, his hand clutching the medallion strung around his neck. Sometime around dawn, he finally drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

~//~

The sun had barely cleared the rooftops when Kevin eased out of the motel room again, locking it carefully behind him. The air was already warm and dry, promising another hot day ahead. Kevin dropped easily down the steps and walked across the quiet road to the small café in the lot opposite the motel.

He’d need some serious caffeine to get them through the day without crashing. What he really wanted was Starbucks, but they were probably too far out from any decent-sized towns for that. He pushed through the swinging door, nodding a smile at the waitress wiping down the counter. “What’ll it be, honey?” she asked.

“Coffee, black.” He glanced down at the menu, then over to the collection of pastries nestled on paper doilies under glass covers.

“Fresh in,” the waitress said temptingly, following his gaze.

“Two of what’s nicest.” Kevin’s head whipped around as Mike leaned up next to him against the counter. “And another coffee, thanks.”

The next thing Kevin knew, he was sitting across a booth table, wrapping his fingers around a giant mug of strong black coffee, watching Mike systematically dismantle a croissant. “Why are you stalking me?” Kevin finally blurted out.

Mike rolled his eyes with a sigh as he cleaned his fingers off with a paper napkin. “Okay, listen, a lot of this is going over my head, and there’s obviously a lot of history I’m not getting here, but for some reason, William really wants that book of yours.”

Kevin sat back. “I already told you. He’s not getting it. Heck, he can’t even use it.”

Mike bit his lip. “Because of…what you said last night, belief?”

Kevin bobbed his head. “That’s part of it. It’s…it’s not like a recipe, read the words and bam, things happen. The book won’t give him what he wants, it’s not what he thinks it is.”

Mike leaned across the table. “Then what is it?”

Kevin leaned in, stopping only inches from Mike’s face. “It’s mine.”

Mike smiled at him as he sat back. “Okay, okay, I’m dropping the subject.”

Kevin made a face. “Until next time, you mean.”

Mike shrugged and blew across the surface of his coffee. “Given the way William keeps going on about it, you can’t blame me for being curious. Like I said yesterday, you can’t chant if something’s ripped your throat out. Give me a shotgun any day.”

Kevin frowned into his coffee. “The book, it’s more than…than its combat application,” he said defensively.

Mike made a noise at the back of his throat and tore a chunk off his croissant. “But that’s what matters in the end, right?” he asked through the mouthful.

Kevin made a face. “Were you raised in a barn? Close your mouth when you chew, you’re worse than Frankie.”

Mike scrunched up his nose, but obediently closed his mouth and swallowed. “It must be hard,” he said, reaching for the sugar. “Having your baby brothers tag along.”

Kevin shrugged and poked at the peach Danish in front of him. “It’s okay. Besides, where else could they go?”

Mike leaned on the table. “No other family?”

Kevin studied him. “Come on, I’ve know you, what, thirty-six hours? And you already know more about me than I feel comfortable with.” Something about the way Mike shrugged made him grin. “Listen, you want to know something about me? You have to pay, quid pro quo.”

“What if I buy breakfast?” Mike winked at him, and Kevin couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’m not that kind of girl, thank you very much!”

Mike grinned. “But are you that kind of boy, that’s the question. Okay, okay,” he added, leaning back against the padded seat of the booth, holding up his hands to ward of Kevin’s glare. “Fine. Ask and you shall receive. What do you want to know?”

Faced with the offer, Kevin’s mind went helpfully blank. “Umm, okay, let’s start simple. How do you know William?”

“Friend of a friend thing,” Mike said with an easy shrug, like it was no big deal. “We have a common contact, and about a month back, William needed an extra man on a job and she put us in touch. Job went well, and I didn’t have anything going, so I’ve been rolling with his crew since.” He popped the last of the croissant into his mouth. “Your turn. Why did you want me to sit on William last night?”

Kevin sipped his coffee, playing for time. “How’d that go, by the way?”

