They hadn’t been back to California in a long time. Not since that case in Hollywood—no it had been more recent than that one. When they’d gotten a free ride to the angel’s Green Room—in Van Nuys. No, it had been that one up in Northern California, Bodega Bay, the case with their friend Annie Hawkins, when they figured out that Bobby was a ghost riding with them. Good times…no wonder it had been a while.
Anyway, he didn’t want to think about the more than complicated relationship they had with California (mumble mumble Stanford can bite my pretty ass), but here they were, back in Los Angeles again. Fresh off their case battling Lucifer, they were both badly in need of a distraction. He could tell Sam was not ready for the long haul back to the Bunker quite yet, and honestly neither was he.
A reason to stay a little while longer was this one possible haunted hotel on his cases-to-maybe-do-at-some-point list. It had been on there for a very long time. He had started reading about it when he was in his early twenties. He and Sam had discussed it as a real case to pursue a few times over the years, but Sam had pooh-poohed it as being purely Hollywood, something created only for publicity. And since it was in California, the remaining stickiness of the location issue between them had made Dean drop it as an active hunt to pursue.
But being the popular culture maven that he was, Dean couldn’t help being intrigued by all the Hollywood connections, so he had kept researching off and on through the years. He’d eliminated some of the obvious human suspects who had been named. It definitely wasn’t just a straight up haunting, or even a multiple haunting as some occult blogs had guessed. He thought there were possibly several ghosts stuck in the hotel, but they seemed to have been harnessed somehow, because it wasn’t the normal ghost-gone-wrong behavior.
The place the alleged ghosts were stuck, the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA, was still prosperous against all the odds. When most of the similarly enormous, stuffy old-style hotels had been knocked down or resized, the Biltmore was still going strong. From the pictures he’d seen, there was some possibility that the ornate decor had something to do with the case. A lot of the stuff had been imported from Europe, chandeliers, artwork, and so on. He’d tried chasing down the provenance of some of those items online, but had been stymied for lack of clear enough photographs to use. At the very least, he wanted to go take some pictures of his own while they were here. And if Sam never found out about his Biltmore-focused Instagram account, that would be just peachy.
In the confused scene outside Club Meteor, Dean got to talking with Vince Vicente’s manager and she mentioned something about hauntings at a nearby hotel. She looked a lot less shaken at the idea than Dean had thought she should, and he wished Sam had been standing with him to hear it, but he was still talking to some of the witnesses. Then Dean noticed she had a friend with her, sort of hiding in her shadow.
“Dean, this is my friend Lucho Manzana, he’s a big Lady Heart fan. He’s the one with something I think you could likely help him with,” the manager said, tugging her friend out of her shadow towards Dean.
The man was tiny, or maybe just compact. He was very dark-complected with a red hat covering his crown of long jet-black hair.
Dean reached out to shake the man’s hand. “Nice to meet you, I’m sorry about what happened here tonight, it’s tough when you’re a fan.”
Lucho didn’t speak, he just nodded and looked at Dean.
“So Lucho, is the manager of that probably haunted hotel I was talking about,” the manager said.
“Let me guess, the Biltmore?” Dean asked.
Lucho’s eyes widened with surprise. “Yes, that is my hotel, well it is not mine, it is the one I am in charge of.”
“From what I heard, something had changed recently, right, Lucho? The ghost activity or whatever it is has amped up and people are getting injured instead of just spooked,” the manager said.
Lucho’s face turned another shade of grim. “That is partly correct, yes.”
“Sounds like something that needs to be checked out before it gets worse and hurts more people,” Dean said. “That’s right up our alley, want us to come over tomorrow?”
Lucho brightened up at Dean’s offer. “That would a real help, Mr. Winchester.”
“It’s Dean, and we’ll be happy to do it. Probably be late morning when we get there, okay?”
“That would suit my schedule very well, you may drive up and I will meet you at the valet parking station. I will see you tomorrow, Dean,” Lucho said with a little wave. He turned and walked off into the darkness past the police spotlights.
Dean realized that he’d just volunteered them for another job right after this whole Lucifer business, but Sam would have to understand that, right?
“You give me so much shit for my serial killer hobby, I’m just supposed to give you a pass on the Hollywood true-crime stuff? No way, buddy, no way,” Sam vigorously shook his head which made Dean duck as Sam had just gotten out of the shower.
Dean finished shaving and flicked the water off his razor at Sam to retaliate. “C’mon, I just want to get some of my own pictures of the place, then we can leave, all right?”
“Fine, it’s rush hour now anyway. It’ll probably save us a few hours on the freeway if we delay getting on the road for a bit,” Sam said with a shrug as he finished toweling off.
