“At least they don’t have cucumber water here,” Dean said, as he closed their room’s door behind him with his foot. He was balancing a tray with a late lunch he’d brought back for Sam.
Sam turned away from the research on his laptop and checked his notebook where he’d been jotting down notes. “Okay, so I’ve figured out what Lucho probably is. He’s something called a Trasgu, a Spanish kind of goblin. Usually they’re good guys that limp on their right leg and they always wear red somewhere, most often a hat. They tend to be difficult to get rid because they get attached to objects.”
“An object, like the fountain I guess? How do we get rid of him, blow up the fountain?”
“No, Dean, we are not blowing anything in this place up. According to the lore, the only way to get rid of a Trasgu is to assign him an impossible task like bringing a basket of water from the sea to fill up the fountain. Then his pride is hurt and he goes away.”
“Well, do we really want to get rid of him if he’s basically a good guy?” Dean asked.
“Maybe he needs to leave the Aloja alone so she can go back to being just a beneficent water goddess again.”
“We really sure he’s the one that’s the bad guy here? Maybe she’s the one that’s gone wrong,” Dean said.
“What else could it be besides him? He had her wand locked up in his desk drawer. His name is Manzana which means apple, and there’s a metal apple stuck in the wand and the fountain. That looks like she’s under his control to me,” Sam said, sounding like he’d completely convinced himself.
“I don’t know. Seems like there’s always a twist to these things. I’d rather it was some easy thing just blow them up, fountain, wand, metal apple things, kaboom, done. But there’s something else here we’re not getting. Both of us think Lucho is basically a good guy, right?” Dean asked, trying to draw Sam out of his conclusion.
“I want to think he’s a good guy, and not just because he comped us a suite and bought us dinner and all. He genuinely seems to care about this place. I mean, think about how he was last night when the little girl almost died. He was distraught and not in an ‘oh no we’re gonna get sued’ kinda way,” Sam said.
“So we’ve got to get the real story from him somehow, or try to talk to the mysterious red-haired woman when she appears tomorrow morning,” Dean said, handing Sam one of the sandwiches from the tray.
Sam munched for a while, still reading. He washed down the sandwich with one of the sodas on the tray and closed his laptop with a final sounding thunk. “We need to take precautions with him, just in case we’re not reading him right.”
“We have anything that’ll work to hold a Trasgu long enough to ask him a few questions?”
“No, but I might have an idea,” Sam said, re-opening his laptop and quickly typing. “This is probably worth a try,” he said, turning the screen towards Dean on the table.
Dean’s eyebrows raised higher and higher as he read but then he nodded and smiled. “I’ve got a rope that’ll do what you’re looking for in the weapons bag. I’ll page Lucho and ask him to meet us down in his office when you’re done eating.”
Sam rolled his eyes at Dean’s mother-hen act, but started on another half of a second sandwich. He slid the plate with the remaining half across the table to Dean and met his eyes with a smile. Dean grinned at being taken care of also and polished it off in a few enthusiastic bites. It had taken some getting used to, letting Sam coddle him, but he liked it, more than Sam probably realized. Dean made the phone call and they rode downstairs in the elevator, bumping shoulders and hips the whole way, both excited to see if this actually would work.
Lucho opened the door to his office and backed up quickly as they swarmed through. Sam snatched the red hat off his head with his long reach as Dean muscled him down into his desk chair. He tied Lucho with a rope that had silver strands woven through it before he had a chance to protest.
“First you steal from me? Now this?” Lucho yelled, going red in the face with anger.
“Calm down, Lucho, we just need to get a few things straight here, then we can untie you, okay?” Sam asked, patting him on the shoulder.
Lucho made a low growling sound in the back of his throat. Sam withdrew his hand quickly.
“So, you’re one of these Trasgu guys, huh? Aren’t you supposed to be the good kind of goblin?” Dean asked, his hands pulling tight on the rope that secured Lucho to the desk chair.
“Not good, not bad, but yes I am a Trasgu. I am Her companion,” Lucho inclined his head towards the closed door on the other side of which the fountain plashed merrily away.
“But why are both of you here? Is it something to do with the fountain?” Sam asked, settling down on top of the desk, still looming over their captive.
“We were…together, always together back in Spain, in the old times. I can’t remember how long ago. And then they came to take Her away from me, from our home. They wanted Her fountain for this place,” Lucho said, tears beginning to form in the corners of his dark blue eyes.
“Lucho, hey, it’s okay, just tell us the whole thing,” Sam said, leaning forward to pat him on the shoulder. Dean glanced at Sam and frowned in warning, crossing his own arms over his chest.