Mike tossed his crumpled paper napkin on his plate. “I bought him two six-packs and downloaded a couple of pornos, and…are you okay?”

Kevin coughed once more, feeling the heat flushing his cheeks. “Fine, fine,” he croaked, banging his fist into his chest. “Wrong pipe.”

Mike’s little grin told Kevin he didn’t believe him in the slightest.

Kevin composed himself before taking another, more careful, sip of his now cool coffee. “William…he told you he knew my dad, right? Yeah, well, William spent a lot of time with dad, learnt a lot from him too, and now he has this…” Kevin made a face. “Whole big brother protector thing going on. He’s made it his habit to show up when we least want him and....” he trailed off, looking for a delicate way to phrase it before giving up. “Well, showing up and blowing things up, really.”

Mike winced. “Umm, actually, to be honest, that was me. Don’t give me that look,” he added, affronted. “I said I like to blow stuff up.”

Kevin pushed his mug away and rose to his feet. “Just as long as you don’t start tag-teaming William on some misguided notion of babysitting us.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Mike stood up too, and dug a couple of bills out of his back pocket. “But William might have other ideas on that score,” he said quietly. “Is that how he knows of the book, from your dad?”

Kevin sighed heavily. For a brief, blissful moment, he’d forgotten all about that. “Probably, yeah. He probably thinks he’s taking the dynamite out of the kids’ hands or something. Can you talk to him?”

The bell above the diner door chimed as they pushed out into the morning sunshine. “I think you’re crediting me with far too much influence over him, but I’ll try running interference.” He stopped, and blinked at Kevin. “Wait, dynamite? Can you really blow stuff up with your hocus pocus? I thought it was all, y’know, Jedi Mind Tricks.” He waved a hand in front of Kevin. “These are not the ghouls you are looking for.”

Kevin laughed, feeling better than he had all morning. “I don’t know. Maybe, if you poured in enough juice, but I don’t think I have that kind of power.”

Mike kicked the dirt as he fell back into step beside Kevin. “Oh. Well, that’s okay then. Make you a deal. You leave the blowing stuff up to me, and I’ll leave the hocus to you.”

“Deal,” Kevin said, shaking the proffered hand. “And William?”

Mike laughed and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Explosions I can guarantee. Controlling William will require more miracles than I can credit.”

Kevin squinted against the bright light as he turned to look both ways before crossing. “So, I guess that means I’ll be seeing you around?” He refused to acknowledge the faint note of hopefulness in his own voice.

Mike grinned at him as he mounted the steps to the motel. “No doubt. And next time the danishes are on you.”

~//~

Joe let him into their room at his knock. “Dude, where have you been?” He leaned in and sniffed loudly. “Do I smell pastries?”

“Peach danish, to be precise,” Kevin told him as he crossed the room to lay his hand on Nick’s shoulder in greeting. “And not bad coffee either. Not Starbucks, but it’s not bad.”

Nick made a frustrated noise and pointed at Kevin with his screwdriver. “Okay, firstly, your obsession with Starbucks is getting a little creepy. And we were waiting on you for breakfast.”

Kevin squeezed his shoulder in apology before sitting down opposite him at the tiny table crammed up against the only window in the room. “Sorry, I was up really early, and starving.”

Joe wandered over to flop crossways over one of the narrow twin beds. “Where’s Frankie?”

Kevin instinctively glanced out the window, across the parking lot to his room. “He was sound asleep when I left. He was waiting up again when I got in last night.”

Nick flipped the screwdriver in his hand, switching out the tool for another one that, to Kevin’s eye, looked identical to the one he had just put down. “Do you blame him? He’s going to want to start riding with us soon, you realize.”

Joe made a rude noise from the bed. “Kevin can’t even give him the Talk without blushing, how’s he going to teach Frankie how to salt and burn?”

Kevin threw a screw at Joe’s head. “I taught you, didn’t I?”

“Hey!” Nick yelled, diving after the screw. He ferreted under the bed and reemerged seconds later. “Don’t throw my stuff.”