“How about I’ll even buy you some afternoon tea, Frances?” Dean offered, just to see if he could get a smile out of Sam this morning.
Sam socked him in the bicep, hard, the little shit. But out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sam smiling.
Lucho had said to just drive up like they were guests checking in and he’d meet them at the valet parking station. The elegant tunnel entrance was plenty wide even for his baby. Dean thought she looked good in this setting, closer in time to her own heyday. The valet took the keys with a grin on his face, but Dean stared him down, threatening bodily harm without saying a thing. The man shrank back a little and gave a little nod. That was one of the bad things about big cities, entrusting the parking situation to strangers was a hard thing for him. He got over it when Lucho showed up, dwarfed by the enormous and ornate entrance doors where he stood waving to them.
Lucho shook Dean’s hand and looked expectantly at Sam hovering behind him. “And so, Dean, who is your very very handsome friend?”
Sam blushed in that pretty way he had and extended a hand, probably confused because Dean hadn’t warned him about already having a contact at the hotel. Before Dean could figure out whether to introduce Sam as his brother—had it come up in the conversation with Vince’s manager?—Lucho shook Sam’s hand vigorously.
“Welcome to our hotel, I am the manager, Lucho Manzana.” He held Sam’s hand in his, staring up and up at him in evident amazement at his size.
Sam blushed a little brighter and shook Lucho’s hand. “I’m Sam, nice to meet you Mr. Manzana. Dean has told me so much about you.”
That last bit warned Dean that he was in trouble for not preparing Sam for this whole thing.
“I’ve taken the liberty of booking you a suite while you’re here for your investigation, Dean. It’s a good time between awards season and the holidays so there was a nice one available.”
Sam looked at Dean with raised eyebrows over Lucho’s head.
“Uh, Lucho, we hadn’t discussed staying overnight or anything. So, Sam and I didn’t plan on it.”
“Well, the suite is there for you if you need it, there will be plenty of room for you both. I suppose I’m just anticipating my guest’s needs like any other good hotelier would.”
“We appreciate it very much, Mr. Manzana,” Sam said, jumping in to save the conversation. “Why don’t you show us where you think we should start?”
Dean was as shocked as Sam that they were being treated so well, it wasn’t something they were used to in their hunting lives. It might mean that Lucho hadn’t been honest about how bad it had gotten here at the hotel. Dean grabbed their duffels out of the car before the valet had a chance to drive away.
“Call me Lucho. Please come right this way,” Lucho ushered them into the spectacular lobby. The whole thing was dripping with gilt and plaster details, lit by an enormous skylight. Beautiful paintings and vibrant murals were on the walls. It was a room that vibrated with history, one you wanted to know the real story about.
Dean felt himself gawking like an idiot, finally being here after studying this place for so long. “Hey, uh, Lucho, you mind if we take some pictures?” Dean waved his cellphone at him.
“Please, go right ahead. That’s one of the things we love about the guests that come here, they want to take home pictures with them,” Lucho said to Sam.
Sam smiled as Dean darted around the lobby snapping photos of all the details. But he noticed Lucho was shifting from foot to foot, it made him wonder if he was nervous or just impatient. “What’s the thing most people take pictures of, Lucho?” Sam asked.
“Probably the fountain in the Rendezvous Court, let me show you there,” Lucho said, gesturing for Sam to follow him. Sam noticed the small man limped, favoring his right leg and wondered how he managed to run around the hotel all day for his work. He seemed to be a little fireball of energy, so maybe he was just adrenaline powered.
Sam held up a finger to Lucho, and grabbed Dean’s wrist as he passed by intent on getting more pictures. “We’re heading to something called the Rendezvous Court. Are we splitting up now or what?”
“This place is so big, let’s stick together for now. Lead the way, Lucho,” Dean said, stepping towards the manager to follow him. He switched their hands around so he was holding Sam’s, tugging him along.
Stepping into the main hallway, the brothers both stopped and tried to conceal their reaction. It was beautiful in that over-the-top way old buildings sometimes still manage to surprise you with. The old-world feeling was one of perfect elegance beginning with the crystal chandeliers hanging from the ornate painted ceiling and all the rich wood paneling down to the marble floors.
“Holy shit,” Dean murmured. “This is so much bigger than I pictured it.”
“It’s really something,” Sam agreed. “I bet pictures wouldn’t do it justice.”
They hurried to catch up with Lucho and stepped up past the guest elevators to the landing above the Rendezvous Court.
Sam felt like a movie star coming down the curving staircase, he stood up straighter and moved a little closer to Dean. He could just imagine them arriving at a fancy dinner here back in the day. Dig out their tuxedos and they’d fit right in. The Rendezvous Court had more of a Spanish feel to it than the hallway or the lobby. Lucho waited for them by a fountain in the center of the room. It splashed merrily away as Sam and Dean examined it closely. Dean spent time taking many photos of the details.
“I see that there are apples on the fountain. Isn’t that what your last name means in Spanish?” Sam asked.
Lucho looked at him with surprise and then smiled widely, pleased. “Yes, indeed, you are right, Sam. This fountain comes from the area my family is originally from in Spain, Manzanares, so apples are used in decoration quite a bit.”
Sam filed that little tidbit of connection in his brain and moved on to what was in front of him. Namely a room filled with all sorts of imported things that could possibly be cursed or en-spelled in some manner. Dean was of course, going around taking pictures and touching every damn thing. Sam tried to hiss at him to cut it out, but Dean ignored him.
They split up and covered the whole room, coming back together at the fountain. Lucho leaned up against the edge of it, stretching over the flower border to run his hand over the rim of the lower bowl.
“Hey, Lucho, has the fountain always been in here?” Dean asked.
Lucho looked up in surprise, shaking the water from his hand back into the fountain. He shifted from foot to foot and settled down with one thigh pressed against the fountain. “Yes, it was one of the very first decorations installed in this room. It was imported from Spain all in one piece as you see it here.”
“And it’s always had this stuck in the bottom? Down near the drain, there,” Dean said, pointing into the depths of the fountain. “See the metal apple thing?”
“I would say yes,” Lucho said quickly, eyes darting away to the coffee bar in one corner of the room.
Standing across the fountain from them, Sam noticed just how dark and small Lucho was compared to Dean, yet how long his legs were. He was out of proportion somehow. The red hat was also a bit strange, especially given the formal blazer and tie he wore. Lucho’s hair was braided neatly underneath the hat that wasn’t quite a beanie, it was something a little older looking. Lucho stepped away from Dean and started a conversation with the coffee bar server.
“Any idea why Lucho seems so nervous?” Sam asked.
“I don’t really know the guy, but maybe having too many incidents with the hotel guests getting scared has him on edge,” Dean said.
Lucho rejoined them with a tray of sandwiches and coffee. He gestured for them to join him at one of the tables. The brothers fell into one of the soft couches next to each other and sipped at their coffees.
“This place has been having problems,” Lucho said. “Too many times now, my guests have been scared. When I first came here, it was a rare thing, but now we are starting to get a reputation again. I worry it will affect our business.”
“What kinds of things were the guests first reporting versus now?” Sam asked.
“They mentioned things being moved around in their rooms. Chairs being knocked over, windows opened and shut. Jewelry went missing and was sometimes returned in a different place.”
“Are there certain rooms it seemed to happen in more often?” Sam asked.
“I haven’t noticed a pattern. Recently, guests have mentioned feeling something pressing them or holding them down in the bathtub. A few have fallen into the fountain here, or the one in the lobby. Several times lately in the pool and hot tub area we’ve had near-drownings. Luckily no one has died, but it has left people quite shaken.”
“So all of the recent things seem to be related to water somehow,” Dean said, looking at Sam to see if he agreed. “But they weren’t before.”
“Have there been any physical changes to the hotel recently?” Sam asked. “New furniture, things being remodeled, water systems getting worked on, that sort of thing?”
“We have done nothing lately. Our latest remodel ended more than a year ago,” Lucho said. He looked over at the fountain again, a deep worry line creasing his forehead.
“Lucho, we are going to do our best to figure this thing out, okay?” Sam said, trying to look as reassuring as possible.
“What else do you gentlemen need from me to conduct your investigation?” Lucho asked, looking slightly relieved.
“We’re going to wander around and check out all the floors, especially the pool. We might need to get into service areas or the basement,” Dean said.
Lucho handed over a hotel master-key. “This should get you into all the areas you require. If you need me, just dial one of the hotel phones and ask the operator to page me. I have to get back to work now. Thank you so much for coming. You have no idea how glad I am to have some help with this. I’ll leave you to enjoy your lunch.”
They watched him limp away, his braid swinging in time with his quick steps and began eating the sandwiches he’d left them. Sam looked up at the beautiful carved wood ceiling above them and smiled over at Dean.
“This is nicer than our usual gigs, isn’t it?” Dean asked, smiling back.
“Yeah, I’m glad we came, he does need our help.”
“So it’s not just, what did you call it this morning, Hollywood true-crime bullshit?”
“No, it’s not, and I think we can figure it out for him,” Sam said.
Sam was glad Dean saved his I-told-you-so for later and savored the rare experience of having a nice lunch in such a beautiful room with his favorite person next to him. After a lifetime of shitty jobs in crappy places, they deserved a case like this once in a while. Not that it would make up for the shit-show with Lucifer last night of course but he was trying not to dwell on that thankyouverymuch.
After lunch Dean tried to pry the metal apple out of the fountain with his pocket knife but had no luck. He was still wiping his hands dry when he heard the splash Sam made as he almost fell into the water.
Sam held up his multi-purpose tool and shook off the water. “I think this thing had to have been baked in when the fountain was made.”
Some guests had arrived for a late lunch so they had to stop trying anymore destructive acts. They split up and went over the whole room with their EMF detectors. Dean had retrofitted both of them with headphone jacks so they didn’t alert any of the guests who dined nearby. Dean’s EMF went bonkers near the fountain so he motioned Sam to come over and showed him the display. Sam took a reading and his EMF pinged also.
“This is probably what the center of what we’re looking for, right?” Dean asked, trying to remember how many other fountains there were in the hotel.
“Yeah, whatever’s going on here involves water, and the fountain is the thing setting the EMF off,” Sam said.
“We’ll have to check out the other fountain in the lobby, and I think one of the rooftop terraces has one too,” Dean said.
“I have to admit, I’m finally glad you know way too much about this place,” Sam said with a smile.
“I’m saving my I-told-you-so for later,” Dean said, feeling a warm wash of pride come over him at Sam’s praise. Before he said something stupid he hugged Sam briefly.
Over Sam’s shoulder, Dean noticed a beautiful woman in one of the more shadowy corners of the room watching them as they embraced. She seemed a bit out of place because her clothes were strange, almost a costume that suited the Spanish flavor of the room. She wasn’t all made-up like most of the LA women in the place. He thought she might be a historical tour guide. He didn’t have a chance to point her out to Sam, who was already walking up the staircase distracting Dean with the beautiful view of his perfect ass.
They spent the rest of the day examining the enormous hotel. It took hours because they were trying their best to be thorough, and for once they didn’t split up to do it. Something about the close call with Lucifer last night had him on edge about being too far away from Sam, and his brother sure wasn’t complaining. Dean kept having a flashback to seeing Sam holding open those doors for everyone to escape, and he was guessing Sam kept seeing Dean get flung across the room. Dean would bet both of them were more shaken-up about Lucifer being on a rampage than they were admitting to each other. So sticking together was what they did instead of saying anything about the reasons why.
Throughout the day Dean was geeking out over all the things he’d always wanted to check out about the place. He almost didn’t notice Sam’s surprise at how into exploring the hotel he was getting.
“So, have we hit all the big items on your checklist yet?” Sam asked.
Dean was about to protest the idea of him having a checklist, but he realized Sam was right. It was pretty damn long and they’d gone over almost all of the main items like the fountains.
“Yeah, I didn’t realize how late in the day it was. You ready to call it a day?”
Sam nodded and they headed back to the front lobby to pick up their duffel bags and figure out how to get their room key.
Lucho found them at the front desk as they were getting their key cards. “I am leaving for the night. I do appreciate your efforts today, gentlemen. Please have dinner on me at one of the hotel restaurants. Just charge it to the room.” He lifted his red cap to them in a funny little salute and limped away.
The brothers stared after him, and leaned their heads closer together as they walked through the lobby. Dean took Sam’s hand in his. “He sure is a funny little guy.”
“I like him and his little red hat, I like how much he loves this place, like it’s his or something,” Sam said.
“You ready to head up to our room?” Dean asked, tugging Sam’s hand a bit. Sam nodded and they headed to the bank of guest elevators.
Dean kept holding Sam’s hand, even though they had to hold their duffels too. It felt right, like a thing a couple should do in a fancy place like this. When the elevator door closed, Sam pressed him up against one of the mirrored walls and attacked his lips, kissing them both to the edge of breathlessness. Instead of rising the elevator door reopened and revealed the lobby and a giggling teenage girl.
“You didn’t let me press our floor button,” Dean muttered and moved over to let her on. The girl got on with them, barely controlling her laughter until she got off on the fourth floor, leaving them alone to kiss until the door opened onto the fourteenth. Dean tugged Sam out of the elevator and led him down the long hallway to their room.
Just as Lucho had promised it was a luxurious suite with a living room area and large bathroom. It was beautifully decorated in rich tones with metal accents. The enormous bed dominated the main room, complete with a tasseled velvet canopy swag over the headboard. It was a bit much. But neither of them minded because they were too busy getting rid of each other’s clothes.
Usually they didn’t fool around when they were on a case, or they tried not to. You never knew when the thing you were hunting would find you in the middle of getting frisky. But there was something about being in this fancy hotel, for free, and no one was in immediate danger of dying. And there was the enormous bed waiting to be messed up.
Sam pushed Dean down onto the bed and pounced on top of him, Dean grabbed him in a judo hold and flipped them so he was on top. He grappled with Sam and ended up pinning his arms above his head. Sam grinned up at him, seeming glad to be momentarily contained. Dean pressed Sam’s wrists into the pillows and then let go. Sam left them because he knew what that meant, and it made him smile wide and knowing once again.
Dean scrambled off the bed and dug in the pockets of his duffel, and came back to the bedside with a tube of lube. He warmed some up in one hand and then pressed two fingers into himself. Sam watched and tried to stay still, but he groaned as he felt himself harden even more at the sight of Dean preparing himself.
Soon Dean was climbing back on the bed and sinking down onto Sam, encasing him in delicious heat and motion. Both of them sighed at how good it felt to be joined together. Dean gently ran his fingers along Sam’s bruises from the fight with Lucifer pursing his lips like he wanted to say something about them. Sam squirmed and thrust his hips up at the contact and then kept up that rhythm. He lifted his hands off the bed to hold onto Dean’s hips, holding him down so he could push up into him even deeper. Dean’s head was thrown back, his throat deliciously bared. Sam sat up, holding Dean in his lap, impaled and writhing as Sam kissed and bit at Dean’s throat. Dean came between them, hot and hard, clenching so tightly that Sam could barely move.
He tipped Dean onto his back and thrust into him fast and hard, Dean almost limp from the pleasure, but still trying his best to hold onto Sam’s hips. Sam cried out Dean’s name and tipped over the edge. They rolled apart and crawled under the soft covers, quickly falling asleep wrapped up into one endless knot of satisfaction.
They woke up an hour or so later, hot and sticky under the goose-down duvet.
Sam was the first to get up, Dean enjoyed watching him stretch and walk towards the bathroom. He started to go back to sleep but Sam yanked the bedcovers off in a whoosh.
“Hey, I was sleeping,” Dean complained, trying to pull the pillow over his head.
“We need to go get some dinner before the restaurant closes. And we’re not going out to a nice dinner smelling like sex.”
“Well we’re switching next time,” Dean insisted.
Sam smiled, as he backed Dean into the steamy shower stall. “Not a problem for me, ever.”
They usually fooled around in the shower, but this time, Dean wasn’t thinking about sex. All he could feel was this sense that the water was too heavy. Dean could barely put his arms around Sam’s shoulders with the weight of the water. He felt himself wanting to sink down to the floor, so he could be in it.
“Hey! Dean!” Sam yelled.
Dean shook his head and stepped backwards out of the spray. “What?”
“You were sinking down without saying anything. I thought you were going to try and blow me or something. But you wouldn’t answer me.”
“The water, it felt—really heavy, I wanted to sink down and be in it.”
“That has to be something to do with the case, right?” Sam asked.
“Probably, put it on the list. And only sponge-baths until we figure this out, I guess,” Dean said.
As they toweled off, Dean brought up something he’d been thinking about since they’d woken up.
“That metal apple thing is reminding me of that weird coin stuck in the bottom of the fountain, remember that one, Sammy?”
“Yeah, that one’s kinda hard to forget since I got killed by lightning.”
“You did?” Dean asked, pausing in the middle of pulling on his pants.
“Guess I didn’t tell you. There was a lot going on back then. I remember there was stuff you were hiding from me that I was working on getting out of you,” Sam said, smoothing down the front of his button-up oxford shirt.
“Uh…yeah, there was, wasn’t there, we’ve been doing this for a long time,” Dean said, thinking about the secret he’d tried to keep about their father’s last words. The stupid order to take Sam out if he turned evil that he’d of course ignored.
“Lots of secrets kept over the years. Lots of dying too,” Sam said, reaching out to the front of Dean’s shirt, buttoning it up slowly.
“I’m glad it all reversed so easily. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do this,” Dean said, leaning in to kiss up the skin on Sam’s bared neck.
They held hands all the way down the long hallways, the elevator ride downstairs and through most of their dinner. Smeraldi’s was a beautiful restaurant, filled with more wall frescoes and crystal chandeliers and couples cuddling in the romantic booths. The classic Italian menu had food they both enjoyed. Dean went the meat direction, and Sam was happy to have a chance to have some fresh fish. They both had barely saved enough room for dessert so they split a tiramisu.