“She didn’t want to be alone here in a new place. And I didn’t want to be alone in España, so I came with Her. She didn’t ask me to, but She was glad. We have been happy here together, but recently She started to go a little loco because of the new water purification system the city put in. The city water became too pure for Her. It’s too unconnected from the waters of the world, too pure, not wild and true like real water should be. I had to try to contain Her, otherwise she would have hurt too many people. I hated to do it, but my sigil was the only thing strong enough to hold Her. But it has been too long for me here in this place. Now my power is waning too.”
“Let me guess, not enough people believe in you?” Dean asked, gruff tone in his voice and his arms still crossed.
“You know about this thing?” Lucho asked, big eyes looking up at Dean.
“Yeah, we’ve heard the same story from gods and monsters we’ve killed over the years. You old ones have a tough time of it here in the US.”
“I never meant for any human to be injured, certainly not a child. Last night was the worst She has ever been. I mean, since the beginning before the fountain was operational.”
“So that was back when all the murders happened, huh? That was why the haunted hotel thing really started?” Dean asked.
“Yes, all those people…ayiyi, it was so terrible. I think it took too long, the journey here. It was tolerable for Her while She was on the ship; at least She was in the water, in the sea. But then we were here waiting for so long. The plans for this room were being finalized and they were delayed for redesign many times. Her fountain was stored in a shipping crate and the dryness of it drove Her mad. She escaped into the hotel’s water system and it all went wrong after that.”
“Back then, one person died in the hotel pool, several in bathtubs in the rooms, but all of them were in contact with water somehow. Now I get it,” Dean said, satisfied that the old mystery was finally solved.
“I’m still not sure how she came back to Herself, but She did,” Lucho finished with a sad smile on his face directed at the fountain.
“It probably had something to do with you, Lucho. She must have loved you very much,” Sam said, patting his hand on Lucho’s shoulder again. This time Dean didn’t frown, he uncrossed his arms and stepped to Sam’s side, slipping an arm around his waist.
“She probably still does,” Dean said, he squeezed his arm tight around Sam for a moment then let go. He pulled up a chair in front of Lucho and sat, leaning forward. “Lucho, you gotta tell us how to help you. We need to get you both out of here somehow.”
“You would help?” Lucho asked, looking up into their faces, his eyes brimming with fresh tears.
“It’s what we do, when we can. We’ve killed a lot of things like you, but you know, over the years, Sam and I have learned to color in the shades of grey, right, Sammy?” Dean looked up at Sam and met his eyes.
Sam nodded and smiled. “Lucho, can She survive outside of the fountain?”
“Yes, if I can convince Her, She will transform into a vessel which I can fill with water. If I place Her wand inside I should be able to take Her anywhere.”
“Why didn’t you do that before, when you first came here?” Dean asked.
“We hadn’t moved in so long, we’d forgotten what it was like for Her to be without water. Once She was crated up on the ship, I couldn’t get to Her. And here in the hotel, my powers were too weak at first to help.”
“You think it will work now though, since she’s so far gone?” Sam asked.
“I do, if I can get through to Her. I know I must try,” Lucho said, he sat up straighter in the chair pulling at the ropes.
“Can you do it right now?” Dean asked.
“If you give me back Her wand, I will try. As soon as She is contained. You…uh…you…must—I cannot,” Lucho said with a pained gasp.
“You can’t say it, can you? Lucky for you, we already know. We’ll assign you an impossible task, otherwise you’ll find it too hard to ever leave this place,” Sam said.
Lucho was stone-faced, not answering.
“We will, Lucho, we’ll do it, even though you can’t ask us or tell us to. But I gotta try and find out about something that’s been bugging me. Was it you all these years, moving stuff around in guest’s rooms and scaring people?” Dean asked.
“Yes, that was me, it was part of how I regained some of my powers. There never were any ghosts here.”
“And were you really a Lady Heart fan?” Sam asked.
“Yes, I always will be. Rock on forever, Vince Vicente wherever you are,” Lucho said sadly. “Do you know what happened to him that night?”
“Normally we wouldn’t tell a civvie, but you aren’t really one, are you. He was possessed, by Lucifer a little while ago. His body got used up holding him and he fell apart,” Dean said.
“The Lucifer?” Lucho asked, his eyes going wide with astonishment.
Both Sam and Dean nodded and didn’t look at each other.
“I have even more confidence in you than before,” Lucho said, looking at them both with awe. “To have battled the Devil himself and won is no small thing.”
“It’s not the first time, and unfortunately it’s not gonna be the last. This gig in the hotel was kind of a vacation for us,” Dean admitted.
Lucho grinned at them, showing his very pointy, sharp teeth. “I’m glad to have been able to give you one in return for you helping me.”
“We want to try this as soon as possible, so no one else gets hurt. We figured out that She comes out every morning. Do we need to wait until then?” Sam asked.
“No, that is when She is at Her strongest, when She is able to take human form. The hours after twilight would be best.”
“Won’t there be a lot of hotel guests around?” Dean asked.
“I will inform the staff to close the entrances to the Rendezvous Room, and ask the quartet to take the night off. Would you untie me so I can go attend to that?”
Dean rolled the chair closer to the desk and picked up the phone receiver holding it to Lucho’s ear. “What’s the number?”
“You do not trust me?” Lucho asked.
“Nope, sorry, but don’t take it personally or anything. Blame it on Lucifer if you want,” Dean said.
Lucho gave Dean the number and had a conversation with his staff about closing down that part of the hotel and moving the evening food service to the lobby. Sam sat in the chair across the desk watching his brother handle the phone for Lucho, seeming lost in thought.
“You okay, Sam?”
Sam looked up at Dean’s voice and blinked slowly like he was coming out of a trance. “Sorry…uh, just thinking too much.”
“You just hang here for a sec, Lucho, I gotta go have a chat with this one,” Dean said, hauling Sam up to standing and bustling him out the door, shutting it behind them. He propped Sam up against the wall and held onto his shoulders. “I’m gonna ask again, you okay, Sammy?”
Sam shook his head sending his hair flying and he tried his best to smile for Dean. “No, I’m not,” he finally said in a subdued voice.
Dean’s hands moved up to curl protectively around Sam’s neck, one of them buried in his hair, Sam melted down into the hug, and Dean held him there. He could feel the tension thrumming through his brother’s body. It felt like Sam was going to fly apart into a million pieces. “Is it Luc—?”
“Don’t…please, can we not say his name for a few days? It’s like it brings him closer or something.”
“Yeah, Sammy, yeah of course,” Dean said into the clammy skin of Sam’s neck, his lips lingering to leave kisses that he hoped would drive thoughts of Lucifer away from Sam’s mind.
Sam stood up straight and shrugged out of Dean’s arms. He rolled his shoulders and pulled himself back together right before Dean’s eyes. His little brother had no idea how amazing he was for just being able to carry on another day after everything that’d gotten thrown at them lately. Dean held onto Sam’s hand and rubbed his thumb over that horrible scar, trying to get it across to him.
“I’m gonna go back up to the room and get some stuff for a protective circle that I was researching. I think it might help keep our water woman contained if Lucho can’t handle it.”
“I’ll hang here with him, try and keep him company or whatever,” Dean said, hand lingering on Sam’s. He watched as Sam stepped over to the bank of elevators until he disappeared into one of them.
Dean leaned against the wall for a moment to recover from the heaviness of that moment between them. He never knew exactly what was going through Sam’s mind at a particular moment, but he trusted Sam’s heart. It was something he’d never said out loud, but he’d always felt like his moral compass was tied to wherever Sam’s heart led them. Sam was the one who always guided them through the shades of grey. That was why Dean was certain they were doing the right thing here, working with Lucho instead of offing the guy.
Sam wasn’t gone too long, but Dean still got a chance to talk to Lucho about the early days of the hotel. He filled in a lot of blanks of the ghost story and unsolved murders that Dean had been so interested in for so long. He’d seen so many Hollywood stars come and go that Dean could have talked to him for hours. It seemed to keep Lucho calm too, being able to take his mind off of being restrained.
They waited until the hotel guests had been blocked off from entering the room before they exited Lucho’s office. Dean pushed him, still tied to his rolling office chair, bumping over the tiles and carpets until he was next to the fountain. Sam crawled around on the tile floor, marking a containment circle all the way around the fountain and Lucho’s chair. The design looked similar to a devil’s trap around the border but had an empty space in the middle.
Dean stood over Sam and made a tssking sound. “Pretty sure you missed a spot there in the middle.”
“Nope,” Sam said, continuing to draw the design. “This is something I just read about in the Spanish lore this morning, supposedly it can contain all sorts of supernatural beings and levels of power. It isn’t a symbol we’ve tested out before but the book I found it in had several other powerful sigils that I recognized. I thought it was at least worth a shot to try it.”
“What mess is this you are making?” Lucho asked.
“It’s something that might help when your Lady appears,” Sam said, dusting his hands off as he stood back up. “It’s just temporary glue-stick, powdered red pepper, clay and chalk. I think it will clean up okay if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Dean raised his eyebrows in surprise at hearing Sam’s recipe because it was something they’d never used. Sam read some words that sounded vaguely Latin off a crumpled paper he’d pulled from his pocket. When he finished he lit the paper on fire with his lighter and as it flamed up he threw it onto the floor at the base of the fountain. The design he’d marked flamed a dark red, sparkled briefly almost too bright to look at, and then faded out to a steady glow.
“Ready?” Dean asked.
Sam nodded and bent down in front of Lucho. “We need a vow from you, that you will do all you can to persuade your Lady to transform, and that you’ll both leave the hotel.”
“I vow that I will do all in my power to save my Lady and that we will depart. I remind you that you will have to trick me to do that so I won’t be able to return.”
“Got it covered, dude, no worries,” Dean said.
“We accept your vow, Lucho,” Sam said, trying to make it official as he untied the silvery rope from Lucho’s arms. He helped the small man stand up straight, placed the red hat back onto his head and handed him the wand they’d taken from his office. Dean carefully removed the chair from the circle trying to not disturb any part of the design that glowed and pulsed red on the floor.
“Mi mujer de las aguas, Dona d’aigua, por favor aparezca ante mi,” Lucho said in a clear voice, his small arms extended wide over the water of the fountain’s surface. He stirred the tip of the wand through the water in a complicated pattern that neither of them could follow.
“What’s he saying?” Dean leaned over to whisper in Sam’s ear.
Sam turned his head so his lips brushed against Dean’s ear. “He called her mother of the waters and please appear before me.”
Nothing happened for a long moment and Dean was about to ask Lucho to try asking again when the water’s surface began to move in small circles and then larger pulsing waves. It splashed against the edges of the fountain and then She appeared, shimmering in her watery form before them. Lucho spoke to her urgently in a Spanish-sounding dialect that rushed past their ears too quickly to translate.
Lucho abruptly jumped up from his crouch next to the fountain raising the wand high above his head as all the water the Aloja was formed from along with the rest of the water flew up into the air in a solid column constrained by the protective circle. Her form disappeared into the water as it raised up and up to the very top of the forty foot ceiling, hovering and pressing against the bounds of the circle. In a sudden downward rush, it released its form and fell, drenching all three of them.
Sam and Dean struggled to breathe. There seemed to be so much water, it was like it had replaced all the air in the room.
Sam was wiping his wet hair out of his eyes once the water had receded from his face and saw Dean being sucked into the water vessel that was forming along with the Aloja.
“Dean, you’re too close!” Sam yelled, diving forward to tackle Dean to the floor, rolling away from the fountain with Dean wrapped in his arms.
“I’m sorry, I thought Lucho was trying to get away when he jumped up,” Dean said into the front of Sam’s soaked shirt.
They sat up just in time to see the final form of the vessel hardening into the shape of an enormous apple pierced with the Aloja’s wand. It sat in Lucho’s outstretched palms, glowing with the energy of the water it had been formed from and the being it contained. Lucho’s face was serene and calm.
Dean held a woven basket out to Lucho who carefully placed the vessel inside .He took the basket from Dean and looked up at him. Sam wrapped an arm around Dean’s waist, pressing their hips together.
“This is my wastebasket from my office isn’t it?” Lucho asked with a grin, cradling the basket to his chest with both arms.
Sam nodded and stifled a laugh.
“I knew it was worth it. I’m glad I took the risk of asking you to help us. I am sorry that I couldn’t just tell you. It is a Trasgu thing, we can’t be helpful about things like that.”
“Well, you are a goblin, right?” Sam asked.
“Lucho, I challenge you to bring back the water from the sea in this basket,” Dean said.
Without a word, Lucho headed out the door and left the hotel, his red cap still dripping water.
The brothers informed the front desk staff that Lucho was taking a leave of absence from work for an invented family emergency, and oh by the way there was a bit of water spilled in the Rendezvous Room. It had gotten quite late by the time they were done, so they headed back up to their suite, ordered some room service hamburgers and spent the rest of the night trying to feel like they were actually dry and that there was actually enough air to breathe. They both avoided the bathroom because the idea of using any of the water in this place was still freaky even though they knew the Aloja was gone.
Checking out in the morning was interesting because Lucho had left a package for them at the desk. They waited to open it until the first rest stop because they both wanted to escape from LA as fast as possible. They brought it out to a picnic table under one of the small desert trees along with some lunch they’d picked up at the gas station’s deli. It was something heavy, wrapped in old brown paper that looked well-traveled, tied up with a black hairy cord.
“I wonder when he had time to leave this for us? He left in such a hurry,” Dean asked.
“Maybe he has one of those debt-paying quirks some of the fairies have? He was probably going to pay us whether we helped him or not,” Sam said.
Once Sam had the thing unwrapped and opened they both sat there in silent wonder. It was a small wooden treasure chest, carved with apples and Spanish words filled with all the jewelry Lucho had filched over the years from the hotel. There were all sorts of jewels, gold chains, and heavy gold watches. A treasure trove any dragon would adore. And now they got to decide what to do with it.
The drive back home to the bunker was filled with arguments about finder’s fees, pawn shops, metal melting temperature points, and whether there were jewelry consignment shops that wouldn’t ask for original purchase receipts. Neither of them had a thought left for Lucifer or the mess that awaited them, and that was more precious than all the gold in that chest.