Joe laughed. “Very mature, Kevin,” he added. “But seriously,” he added, rolling over to look at his older brother. “Come on, it was Dad taught us everything, really. Do you honestly think you’re ready to do the same for Frankie? I mean, you’re good at your thing, Kevin,” he continued with a wave of his hand. “But I don’t think Frankie’s the spell-casting type.”

“He keeps wanting me to teach him how to shoot,” Nick added as he twisted a screw into place.

Kevin frowned. “You never told me that,” he said seriously.

Nick looked up as he cleaned his fingers on a scrap of rag. “I didn’t think he was old enough to teach,” he retorted calmly. “But soon he will be. And given what we do, can I really tell him no?”

Kevin twisted his fingers together. “No, but I can.”

Joe groaned. “Geez, who made you king?”

Kevin’s felt the muscles in his neck tighten. He kept his eyes on his hands, forcing himself to lay them flat on his knees. “Dad did,” he said tightly. “When he died.” He clenched his jaw as a tense silence descended over the room.

There was a rustling noise, and then Joe dropped to his knees in front of Kevin. “Kevin,” he said softly. “We love you, and we really appreciate all that you’ve done for us. But you can’t go on trying to be dad. You’re right, he died, and,” Joe’s voice quavered slightly. “And he left us, left us with all this, and it really, really sucks.” He drew in a deep, steadying breath. “But you’re going to tear yourself apart if you keep trying to fill his shoes. It’s not your job to replace him.”

Kevin’s smile was brittle, fragile, and weak. He laid his hand on Joe’s shoulder, squeezing slightly to try and convey what words could not. Then he stood up. “Frankie will be up soon. We’re out of here in an hour.”

Neither Joe nor Nick said anything as he let himself out. Kevin turned and walked along the porch instead of cutting across the parking lot. By the time he made it back to the door to his room, his eyes were dry and his hands were steady. Frankie looked up as Kevin let himself in. He was already dressed, and the complimentary newspaper was spread out on the floor in front of him.

“I think I’ve found something,” his little boy voice said seriously.

Kevin nodded, gripping the key tightly in his fist, the edge cutting into his palm. “Good,” he managed to choke out. “That’s good.”

~//~

The days melded into each other, marked only by the hunt -- the banshee in Oregon, the ghost of the murdered child in Boston. The days became colder, the nights drew in earlier, and more than once Kevin had the urge to just turn the car south and drive until they had left this all behind.

They were stopped in some rest stop. Kevin wasn’t even entirely sure which state they were in, just that there was endless forest and the road was windy and exhausting. He knew they should be driving on if they wanted to sleep in a bed tonight, but Frankie had been whining, and Joe had baited Nick into a silent fury, and Kevin had pulled over, unable to be locked in the same space with them a moment longer. Before the car had even come to a stop, Nick had jumped out one side, Joe the other, and the pair of them had stalked off in opposite directions. Kevin parked and got out, happy to let the pair of them disappear to cool off. Frankie jumped out the back seat and went to climb on the moss-covered picnic tables jammed like an afterthought into a corner of the gravel parking lot.

Kevin leaned against the hood of the car, feeling the warmth of the engine seep up through his jeans. They needed a job. Things were easier when there was something they could face as one. Without, they just faced off against each other.

Not for the first time, he wondered what dad would do, how he kept it together. Then again, he had to deal with four adoring little boys, not a couple of teenagers and a grade-schooler who was more mature than his two older brothers combined.

“Kevin, listen,” Frankie said, standing on a fence post and pointing away from the highway.

Kevin looked up, smiling as his ears finally registered the sound that had been burbling in the background. “Come on.”

There was a narrow trail down the embankment to the small stream, and the clear water tinkled over a little cascade of stones, making the water burble and chime in the crisp forest air. Kevin hunkered down on his haunches right on the edge of the stream and plunged his hands in. The water was freezing, the flow clearing his mind even as the current tugged at his tension and pulled it away. “Careful,” he said with an indulgent grin as Frankie began stepping out on the rocks, arms flung wide to keep his balance.

But it was hard to be stern when Frankie was giggling like that. Kevin wandered back up the embankment, patting the ground until he found a patch of grass that wasn’t too damp. Pulling the keys and his phone out of his pocket, he sat down to watch Frankie as he raced around the creek, poking in the mud and daring himself on the slippery rocks.

There was one new text on his phone. Kevin stared at the little screen, surprised. The number of people who had this number he could count on his fingers. Cautiously, almost like he expected it to explode, Kevin opened his inbox.

how ur dad didn’t murder billiam in his sleep, i’ll never know. hi, btw. still making with the hocus pocus? -mike

Kevin covered his mouth with his hand for a moment in stunned shock. Then, with a little grin, he hit reply.

He can thank the sixth commandment. Is this how you’re following me now?

Less than a minute went by before his phone vibrated in his lap. Kevin snatched it up and opened the message.

thanks to technology i can stalk you from the bathroom. tmi? how are you?

Kevin smothered a laugh in his fist. as long as you’re not stalking me IN the bathroom. How did you get this number?

This time, he didn’t even have time to put his phone down before it was buzzing with a reply. stole bills little black book. yours was the only interesting number. and i noticed you not answering my qu.?

Kevin grinned and he worked the tiny keys with awkward thumbs. double double toil and trouble. Actually it’s been pretty quiet for us. You?

no rest for the wicked, not even the extremely wicked. lots of things to go kaboom. we're heading into AZ tonight -- black dog sighting. know anything about them?

Kevin shifted on the grass, trying to find a more comfortable position on the cold ground. Ghost, death omen, associated with crossroads and old places of execution. Hard to get rid of -- does William still have dad’s old bell?

He glanced at the time on the display as the ‘send’ animation played across the screen and sighed. But before he could move, the phone buzzed in the new message. are you kidding? ur not kidding, are you?

“What are you doing?”

Kevin shut his phone with a snap. “Just checking something.” He looked at his brother with an indulgent sigh. “Go rinse your hands in the water at least. And where are your shoes? Come on, we’ve got to keep going.”

As Frankie slithered back down the bank, Kevin flipped open the phone.

not kidding. gotta go, bros need me. let me know how it goes. k2jonas@gmail.com He hit send and jammed it back into his pocket as he staggered to his feet, trying not to acknowledge the queasy lightness in his stomach.

Joe was sitting at the picnic tables, and Nick was leaning against the trunk, watching the cars go by. It only took a glance at the set of Nick’s shoulders, the hard scowl on Joe’s face, for Kevin to feel the weight of his exhaustion press in on him once more. “Get in,” he said wearily, not waiting for them as he slid back into the drivers’ seat and pulled out the map from the gap between the front seats. Joe was a sullen presence as he dropped into the passenger seat. “Here,” Kevin said, pushing the map into his hands. “Find us a decent town to stop for the night.”

The engine revved as he turned the key, and the skidded out of the parking lot in a shower of gravel.

~//~

onto part two

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
kira_snugz
Jan. 5th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
i can not even begin to say how stoked i am about this!
i get two fics! and they are both magnificent!

this one is amazingly gritty and dark! and it has Bonus Jonas!

now i must flail over to part two and onwards!
akire_yta
Jan. 5th, 2010 12:56 am (UTC)
You get two fics because it seemed wrong somehow to give you something that (thanks to LJs shitty post limits) ran to FOUR chapters ~headdesks~ It was such a simple story when I started :) Honest!

Enjoy the Bonus (in lieu of the bonus) *g*
restinpiecesluv
Jan. 10th, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
Cautiously, almost like he expected it to explode, Kevin opened his inbox.

This made me laugh because, y'know, it was Mike. =]
Was that on purpose?

On to part 2!
akire_yta
Jan. 10th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
yep, it ws :) Mike and booms are kinda synonymous :D

ONWARDS!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )