The only way to get Dean is through Sam. The only way to hurt Sam is with Dean…..Two souls bonded together. Without one there truly is not the other…. The sequel to Bonding of Souls.
Suggested you read Bonding of Souls since this is a sequel, and references to that back story may not make sense if you haven’t read it before.
A Safe, Secure Place By Bayre
“Go to HELL!” Sam shouted.
“Do it.” The voice, calm, calculating, determined. The voice he knew was dead.
“No.” Sam couldn’t… wouldn’t avert his eyes from Dean. Dean lying there in blood. Conscious enough to feel the pain know what was happening to him, to Sam. Enough to know he couldn’t stop it, help his brother, free him from the cage.
Grabbing the bars Sam shook them.
“Do it or I will.”
“No..” Sam choked on the word. “Please…”
“Is that how my brothers begged for their lives, how you imagine I begged for mine that day in the junk yard?”
The bars vanished, Sam was free. Stumbling he was at Dean’s side in seconds, dropping next to his brother, hand on his chest. Dean’s ribcage filled and emptied in a quiet rhythm. Sam stayed protectively between Dean and Abaddon, McCreedy, his name was Joey McCreedy. Dean’s hand pushed against Sam’s arm, trying to move him away. His mouth worked, nothing but wet garbling noises came out.
McCreedy advanced, Sam shoved closer to his brother’s side, drawing on strength he had no idea he still possessed. Ignoring McCreedy and Dean, Sam tried scooping his brother up, getting him out.
But Dean’s body became tremendously heavy, Sam couldn’t lift him. McCreedy advanced on them, shoving a flame thrower into Sam’s hand. Sam wanted to throw it down, away, but couldn’t.
McCreedy sneered at him, held Sam’s wrist in a vice-like grip, Sam’s body annoyingly unresponsive to any commands his brain gave. “Do it!” McCreedy demanded.
Sam was forced to feed Dean the flame thrower. His brother’s screams lasted only a few seconds in reality, but in Sam’s mind it was an eternity.
Mike Redding merely laughed at Sam’s screaming, “DEAN!”
Two souls bonded through eternity. Without one there truly would not be the other.
I’m still alive Must’ve been a miracle It’s been a hell of a ride Destination still unknown…..”Alive” by Meat Loaf
Dean Winchester went from deep, peaceful, dreaming of strippers slumber to awake and horrified in a far shorter period of time than anyone ever should.
He was used to it.
On his feet and moving at his brother before the fog of sleep completely cleared or his eyes completely adjusted to the light Dean went on the sound of Sam’s harsh voice and instinct.
Not sure of the exact words Sam was shouting, but his own name was in there somewhere. The kid was standing in the middle of the room. Dean lurched forward, grabbed at Sam’s shoulders and shook hard. “Sam. Sammy!” A second, far gentler shake. “Sam…”
Sam’s reaction was immediate, he grabbed Dean’s arm, then half collapsed against him, dropping his head to Dean’s shoulder, free arm snaked around until he hooked his hand over Dean’s shoulder. It scared Dean some, the uncontrollable shuddering, something he hadn’t seen in Sam in months. One arm over Sam’s shoulder, hand resting along the back of his neck Dean squeezed.
“Hey, it’s ok, I’m here.” He rubbed between Sam’s shoulder blades. His younger brother’s dreams of late, had the same basic theme, something happening to Dean. Usually the kid was calmed by a few words, a hand to his shoulder, reassurance Dean was there, alive and well. Half the time Sam wouldn’t even remember the details in the morning. Dean found, mostly through Sam’s mumblings, he died in a variety of mundane and spectacular ways. Or was taken by feds, demons, hunters, and there was one time it had been a roving pack of cheerleaders, Dean liked that one.
Their last hunt, while not difficult or life-threatening had taken nearly three weeks. This was their first night back on the road, Dean reasoned the change in location triggered Sam’s nightmare. That and the fiery car wreck they’d encountered along the way. They’d been forced to sit in a log jam of cars for several hours. Waiting for traffic to move again wasn’t so bad, but they’d been one of the closer cars, getting a full and complete view of everything. The event disturbing on a whole other level than the monsters they hunted.
Sam nodded and gulped a few more haggard breaths.
Backing Sam up, Dean dumped him on a bed. “Want to talk about it?”
Sam leaned down until his forehead rested against his knee, “No.” His voice sounded odd, strangled.
Dean gave Sam’s back another pat, then turned, heading to the small refrigerator, planning on something for them each of them to drink. Sam’s hand immediately shot out, fingers curling around Dean’s wrist with enough intensity there would probably be marks left. It gave him a definite feeling of déjà vu, back nearly six months when Sam wouldn’t let him out of his sight, often physically grabbing on. It’d slacked off, but never completely gone away, he wondered if it ever would, if that would change. Sam was rarely alone. When he was now it was only if he could be in contact with his brother. When they’d started their last hunt Sam had gone to a library, while Dean checked some leads. Dean smiled at the memory, being called every ten minutes or so with an ‘update’ and a few times Sam asking if Dean saw the police car that just drove by. But it was progress, and that was all Dean really asked for, worked toward.
Flopping on the bed next to Sam, still held captive by Sam’s grip, Dean lay back, starring at the ceiling. “Was it a vision?”
“Sam, you haven’t had one of these in a long while, months. Come on, talk to me.”
When Sam turned his head, faced him, Dean’s heart dropped, he hated that look, the frightened ten year old looking back. Another something gone away, for long enough Dean thought it might be gone for good.
“He was here. Both were here.”
A cold, hard spike started in Dean’s stomach, slithered a path down his spine, circled around his testicles and crawled up to his brain. “Who?” Didn’t really have to ask, he knew.
“Come on Sammy, talk to me, tell me.” Dean knew the drill, knew Sam knew it too. Keeping the freaky dreams locked away in his head did Sam no good. In the six months since Sam’s kidnap Dean had done a lot of research on the subject. He was currently armed with a veritable arsenal of strategies, one that would make any shrink proud. “It was a dream, they weren’t here. This room is warded and salted.” Saying the last part out loud was part of Dean’s general plan, remind Sam he was safe, those men weren’t going to hurt either of them.
Sam nodded, but didn’t talk yet. The grip he had on Dean’s wrist was starting to cause some serious pain, but Dean refused to flinch or pull away or even mention it. Definitely there were going to be marks, big ugly bruises no doubt. He’d cope. Squirming a bit when Sam’s fingers dug in further to the inside of Dean’s wrist, Dean wondered if he’d ever have a pulse there again. Dropping his voice, putting more authority in it, “Sam.”
Nodding, Sam swallowed, “Give me another minute, ok?”
“Thirsty?” Dean pulled to a sitting position. The hand attached to his captive arm was starting to tingle. Dean bit his lip.
“I am.” Standing, he placed his free hand over Sam’s arm, “Sammy, my fingers are starting to lose feeling. And I can’t reach the fridge from here.”
“Oh, god, Dean, I-I’m s-sorry.” Sam immediately let go, staring at his hand as if it was some separate evil entity.
“It’s ok, no harm done.” Turning so his back was to Sam, he rubbed his wrist and retrieved a bottle of water. “Ok, Sam, talk, now. You know the rules.”
“Your rules.” Sam grumbled.
“Our rules, you agreed to them too. You know it does you no good to keep the nightmares bottled up. I get they’re scary Sam, they scare me too. But they’re nightmares, not visions. Nothing that can hurt you, or me, not in a warded room, not while I’m here. You know it helps you, and it helps me too.”
When Sam shivered Dean sat down next to him again, rubbed his knee lightly for a second or two, offering the water. He smiled when Sam took a swig and returned it.
“He, they…w-were both there. Redding was watching. McCreedy, J-Joey he…um…I was in the cage, then not….and Joey, they made me somehow…” Sam broke off, choking, stumbling over his words.
Dean rubbed his brother’s back again, “Take your time.”
Looking at the floor, Sam finally spit out the last bit, “They made me shove a lit welding torch, or maybe it was a flame thrower, not sure…” Swallowing hard, “T-they made me put it in your mouth, kill you with it.” He wiped one hand quickly over his eyes, not looking at Dean’s face.
“It didn’t happen. It won’t happen. They can’t hurt you or me.” Dean repeated. It had become one of his mantras. Sam looked at him and nodded. The kid was still visibly shaken, but better. As Dean predicted talking about it eased Sam’s anxiety some. Dean wasn’t one for words, but he could listen just fine.
They’d established the ground rules not too long after leaving South Dakota, while Dean was still reading up, getting advice from wherever he could, anything to help Sam get better. He’d gotten some really sound, solid pointers too. Sam had to talk about the dreams he remembered, holding them back only made them worse. Dean, for his part, did his best to make their lives as normal as possible. To an outsider they certainly didn’t have normal lives, as most people would consider normal. But their lives had a normalcy, a cadence, a rhythm. Dean worked very hard in the past six months to maintain that. He tried to make sure they stopped for dinner about the same time, and didn’t shy away from hunts. He stuck them to a schedule as much as he could. It was working too; little by little Sam was reverting to his old self. Dean, though he’d never admit it, was having a hard time letting go of Sam, letting him go back to what he was. He knew he wasn’t actually giving his brother up, but his natural inclination to be a caregiver, protector was amplified times one-hundred where Sam was concerned. He was having a difficult time not shielding the kid from anything and everything that might cause some harm or fear, in anyway.
Dean realized very quickly, Sam wasn’t the only one who needed to recover, Dean had to put what happened to his brother behind him too, deal with it too.
Sam stared at his eggs, pushing them around the plate, into the potatoes, making circles with the bacon they caught.
“You gonna actually eat those, or just exercise them some more?” Dean stopped eating long enough to comment on Sam’s playing with his food.
“What do you think happened to their bodies?”
This time Dean put his fork down, leveling a steady gaze at Sam that made him want to squirm. Sam hated when his brother did that to him. Dean sighed, a bit heavily, suddenly looked tired, drawn, worried. Sam hated even more that he was the cause of Dean’s expression. “I’ve been wondering when you’d bring that up again.”
“That’s not an answer.” Sam pointed out, picking up a piece of bacon, didn’t bite it.
“No, I suppose it’s not. There would have been an autopsy for them. If no family claimed them they’d be buried in a mass grave by the county I believe.”
“You checked?” Sam’s chest tightened, he wanted to pound his fist against the table, but there were people around. “You didn’t tell me!” He hissed the last part between clenched teeth.
“Oh, put your pants back on Sammy. I looked up general information on Google.”
Sam took a few deep breaths. He couldn’t have this conversation and piss Dean off. Dean didn’t want to do anything he thought would make any of it worse for Sam, as if it could have gotten worse. If it were up to his brother Sam was sure he’d be hidden away somewhere only known to Dean. Well considering the only person they had regular contact with was Bobby, Sam practically was hidden away. “Could we go back?”
Dean’s eyes dropped to the table, he was suddenly quite interested in the pattern on the plastic cloth covering it.
“To check. Make sure, about the bodies.” Sam said quietly, watching his brother’s face closely.
“You been seeing them anytime other than when you dream about them?”
He knew he should have expected that question sooner or later. He couldn’t lie to Dean, not that he didn’t want to in this case, but it seemed physically impossible for Sam to do so. Trying for distraction he played with the eggs some more.
Dean reached over, grabbing his wrist, Sam’s chest tightened, his stomach twisted from the large twinge of guilt when he glimpsed the bruises on Dean’s arm, bruises left by him. Dean forced his hand to be still. “Sam?”
Sam glanced up and away immediately. Dean was a hot, coiled spring ready to unravel since Sam had been kidnapped. Wanting only to benefit his brother, Sam knew Dean’s heart was in the right place. But some things, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much Sam wanted him to, Dean simply could not shield him from.
The arm got a sharp jerk. “Sammy.” It wasn’t a question.
Lifting his eyes without lifting his chin Sam mumbled, “I’m not sure.”
“Christ almighty Sam!” Dean hissed, then looked around, guilty. Tension hitched his shoulders, flowed out of him to assault Sam. People were looking at them. He lowered his voice to a harsh, angry whisper. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want you to….” He stopped, sighed, ran his free hand through his hair. “Dean, I won’t break. It’s like all you do is worry about me, how to protect me, make a safe place for me, for us. I know this, that, the whole thing is as difficult for you…” Maybe more so than for me. “Too, but you can only do so much. You don’t know how much it means to me. The only reason I can sleep at night is because I know you’re there. I just….I don’t know, I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to make it worse for you unless I was sure. I’m not sure, maybe more of a feeling and maybe it’s not even real.” Forge had forever planted in Sam’s mind some of this might be a result of Sam’s subconscious.
Dean sat back, sighed, and looked away, across the diner. “You make me worry more when you spring crap like this on me. There isn’t anything, any reason you can’t tell me…”
“I know.” Sam cut him off quickly. “I know.”
“You really want to do this, go back, check out the bodies?”
“All right.” Dean nodded a bit. “All right, we can head there. If you promise me you’ll stop keeping things bottled in, to yourself?”
Sam grinned. He’d hated not telling Dean, but he hadn’t wanted to freak his brother out either. He should have known Dean would agree if Sam wanted it so badly. “I promise.”
“Eat.” Dean motioned to Sam’s now cold breakfast, wolfing down the rest of his.
“It’s cold.” Sam complained.
Dean gave him an annoyed look, quirked an eyebrow and curled one corner of his mouth. “Whose fault is that? Eat, or sit here, I don’t care, but you’re not going to be whining at me all the way to lunch time you’re hungry cause you didn’t eat.”
Sam ate the potatoes and bacon, left the eggs.
Taking a few days to get back to South Dakota, Dean refused to drive straight through, let him or Sam go without stopping for the night. Sam was fine with that, however sleeping each night was getting less frequent, more difficult. He hadn’t been exaggerating when he’d told Dean the only reason he could sleep at night, at all, do much of anything, was because he knew Dean was there. Feeling mightily guilty over Dean not getting enough rest, and doing almost all the driving Sam never argued when Dean wanted to stop. They were both worried Sam might have a vision while driving, they’d nearly wrecked once because of his visions. Leaving themselves open like that a second time was fool-hardy and dangerous. Even when Sam did drive Dean seemed on full alert these days. Sam kept careful eye on the time, suggesting it himself when he thought his brother was getting fatigued or bored or hungry. Dean’s schedule hadn’t gone unnoticed by Sam, it was one more thing Sam owed his brother, was eternally grateful for. Sam made every effort to repay Dean’s gesture, take care of his brother in return. Most of all Sam made every effort to not sleep while Dean drove, reasoning if he was tired at the end of their day he’d sleep more, but it didn’t work.
The closer he was to returning to South Dakota, the more Sam’s dreams turned to violent, torturous nightmares.
Sam tried, admittedly not very hard, to keep from waking Dean every night. He wanted to keep Dean from constant worry. He also wanted, probably the most, the comfort of knowing his brother was close by. Sometimes he needed Dean physically within reaching distance. Efforts to quell that need were somewhat productive. Sam wondered if he’d ever not feel so vulnerable if left alone. At least it was manageable these days, barely. He’d wake up, now nightly with varying degrees of memory retained from the nightmares. Trembling, sometimes sobbing like a child Sam couldn’t help his strangled voice as he’d search out his brother, call his name. Not once was his call unanswered. As much as Dean claimed to not mind, to have his own powerful drive to be needed, the intensity provoked by Sam’s nightmares were wearing on him. They both needed this behind them.
Unfortunately Sam knew, just somehow knew it was far from behind them. Somehow he knew it was just starting.
Sam ignored the looks Dean kept shooting his way, not even trying to hide them. He’d spent the better part of the last few hours trying to appear as if he hadn’t noticed a single one. His second endeavor, to sit still was far less successful. His headache, though a regular, normal headache, was a headache just the same. He’d probably given it to himself, and the thumping and pounding in his skull increased with every mile marker passed by. Not able to find a single comfortable position, Sam squirmed and shifted and leaned one way then the other. Valkyrie, apparently totally disgusted with his wiggling around, had long ago jumped into the back seat, propped her head on the back seat rest and stared out the back window. She shot him a look of annoyance every few miles. Then to make her point clear, crystal clear, she’d hang over the seat, lick Dean’s face and resume her vigil of the rear flank. Sam decided the dog was just eerie sometimes. It sort of bothered him she didn’t seem to want much to do with him the last few days, but who could blame her? He did, after all, nightly now, interrupt her sleep and had twice moved so quickly in his sleep she’d been bounced off the bed. Last night she’d planted herself firmly on Dean’s bed, burrowing around, making a nest with a huffed out sigh and challenged Dean to try and remove her. The dog so had them so well trained.
South Dakota was looming up quick, getting closer and closer.
Rubbing his temples, ignoring yet another dirty look from Valkyrie and another concerned one from Dean, Sam shifted around, trying to stretch his legs, which were cramping. It wasn’t helping.
“That’s it, I’ve had it.” Dean grumbled.
Sam pretty much ignored him until the Impala swung sharply to the right. Dean gunned the engine at an off-ramp coming up far too fast for Sam’s taste. His head pounded harder. Hand shooting out, bracing against the dash, “You trying to splatter us all over the highway?”
Dean glared, but lifted his foot off the accelerator, slowing in time to take the turn off the highway. “And I’ve ever done that when?” Great, now Sam had Dean shouting at him. “You’re miserable, you obviously don’t feel good, and you’re bouncing around like a jumping bean, you haven’t squirmed this much since you were ten! We could have stopped anytime, all you had to do was ask.”
“I know.” Sam grumbled, rubbing his forehead. He didn’t want to get into it with Dean, to explain he wanted to do what they came to do and put about a thousand miles between them and South Dakota. Truth be told, he knew he didn’t have to explain anything, and Dean probably felt the same as Sam times ten.
“Vision?” This time Dean’s voice was softer.
Sam massaged the tense muscles along the back of his neck, and twisted his head side to side. “No. It’s a headache Dean, just a simple tension headache. Can’t we keep going and get this over with?”
Anger and tension drained away from his brother, Sam could see him change, his expression, his whole body language now radiated concern and simple care. Dean reached over and rubbed the back of Sam’s head for a few seconds. “South Dakota, Sammy, everyone packs up and goes home at four. By the time we get there any offices we need to go into will be closed. I’m not wild about calling Forge, though we can if we need to. And I’m really not wild about risking breaking into somewhere we can walk into and check out public records.”
Sam wasn’t wild about those things either, and admitted as much. A large part of his headache was probably worry over Dean being there, being caught somehow.
Another few miles passed in silence before Dean pulled into a motel parking lot. “You sit tight. I’ll get us a room. You get a hot shower, and we’ll grab some food, and you’ll feel better.”
Sam nodded. Valkyrie hung her head over the back of the seat, whimpering a bit, tail wagging lazy circles, when Dean left the car. Sam reached back to scratch her ears, but she ducked away, and stretched out on the back seat.
“I’m sorry, ok? Don’t you ever have a bad day?”
Valkyrie ignored him, which bothered him. He jerked awake and away from the passenger window when the car door opened. Dean gave him another concerned look and shook his head a fraction.
“We’ll be there by late morning tomorrow. Maybe we can wrap this up in a day, and get moving. Sound good?”
Hunching, then stretching and rolling his stiff shoulders Sam nodded, managed a smile. “That sounds very good.” Then parked in front of their room door, as Dean shoved his door open, Sam grabbed his arm. Dean looked back, one eyebrow arched, waiting. “Thanks. A lot. For everything.”
Dean smiled, placed his hand over Sam’s gave it a squeeze. “You betcha. We’ll get this all taken care of Sammy, we will. I promise.” He tossed Sam the room key. “You go get in the shower, I’ll get our stuff and take Miss Snotty Pants here for a little walk. This place has a diner, we can eat there, or get pizza, or whatever you want.”
“I can carry…”
“Go.” Dean cut him off, packing more authority into that one gently spoken word than most people could a whole sentence. Sam didn’t argue, his brother only meant well, and the shower sounded really good.
Standing in the shower, letting hot water pour over him Sam had to consent, Dean was right, it did make him feel better. Little needles of water, warm and soothing relaxed his back, loosened the muscles of his chest as they beat down. Soaping up, he worked his sore arms and neck with his fingers, thinking there would be no more hot water for anyone else by the time he was done. Minutes later he heard Dean and Valkyrie moving about the room, the distinctive sound of dog food being poured into a dish.
Knuckles wrapped against the partially opened bathroom door, “Sammy, you ok in there?”
“’M fine. Almost done.” Sam had to smile. He was in the shower, not lost, and still he knew Dean liked updates, to know he was ok. Sam was ok with that, more than ok it that. It was good to have someone around who cared, make sure the evil soap monsters didn’t get him in the shower.
He found Dean sitting at the small table near the window, menus spread out like tarot cards. His head felt better, even getting into his sweats and t-shirt felt better than jeans and boots and flannels.
“How ya’ feel?”
“Better.” Sam stood looking over Dean’s shoulder. “What’s our choices?”
“Pizza, Chinese, Greek, or we can hit the diner, and I think I saw a few other places on the way in.”
“I wouldn’t mind staying here, if that’s ok with you?”
“Sure. You be ok here by yourself for a bit, I’ll run out grab food, and get some beer, snacks?”
Sam chuckled, “I’ll be fine. I will.” He flopped on his bed, started clicking through the few stations the motel offered.
Dean stuck his knife under the pillow on his bed, and pulled on his jacket. “I’ll be back in a half hour, forty-five minutes tops.”
“Um humm..” Sam was already a bit drowsy. He slid farther down in the bed, readjusting the pillows. Dean must have kicked the heat up a bit when he’d come in. Between that and the shower, Sam was feeling relaxed and comfortable.
The sound of the TV, he wasn’t even sure what was on it, drifted away, receding into the background. Sam pulled the blankets up, more asleep than anything, thinking as he sank deeper, eyelids slipping shut, he and his brother were lucky, they had each other. The last thing he remembered was Valkyrie curling behind his knees and thinking the dog must like him again, that made him feel good.
Sam woke with a start and half a cry from the vision…or nightmare…he wasn’t sure which, to a dark room and Valkyrie snarling at him. The room was dark, it shouldn’t be this dark. Where was Dean? He should have been back. Memory of the latest assault on his sleep still fresh, Sam was shaking. He wished his eyes would adjust faster to the dark. Panic squeezed his chest, sent more shudders up and down his spine.
Why was the dog snarling at him?
Put a gun to his head, backed him against a wall, and pulled the trigger. It was all Sam remembered. Dean had done that. The memory of it, the hate in his brother’s eyes made Sam gasp and wheeze, his throat constricted, he couldn’t breathe. “D-d-dean?” It was little more than a whisper. Dean had killed him, in cold blood, shot him without care or remorse or….and where was Dean? Hearing movement between the beds Sam turned in that direction, voice a bit stronger this time, “Dean?”
“Your food is cold.” Dean’s voice was colder. Another shiver ran the length of Sam’s back, his hands trembled.
“I-I’m sor-sorry, I f-fell asleep I guess. I had a…”
“You know what? I don’t give a goddamn!”
The room was suddenly illuminated in bright light. Dean must have turned it on. When Sam turned to the voice, found his brother he flinched away involuntarily. He couldn’t place it, but Dean’s eyes were wrong. Dean was wrong. Not void of pupils and demonic, but wrong. Frighteningly wrong. They were hard, and cold and angry. Very angry. Angrier than Sam had ever seen them. The hate boring out of them into Sam was palatable.
Dean advanced on him, shouting, “You know what, Sammy-boy? I’ve had it! I’m done with your whiny, sniveling bullshit!”
Sam couldn’t help scrambling backwards across the bed, away from Dean. Dean who was currently scaring the crap out of him. “What did I—“ His question was abruptly cut off when Dean backhanded him so hard Sam flipped away, sprawled half on the bed and half off the other side. Sam’s mind whirled faster than the room had as he tried to get his feet under him, get out of Dean’s reach. But this wasn’t Dean, it couldn’t possibly be him. Dean would never hurt him. They’d fought with each other since Sam was old enough to stand, but never to hurt. There’d been wrestling and even the occasional honest to goodness punch, but never brutal, violent attacks.
Couldn’t be Dean, not Dean, couldn’t be Dean….
Sam’s mind chanted over and over.
“So what was in your stupid, freaky nutcase head this time? What stupid thing did you dream up now that I’m supposed to make all better?” Dean bent down, before Sam could get moving he was held captive, Dean’s fists hauling him up by his shirt. “Well?” Dean shouted so loud Sam was sure the people in the next room would hear. He shook Sam furiously.
Trying uselessly to loosen Dean’s grip on him Sam sputtered out, “You...you shot me…in…the head.”
Dean snorted, “Wouldn’t waste the bullet Sammy boy, more satisfying to do it with my bare hands.”
Before Sam could process the words Dean landed a hard, vicious punch to Sam’s jaw, sending him back across the bed. The next thing was Dean’s weight pinning him, knees to Sam’s chest, fingers wrapped around Sam’s throat, hands pressing together, cutting off Sam’s air.
Not Dean, can’t be Dean, dream, dream, in my head, no…no…Dean...no, don’t please, don’t, can’t be Dean….
Red and black haze started forming at the edges of Sam’s vision, he tried calling Dean’s name, break him out of whatever this was, but he couldn’t talk. He bucked, somewhere in the distance Valkyrie barked, then squealed when Dean’s foot shot out, catching her in the side. Sam bucked harder, almost dislodging his sibling from his chest, brought both hands up and slammed them with enough force to really hurt into either side of Dean’s head. Throwing Dean off, Sam rolled off the bed, gasping and choking, trying to breathe and stay away from his brother, and find the dog all at the same time.
“You miserable little FREAK!” In a single frighteningly fast movement Dean spun, grabbed his knife and was over the bed and at Sam again.
Sam blocked the blow, grabbed Dean’s arm as he plunged the knife straight at Sam’s chest. Sam gritted his teeth, kept his elbow locked, his arm extended. Scrambling backwards, he spun Dean around, pounding his hand into the wall, trying to make him give up the knife. He pounded again and again, Dean’s hand and the knife just above his head, until he felt Dean’s blood drip into his hair, down his face.
It took a few seconds for him to register, Dean’s blood was cold. Blood shouldn’t be cold.
The knife fell to the floor, clattering on tiles, but there’d been carpet on the floor. The blood turned to water.
“Sammy!” Dean’s voice, different this time, thick and raw and full of fear.
Sam jerked away from Dean’s hands, colliding with the back of the tub wall, cracking his head. Dean wouldn’t hurt me, wouldn’t hurt me, not Dean, he didn’t….
“Sam.” This time there was more insistence, this time it really sounded like Dean.
Sam lifted his chin, looked up. His brother looked fine, other than appearing rather scared, and he was bleeding from a slice across his thumb. Dean’s other hand was pressed against Sam’s chest holding him in the shower of cold water.
“Sam?” Dean let go of him long enough to grab a towel and wrap his hand, stall the oozing blood.
Letting his gaze drift around the small bathroom, Sam’s eyes fell on the knife, lying on the floor just outside the tub. He started to shiver, only partly from the cold water, his teeth chattered. Dean’s eyes followed Sam’s gaze. He immediately kicked the knife away. It spun out of reach, coming to rest against the wall behind the toilet.
“Cccoo-oolld.” Sam stuttered out, trying to clamp his teeth shut.
Dean offered him a lopsided grin, “Good. It’s an improvement.” He reached back and shut off the water. Then turned and started sliding his hands under Sam’s arms.
Sam garbled a ‘please…don’t’ and wrenched away, again hitting the end of the tub. Dean froze, giving him an odd look that evolved to hurt, then concern.
“Hey, easy, take it easy. It’s ok, it’s me. Dean.” His voice was soft, full of gentleness and sounded very normal, very much like Dean. Sitting back on his haunches for a few seconds, Dean seemed to scrutinize him. Then, standing to his full height Dean simply held out one hand to Sam.
Sam looked around again, still the bathroom. He was sprawled haphazardly in the tub, dripping wet clothes clinging to him, cold and confused. He grasped Dean’s offered hand, gripped it as if his arm were a lifeline and pulled himself up against the iron strength of his brother’s grip. Dean didn’t let go once Sam was out of the tub, pulling him out of the bathroom. Sam stopped long enough to get a glimpse at himself in the mirror. No bruises ringed his neck, no marks from being punched, no split lip from Dean’s first blow. In fact, other than he was dripping wet, shaking like a leaf and still fully clothed Sam looked perfectly fine.
Dean pulled him to his bed, sitting Sam firmly on the end, grabbed a towel and draped it over Sam’s head, then pulled the blankets up and wrapped them around his shoulders. Sam sat, watching him, confused.
Kneeling in front of him, Dean laid one hand on Sam’s knee, peered into his eyes, “Hey, you with me?”
Sam had to think about it for a few seconds. Dean would never hurt him, it was some awful nightmare, just tension and… When he felt something against the top of his head, moving, Sam flinched away, startled. Losing his balance he ended up on the floor between the beds with a jolt to his butt. His arms and legs suddenly a tangled mass hampered by the blankets. He couldn’t move, couldn’t get away, couldn’t fight back if….wasn’t Dean, wasn’t Dean, Dean would never do that, not real, dream, not real….
“Sam!” Annoyance crept into Dean’s voice, which oddly enough made Sam relax. His brother had a pretty simple method to stop Sam’s scrambling about. He wrapped both arms securely around Sam’s shoulders, pinning Sam against his chest. Valkyrie got in on the act, hanging over one bed, slurping upside down kisses at both brothers, mostly getting Sam’s ear wet. “Slow down Sammy, it’s me, just me.”
For the first time Sam realized Dean was shaking, his heart hammered like an engine piston against his ribcage. Relaxing a small bit more, Sam let his head rest under Dean’s chin. He felt Dean raise one hand to gently push Valkyrie back…..Dean wouldn’t kick the dog, would never kick the dog….or hurt me, he wouldn’t… Sam felt suddenly trapped, struggled against his brother, trying to push away. The same hand Dean used to move Valkyrie away came back, resting firmly against Sam’s head, holding him still.
“Sam, tell me, talk to me. Take it easy, it’s ok, just you and me here. You’re safe, it’s ok. Tell me what they did Sammy.”
Sam shook his head, “Wasn’t them. Was you.”
“Was me? Ok, relax and tell me what happened to me.”
“Not you.” Sam just had to keep repeating that. He’d read somewhere that puppies in a litter, as well as human babies were lulled by the heartbeats of those around them, their mothers. Sam had no memory of his mother’s heartbeat, though he was sure he’d heard it. But Dean’s he was just as sure he could’ve picked out from a hundred others if he’d needed to, he’d heard it that much, knew it that well. Sam understood how it happened, sitting there now, listening to Dean’s jack-hammering heart rate slow to normal Sam felt calmer, could literally feel his muscles relax, the fear and tension dropped off him. Dean rubbed his back. “It was you, but wasn’t.”
“Ok, Sammy, come on dude, you need to tell me, we need to figure it out. Cause kiddo, I don’t mind telling you, you’re one scary mother with that knife. And I do not want to have to do that again.”
Sam smiled and laughed a bit. Dean levered them both up, sitting Sam on the bed. Stepping away, one hand on Sam’s shoulder, “You ok? You’re soaked. You need to put on dry clothes.” Retrieving dry sweats and another t-shirt Dean handed them to Sam, then disappeared into the bathroom, back out in a few seconds with the knife, which was taken immediately out and locked in the car trunk.
By the time he’d returned, Sam had changed, was still sitting on his bed toweling his hair dry. Carrying the first aid kit Dean set it on the bed between them, started digging for bandaging material.
“You should clean that first.” Sam’s voice sounded strained even to his own ears.
Dean gave him a sharp look, Sam braced for another assault, but his brother merely shrugged, smiled and said, “I know.”
Sam sat, listening to the water run, Dean’s soft curses as he scrubbed his hand. Mindlessly laying out some of the supplies he’d need, Sam tried to think of how not to tell Dean of his dream, vision, whatever. He imagined Dean’s reaction, the look on his face when Sam told him his attacker had not been Redding or McCreedy this time, but his own brother. Dean was not going to take it well. Then there was the worse fact Sam had cut Dean with the knife. If it’d been a gun…that thought made Sam’s hands shake violently for a few seconds before he got control of them. If it had been gun instead of knife he’d quite likely be sobbing over Dean’s lifeless body about now.
Dean returned, hand scrubbed raw, a clean towel held firmly against it. Sitting on the bed beside Sam, twisting so one knee was bent in front of him; he rested his wounded hand there. Sam was happy for the distraction of bandaging Dean’s hand. He hadn’t intended to tell Dean all of it, just the highlights, but as soon as he started he couldn’t help himself, the words tumbled out of his mouth. He felt Dean go completely still, heard his breathing quicken to something harsh and raspy. Sam wished he hadn’t looked at Dean’s face, because it wasn’t nearly what Sam imagined it would be. It was far, far worse.
He’d expected Dean to be upset, maybe a little defensive. Dean however was devastated. The horrified expression deepened, darkened with every word Sam couldn’t stop from spilling out.
“Was it a vision?” Dean’s voice was thin, barely more than a whisper.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t know what it was, but it seemed real.” Sam didn’t have to add how much it’d scared him, Dean could see it well enough for himself.
“Sam, you know I wouldn’t….I couldn’t…”
Sam looked up, meeting Dean’s eyes, wiping away the tears threatening to spill down his cheeks. They held each other’s gaze for a long minute. “I know.”
Dean stared at the ceiling. The room was dark, except for the occasional reflection of light through the window from headlights pulling into the motel parking lot. One arm folded under his head, he glanced to the side, towards Sam. His brother’s form was fairly still, a lump under the blankets. The steady rise and fall of Sam’s chest, along with the sound of his breathing let Dean know Sam wasn’t sleeping any more than he was.
“You awake?” Sam’s voice tore at Dean’s heart. It was too soft, too tentative, too uncertain.
“How’s your hand?”
Holding his hand up, turning it over in the dim light Dean let it drop to the bed at his side. “It’s ok Sam. I won’t even know it was cut in a week.”
“Sam,” Dean rolled on his side so he could face his brother. “It’s ok, don’t be sorry.”
“But if it’d been a gun…” Sam’s voice trailed off, choking to a stop.
“It wasn’t. Until we get this worked out we’ll keep all the weapons in the trunk.”
“I took your knife and went for you?”
Sighing heavily, Dean said, “Yeah, Sammy. I told you before what happened.” Wish I’d kept my mouth shut.
“It seemed so real.” Sam sounded more like he was talking to himself than to Dean. “I kept telling myself it couldn’t be you.”
“Did you believe what you said?”
“What? Dean, of course I didn’t believe it was you. It was wrong, you were wrong.”
“Wrong how? Other than the fact I was beating the crap out of you?”
He heard Sam’s soft chuckle. “I don’t know. Something I can’t quite grab, put my finger on. Like it was you, but not you.”
“That’s helpful.” Propping up on one elbow, Dean asked quietly, “Sam, you’ve never had anything like this happen before, have you?”
“You know I haven’t.”
“Even when you were at Stanford?”
“And up until tonight you’ve dreamt of Mike Redding and Joey McCreedy after me, or after you, or both of us.”
“Do you find it odd this happened when we’re just a few miles from the South Dakota state line?”
The rustling of blankets signaled Sam rolling on his side, turning to Dean. “Not a coincidence?”
“No. I don’t think so. Have you seen them again, other than when you’re asleep?
“I wasn’t sure about before, I told you that. And no.”
“Maybe we should pull back Sam, put some distance between us and here, do some investigating first.”
“Investigate what? What do we look for we don’t all ready know?”
“I don’t know. But these have gotten worse the closer we’ve gotten, and up until a half hour ago every time I moved you flinched. Which I don’t mind telling you Sam, is starting to bother me.”
Dean couldn’t see Sam well in the darkened room, but could hear the movement, feel how his brother’s chin dropped.
“I’m not sure I can come back again. This has got to be over Dean, for both of us.”
Dean admitted as much, and Sam was right. Making both of them continue to be haunted, maybe literally, by Redding and McCreedy was only going to make things worse, not better. Dean wasn’t sure if he didn’t do this now he’d be able to come back either. He remembered how he’d inadvertently discovered one of the methods he’d used. A simple thing, that helped them both so much. Returning, just a week later, to the same places Sam had been kidnapped from, taken to and held captive in had done so much for both of them. Going together, knowing what each provided the other was the key, Dean was sure. For Sam he’d faced those places, those events with the knowledge Dean was there, would protect him, keep him safe from further harm. For Dean it was being able to see Sam, feel secure in knowing his brother wouldn’t suddenly be taken from him, vanish without a trace, be harmed further.
“All right Sam. But let’s give it a day, do some searching online, check out a library, see if we can get answers, cut our time there down as much as we can.”
“Yeah, I like that idea.”
Relief flooded through Dean, more tension eased out of his chest and shoulders. They could do this, they could.
“I remembered something else. Valkyrie.”
“She’s right here, sleeping on my bed again.” Dean thought, not for the first time in the last few days, this was odd. Since she’d come to them, Valkyrie usually slept with Sam. Maybe it was his nightly nightmares. They generated not only thrashing, but at least once a night now Sam would be up, moving. A few times the poor dog had gotten bounced right to the floor.
“She snarled at me. In my dream, she was snarling at me.”
That ripped out what was left of Dean’s heart. Sam’s voice, the hurt and confusion nearly crushed him. “She didn’t mean it any more than I did Sam.”
“Maybe it means something, some kind of clue?”
“I don’t know. She has been acting weird the last few days.”
“I thought she was mad at me for waking her up at night.” Sam huffed a small laugh, which made Dean smile.
“That’s probably it.”
When he was abruptly awakened by Sam’s voice, Dean realized he’d dozed off. A glance at the clock told him he’d been asleep no more than a few hours. Rolling on his side, he watched Sam. The kid was restless in his sleep, muttering something Dean couldn’t make out. Dean waited, it would either escalate or Sam would return to normal sleep. Their weapons were securely locked in the trunk, but Dean, not wanting to be beaned with a lamp or something else Sam could grab wouldn’t be approaching him too quickly if Sam’s nightmare got to that point.
Sam jerking upright in bed had Dean swinging his legs over, perched on the edge of his. “Sam.”
Breathing fast and sharp Sam ran one hand through his hair, turned to Dean’s voice. Eyes wide, skin pale with a slight sheen of sweat, limbs trembling, he looked awake.
“Sammy?” Dean rose, slowly, not wanting a repeat of earlier. He took a tentative step toward his brother’s bed.
Scrambling backwards, but holding Dean’s gaze, Sam held out one hand, shook his head. “No.” The word was choked out. “Stay away. Please.”
Stopped, feeling as if he’d been knocked in the head with a sledge hammer Dean watched Sam intently, still not sure if he was awake or not. “Sammy, you with me?”
Wide-eyed, still trembling, Sam nodded immediately.
Dean backed up, feeling numb and dizzy. When the back of his calves hit the edge of his bed he dropped onto it, eyes still fixed on Sam. Eyes still way too wide, Sam looked around the room, then brought his gaze back to Dean. Slowly, very slowly and carefully Dean reached out and turned on the light. They both squinted for a minute, waiting for eyes to adjust. Cold shivers ran through Dean. This was new, totally new. Sam might not have always wanted to talk about his dreams, there had been days Dean had to force the information from the kid. But never, ever had Sam not in some way reached out, looked for reassurance from his older brother. That ran the gamut from a few moments of quiet words, to getting up and watching TV or leaving for a walk or run together, or sometimes finding somewhere open late to eat, have a beer, to Sam collapsed against him, holding on so very tightly while he struggled to stop the tears. Dean often wondered who benefited more, Sam or him.
Not knowing exactly what to do with this reaction, Dean simply sat there, staring at Sam. Finally he spoke, his voice coming out barely more than a whisper. “Sam. It’s ok.”
Sam nodded in quick, jerky movements, fists bunched in the bedding, eyes following Dean’s every move. Now that he was prevented from doing so Dean felt an overwhelming urge to close the space between them, make some contact no matter how small.
“Was it me again?” God help him Dean didn’t want to hear it had been, in the few brief seconds before the answer came Dean did some serious begging to whatever universal force was listening it hadn’t been him again.
A shake of Sam’s head, again quick and sharp.
Dean collapsed back onto his bed with relief.
After a few more minutes he sat back up. Sam hadn’t moved at all other than to flinch away when Dean moved. Rubbing the back of his neck Dean caught Sam’s gaze, held it with his own. “Sammy, what was it?”
“M-me. It was me.”
“I, it was me, and I k-killed…”
Dean cut him off, “Like before, where they forced you to do something?”
“No. They weren’t there, just me. I did it. It was me.” Sam’s voice quivered and trailed off.
Now the reaction made sense. Sighing, Dean stood, ignoring Sam shaking his head and crossed the small distance between the beds. It was more difficult to ignore Sam wincing away from his hand when Dean’s fingers curled around Sam’s shoulder. “Sam.” He clamped down harder, keeping Sam in place. “Sam. It’s ok. It was just a dream.” Dean lowered to the bed beside his brother. “You wouldn’t really do those things, Sam, it’s ok.”
“I don’t remember much, just it was me. But it didn’t seem like me.”
Squeezing Sam’s shoulder Dean gave him a gentle shake. “Come on, get dressed, let’s get out for a bit, take the princess over there for a walk.”
Sam nodded, pulling on his clothes. Once ready himself, Dean snapped on Valkyrie’s harness, she was delighted, and it seemed, ready for a walk no matter the hour. It scared him some, how complacent Sam all of a sudden had become, following along without question. Dean tucked his pistol in his jeans waistband, he’d lock it back in the trunk when they were back. However, wandering unfamiliar streets in the middle of the night unarmed wasn’t too bright. They walked in relative silence for a mile or so. Valkyrie pranced along, tail wagging, quite happy. They stopped so she could sniff along a row of trees. Stealing a glance at his brother Dean thought Sam looked a bit more relaxed. The pinched look had left, his posture was normal. Sam suddenly grabbing his arm, jerking him around startled Dean.
“Sammy, what the…?”
Rolling his eyes Dean nodded, “Yeah.”
“How’d I get out here? What are we doing out here?” Sam looked around, expression plenty confused. He quickly stepped closer to Dean, close enough their arms and shoulders brushed.
It’s a fact of life If you make one wrong move With a gun to your head You’d better walk the line Or you’ll be left for dead….”Alive” by Meat Loaf
“This is insane Sam.”
“I don’t remember, Dean, God, please believe me. I don’t remember what it was about. I don’t remember anything after we were talking about your hand, and I was upset thinking if the knife had been a gun. I dropped off to sleep, and when I woke up I knew I’d had a dream, nightmare, vision, something and it was me, I killed you, I killed a lot of people, kids. But that’s all I remember.” Sam’s voice rose then cracked, the last few words stuttered out. “Then I was walking with you, and I didn’t know how I got there or when or anything.”
“You haven’t a vision, a real vision in months!” Dean barked.
Throwing both hands in the air Sam stood, stepping away from the bed he’d been sitting on. “I don’t know what it was.” He immediately sank back down; head held in both hands, “I don’t know.”
Dean collected himself with a few deep breaths, shoulders sagging somewhat he rolled them back and forth a few times, massaged the nape of his neck and counted to about eighty before straightening. He was tired, he was cranky, not to mention confused and if one pressed the issue, scared for Sam, for himself, scared for them both. Yelling at Sam wasn’t going to help the kid remember, and if the look Sam wore told him anything it was that Sam wasn’t thinking any better than Dean was at this point.
“You said it was you this time. You’d killed a bunch of people, kids, you said you killed a bunch of kids. I don’t know if you meant just kids or kids and other people. The way you looked, acted, it was like when you have visions.” Sam was wide-eyed, pale. Dean wished he’d kept his mouth shut about it. “Sam, your visions, if it was a vision, don’t always happen the way you see them. Events have changed.”
“I know.” Sam stared at the spot of floor between his feet.
Someday Dean might actually learn to keep his mouth shut. Problem was Sam always found these little, annoying details out anyway. “I need some sleep, and so do you.” Dean grumbled.
“I don’t want to sleep, again, ever again.”
Glancing down at the floor, Dean smiled, huffed a quick laugh, shook his head and crossed the room. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. Me either, but I don’t think that will actually happen, or be too good.” He pushed against Sam’s shoulder, making him lay down, sitting on the edge of the bed next to him. “We’ll take turns. You can’t do a lot of research if you can’t keep your eyes open. So you go first, take a nap, then I’ll take one.” He pulled the blankets over Sam’s shoulders.
“Will you really?”
Shrugging in agreement, “Sam, hell yes. I’m beat. I am. By the time you wake up I doubt anything will keep me from sleeping. I’ll get started, see what I can find online. After we’ve both had some rest,” A quick glance at his watch, “It’s only five A.M. now, by the time we’ve both had some sleep it’ll still be early enough to hit the library. We’ll go together. In the meantime we’ll just stay here, dig up what we can on the computer. Sound good?”
“Yeah. It does.” Sam nodded, his eyelids sliding lazily shut and open again, eyes slipping into and out of focus. Dean could tell Sam was trying to stay focused on his face to stay awake. When he yawned Dean smiled and rubbed his shoulder a few times.
“Go to sleep Sammy. I’ll be here.” Dean’s fingertips brush a few wisps of Sam’s hair away from his face.
Nodding, sighing Sam’s lids slipped shut again, staying shut. He grumbled something Dean couldn’t exactly make out.
“I’ll be here Sam.” He slowly stood, careful not to rock the bed, pull Sam back awake. Silently Dean crossed the room, settled at the table, booted up their laptop.
Another sleepy nod, Sam was more asleep than awake, Dean could tell even from across the room. He watched Sam while he waited for the computer to load. Sam looked far too much like the small boy Dean would tuck into bed at night, far too much like the small boy who’d sleep wedged against Dean’s side in the back of the Impala. No matter how old or big Sam got, it seemed he looked forever six when he slept. Turning back to the computer, Dean shook off the memories, tucking them back where they belonged, putting them away for safe keeping.
An hour older, and not really much wiser, Dean stood and stretched, twisted side to side smiling when his spine popped and cracked. He’d found a little, but not much. A glance in Sam’s direction assured him his brother was still deeply sleeping. For the first time in enough days Dean lost count Valkyrie was snoozing alongside Sam. His movements woke her, drew her attention. Rolling on her back she stretched fully, wagging her tail in lazy waves side to side. Dean smiled and laughed softly, crossing to Sam’s bed, offering the dog a quick tummy rub. What was it about this animal, he wondered, that had two grown men so completely enamored they knew what she said even though she couldn’t speak words?
Valkyrie rolled to her feet and hopped off the bed with practiced stealth. Sam never so much as hitched a breath because of her movements. It was as if she understood what they needed. She padded across the room, sitting in front of the door, glancing from it to Dean and back again, tail wagging, ears alert, eyes bright and happy.
Well, at least the dog was always happy.
“What’s up chicky? Need a little walk? I could use some air too.” The bushy tail wagged with more vigor. Dean grabbed her harness, snapping it on, leash hooked to the ring under her breastbone. He smiled at the dog’s ensemble. Actually she had three grown men wrapped around her freckled paws. Bobby had sent them the harness, some special thing, with a matching leash no less. He told them he’d picked the color, a deep jade green with pink roses, because he thought it would go well with her light red and white fur. “Gotta be quiet though, so we don’t wake up Sammy, ok?”
In response Valkyrie sat up, eyes again settling on the door. Snagging the room keys on his way out, along with his jacket, Dean and Valkyrie slipped soundlessly out the door. They headed to the small grassy area behind the motel. It was fenced off for people to walk their dogs in. Once he’d started looking Dean was amazed how many places were happy to take pets. It was the place few and far between that didn’t allow them their dog. But one look at Valkyrie and her soulful expression, and Sam and his, especially when Sam scooped Valkyrie up, holding her in his arms, both of them wearing the same look, it was a deadly combination. Yeah, Dean realized no mortal (or probably immortal) could deny them anything, him being on the top of that list.
They made a few stops along the way, to sniff a tree, or plant, Valkyrie, not Dean. The sun was creeping over the horizon, brightening the world from the grays of night to vibrant colors of day. It was early spring, and the day promised to be nice later, sunny and pleasantly warm. Right now there was still the chill of night, the temperatures dipped to near freezing after the sun set each evening. Dean flipped his jacket collar up, and pulled it closed against the early dawn damp and coolness. The air smelled sweet. The sheer trauma of the previous night’s events began receding as sunlight increased. Arching his back, Dean flexed and relaxed the muscles of his thighs moved his head around to give his neck a good stretch.
Once in the fenced pet area, Dean unleashed Valkyrie, smiling, he watched her bounce around the small enclosure, chasing some imaginary bug and sniffing everything she could. After a few minutes she did what she needed and pranced back to him. Someone passing by caught her attention, causing the hair along her neck and upper back to puff up, standing stock still she blew a few surprisingly deep woofs (considering her size) out her long snout making her lips billow out.
Dean laughed outright, reached down and patted her side. “Stand down killer. You’re only thirty-five pounds.” She turned her attention immediately to him, tail wagging, and he swore she smiled with her eyes more than most people could with their faces.
Feeling much better by the time he ducked back into their motel room Dean’s stomach dropped and he had a moment of vertigo when he realized Sam’s bed was empty. Sounds of running water from the bathroom drew his eyes there in time to see the door open, Sam step out. Ever since the kidnap, Dean noticed part of the aftermath was Sam had the uncanny ability to wake up if Dean wasn’t where Sam thought he should be. If Dean left the room, or when they were at Bobby’s left the house he’d predictably return to find Sam awake. At first Sam would be looking for him, concern and panic something had happened to Dean written all over his face, in his eyes. Now, six months down the road, Sam would still wake up if left alone, but the fear was not as often present. It was another of the subtle changes in his brother that made Dean wonder; would Sam ever be the same again?
“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“Na, don’t be sorry, it’s ok.” Sam gave him a mild look and a kind smile. He didn’t deny this new quirk of his, but thankfully he’d gotten it under control, this time he simply appeared curious.
“The princess here needed a stroll.” Dean smiled back, taking off Valkyrie’s harness. “Go on back to sleep, I’ll be here.” How many times had he repeated that, told Sam he’d be here? Dean had no idea, but it worked, saying the words aloud, letting Sam know by doing so he was aware of the emotions boiling through his brother, acknowledging it was an issue and accepting it was a necessity. He said them as much for himself as for Sam. They both needed reassurances, some days more than others, that each was there, would continue to be there. It was another of the weapons in Dean’s psychological repair arsenal.
Sam shrugged, “I think I had just enough sleep to not be able to get more for a while. You go ahead, you’re swaying, and I think you look worse than I feel.”
“Ok.” Dean agreed, yawning, grateful actually he could lie down and get some rest. “If I’m not up by checkout time, wake me up, we’ll get something to eat, and find a library.”
“It’s a plan.”
Untying his boots, toeing them off, Dean shed his clothes down to t-shirt and boxers. It felt good to stretch out on the bed. The place wasn’t exactly up to date on its motif, and the mattress had a dip in the middle, but the sheets and blankets were clean and smelled fresh, like they’d been hung outside. He didn’t even fight closing his eyes, letting his mind drift and wander as sleep floated over him closer and closer.
Feeling the bed rocking beneath him, it was an odd sensation, as if he was in something moving, but he was on his bed. Why was it rocking, moving? Sam must be playing with the dog. He could picture her jumping from bed to bed, a game they often played. Rage filled him, more so than he thought capable of feeling toward Sam or the dog. The ungrateful little bastard, after all Dean did to take care of him, to make sure he got peace and quiet to sleep. All the nights Dean had been wrenched, sometimes violently, from his own slumber by Sam and his stupid, freaky nightmares, and this is how he’s repaid?
The rocking motion increased, setting his stomach ablaze, contents roiling around dangerously. Damn, he was just going to smack that boy unconscious. Cracking open an eye, it was dark, when did it get dark? The stupid kid, he’d told Sam specifically to wake him before check out, usually around noon. Noon certainly wasn’t supposed to be dark, they weren’t in Alaska. Pushing off the bed and onto his feet, the room was rocking ever so slightly, making him stagger slightly when he walked.
This was wrong, where was Sam, Valkyrie? Why did Sam leave him in the dark, and why the hell was the stupid room moving?
Out of habit, his hand went to his back, searching out the gun kept in his waistband when he carried it. Where’d the gun come from? He stalked across the room, anger, hate, vile base emotions growing in him like some kind of infestation. When he found Sam, didn’t realize the room was so freaking big, he was bubbling over with a fury and resentment as he’d never known. The room rocked more, lights flashed from the outside, flickered in his eyes, adding to his general annoyance level.
Grabbing Sam around the neck, forcing him back until stopped by a wall he ignored the struggles and protests from his brother. He was tired of it, taking care of the brat, putting up with his holier than thou selfish attitude. Sick to death of his whining about turning evil and Dean needing to kill him. Dean decided right then and there, to hell with it, just do it and be done.
His hand didn’t even seem to belong to him, he watched, fascinated as the gun raised, barrel pressed firmly against Sam’s forehead. Dean ignored Sam’s pleas, the hurt look, teary eyes. Dean snarled at him.
He pulled the trigger.
Blood and warmth, something sticky and solid, don’t even want to know what that is, hit Dean’s face. Sam’s weight dropped against Dean’s hand. Holding him up seemed pointless and a waste of time and energy, so Dean let go. Sam crumpled to the ground.
His breath caught, the world closed in on him, black and red wisped in from the periphery of his vision. Moving his hand across his face, smearing around bone shards, blood, brain matter. Sam’s. What had he done? What the hell had he just done?
“Oh my God, Sam!”
Bolting upright, Dean caught a glimpse of it, looking like Sam, sitting at the table, elbow resting on it, forehead against one hand, reading. He looked over at Dean, startled. “Are you—“ It jumped, and the can of pop next to Sam’s computer was sent flying to the floor by its arm.
Up and moving immediately at the thing that only seconds before forced him to kill Sam, Dean didn’t stop to think or sort it out, he was twice as enraged it just sat there, looking like Sam. In a split second he had it up, backed up against the wall, forearm pressed against its neck. He’d kill it. But first it would suffer, suffer as much as Dean could make it suffer for Sam’s death. No quick, painless death for this thing, it would be slow and torturous.
“Dean!” It tried tricking him, making him think it was Sam, sounding like Sam, looking like Sam. Shouting wordlessly Dean pressed his arm against its throat, other fist coming up. He’d slam it so hard its face would split.
“Dean!” It sounded scared, and oddly not evil.
Hesitation could be his downfall, but there was something, something wrong….something…Dean froze, held his breath, then let it out in big ragged gasps. The thing held in his grip trembled, eyes wide--Sam’s eyes—spoke with a shaky voice, sounding very much like Sam. Sam’s voice.
“Dean?” Sam’s voice was little more than an exhale. His head turned to one side, plainly waiting on the blow about to be delivered.
Dean gulped in another breath, shoved Sam away from him and backed up. Now he fully understood Sam’s reaction the night before, not wanting Dean near him after his nightmare. Sam took a step forward, visibly flinched when Dean snapped a harsh, “Don’t.”
Holding both hands out, palms up, they were empty, Dean stared at them briefly.
“Dean, please.” Sam didn’t move, his voice was more its normal pitch.
Looking around…shot Sam, shot my own brother, backed him to a wall and shot him in the head…hesitantly, with the tips of just his first two fingers Dean felt his own forehead, his cheeks. His other hand still held out, he fought to keep his voice even. “Stay there Sammy, just don’t move for a minute.”
“What happened, what was it?”
“Not right now Sam, just not…”
“No!” Sam shouted, making Dean look up quickly. “You don’t get to do that. You make me tell you every little detail, and I do, I follow the rules, so you have to too. I was the one taken, but it happened to both of us. And you don’t get to hide behind walls, or keep me out, or bury it all behind some smartass façade.” He stopped, chest heaving, choking over his words. “It happened to us both. Redding might have been a psycho, but he was a cop for a long time and saw all sorts of this stuff, and he was right when he said we were both victims. So was Forge. It happened to us both.” He’d stayed where Dean asked him to, but Sam was shaking with anger.
Dean nodded, swallowed, sat on the bed and took a deep breath. “I can still feel the gun in my hand. Feel me holding your neck, your blood splattering on my face. Hear the gunshot.” He looked up at Sam. “It was so real. I could see it, smell it, feel it, all of it. I—I j-just, I had my pistol, and I…”
“Backed me up against a wall, put the gun to my head and shot me?” Somehow it didn’t sound any better coming from Sam.
“Yeah. Then I woke up, thinking you were something else, the thing that made me kill you.”
Sam apparently wasn’t any better at staying away from Dean than Dean was from Sam. He crossed the room and even as Dean shook his head, tried to hold one arm out in protest, Sam was sitting on the bed next to him, watching him with too wide eyes. Sam reached over, his fingertips brushing Dean’s shoulder before his hand slid down to rest beside Dean’s leg. Dean sat there, concentrating on breathing, pulling air into and pushing it out of his lungs, it seemed all he could do at the moment.
“How do you defeat an enemy Sammy?” Dean didn’t wait for an answer. “Divide and conquer. Cut them apart, don’t let them rely on established methods, break them by attacking their weaknesses.”
“What enemy Dean? Who are we fighting? We don’t even know.”
“We have an idea Sam. Your dreams started with Redding and McCreedy, we start with them. Things get worse the closer we get to where they lived.”
“Dean maybe this has nothing to do with them, maybe it’s all in my head, like Forge said. Maybe you’re just freaked because I vanished, it’s not like it was the only time. Hell, it freaks me out too.”
“Of course it freaks me out Sam! It scares the hell out of me. But you and I having the same sort of dreams, kiddo, we’re close but we sure as hell don’t share the same brain or subconscious. We don’t have the same ID.”
“ID? Did you just say ID?”
“Yeah, so? It’s part of your subconscious….”
‘I know what it is Dean.”
“Then you know unless you’ve developed some more psychic powers and can make me dream stuff that you dream, I’m thinking this is coming from somewhere, and right now Redding and McCreedy are the best lead we have.”
“We stick to our plan?”
Dean nodded slowly, “We stick to our plan until we need a new one.”
“The stuff we dug up on their house, interesting, don’t you think?” Dean gave Sam another sidelong glance.
“Yeah. It is.” Sam met his brother’s eyes for the briefest second then looked back at the pile of papers and books. They drove, in relative silence, back from the library. They’d found a surprising amount of information about Redding, and McCreedy as well as the property their home had been on. He and Dean had gone to the library together, ended up spending more hours there than originally planned. But it had been a good day, with good results. He could tell by the expression Dean wore his brother was more relaxed, and that was a good thing as far as Sam was concerned. He was still getting the looks every few miles, but it was ok, he actually never minded those. Sam hadn’t missed Dean’s attempts at conversation, and he felt a bit bad not talking much. There were a few questions he had about when he was kidnapped, questions only Dean could answer, and he didn’t want to upset his brother’s better mood.
There were things he needed to know, and things they needed to face. Sam simply didn’t know where to start exactly. He decided starting with the first thing on his mind might be the best way to dive in.
“Why me?” Turning to face Dean, Sam folded closed the file folder he’d been reading from.
Dean drew a deep breath, eyes swinging to him, then back to the road, obviously wanting to choose his words carefully. “I’ve been asking myself that ever since I walked out into the parking lot and you were gone.” He shook his head a bit. “I don’t know why you, I’ve got a few ideas, but I don’t know for sure. I did find out while I was looking that all the kids taken, you included, had at some point met him, he targeted them partly in video stores. I’m pretty sure he was in the junk yard at least one time before he took you. I noticed a general physical similarity in all the victims. Dark hair, darker eyes. They all, well except for you, they all seemed to be on their own, no one to notice right away they were missing.”
Sam stared at his hands. The tone his brother used, it made his heart wrench, his chest squeeze. Dean was a good investigator, and good with patterns, he’d immediately pick up on what they all had in common. Sam could hear in Dean’s voice how deeply troubled he was by it still.
“He picked a certain age group, your age group for a reason. They were all old enough to be out on their own, not uncommon to spend several days out of contact with family and friends. Young enough to provide a satisfactory emotional response, he probably thought they’d all be more easily intimidated.”
Dean’s face was impassive, but his voice laced with pain, now took on a far away quality as if Dean had been over this hundreds of times. Sam realized he probably had. Intimidated? Sam had been intimidated all right. He’d been blatantly scared to the point he still felt it. Despite years of hunting Sam could honestly admit nothing had ever frightened him so deeply and profoundly or with such lasting affects as the McCreedy’s.
Leaning his head back against the seat Sam wondered when Dean had turned the heat up. He glanced at the dash, the controls, thinking as his mind wandered nothing had been moved. A thought, another piece to the puzzle dropped into his head, slipping away just as quickly. That annoyed him, his ability to concentrate taking flight when he least expected it, most needed it. Was it that simple, dark hair and darker eyes? He fit an age group, liked video games? He didn’t think he was very easily intimidated, but honestly maybe that pertained more so to things they hunted, not people. Sometimes he envied Dean, able to fit in with all sorts of people. To Sam most people were a mystery. He could extract information all right, but the ability to really connect, be part of something…that often eluded Sam. Dean frequently said Sam trusted strangers too much, believed they were harmless too much. In reality Sam felt uncomfortable around most people, didn’t like large groups at all and honestly only felt at ease if Dean were around, with him. The only time he truly felt himself, not someone who had to put on some act, was when he was with his brother.
“Can’t you stay awake for ten freaking minutes?” Dean snapped.
“Oh, right, I’m sorry, freak-boy needs to rest. Must be tiring having to carry that freaky brain around all the time.”
“Shut up!” Dean’s hand shot out, grabbing Sam’s jacket collar, shaking him. “Shut the hell up! I’m so sick of your whining, sniveling bitching about….crap I don’t even listen to most of it. You’re nothing but an annoying freak!”
“What did I…”
“Can’t you ever do anything right? I said shut your freaky mouth.”
Sam blinked. He couldn’t be hearing correctly, this had to be in his head. Not Dean, not Dean, wrong, he’s wrong, Dean wouldn’t say that, not Dean. The words cut through him like a white hot poker.
“Know what, Sammy-boy? I’ve had it, really had it this time.” Without warning Dean reached across Sam’s chest causing him to wrench away in spite of trying not to. Dean fumbled with the door handle.
“Dean, what are you doing?” Sam managed to stutter out. He grabbed at Dean’s hand, the car swerved wildly, tires screeching, horns blasting from irritated drivers assaulted his ears. “Deeeeeaaann!” He couldn’t help shouting, turning to screaming when he was shoved out into oncoming traffic. Fumbling with the door, trying to grab it, haul himself back in Sam lost his grip and spilled out of the car, hitting the road hard he rolled a few feet.
More squealing tires, gravel flew in all directions, some hitting Sam’s head. The movement of air from cars, trucks, whatever was on the road whipped his hair, caused him to shiver from the rapid change of temperature. The next thing he knew Dean was hauling him to his feet by his jacket. In one quick movement Dean shifted his hands, grasping Sam under his arms, pulling him along somewhere.
Struggling against Dean’s iron grip Sam’s arms and legs refused to work properly, he just tangled his legs together, stumbling he would have fallen had Dean not been holding him. Wrenching away from Dean, Sam sprinted away from the car…not Dean, not happening again, not Dean, not Dean…getting about two steps before he was grabbed from behind, yanked back with enough force he landed on the ground. Hearing cars whizzing by, squealing tires again, more gravel flung from somewhere.
Hauled up and wheeled around with such speed and force Sam’s head spun Dean pinned him to the side of the Impala, one arm across his chest.
Sam was pulled forward, in the next second his back was shoved, not very gently, against the car again. Dean shook him. Latching onto Dean’s forearms, Sam ventured a look around, screwed up his courage to look at Dean’s face, his eyes. Dean looked….just how did he look? Shaken? No beyond that—scared, terrified.
“Sammy!” The sheer rawness, uncovered emotion from Dean sent shivers coursing up and down Sam’s spine. Dean held him fast, pinning him tightly to the side of the car by using his entire body. Sam felt how his brother’s arms trembled with the effort. He wondered why the rest of Dean was trembling too.
Sam looked around again, not making any effort to extract himself from Dean’s grip. He was shaking more than Dean was. “What happened?” Gaze shifting to meet his brother’s he barely managed, “Dean?” Gulping air in. “You shoved me out of the car.”
Taking a few deep breaths he felt Dean relax, but not loosen his grip on Sam any. “Shoved you? Sam, you opened the car door for no reason and got out. I was in the middle of the road, and nearly ran you over trying to get off the road.” Reaching around Sam, freezing for a few beats when Sam flinched, Dean moved his hand slowly to the car door. Opening it, he shoved Sam inside, kneeling in front of him. Hands still firmly gripping Sam’s arms Dean searched his face with desperate eyes. “With me Sammy? You ok?”
Nodding, Sam tried swallowing, but his mouth was too dry. “Can we go back to the motel? Please, now?”
“Sure thing, as long as you can manage to stay in the car.” Dean smiled a bit, reached up and gently rubbed the back of Sam’s head.
They returned to their room in silence. Once inside however Dean wasted no time in wanting answers. “What happened Sammy? What was it? Me again?”
Sam hated the look on Dean’s face, the quality of his voice. He hurt, Dean hurt, deep down and it was Sam’s fault. Not that he was doing anything on purpose, but he was the cause of Dean’s pain. He was always the cause of Dean’s pain. “Do you think I’m some kind of freak?” He couldn’t look at his brother’s face when he asked. Of course Dean didn’t, not really. The odd way Dean inhaled told Sam how much that question shocked him, disturbed him.
“Sam. No. Of course not. I mean, I’ve said it before I know, but as a joke. No Sam.”
“You, in my head, you called me a freak, then opened the car door and shoved me out.” He tried to meet Dean’s eyes, but couldn’t. “You were wrong, I could tell, but it seemed real, so real. I couldn’t tell I wasn’t awake, I don’t even remember feeling drowsy. I wasn’t even tired.” He wiped tears pooling in his vision away.
Dean heaved a heavy sigh and dropped into a chair. “Earlier, when I woke up and grabbed you, for a second, just a flash, when I first work up you were wrong too. It was like there was something else, something that made me kill you. I can’t even remember what it looked like, or anything about it. Wrong like that, was I wrong like that?”
“I don’t know.” Sam sat in the chair opposite Dean. “What’s happening to us Dean?”
“Another thing we don’t know. But I do know one thing, we’d better figure this out fast or we’ll kill one another.” Dean wiped a tired hand over his face, reached across the table and laid one hand on Sam’s arm until Sam could finally look his brother in the eye. “We’ll beat it Sam, we will. We have to.”
Dean dropped the book he held onto the bed, flopped down with a loud huff and pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers. “Find anything else online?” He asked without opening his eyes or moving at all. Valkyrie opened one eye, gave him an annoyed look before settling back to her nap in the middle of Dean’s bed.
“No.” Sam shook his head, not that Dean would see it, because he now had a pillow over his face. “You ok?”
The pillow inched away from Dean’s mouth. “Just ducky Sam. In the past two days I’ve beaten you up, called you a freak, tried to kill you, oh wait did kill you, and threw you out of a car. I’m just damn friggin’ ducky.” Dean lifted the pillow and threw it viciously across the room, his voice caustic.
“It was in my head, it wasn’t you.”
“Yeah, Sam, I know it wasn’t me, but it was me who tried to pound your face off because I thought you were something that made me kill you. Oh and lets not overlook the fact you jump every time I move too fast, even though it wasn’t me who tried to strangle you among other things.” Now Dean was sounding sarcastic. “And I kicked the dog.”
“It wasn’t….” Sam’s voice dropped off with a heavy sigh. He could say it all he wanted, but he doubted Dean would feel much better. The fact was Dean didn’t deserve this, not at all. Dean didn’t hurt things. He helped people, made their world safe. He was a good person who never wanted to see anything hurt. The things they hunted were killed quickly, Dean never tried to hurt them, or make them suffer. The sheer pain in Dean’s voice was worse than any injury Sam had ever received, far worse, slicing through him, a hot, white pain.
Swinging up, dropping his legs over the side of the bed, his feet to the floor Dean looked at Sam, really looked him in the eye for the first time in nearly a day. “Define wrong Sammy.”
Sam shook his head slightly, hands out in a questioning motion.
“You keep telling me I was wrong, you told yourself over and over it wasn’t me, you knew pretty quick it wasn’t me, or at least suspected as much, right?”
“Yeah.” Another slight nod. Sam took a swig from a bottle of sweet tea wondering if tea was really grown in Arizona.
“So, besides the fact I keep hitting you; tell me how I was wrong?”
Closing his laptop, Sam’s hand rested on it. “I’m not sure, like I said before nothing I can put my finger on exactly.”
“Well Sam maybe you could try!” Dean barked.
Sam struggled to keep himself still, not flinch or jerk away. Dean was watching him like a hawk for any wrong move. His brother lashing out like this spoke volumes to Sam as to how lost, out of control and just plain scared Dean was feeling. Still the fact every twitch of Sam’s skin was being scrutinized and analyzed for the cause was unnerving at best. The real Dean was getting desperate and frightening in a way Sam hadn’t felt or seen in a very long time. He’d gotten his brother back, barely, after their father’s death and now Sam felt as if it was that time all over again, and he’d lose Dean forever this time. Sam was determined it wouldn’t happen now anymore than it did then. Determination didn’t keep Sam from being afraid for his brother, however.
“Some were very obvious, like you hitting me, shoving me out of the car. But before that it was like I was watching someone pretend to be you. The movements weren’t quite right, even how you breathed was off, your expressions, your voice. I can’t say for certain how. The first time when you looked at me, that was real obvious.”
Looking down, Sam was hoping Dean would take what he’d said and leave it at that. He should have known better. “Dean, you don’t…it’s not impor—“
“Sammy.” Dean’s voice was calm, even, his tone tender. It was the tone Sam knew well from experience that Dean wasn’t going to let this drop and wasn’t going to give up until he had answers.
“You were angry, angry with me but not in an everyday way. Angry that I even existed. You hated me. Your eyes had nothing but anger and hate.” Not able to look at his brother, Sam stared at the floor, picked at the label on his bottle of tea. “You hated me.” Saying it out loud made it worse, made him feel worse than just knowing it happened in some bizarre dream.
“Sam,” Dean used that tender tone again, “Sam, look at me.”
He could feel Dean’s eyes on him, hear him keep his breathing even, knew he was waiting for Sam to look up. Another soft “Sam” prompted him to meet his brother’s eyes.
“You know I don’t hate you, I never hated you, and I never could. Something is doing this, messing with our heads. There’s no truth in the feelings from those nightmares, dreams, whatever they are. So don’t worry about how I look when it’s not me.”
That, right there, Dean had hit it, and Sam didn’t even realize thinking Dean might hate him was what had been bothering him, deep down for the last few days. He dipped his chin, a tight nod. “Sammy-boy, in my dreams you called me Sammy-boy.” He didn’t add it made his name sound like something evil, despised.
Dean’s head dropped, his hands hung between his knees. “You’ve been having nightmares about something happening to me, sometimes things you are forced to do, since we left South Dakota after…after you were taken. Then all of a sudden they change to these dreams or whatever they are since we’ve been heading back to South Dakota, and now we’re both having them. Or some variation on them. Samm….Sam, are you sure they’ve been just nightmares all this time?” It was the first time Dean put into spoken words what happened to Sam during their last stay at Bobby’s.
Sam felt as if some weight had been crushed into his chest and back, he turned away, not able to stop tears from welling in his eyes. He wiped them away, now Dean was afraid to call him ‘Sammy’? “Dean,” he said quietly, “you don’t have to stop calling me Sammy.”
“Are you sure about the dreams Sam?”
“What about when you saw them?”
“I’m not sure about that either. I woke up, and thought I saw them in our room. It was a glimpse, a flash, just for a second. I might not even have been really awake.”
Dean hissed out another sigh, rubbed the back of his neck.
“I’m sorry.” Sam couldn’t help choking on the words.
Dean’s gaze popped up at him, “For what Sammy?”
“This is my fault, if I’d not been such a selfish brat, stayed in the store with you, or—“ He stopped when Dean stood faster than Sam thought really possible, covered the distance to the door in seconds, flung it wide and stalked out. Hearing the trunk to the Impala open, then slam shut, Sam was powerless to stop from jumping when Dean stomped back into the room, door kicked shut behind him. Waking instantly, head up, ears alert, Valkyrie gave up Dean’s bed for the arm chair in the corner, taking one of her bones with her she curled in the chair, chewing away happily, one eye kept on the brothers.
Sam’s eyes fell on an envelope Dean held, his knuckles white. Ripping it open, pulling out the contents he shook them in Sam’s face. “Look at these!” Dean demanded, shouting, he was shaking. “Look at them Sam!”
Taking the pictures from Dean’s hand, Sam held them. He didn’t need to look through them again. He’d seen them plenty.
“You damn near passed out the first time you saw those. Sammy, listen to me,” Dean’s voice wasn’t as harsh, or loud, “He followed you, us. He stalked you. Planned his moves and we had no clue. None. There wasn’t a damn thing you could have done differently that would change it. He would have eventually gotten to you. Those pictures, those right there are proof.” Dean took a few deep breaths, pulled the pictures from Sam’s hands, put them back in the envelope and tossed it on top of his duffel. “It wouldn’t have mattered Sam. If he didn’t get you that day, he would have the day after. It wasn’t your fault. None of it was your fault. Will you please get that through that hard head of yours?”
Sam could only sit there, sort of numb, looking up at his brother. “You honestly believe that?” And how didn’t that just rock Sam to his foundation. The brother who from Sam’s earliest memory told him he’d protect Sam always, it might even be Sam’s earliest memory, was telling him there were times he couldn’t? Sam always knew it was truth, but he’d never heard Dean say it, even hint at it.
“That he would’ve eventually grabbed you? Yes. Neither of us had a clue, we weren’t looking out for someone, taking any kind of precautions. It was stupid, but scum like that isn’t exactly what we normally guard against. We didn’t have a chance that time Sammy, we just didn’t. It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t my fault, it was just real bad luck.”
Chuckling low and soft, Sam felt something in him untie and drop away. All this time Dean never blamed him, and Sam never thought to ask, he’d just gone on feeing guilty for his kidnap, being responsible for all Dean had been put through.
“That’s really how you feel?” Sam couldn’t help sounding like a little kid being offered a day at the fair.
Dean’s hand dropped to Sam’s shoulder, rested there warm, strong, reassuring. “Yes. I do. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and have been paying for it and dealing with it ever since. We Sammy, not you, not me, we. At this point I’m honestly just happy you got out alive.”
“You got me out.” Sam corrected immediately. ‘Sammy’ he was ‘Sammy’ again, never realizing until a few minutes ago how much he loved being ‘Sammy’ and how much he missed it when he wasn’t.
Dean actually felt queasy when they crossed the state line into South Dakota. He glanced sideways at Sam. He was leaning his head on the back of the seat, staring at the car ceiling looking drawn and tired. Even the dog looked a bit peaked.
“You ok Sammy?” He glanced up too, “There naked women up there?”
“Hnnn….wish…headache, think it’s my sinuses. A bit nauseous too.” He rolled down the window, “It’s hot in here. Can we turn the heat off?”
Looking away from the road long enough to lay his palm on Sam’s forehead for a few seconds before shifting to his cheeks Dean was pleased there was no heat from his brother’s skin, no flush to his features. Sam rolled his head to one side, looking over at Dean. “Heat’s not on. No fever.”
“I could have told you I didn’t have a fever.”
“Yeah, well you know I’d want to check for myself.” Dean squirmed and arched his back, stretching as much as he could in the car seat. “It’s a nice day, there was a lake, picnic tables a few miles back. You hungry?”
“You want to go fishing?” Sam pulled his head up, blinked lazily at Dean.
“No. I thought we could find a store, snag some burgers and dogs, take a few hour breather and cook out.” He reached over and rubbed Valkyrie’s ears. “The princess needs to stretch her legs.”
Sam blew a soft laugh, “What did we use for an excuse before her?”
“Umm…you bitched a lot.”
Sam waved one hand vaguely in Dean’s direction, “Screw you.” He said without force or malice, and resumed studying the top of the car.
They found a small country store, Dean heard Sam’s door creak open, felt the car shift as his brother swung his legs out. “Try to take a nap, I’ll get the food.” Dean offered.
Looking back over his shoulder Sam flashed him a quick smile, complete with dimples and white teeth. “No way dude. I’m never waiting outside while you go into a grocery store again.”
Dean laughed at that, giving Valkyrie a quick pat, “Watch the car chicky.” He stood next to the car, waiting for Sam to catch up. Making a quick sweep of the small, but well stocked store, not only did they find plenty of food to grill, there were ample amounts of M&M’s, homemade pie slices as well as corn, beer, snacks and pop.
The sun was not quite at zenith when they finished their meal. Sam stretched on one of the tables near the lake, legs slightly bent. Dean sat on the shore, tossing stones in the water. Valkyrie sprawled in the grass beside him. Shedding his jacket, using it for a pillow Dean leaned back, the sun was warming him.
“Ya know Sam, the history of the house, the property sure explains why they were as wacko as they were.”
“Uh huh.” Sam rolled onto his stomach, chin propped on his arms folded in front of him, ankles crossed his heels bumped the backs of his thighs. “There were at least three others who lived in the house before them that had homicidal tendencies. I couldn’t figure out if they were related at all though. I didn’t find a reason why Redding used a different last name. It was his mother’s maiden name.”
“The house burned pretty thoroughly, but when we went back before there were still things around. If it was just bulldozed there could be lots of things for a spirit to use to stay here.” Dean scratched his nose, yawned, it was really warming up for such an early spring day. “Might explain why the same things happened generation to generation, something buried, new house built on top.”
Sam groaned. “Am I sensing digging in my future?”
“Not likely Sam,” Dean yawned again, and eyed Valkyrie curiously when she rolled over and slunk away from him, ears down, to settle near the car. “Not unless we can score a back hoe. Maybe Redding used that name so he wasn’t linked immediately with the evil twins.”
Whatever Sam was saying was lost as he drifted off under the warm, spring sun. Wrenched too suddenly from his nap by screaming, and barking. Sam! Sammy! Sam was screaming, screaming? Not shouting, not yelling, screaming for him. Screaming like he was being eviscerated, screaming Dean’s name. Struggling against something, he couldn’t sit up, his legs and arms sluggish, moving as if something pulled against them. Hazy vision confused him. Turning his head in the direction of Sam’s voice screaming Dean was more confused why his neck worked just fine and his limbs felt like they had weights on them. His body felt weightless and weighted down at the same time, and cooler than he thought it should be considering how warm he’d just been.
Panic coiled in his chest, rolling around Sam finally came into sight. The panic unraveled, winding and twisting a path through his entire body, wrapping around his brain and pressing in. Finally catching sight of Sam undid any hold he had on rationality and sent him diving straight into complete mind-numbing horror. Tied to a tall, heavy wooden pole near the picnic table…where the hell did that come from?...Bound securely, hands behind him, neck cinched so tightly Dean saw the skin beneath the ropes chafe when Sam tried moving his head to look at him. More importantly how the hell did Sam get like that? Why doesn’t anything move!
Sam thrashed and struggled against his restraints, but in actuality he moved little more than a fraction of an inch. Dean saw how his entire body shook, the fear in his eyes, face, not fear, terror, absolute terror. The kid was terrified, damn terrified. Valkyrie stood by the car, barking and snarling at him. He fought whatever restrained him, arms and legs still sluggish and too heavy. Then he saw the reason behind Sam’s actions, responses. McCreedy, Joey McCreedy stood beside Sam. Dean saw his brother was sitting on top of wood, kindling built to a small point behind Sam’s back. Sam’s kicking and struggling barely dislodged any of the pieces of wood. Pyre, Sam was tied to a pyre.
McCreedy’s hollowed eyes glinted and reflected the early afternoon sun. He smiled revealing a mouth full of half rotted out teeth. Every movement brought small flickers. Glaring straight at Dean he shoved a gag into Sam’s mouth, tying it so Sam’s head was held fast to the pole. Stake. Burning at a stake! The mad man, ghost of the mad man was back to finish what he’d started half a year ago, and was going to burn Sam alive.
“SAAUUMMMM..” Dean’s shout was garbled, and the second his mouth opened water flooded in, down his throat, filled his ears with roaring. He was in the lake, far out in the lake, far enough he couldn’t touch bottom. Kicking frantically, arms pin-wheeling to pull himself to the surface and out, the second he breached the surface some force pressed hard on the top of his head, forcing him under. His ears popped, he hadn’t the time to take a breath, water rushed up his nose, his vision blurred from tears and water. Barely making it to the surface Dean gulped for air. Something strong and solid wrapped around his chest, he swung out, knowing it was useless but had to fight back anyway.
He was dragged back under the water, catching a glimpse of Mike Redding’s face over his shoulder. His throat constricted when more water rushed in, flooded down his throat, garbled another shout to Sam. Vision swimming the thought slowly wormed its way through his mind. Drowning. He was drowning. Red haze slithered in from the periphery of his vision. His lungs ached, pressed for air. He fought to not take a breath, but his body wouldn’t listen to his mind, mouth opening he sucked in, more lake water filled his mouth, nose, ears. Arms flailing, slowing down, he tried to swing again at Redding, break free of his grip, legs scissor kicking desperately. The roaring in Dean’s ears, the pressure spreading through his chest to his back, abdomen increased, crushing him from the inside out.
Slipping farther down in the water he could still see Sam, white, shuddering, tears rolling down his cheeks, eyes fixed on Dean. The kid was sobbing. His entire body wracked with agony, horror, grief from watching his brother drown. McCreedy’s smile broadened. He held up a welding torch for Dean to see, Sam to see. Sam’s head twisted side to side, begging with his eyes. As Dean slipped farther down, black replaced red haze, white flashes erupted behind his eyes. McCreedy lit the torch, making sure Dean had a clear view of how he lit the pyre Sam perched precariously on.
As Dean fell into unconsciousness his final view were flames lapping around his brother, climbing up Sam’s legs, across his belly. Then McCreedy bent over Sam, lighting the kindling next to his hair.
I’m a runaway train on a broken track I’m the ticker on the bomb that you can’t turn back This time, that’s right I got away with it all and I’m still alive…”Alive” by Meat Loaf
Scrabbling awake, rolling off the table Sam nearly knocked himself out on the bench seat. He landed on hands and knees on the ground, scraping his palms and arms on the way down.
“Christ Almighty Dean! What the hell…?” Never, ever had Sam heard his brother shriek his name, or anything else, like that. Attention briefly drawn to Valkyrie standing against the car, snarling, barking at the lake. Sam’s head whipped around in the direction she faced. He frowned at her, interest drawn back to the lake when he heard splashing. Staring at Dean for a second or two before deciding he was going to kill his brother, he merely had to figure out the most annoying way to do it. “Dean, you asshole, if this is one of your stupid jokes about Nessie or Champ or some such crap.” Arms held out from his sides, Sam shouted at Dean splashing around in the water. “You freaking moron you’ll freeze in there, and I don’t care!” Mumbling under his breath Sam crossed the distance, anger fueling his strides, lengthening them until he was almost running. “I nearly broke my neck, and my arm is all cut up now.”
Dean’s eyes bulged, his arms wheeled, trying to stay afloat, he went under the water with such force a small vortex was left in his wake. Sam froze. He heard his heart pounding, his blood rush through his ears in time with it. He started running at the water’s edge. Dean popped up again, struggling to breathe, water blew out his nose, filled his open mouth.
He disappeared under the water.
“Dean?” Sam ran faster. “DEEEAANNNN!! God, Deeeeeeeeaannnn!”
Splashing into the water, he slipped, going completely under when the ground dropped off plunging him into cold, dark water. His jacket hampered his movements, and as he kicked up he struggled out of it, throwing it to the shore. Head bobbing above the water, Sam spun in frantic circles, “DEAN!” It was useless to shout he knew, but didn’t care.
Another vortex spread the water a few feet from him. He saw movement, too many feet under the water, nothing more than shadows thrusting through the murk. Sam dove in that direction. He kicked down toward the thrashing, arms ahead; going more than twice his height. When his fingers brushed what he was sure was Dean’s head he gave another kick. One hand wound around Dean’s chin, his other by some miracle latched onto Dean’s arm. Pulling up with everything he had until his hand under Dean’s chin slipped down and across his chest.
Dean twisted in his grip, nearly getting away when he swung his arms, lashing out, trying to punch at Sam. Barely able to see his brother’s face, Sam saw enough to know, Dean didn’t think it was him, was fighting to free himself from someone not Sam. Drowning victims would often panic Sam knew, but this went beyond panic, this was something deeper. Dean’s fist hit the side of his head, if they hadn’t been underwater at the time the blow would have certainly rendered Sam unconscious.
Not able to wrap his legs around his brother and still kick enough force to lift them to the surface Sam had to make do using only his arms. Wrapping his upper body securely around his fighting sibling Sam’s legs pushed and kicked, burning from the effort. His lungs felt ready to explode. He tried shaking his head, getting Dean’s attention when to his complete horror Dean opened his mouth, trying to breathe. Clenching Dean tighter to his chest, shaking Dean as hard as he could and not letting go Sam kicked furiously. Something fought him, tried pulling the two of them into the depths of the lake, but Sam squeezed his eyes shut, refusing to look, to do anything but kick his legs as hard as he could. Dean went completely limp.
Without warning cool air assaulted his hair and face, making him shiver. Eyes and mouth popping open at the same time Sam was battered by bright sunlight making him wince, and blessedly sweet fresh air filled his lungs. Squeezing Dean’s chest rhythmically, he continued kicking, pushing them along to the shore. Dean’s head lolled forward, Sam pulled back until Dean’s head was against his shoulder. Flipping over in the water, Sam back paddled to shore.
“Come on man, you’re grey, breathe, fight, do something. Dean, don’t do this to me. Come on, breathe.” Sam didn’t stop to wipe his tears away, or to readjust his hold, he kept moving until his feet found purchase in the slick lake bottom. Stumbling the last few feet to dry land, dragging Dean with him, his arms ached from the effort of not only carrying his very solid brother, but keeping up the constant press and release against Dean’s chest.
Scrambling up the slight embankment Dean’s feet tangled with Sam’s and they landed in a confused pile of arms and legs and dripping water on the grass. It was taking far too long to untangle himself from his brother, he needed to start CPR, get the water out of Dean’s lungs first. Water out, get the water out, clear his lungs, think, water out…how the HELL to get the water out? Do this, can do this, water out! Flipping Dean off his legs, over on his side Sam pulled Dean to more of a sitting position, then bent him forward. His brother listed to one side. Sam nearly dropped him head first to the ground when Dean’s entire body spasmed, he gagged, and water spewed from his mouth and nose. He lurched so violently Sam thought it might just come out Dean’s ears too.
Sam almost remembered to breathe when long strands of bile and lake water oozed from Dean’s mouth, his hand fluttered to his face, wiped at his nose. Powerful heaving made Dean’s back arch, his chest retract into itself then fill almost beyond its limits only to repeat the movement. With each fierce contraction of muscle along Dean’s chest, sides, belly more water was gagged and spit to the ground. Dean’s hand fell flat against Sam’s thigh, pushing against it so he could straighten more.
Words wheezed out of Dean’s throat, but Sam couldn’t understand them for at least a full minute. “Dean.” Sam jostled him, which only really succeeded in causing more water to be vomited up and out. The grey of Dean’s skin was slowly being chased away by a more pink color.
“Y-you ookay Sssammmy?”
“Am I…?” Sam slapped the back of Dean’s head. “You nearly freaking drown, you turn grey, stop breathing and hocker up half the lake and you ask if I am ok? Yeah, dude, I’m just goddamn dandy.” His other arm wound around Dean’s middle. His brother’s fist clenched against his thigh.
More lake water was ejected, Dean coughed. His voice came out clearer if not stronger. “Burning.” Water dripped from Dean’s nose, he coughed and snorted, clearing more away. Sam pulled Dean tighter against him, keeping him upright, at least that’s what Sam told himself. “You burning.”
“No, you drowning! You turned grey! You weren’t breathing!” Sam realized shouting in Dean’s ear probably wasn’t going to help any. Free hand clenching Dean’s bicep Sam gripped harder.
Twisting away from Sam or trying to, Dean pushed against trembling hands, righting himself further. Sam’s reaction was immediate. His grip around Dean’s middle tightened again, his arm shook from the effort.
“Is ok.” Dean was trying to placate Sam who wasn’t going to fall for it this time. Having watched his brother nearly drown in front of him, seeing Dean grey and too still, not breathing had completely shattered Sam’s defenses.
“Not ok!” Sam shouted some more, and would keep on doing so until Dean got the message through his thick skull. “You weren’t breathing. YOU WERE GREY!”
Pushing against Sam’s arm around his waist which only resulted in Sam’s grip tightening Dean wheezed out, “Sam, let go.”
“No, Dean, you were grey! You weren’t breathing.”
Dean sighed and sagged a bit in Sam’s grip. “Sammy, too tight, can’t breath. I’m not grey now, but I will be again in a few minutes if you don’t ease up.” Leaning to one side Dean heaved up more water.
“Sorry.” Sam mumbled, loosening but not releasing his hold. “You tried to take breaths when you were ten feet underwater.” The words stuttered from his mouth in a rush. Dean twisted far enough to look at him. Sympathy crept across his brother’s face, mingled with a bit of annoyance.
Pointing to a spot near the picnic table Dean took a few deep breaths before speaking. “You were tied to a stake, on some kind of pyre, being lit on fire.”
“Huh? No. That’s why you decided to drown?”
“I didn’t decide to Sam.” Dean gently eased Sam’s arm away another fraction of an inch, but let the fingers clamped around his arm stay. Obviously Dean was going to pick his battles this time, probably deciding giving into Sam was easier than having his own way or prying Sam loose. “I was sitting on the bank, got drowsy from the warm sun, and the next thing I know I’m in the middle of the lake, being shoved under and you’re being turned into a human torch.”
Sam’s forehead dropped to Dean’s shoulder. “I was on the table, sleeping, and I heard you scream at me. I thought you were joking. I almost didn’t do anything cause I thought you were playing a joke, and you could have…You swim better than most Olympic racers, than most fish…I barely found you in the water…” Shuddering breaths quieted a fraction when he felt Dean’s hand against his head, ruffling his hair for a few seconds.
“Not that I’d ever do anything like that.” Another deep breath and then a chuckle. “It’s ok Sammy.”
Sam couldn’t see Dean’s smirk, but he felt it. Nervous tension bled off him in the form a short laugh. “Was it them?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was them. Something kept grabbing at me under the water, I tried fighting it. For a few minutes I thought I was at the surface, that’s when I tried to take a breath, but then couldn’t.”
“That was me. I couldn’t see too well, but I don’t think you knew it was me.”
Dean’s hand slipped to Sam’s arm, squeezing, trying to be reassuring. “Sammy, it’s—“
“So help me Dean, if you even think of saying, ‘it’s ok’ again I’ll drag you back to the water and hold you under myself until you change your mind!” His temper flaring out of control Sam opted for shouting again. Some days that seemed the only way to make a point with his pig-headed big brother.
Twisting to look Sam full in the face, Dean blinked at him for a few seconds, expression totally unreadable. Sam didn’t know what to expect, Dean was like the damn ocean. Don’t turn your back on it or piss it off or talk back to it, because it could flood straight over your ass. Or smack you in the side of the head. “You’ll….?” Dean’s words were abruptly cut off when he burst into laughter, deep from his belly, side-splitting laughter. That turned, almost at once to more coughing, which led to more heaving. The whole process doubled him over, arms wrapped over his stomach, and laughing turned to some odd snorting/snuffling noise.
It was funny.
Despite his commanding them not to, Sam’s lips twitched up. He smiled. When Dean listed to one side, gasping for air and not able to get any from a fresh round of very un-macho giggles Sam started laughing too.
Pressing one palm against Sam’s shoulder, Dean pushed to his feet, wiping tears from his eyes with his other hand. “Awww Sammy, some days your logic is a thing of wonder.” Sam had two choices, let go of Dean, or get up with him. Sam stood up, and when Dean stepped away he literally lunged at him. Dean turned, hands on Sam’s shoulders, “Sam…” His voice was rough and wet sounding.
“You weren’t breathing, you were grey.” Sam choked over the words. “You stopped breathing.” Fingers gripped Dean’s arm so tightly it made them ache.
Taking a deep breath, exhaling slowly, a few short, raspy coughs that expelled small water droplets Dean looked at him, nodded and gave Sam’s shoulder another squeeze. “I’m breathing now. Blowing water out too, but breathing fine.” His hand moved to the side of Sam’s neck, patting lightly. It felt good, felt reassuring. How was it Sam wondered, Dean stops breathing, nearly drowns and yet it’s Sam who gets the comfort? If it kept Dean safe and close he was going to go with it.
Sam offered his brother a small smile, a tiny nod and resorted to the dirtiest trick he had. Biting his lower lip just a bit Sam put on the most pleading, saddest look he could muster, let his arms drop to his sides and stood there, slouched a fraction. “Ok.” He trembled the one word out on a shaky breath, eyes watering up.
Dean’s eyes narrowed, one hand raised to pinch the bridge of his nose between forefinger and thumb, he heaved a sigh as his shoulders sagged for the briefest instant. Reaching out he took hold of Sam’s shirt near his shoulder. Scanning the area, he pulled Sam along when he moved toward the car, “Where’s Valkyrie?”
Slamming to a stop, grabbing Dean’s arm, “I forgot! She was growling and barking at the lake, just like she was at me the other night.” Twisting as far as he could without letting go his new grip on his brother, Sam scanned the area, looking for their dog. Dean’s actions mirrored his own.
“Valkyrie!” They shouted together.
A muffled woof made them both turn to the lake shore. Sam’s jacket still where it landed, moved and rustled, at first of its own volition. Another woof, and Valkyrie’s head popped out from under the faded denim material. She stood, taking the jacket with her, tail wagging tentatively at first, escalating into full all out body wag. Galloping at them, the jacket dragged and fell to the ground after a few feet, she jumped first against Dean, then small feet patted Sam’s legs. Running circles around them, she stopped every few seconds to spin, dart in with a lick to their hands only to bounce side to side some more.
Dean nudged Sam’s side, dipped his chin at Valkyrie. “Sam, she can sense, or smell or see it...them…whatever this is. Why didn’t we get it before? She knows.”
Realization of what Dean was implying hit Sam, making him grin like an idiot. “Well, she is our dog.”
“Guess she’s been paying attention all these months. Huh, chicky, you know how to join the team, don’t ya?”
Valkyrie sat up, eyes bright and smiling, she woofed again.
“We’re going to the McCreedy property tomorrow.” It wasn’t a question. Sam was looking down at the dresser. Dean knew it scared Sam, it scared him too, but they had to go. He wasn’t about to let Sam see how much it scared him. That would do the kid no good.
Dean had only been able to sit in the car a few more hours before agreeing to stop for a motel even though it was early evening. Still nauseous from sucking down a few gallons too many of lake water, sides aching from the heaving and maybe a little from Sam yanking on him, Dean was too tired to even ride and let Sam drive. It didn’t take much coaxing from Sam to stop early. Dean told himself it was to make Sam feel better. He didn’t argue when Sam pulled into a motel announcing they were getting a room.
“Yeah, Sam we have to take another look around. We’ll go together it’ll…” Dean stopped and grinned, catching Sam turning his head just a fraction, the corners of his mouth curling up for an instant. “Nothing will happen, we’ll be fine.”
Months of hard work, and Dean feared a good bit of it had been undone, chased away by Sam having to watch him flounder in the water. More to the point of Sam spending a few minutes watching him not breathe followed by a few hours of watching him hack up a small lake. Any amount of security Dean had managed to reinstall in Sam washed away with the water expelled from Dean’s lungs. This time Dean worried it was something here to stay. Before leaving the lake Dean had sat on the picnic bench for a minute, to catch his breath. Sam sat beside him, so close that for a few seconds Dean thought he was going to have Sam in his lap. The poor kid had been shaken beyond his limits this time. Their attackers knew what buttons to push, and stomped on Sam’s, driven him to the point of sheer desperation, rendered him defenseless.
Fear for himself Sam could and would recover from. Fear for Dean, that he wasn’t so sure about. Fear of Dean was what Dean worried about the most. Sam still flinched if Dean moved to fast. He tried covering it up, but Dean saw just the same. If he lost Sam’s trust Dean wasn’t sure that was something he’d ever recover from. At no point in Sam’s life had he ever not trusted Dean, and that was something Dean treasured, was proud of, depended on. He couldn’t let that trust be lost, not now, not ever.
Grabbing clean clothes, deciding he’d check to see if the motel had a laundry room a bit later, Dean headed for the bathroom. He needed a shower. He needed five minutes of alone.
“Where you going?”
Dean stopped, turned, surprised. “To take a shower Sam.”
“Oh.” Sam looked back down at the dresser, probably didn’t notice Dean frowning.
“Yeah…I’m…you stopped breathing.”
“I know Sammy, but I’m breathing fine now, you got me breathing again.”
Sam eyes lifted, he stood looking at Dean. Not knowing exactly what to do or say, not sure if there was anything that would make his brother feel better, quell his fears, Dean offered Sam a lopsided grin. “I’ll be ten minutes, and I’ll try not to inhale any water.”
The sour look that spread across Sam’s face made Dean’s stomach drop. His damn big, smart ass mouth. It amazed him sometimes how Sam could go from vulnerable child to petulant teenager to bullheaded, determined young man in a matter of seconds. Dean wasn’t quite sure which one he faced now, but it didn’t really matter, they were all his brother, all Sam, all his responsibility. Dean came to see many years ago that responsibility went far beyond keeping Sam alive and safe, or making sure he had clothes and food. It went straight into dealing with crap like this, more exactly finding some way to cope while letting Sam deal with it and find his own happy ground. But it was a two way street now, had been since before Sam’s kidnap. As much as Dean struggled to deal with Sam’s issues, Sam struggled to cope with Dean’s. Somewhere along the way in the past few years Dean had become Sam’s responsibility. Right now it was a struggle for them both. Dean had buttons being stomped on too.
Letting it go for now, Dean really just wanted a shower. He stepped into the bathroom, turning on the water to warm up, not paying much attention to the movements in the outer room. Turning when he heard something closer Dean started a bit when Sam sat on the edge of the toilet, looking everywhere but at him. Valkyrie apparently decided this was grand fun, padded after Sam, settling between his calves, head propped on one knee, tail thumping.
The bathroom was really too small for this.
“Sam you can’t sit in here and watch me take a shower.”
“I’m not watching you do anything.” Sam groused, glaring defiantly at the towel rack.
“Sammy…no. I can shower all on my own, been doing it for years.” Grabbing Sam under one arm, Dean pulled up. “Out. Both of you.”
Jerking away, Sam refused to be moved. “Dean you weren’t breathing. You turned grey, and you weren’t breathing.” Defiant glare now aimed at the medicine cabinet.
Now Dean was faced with one very worried, freaked out little brother who was working doubly hard to hold up his end of this responsibility deal. Sam merely didn’t have as much practice as Dean.
“There’s not enough water in there to hurt me. And you’re not sitting in here while I shower. I promise I’ll yell if I need you.” He looked down at the dog, “You too.” Resting his palms on Sam’s shoulders, “Sammy, I’ll be here.”
The reminder seemed to sink in. Sam looked around the small room, then up at Dean. Nodding a fraction, Sam left, Dean heard him pull a chair around so he could sit near the door. He pointed out at the room, jerked his head in that direction and stared down Valkyrie. He swore the dog sighed before leaving him to his shower. Giving the door a gentle shove, it swung closed. He barely moved an inch when Sam opened the door giving Dean a look that should have put him down in the bedrock.
Ignoring it Dean looked down at his feet, bit back a smile and sighed. Pick your battles, Winchester. Nope, this wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. But at least Dean got his shower in relative peace, and solitude. When he left the bathroom, after the promised ten minutes, Sam still sat in his chair, keeping up his vigil, glaring hatefully at the bathroom door. Dean pretended not to notice. He’d cleared the larger hurdle, and figured when Sam stopped sitting boring holes with his eyes into bathroom doors, Dean would start closing them fully again. Being responsible for someone he’d learned sometimes meant letting them have what they needed, and work through issues in their own way and time. Sam needed to know Dean was still breathing and wouldn’t stop. That was ok, more than ok. It was good to have someone who cared if you kept breathing.
Sam held his phone. Apparently he’d also been making calls. “I talked to Forge while you were…while I was…waiting.”
“And?” Dean dug around in his duffel for clean clothes. “We need to do laundry.”
“Yeah.” Sam stood, moving the chair back to where it had been by the table. “He said they…Redding and Joey McCreedy, he made sure they were cremated. He seemed to know it was important.” He rubbed his forehead. “I know you didn’t want to call him, but everywhere else I tried I was told to contact the detective leading the case, so I didn’t have much choice.”
Dean shrugged, “I said I wasn’t wild about the idea, not that it wouldn’t be necessary. Besides, I don’t think he’ll bother us unless we give him a reason to.” He stopped for a minute, making sure he had Sam’s complete attention. “Sam I know how you feel. Before I went under the water I watched you burn.”
“It’s not the same thing.” Sam turned on him, shouting. “You didn’t have to put the flames out. When it was over, it was over, there wasn’t anything wrong with me. It wasn’t real. You really were drowning, really were grey and not breathing. I thought you were messing with me, and I nearly didn’t do anything and you weren’t breathing.”
So that was it, now Dean was beginning to see more of the issue. Sam felt he’d let his brother down in some way. “No. No Sammy I didn’t and I’m sorry, I am sorry that you did.” What Dean wouldn’t give to take those minutes back, to make it so Sam never had to experience that, see that. But he couldn’t. There was nothing else he could think to say to ease his brother’s guilt or fear. “Sam, it’s the kind of stupid joke I would have pulled. You figured it out in time. You didn’t do anything wrong Sam.”
Sam gave him another look, but not as sour as earlier. He was rubbing his forehead again. Dean recognized the warning signs and was across the room to his brother even as Sam’s shoulders hunched, his expression pinched with pain, Sam staggered back strangled gasp forced from between clamped tight jaws. “Dean.” Doubling over, his name was little more than a whisper from Sam. His eyes took on the all too familiar vacant stare.
“Whoa, whoa, I gotcha.” Grabbing Sam by the shoulders, steering him to the chair Dean gently lowered his sibling until he sat. Sam’s fingers reached out as they had so many times before, for so many reasons. Sam told him not once in his life did he ever think Dean wouldn’t be there to grab onto. Hands fisting in Dean’s shirt Sam tilted forward slightly, rasping pained noises every few seconds. “Take it easy, I’m here.” Dean rested one palm on Sam’s head applying gentle pressure until Sam’s forehead pressed to his shoulder. There wasn’t much more Dean could do. All he could do now was wait for the vision to pass and for Sam to tell him what it was.
Evil, they were all evil. Sam could see it oozing from their pores, their skin glowed with it. He hated them. Dead, they needed to be dead, and he needed to make sure. Kill them, the evil inside them, kill them. Moving through the room, swaying slightly, Sam found them huddled in a corner. They weren’t kidding anyone, he could tell, he knew. Lights flickered through the windows, confusing him. Flash, flash, flash, every few seconds light would blossom and fade only to be reborn again just as quickly. Confusion skipped through his head, for a moment he lowered the gun. The evil swarmed from them, coming at him. It was frightening. The room’s swaying sped and decreased, making his stomach burn, anger, fear and nausea curled around one another, coiled into a hard knot lapping at his middle.
Where was Dean? Hearing his brother’s voice, it was wrong, terribly wrong.
He had to stop the evil, there was only one way. The evil had to be stopped. He fired his gun again and again. It wasn’t until it was over Sam realized the evil was him.
The room swayed in sickening waves, the lights flashed faster.
Dean shoved him back, against a wall. Sam wasn’t even sure when he’d arrived. Dean’s gun trained on Sam. Angry, Dean was angry to the extent Sam had never witnessed, not directed at him anyway. Dean was never this angry with him. Dean hated him, wanted him gone, wanted to be free of the burden of his kid brother. Dean’s words bore into him hot and vile. Sam never felt so scared or lost in his life. Gone, his brother was right in front of him and gone all at the same time. Cast out, alone and despised Sam’s world was crashing down around him, and he was powerless to stop it. Dean pressed one hand to Sam’s neck, the other held the gun. The gun against Sam’s forehead. Dean fired and Sam’s world went black.
Dean hates me, Dean hates me, Dean hates me. The words followed Sam out of his vision. He lurched away from the hands holding him with such force he knocked the chair Dean must have sat him in over. Immediately wishing he’d not broken the contact, wanting it back more desperately than anything he’d wanted in his young life Sam pushed away the panic and abandonment worming through his chest. Still not able to see well from the pain and haze left from his vision he reached out and grabbed. It was the first time in his life he’d doubted there’d be someone…Dean… to grab onto.
“Sammy, slow it down.” Dean’s gentle tone, familiar and comforting, calling him ‘Sammy’ eased his fears. “It’s ok Sammy, just a vision, nothing more.” Dean’s hand rested on top of his head. His offhand remark about ‘just a vision’ made Sam smile. How long ago did his visions become commonplace enough to be something referred to as just?
It’d been so long since Sam had a vision the agony they produced, the queasiness, feeling of helplessness, being so out of control had faded to the background of his memory. This vision brought all that roaring back full force. Wiping a shaking hand over his face Sam blinked, his eyesight cleared more. The world spun wildly out of control when Dean’s hands vanished, Sam felt movement of air, the heat from Dean’s body receding as he moved away.
Staggering to his feet, no idea where he was going other than to find his brother Sam took a few steps and promptly fell over the chair. Valkyrie licked at his face, he made out a blurred image of her tentatively wagging tail.
“Saa-uum!” Dean’s voice was harsher, but not overly so. More from fear and annoyance than anger Sam knew instantly.
Sam felt his brother’s movements in the room, heard him getting closer. Cracking his eyes open he caught sight of Dean’s face as he grabbed Sam’s arms, hauled him to his feet, swung him around and planted him on the edge of the closest bed. Dean’s features were caring, edged with concern and maybe a bit of surprise.
“Hey, come on, you know better.” Dean spoke in a low voice, as he always did when Sam was coming out of one of the more intense visions. They’d found out the hard way how easily Sam was startled until completely free of the after affects of his visions. Sam learned to sit still and Dean learned to use a quiet voice and keep his movements calm and slow. Dean had rules about the visions too, and number one was stay put. Sam usually obliged, quite happy to let Dean take care of him until he regained his senses. “You’re gonna hurt yourself.” Dean sounded a bit grouchy on top of worried.
Dean pressed a bottle of water into Sam’s palm, crouching in front of him Dean’s free hand curved around the back of Sam’s head. As soon as Sam’s fingers held the bottle Dean released it, settling that hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Take it slow Sammy.”
Sam’s shaking made it difficult to drink. He managed a few gulps before setting the bottle on the floor. Dean waited patiently, quietly. That patience wouldn’t last forever. In a few minutes Dean would be asking for details, wanting to know Sam was ok, wanting Sam to talk to him. Thing was Sam wanted to tell Dean everything, he always did, even on days Dean shut him down and out. He didn’t know what to say, or how to say it. But he sure as hell knew one thing, he needed to sort this out, needed Dean’s help to do it and that meant finding the words.
“Kil-killed them. I killed them.” Sam stammered.
Dean’s fingers tightened on his shoulder, “Hey, take it easy Sam.”
Sam figured he must look like hell for Dean to keep telling him to slow down, the stuttering probably wasn’t so impressive either. Dean was usually pretty anxious to get details about Sam’s visions, just as he was with Sam’s dreams. Sam didn’t want to slow down or take it easy, he wanted to get through this. Wanted Dean to know. Shaking his head venomously, bangs flopping all over, lifting his eyes to meet Dean’s, “It was me. ME. I killed them.” Running one hand through his hair, he forged ahead. “I was in some kind of room. I didn’t see anything to give me a clue about where it was, or anything. But there were people, kids Dean, little kids,” Sam’s voice cracked. Dean silently handed him the water again. Taking another swallow, Sam went on. “I shot them, I executed them. And I didn’t care.” His face was wet, he wiped his hand over his cheeks, trying to stop the tears.
“Sam,” Dean said softly, “You’ve got a dead serial killer messing with your head. I’ve known you your entire life so believe me when I say you wouldn’t shoot anyone, least of all kids.”
“I’ve never had visions that weren’t anything to do with anything but the demon.” Voice raising Sam pleaded with his brother for understanding. “I killed them Dean. Then you killed me, you shot me in the head, you hated me and shot me in the head, point blank.”
Dean sighed, rubbed the back of his neck. “Sammy, I’ve never hated you, I never will, or could hate you, no matter what you did.”
“Could you ever hate me Sam?”
“No, of course not, that’s stupid.”
Merely raising his eyebrows slightly Dean shrugged a bit.
“All right, I get the point.”
“Are you sure these kids were just regular kids and not some kind of demon spawn?”
“I’m not sure. I think they were regular kids.” He met Dean’s eyes for another brief second before staring at the floor. “You wouldn’t let me hurt kids?”
“Sammy it’s a moot point, since you wouldn’t. And no. I really think this is more from Redding and McCreedy. They’re messing with you, with both of us. They’ve got you so turned around you can’t even think straight.”
“I’m not so sure it’s that simple.”
“I am Sam. Stay focused on what’s real, and stop worrying about what you know isn’t. You know you won’t hurt anyone, kill kids, and you know I’d never even be capable of conceiving of hating you. Your visions don’t always show you everything, and they don’t always make sense, and they don’t always happen how you see them. So if that was a real vision, it was distorted is all.”
Sam could only stare at the floor, thinking Dean didn’t hate him, hadn’t shot him and maybe, just maybe Dean was right.
Alternating between watching the road and watching Sam stare out the window Dean drove to the piece of land the McCreedy house once stood on. They’d been there once before, a few days after Sam had been freed, not staying long and hadn’t been looking for anything specific at the time. Going there started the healing for them both, but there’d been a price for that too. Sam trusted Dean enough then to go with him, see the burnt remains of the house and his prison. There’d been a few sleepless nights for the brothers in the week following, Sam’s nightmares about the whole thing being ramped up from his return to the property. Fortunately they’d dropped off quickly, and in the long run returning to the place proved to be the right move.
Dean was starting to doubt Sam trusted him enough to do this again. If Sam didn’t trust him Dean figured he might as well pack it in now. Losing Sam’s trust meant losing Sam. Dean couldn’t live with that, not now, not ever.
“’M fine.” Came Sam’s curt reply.
“I could go by myself, take you back to the motel.”
“No.” Sam snapped, fist thumping the car door for emphasis.
Six months ago Sam spent days on end barely saying two consecutive words to Dean or anyone. Now it was like that time all over again. Dean hated it more now than he did then. He’d missed his brother terribly those first few weeks, had really only in the last month or two gotten him back and wasn’t about to let him go again. He truly feared if Sam sank into those depths again it would be forever this time, there’d be no recovery, no getting him back.
Hearing Sam’s breathing growing harsh, even separated by a foot or so of space in the car Dean felt his brother tense when he turned the Impala down the road the McCreedys and Redding had lived on. Eyes sliding to Sam for as long as he dared take them off the road Dean’s chest clenched. Sam paled, one arm rested on the car door, fist clenching and unclenching. His jaw was so tightly shut Dean wondered if Sam’s teeth would crack. It certainly had to hurt. Deciding trying to lighten the mood might just get him a face full of Sam’s fist Dean kept quiet.
When Dean turned the car down the drive Sam squeezed his eyes shut. The first time they’d returned here they’d had to park farther down the road, duck police tape and keep an eye out for authorities. This day it looked like any other patch of land. Well almost. The place sent shivers coursing up and down Dean’s spine, the sight was unnerving. Maybe bringing Sam here wasn’t such a great idea.
The remains of the house, and the contents of the basement, including the cages, had been plowed over. Now there remained a slight bulge in the ground where the building once stood. The entire parcel of land to the obvious property line of trees and fencing was barren. Patches of mud from the spring rains dotted the area, grooves scarred the ground from the equipment used to bulldoze the remains and level the land. Dean had no trouble seeing where the house had been, it was almost as if the slight bulge in the terrain was a grave site. Trees and shrubs within the property line were dead, no buds popping out as they were on the trees farther away, off the property. These were nothing but spiky skeletons reaching up. No bits of grass peeked through the damp ground. There weren’t even weeds.
Eyes shifting to Sam, Dean was disappointed to see his brother gazing out at the landscape, apparently having the same thoughts about it Dean did. Every muscle along Sam’s neck and shoulders were rigid, he trembled slightly from the strain. Reaching out Dean laid one hand lightly on Sam’s shoulder. Jumping at the touch, Sam looked over at him as if just remembering Dean was there with him.
“Sam…” He had no idea what he wanted to say.
“No. It’s….lets just do this.” Opening his door, Sam shoved out of the car before Dean cut the engine. By the time he was out Sam was waiting at his door.
The hand Dean rested on Sam’s shoulder was shrugged off with a small, tentative twist of Sam’s torso. Dean ignored it. Walking toward the bulge he was completely aware Sam walked close enough to keep his arm constantly brushing against Dean’s side. He was grateful that at least Sam’s flinching every time Dean moved too quickly had all but disappeared. Valkyrie followed them, walking subdued, tail down, ears and head dipped. She looked like she was sulking. The dog never walked anywhere. She pranced, trotted or galloped. Dean realized this might have honestly been the first time he’d seen her this lacking in animation.
“Sort of explains a lot.” Dean commented, stopping next to the bulge, scanning the area.
“Yeah.” Sam’s voice was rough, raw. “It’s a bit—“
“Creepy.” Dean finished. That earned him a small smile from his brother and a hearty enough nod Sam’s bangs flopped around for a second before resettling. “Let’s take a look around, see if we can find anything and get the hell gone.” Pointing to the far side of the bulge, “I’ll look over there, you poke around on this side.” Taking a few steps Dean felt Sam keep up with him. Glancing over his shoulder, the look from Sam meeting him made him shrug one shoulder. “Or we could just stick together.”
Sam snorted, but relaxed some.
There wasn’t much to find. Dean toed the dirt in a few places, kicking up nothing but common household items, or rocks. “Do we even have a clue what to look for?”
“No. But Dean, there has to be something here. I couldn’t find anything specific on the land, but three generations of unrelated people all with homicidal, psychotic tendencies, and living on the same chunk of land. That’s a bit much.”
“Yeah, it is.” Twisting when he heard whimpering from Valkyrie, Dean slouched for a few seconds then heaved a sigh. “She did that when we where here before.”
“Brandon’s cage was there.” Sam’s voice was so soft if Dean hadn’t been right next to him he’d have never heard, or seen his brother’s very liquid eyes.
“I’ll get her.” Hand against Sam’s shoulder that wasn’t shrugged off this time, Dean pressed him back a step. “Stay here.”
Valkyrie lay on the ground, tail in a straight line behind her, whimpering softly. Covering the distance with quick strides, and a few glances back to be sure Sam was ok, Dean reached down, scooped the small dog up and headed back to his brother. Sam had wandered away a few steps, eyes focused on the ground, kicking at the dirt. He turned to Dean, one hand rose in the air to waist height and dropped, banging off his leg. Dean was about to suggest they leave, they were accomplishing nothing here. The scary place it had once been wasn’t so scary, but it was still difficult to be here, and he’d admit to himself only still traumatic. They needed to face these things, not be overrun by them.
Without warning Sam ducked his head, staggering back a few steps, the palm of one hand pressed to his forehead. He gasped, groaned then cried out from sharp pain Dean saw all over his brother’s face, in the tenseness of his shoulders, his entire body language. Sam dropped to his knees.
“Shit.” Dean sprinted at him, got the dog down just in time to grab Sam’s shoulders and stop him from heading face first into the dirt. Pulling in harsh, ragged breaths Sam’s fingers found Dean’s jacket, fisting into the soft leather. Sam couldn’t see anything but the vision Dean knew, but it never ceased to amaze him how the kid seemed to have some sort of radar or homing instinct that always allowed him to find and latch onto Dean. Moving Sam back and away to drier ground Dean sat in front of him, steadying the kid until it was over. This one didn’t last as long as the previous vision had been, but from Dean’s perspective seemed twice as intense.
Sam came out of it slowly, Dean hated when he took his sweet old time, didn’t the boy realize how freaking nerve-wracking these things were for Valkyrie, and Dean? Straightening, but still leaning heavily against Dean’s hands Sam gulped in air, lifting his eyes to meet Dean’s. Heart nearly cracking in two from the expression Sam wore, the kid looked absolutely tortured.
“Same. It was the same thing.” Sam stumble over the words, his voice quavering, he jostled Dean’s jacket with both hands. “Dean, it was the same thing.”
Letting go Sam’s shoulder and curling fingers around the back of Sam’s head Dean had to make a real effort to not scream in frustration. “Sammy, you’re not going to do those things, you’re just not. It’s not something you’re even capable of, it’s not in you. It’s them, they’re squirreling around in your head and doing this to you. Believe me, please.” Dean kept his voice low, but the sheer intensity he put behind his words made Sam nod, his expression soften.
They sat quietly for another few minutes while Sam caught his breath, got his bearings back. Shoving off the ground, Dean bent to brush off his jeans catching sight of something odd. “What’s that?” He pointed to a spot on the ground not a foot from his brother.
Twisting to look, Sam’s gaze lifted, meeting his. “Maybe what we were looking for?”
Embedded in the dirt, at what would have been the corner of the house was a square foot or so slab of rock. A symbol carved into it. The etching was a circle, with smaller symbols placed at regular intervals and something resembling a Celtic knot in its center. “What do you suppose it’s for?”
Sam shook his head slowly, “Maybe some sort of binding? I’ve never seen those combinations used before.”
“Holding something out?” Dean pulled out his knife, worked its tip around the stone’s edge.
“Or trapping something in?” Sam looked up at him, grasping Dean’s wrist.
Yanking his cell phone out, flipping it open, “Good point.” Dean took a few pictures of the thing from several angles, leaving it in the ground. Back next to Sam a minute later, Dean slid one arm around his brother’s middle and hefted him to his feet. They headed back to the car.
“At least now we have something to investigate.” Sam said softly, settling in the car, looking at Dean as he slid in behind the wheel.
“Yep. Let’s get back, we can still get some library time in I think.”
They drove in relative, but comfortable silence. Sam was more relaxed despite the visions he’d had. Stopping for a train, it was long and slow, Dean cut the car’s engine. Sitting there, watching the thing lumber along, thinking if it were any slower it would be going backwards, he was startled by Sam grabbing his arm.
“Did you see that?”
Not getting the chance to answer Dean was doubly surprised when Sam dug in the glove box for his pistol, flung open the car door, jumped out and headed for the train. “Sam? What the hell?” Dean leaned out his window.
“You didn’t see that?” Sam shouted, waving at the passing train. “It was right there, it got on the train.”
“Sam, there isn’t anything there, now get….God Damn!”
Grabbing some rail on the train, Sam swung up and disappeared into the car. Dean barely had time to process that before he saw the faces of children in the windows of one of the cars, many, many children. Flashing lights. Swaying rooms. Dragging his own gun out, and as an after thought grabbed his US Marshall I.D. Dean started the car, swung it off the road and into the woods far enough he hoped no one would see. Rolling down one back window far enough that Valkyrie could get out if they didn’t come back, “Watch the car chicky.” He ran at the train, found a handhold and swung up and on.
Slipping inside the first door, he found the occupants in utter pandemonium. Bolting through, holding up the badge and shouting “Federal Marshall, everyone down.” Dean headed through the crowd that split for him to the front of the car. From the next car he heard screaming children, a shouting deep male voice….Sam’s…and then gunfire. It clicked, the whole thing clicked into place in Dean’s head. What Redding and McCreedy had been up to this entire time all fell into a neat little plan as simple as can be. Problem was until now neither he nor Sam had suspected what was going on. He was absolutely sure Sam didn’t.
Racing through to the next car, when he burst through the door, again shouting orders for everyone to get down, he was met with the sight of Sam’s gun swung at him. Kids, maybe a few dozen around the ages of eight or ten, with a few adults wisely took his advice. Huddling in a far corner of the car, wedged between the seats, and trying to get under them were some very frightened children. Taking a quick scan, Dean didn’t see blood, or bodies, and they all seemed to be moving, yelling, crying, he snatched hold of the first adult he found. “Get them back and out of here.” Swinging his own gun up, aiming at Sam, “Sammy, put the gun down!” Dean hissed out the words in as low and calm a voice as he could.
“Can’t you see it?” Sam screamed at him, firing high, over everyone’s heads bringing a round of shrieks from behind Dean.
“Sam there isn’t anything there.”
“It’s right behind you.” Sheer panic was all Dean saw in his brother’s face, eyes. “In them, is them. Get away.” Light from outside flashed through the windows keeping time with the train’s progress to wherever.
“Sammy I mean it. Give me the gun. Nothing is going to get me, nothing is behind me, just kids.”
Shaking his head, not trying to brush away tears welling up to slip down his cheeks, Sam leveled the gun at the group huddled in the corner.
Moving quick so he was between Sam and the kids, Dean held out one hand, “Sammy, don’t make me do this.”
“It’s there, right there.” Sam pointed with one hand to some point above Dean’s shoulder, pistol still raised in the other hand.
Shifting his footing so Dean was out of his aim, Sam took hold of the pistol with both hands, preparing to fire. Dean had no idea what Sam thought he saw, but he wasn’t going to be convinced it wasn’t there. The car swayed, speeding up briefly, then slowing down again, dipping to the right ever so gently.
“SAM!” Dean barked loud and demanding. Sam’s eyes shifted for the briefest second to him.
Let the end of the world come tumbling down I’ll be the last man standing on the ground As long as hot blood runs through my veins I’m still alive…. “Alive” by Meat Loaf
“DROP!” Dean barked out the command a split second before squeezing the trigger.
Having no idea if Sam, his Sam, had any amount of control or if he could even hear Dean, suspecting his brother was being more manipulated than truly possessed, all he could do was hope Sam was aware enough.
There was enough of him in control to do what Dean asked. Not once in his life had Sam ever disobeyed, or mistrusted him. As much as Sam argued with their father, for some unfathomable reason Dean’s word was law to Sam. Dean never quite was able to figure that one out, but was counting on it now.
He hadn’t even gotten the entire word out when Sam’s knees buckled and down he went, covering his head with both arms. The bullet Dean fired crashed harmlessly, albeit noisily into the inner side of the train car just to the left of where Sam’s head had been seconds before. The fiberglass cracked, splintering as the bullet shattered through.
This just wasn’t goddamn happening.
Sam carefully laid the gun down, staring up at Dean wide-eyed, breath coming in ragged shallow hitches, sawing in and out unsteadily, but it was definitely Sam’s breathing now. Dean understood what Sam meant before about him being wrong, Sam had been wrong, but now he was right. Only problem was Dean had no idea for how long. Making no other movement, Sam remained frozen where he was looking a lot like he had when he was a kid caught doing what he shouldn’t. It was Sam, really Sam, the child he’d raised, the moody teen he’d tolerated and the young man who stilled turned into that child, looking to Dean for answers.
The whole train car was mass chaos. Screaming and shouting, questions being fired at him, accusations and demands for Sam’s confinement…Dean remembered these people thought he was a Federal Marshall and probably thought Sam was some fugitive. They certainly thought Sam a threat. Deciding he’d better get his butt in gear before the real authorities, Home Land Security, or railroad cops or whatever showed up. Dean’s foot reached out, pinned Sam’s gun to the floor and slid it closer so he could reach down and grab it. Once it was safely tucked behind his back Dean gave Sam his sharpest stay put look, even though Sam had yet to move, and turned to the crowd being careful to keep himself planted firmly between Sam and the passengers.
Holding one arm in a placating motion Dean raised his voice just enough to sound authoritative. “Everyone, stay calm, stay in your seats, you’ll be fine.” Without another word Dean spun on his heels, reached down, grabbed Sam’s arm, yanked him up, then moved his hand to the back of Sam’s neck, shoving him at the car door.
“Shut up! Just shut the hell up!” Dean snapped. He pulled all the details of the vision Sam had given from his memory, hoping he could reenact enough to keep McCreedy, or Redding, whichever one it was, or both believing he was following through. He had the extra added attraction of keeping now angry passengers away from his brother.
Sam scrambled to keep his footing as Dean ushered him along. One glare from Dean kept his brother silent as Dean pinned him to the wall next to the door. Sam cringed away when Dean jerked to the side, opening the door. His heart clenched, his stomach flipped, poor Sam didn’t get most of what was going on, and probably thought Dean was angry with him, but there wasn’t a lot of time to explain right now. Dean had to act and act fast. Flipping Sam around, Dean shoved him through the door to the next car. Blissfully this one had few people in it, and at the far end of the car was a huge sign announcing the next car was the engineer’s car and everyone but authorized personnel were to keep out. Dean figured he’d just give himself some authorization.
Slamming his I.D. against the small window in the center of the door and pushing Sam to the wall next to the door, holding him firm with one hand against the base of his neck Dean shouted at the engineer, “Open up!” When Sam shifted under his grip Dean turned to him, “Shut your mouth and do exactly what I say.” He ground out with enough force Sam flinched. Yeah, he’d only feel guilty about that through the next six lifetimes. The panic snaking up his spine was shoved away, he didn’t have time for that either.
The door to the engine car slipped open, someone stepped out. Dragging Sam behind him, Dean shouldered the startled man to one side. “You the engineer?” The man shook his head no. “How many more in there?”
“Get everyone to the far end of the train.” Dean snapped. He crossed to the main control car, closing the door behind him. “Which one of you is in charge here?” He was sure to keep himself between Sam and these people, having no idea if any of them were armed.
“I am.” An older man stepped closer to Dean.
Swinging his gun to the other man, “Out.” Dean snarled. The guy hesitated, glancing at the head engineer. “Now!” Dean barked. That left only Dean, Sam and the engineer. “How do I disconnect this car from the rest of the train?”
“I can’t let you…”
Dean really didn’t have time for this bullshit. Two fast steps, Sam in tow, and Dean had his pistol against the man’s temple.
“Dean!” Sam sputtered.
Without taking his pistol sights from the conductor Dean shoved Sam back and into the wall with enough force to jar the breath from his brother.
“You get a bullet in the head in about five seconds if you don’t tell me now. Either show me how to disconnect from the rest of the train, or let me take all those people with me.” Dean’s voice was low, threatening and obviously the man recognized dangerously serious.
Making some adjustments to the main panel, the conductor turned back to Dean. “When you’re ready, just hit this button, it’ll release this car.”
“What about him?” The conductor motioned to Sam, raising Dean’s estimation of him a thousand fold. The guy was at gun point, in a possible hostage situation and still he was trying to look out for a kid he’d never seen before.
“He stays with me. He’ll be fine. It’s a promise.” Dean’s voice softened to its normal timbre.
One final glance between Dean and his ‘captive’ the conductor nodded. Once he was out the door, Dean locked it behind him.
“D-dean, this is nuts, what are you doing man?” Sam stepped away from the wall, towards Dean.
Ignoring his brother Dean hit the button disconnecting the train from the engine. He’d explain it all to Sam later, but right now he couldn’t risk alerting McCreedy to anything. He’d have to go with what Sam had seen already. Spinning and moving so fast Sam didn’t have time to react Dean had his hand around his brother’s neck again, backed him against the wall, hoping someday he’d regain Sam’s trust.
Bringing his pistol up he cracked Sam in the side of the head before his young brother could react. The effect was immediate. Sam’s weight slumped against Dean’s hand, the kid was out cold. One swift, sure movement had the hand against Sam’s neck around to the middle of his back. Sam fell against Dean’s side, cheek pressed to Dean’s shoulder, arms hanging at his sides. Putting his pistol in his waistband with Sam’s, Dean wrapped his other arm around Sam’s shoulders, hand at the back of his head. Sam looked so much like he had when he was twelve, loosing his baby fat and gaining height, but still not so big Dean couldn’t carry him to bed when he fell asleep. How Dean wished they could go back to that time.
Moving as quickly as he could while dragging Sam with him, Dean jerked the exit door open. Squeezing his eyes shut, pressing his forehead against the side of his brother’s head, feeling Sam’s hair brush his cheek Dean took a few deep breaths. The car sped up once freed of the rest of the train.
“This is the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever done.” Dean mumbled.
Holding Sam tightly against him Dean jumped.
Dean would have preferred to pick a better landing spot, but the train car was carrying them farther away from the Impala every second. It was going be difficult enough to get Sam back to their car without adding unnecessary miles.
Hitting the soft ground, it dropped off a few feet from the tracks, Dean and Sam rolled through leaves and mud down the steep incline. Sam didn’t fair too badly, being unconscious he was totally relaxed. Dean on the other hand managed to hit every rock and tree stump, being not unconscious he tensed up. Pain from various points on his body blossomed and flare before quieting to a dull throb. It didn’t appear he’d broken anything, for that he was thankful.
Checking to see Sam was unhurt, and still out, Dean climbed a few yards back up the embankment. He scanned in the direction he’d left the car barely able make her out parked in the woods looking like a child’s toy from this distance. He guessed he was about five or so miles away. Not a horrible hike, but not an easy one either dragging his two-hundred-plus pound brother. Hopefully he’d hit Sam hard enough he’d stay out until they were somewhere safe.
Dean pulled his cell phone out, no reception. He’d have to get clear of the hills. Sliding back down to Sam, Dean shrugged out of his jacket. He sat Sam up and pulled off the wind breaker and flannel he wore. Straightening for a minute to ease the kinks and tension in his back, Dean’s eyes followed the train’s engine as it picked up more speed, following the path of the tracks. Just as it was about to disappear around a bend the car flipped off the tracks, careening down the hillside. The trail it slid down plowed under trees, pulling smaller ones up by the roots. Hitting another drop off the car plunged a good hundred feet to a ravine. Dean couldn’t believe his good luck when the car erupted into flames. He knew the angle of the engine and the rest of the train prevented anyone from seeing clearly that he and Sam jumped. This would cover their tracks nicely. Anyone watching would think them dead.
It was not so close as to be an immediate threat however Dean still felt the raise in temperature on his skin. The wind was blowing in their direction, no doubt shortly flames and firefighters would be following.
Time to go.
Returning to Sam, Dean winced a bit at the sight of the bruise starting to spread over the side of his face, along his right jaw and temple. Guilt built a slow, dense pressure in Dean’s chest. He’d never wanted Sam hurt, and especially not by his own hand. His brother trusted him, depended on Dean to protect him. It’s what Dean had always done. Neither of them knew any other way really. He couldn’t keep McCreedy from Sam while Sam was awake, so Dean had to keep him unconscious for a while. That wasn’t what plagued Dean, set his stomach roiling until he tasted bile, his chest tightening to a dull ache. What sent spikes of cold fear through him were thoughts of how Sam would react once he was awake? No scenario Dean came up with was good.
Feeding first one of Sam’s arms, then the other through the sleeves of his flannel, putting it on backwards Dean then secured Sam’s hands behind his back, making a crude straight jacket from Sam’s shirt. He used his jacket and Sam’s to fashion a sling around Sam so Dean could pull him. It wasn’t easy trudging along, dragging Sam, but they’d get there. The going was slow, laborious, and he took a less direct route than if they’d both been ambulatory, not wanting to pull Sam through more underbrush, thorns or mud than absolutely necessary.
Anger, hot and vibrant fueled Dean’s footsteps. He understood why the spirits, if that’s what they were, targeting him. He was directly responsible for the deaths of the three men. Dean didn’t regret it one bit. Sam was another matter. He’d done nothing other than try to help what he thought was an old man change a tire, and this was how his kindness was repaid? They were using Sam to hurt Dean, it was his only weak spot. Obvious to anyone around the brothers, Sam was the only way to make Dean truly suffer. Just as so many months ago Abaddon used threats against Dean to terrify, traumatize Sam. The difference was Sam was actually being hurt this time, physically, but he’d recover from that. It was the emotional, mental wounds Dean feared.
Cold sweat beaded along his forehead, skimmed a path from the back of his neck along his shoulders and down his back. Sam would never forgive him, never see him the same again never trust him again. His entire life Sam had been protected, cared for by his brother. In the last days he’d been attacked physically and verbally by what he thought was the same brother. Dean didn’t quite believe Sam could know the difference, not when he’d flinch at any unexpected movement from Dean. Protecting someone certainly shouldn’t include trussing them up like a Christmas Day turkey and hauling them unconscious through woods. Protecting Sam wasn’t supposed to include knocking him cold, throttling him or seemingly throw him out of a car. Yet he’d done those things. Granted some had been hallucinations, dreams of some kind, but the reality to Sam hadn’t been any less than if Dean had done those things for real.
His brother was being taken from him just as if he was being kidnapped all over again, as if he were killed.
Dean had lived his life caring only if Sam was safe, in every sense of the word. He was doing a piss poor job lately of providing that safety for Sam. It wasn’t that Sam wasn’t perfectly capable of taking care of himself, he was Dean never thought he wasn’t. His brother’s safety, happiness was priority one for Dean and that would never change. Dean cared little if he was safe…but Sam cared. Through it all it was one thing keeping Dean going, gave him a reason to fight. It also gave him reason to use caution where he might not have. It was how Sam protected him. Sam cared if Dean was safe, lived, so Dean made sure they both did. He didn’t doubt Sam would still care, love him, but he very much doubted Sam would ever trust him so completely. Sam never really outgrew his hero-worship of his brother, neither had Dean. Losing all that would kill Dean, he had no doubts about that either. Without Sam’s trust he’d be an empty shell.
It was well into the night when Dean finally got them back to the Impala. He’d never been so happy to see his car in his life. Luck was with him, Sam was still out cold. Valkyrie bounced through the opened window to jump against Dean’s legs. She darted around him to Sam.
“Whoa there chicky.” Dean stopped her from licking his brother’s face, not wanting Sam to wake up. She pranced back over to him, wiggling around his legs; content with glances in Sam’s direction every few seconds. Dean chuckled softly, “I missed you too.”
Wrestling Sam into the car was almost as much work as dragging him however many miles Dean just had. Dean didn’t really want to know how far it had been. Pulling onto the road Dean tried his cell phone again. This time his reception was perfect. Scrolling through the names he hit dial, tapping one finger against the steering wheel, a glance in the rearview mirror to be sure Sam was ok.
“Come on, come on, answer, please, be there….Bobby!”
“Dean. What’s wrong? Is it Sam? ”
Smiling, Bobby was maybe the one person beside Sam who could read his voice so well. Bobby knew him well enough to know Dean’s tone would only be caused by Sam.
“Hell yes, Sam. Bobby, I need help, we need help. There’s something going on here I don’t understand…” He stopped abruptly, voice cracking, betraying him.
“Dean, you there? What do you need?”
“Yeah. Sorry…” Taking a deep breath, “Sorry, it’s just this is….I don’t know. It, they…they’re using Sam, me to hurt him. Hell Bobby I don’t even know how. Can we…Bobby please I need him safe, somewhere safe…I just need to have him some place safe…please Bobby?”
“Boy what the hell are you even asking me for? Why are you wasting time on the phone?”
Dean sniggered, relief washing through him. “Yeah, driving, cell phone.” He should have known asking wasn’t something he needed to do. “We should be there in an hour, probably less.” He carefully closed his phone, setting it on the dash.
Valkyrie hung over the seat, wagging her tail. Reaching over Dean placed one hand on her back, stopping her from jumping over and onto Sam. “Not this time, sorry. You stay up here with me.” Another glance in the mirror at Sam. This was certainly not Sam safe. Sam safe was him in the passenger seat, snoozing or reading or talking Dean’s ear off. Not tied up in the back seat, that was not safe by any means.
A few minutes later Dean felt Sam shifting in the seat, heard a soft moan from his brother. Eyes sliding to the mirror he watched Sam struggle to consciousness, trying to move his arms, then push somewhat unsteadily to a partial sitting position. Dean’s mouth went dry, something strong and nasty clenched around his heart and tightened. Sam’s watery eyes met his via the mirror. Looking one side to the other tears filled Sam’s eyes when his focus swung back to Dean.
“Dean?” His voice was soft, raspy, unsure.
One more glance at his brother, trying to not think about the fear, confusion Dean saw he pulled the car off to the side of the road, cutting the engine. He was out, jogging to the trunk he grabbed out of it a towel and two bottles of water. Stopping by the back door Dean squeezed his eyes shut, took a few deep breaths before opening them again, all the while aware of Sam watching him intently. He pulled the door open, kneeling so he was on eye level with Sam. Sam watched him expectantly, but didn’t move, or speak.
“Hey, how ya doing?” It was a stupid question, but Dean couldn’t think of anything else to say. Cracking open one of the water bottles, Dean shifted so he was partially sitting in the back seat. One hand against Sam’s shoulder he nudged Sam to a straighter position. “Better?”
“Yeah.” Sam’s voice was raw. “Guess I couldn’t stay in the car again.”
Dean smiled and held the bottle so his brother could drink. “Yeah, we’re going to have to work on that.” Reaching his free hand to brush down Sam’s head and wrap around his neck, for the first time in his life Dean honestly expected Sam to pull away. Instead Sam turned his face into Dean’s arm for a second before leaning against the hand settled against his neck.
Sam pulled in a ragged breath. “What’s going on?”
“Do you remember the train?”
Sam nodded. “I thought they…all those kids…I didn’t hurt anyone?”
“No Sammy.” Dean opened the second bottle, dipped it against the towel. “C’mere.” He pulled Sam a bit closer, wiping the towel over his brother’s face, cleaning off dirt mingled with tears. Setting the towel down he held the first bottle for Sam to drink some more. “I called Bobby, we’ll head there. He’ll help us. We’ll fix this Sammy, we will.” Brushing his palm down the back of Sam’s head again, he let it rest again on Sam’s neck. His thumb rubbed the small ridge just behind his brother’s ear. “Sammy, please, trust me, just for a little longer. This is nuts, and I know you’ve got no reason to, but….”
“Dean.” Sam’s voice was still soft, but steadier when he stopped Dean’s speech. He looked at Dean as if he’d grown a few extra heads. “Of course I trust you. Why would you think otherwise?”
“You warm enough?”
Sam nodded against his hand. “Don’t take this off till we’re at Bobby’s.”
Dean gave Sam’s neck a squeeze, then ruffled the hair along the back of his head. “You just concentrate on staying in the car, cause I’m not chasing your ass again.”
“Yes you will.” Sam smiled at him before leaning his head back against the seat.
“No, really, I won’t.” Dean smirked, sliding out of the back, closing the door gently then slipping behind the wheel once more. Maybe, maybe he dared to hope he hadn’t lost anything. Maybe.
Valkyrie settled back in the passenger seat, curled in a ball. Dean cracked the window; the inside of the car was getting warm. Only a few miles had gone by when she lifted her head, snarling in the direction of the back seat. Dean laid a hand on her back, silencing her. “Stay.” Glancing in the rear view mirror he was met not by Sam’s soft, expression filled hazel eyes, but eyes that were hard and cold and flat. He ventured a glance over his shoulder. The face, Sam’s face, was set, emotionless.
Dean’s heart skipped a beat.
“Why him, why Sam? Why any of them?” Dean kept his voice even, his eyes focused on the road.
“Why not?” It was Sam’s voice, but not like Dean was used to hearing it. Even his voice was cold, emotionless. “Such sweet, vulnerable, impressionable kids, all of them. This one, he was one of the best. All that worry over if you lost a finger, would end up in a cage too, or whatever. It was touching really.”
“All he did was try to help someone. He didn’t deserve what you did, none of them did.” Cold chills ran down Dean’s spine. “How can you get pleasure from that?”
“Fear is so sweet to feed on.”
“He’s a kid!” Dean spat. “They all were kids.”
“Makes it so much easier. But it’s not him I want now.”
Another quick turn of his head, looking over his shoulder before returning his eyes to the road. “I get it, you want me. So, I’m here, right here…” Dean’s temper snapped, his hand hit the steering wheel, “Do what you want to me. Leave Sam alone.”
The laugh from Sam was cold, bone chilling. “Or what? You’ll kill me?”
Send your happy ass to hell or wherever you’ll go is more like it. “Did that. It didn’t seem to take the first time. What do you want from me? I’ll give you whatever you want, but leave my brother alone. Leave Sam alone.”
A twisted smile crossed Sam’s face, another cold laugh. “Oh I’ll get what I want. I want you to suffer, like I did, like my brothers did. I want you to know what it’s like, to lose everyone you ever loved. I want you to be responsible for that loss.”
Dean’s throat closed, his breathing went unsteady without warning, hands gripped the steering wheel with such force pain lanced up and down both arms going straight to his neck. He would have done anything, said anything, begged McCreedy to stop, but when he looked back Sam was passed out cold, head back against the back seat, turned to one side, jaw slack. He glanced quickly to Valkyrie who seemed oblivious again, nose pressed to the side window.
Two more miles was all he managed, eyes staring straight ahead, hands gripping the wheel until he pulled over again. Putting the car in park, but not cutting the engine Dean sat there succumbing for countless minutes to the shaking wracking his entire body.
Cracking one eye open Sam watched without interest the shadows outside whip by as the car traveled along some dark, country road. Sitting in the middle of the back seat, head back and to the side he had no idea if Dean realized he’d woken up again or not. Sam was scared. Scared, and for the first time in his life alone. Dean was on a melt down, heading to self destruct. That scared Sam the most. It was the only explanation Sam had for Dean’s continued request to trust him, his comments made Sam know Dean thought he’d lost Sam’s trust. These spirits were punching all Dean’s buttons, hard. They were literally battering him, using Sam to do it, building Dean’s doubts and breaking his defenses. There was never a time Sam hadn’t trusted his brother. He didn’t know how to do otherwise.
His entire life Sam had his brother. There were some hurts Dean hadn’t always been able to protect him from, shield him from, no matter how much either wanted it. But there hadn’t been any loss or hurt Sam hadn’t been able to overcome, get through, come out on the other side of without Dean’s help, without the shield his brother wrapped around him, letting him heal. Now that was gone. His brother was being taken away, slowly and torturously. Sam felt a loneliness he’d never experienced eat away at his chest, creep inside his head nestle there. Cast out, for the first time ever he was totally alone. He wanted his brother back, wanted Dean back and there was nothing he’d stop at to get him back.
Memories of the train filtered into his brain, not the specific events, but the feelings. His feelings. The fear of the passengers, his own fear had been intoxicating, but to whom? He didn’t even want to imagine Dean’s reaction to that piece of information.
Sam shifted around, seeking a more comfortable position. “Dean, man, will you turn down the heat, its roasting back here.” He grumbled, gaze still fixed out the window at nothing.
Dean sighed heavily. Sam straightened, eyes narrowing. NotDean.
“Ya know what Sammyboy I’m thoroughly sick of being dragged down by you. Want, want, want, you’re depressing.” Dean sneered. NotDeanNotDean! “He begged me to spare you, go after him and leave you alone. Pathetic. I’ll be after him all right.”
Sam swallowed convulsively. He was tied up in Dean’s make-shift straight jacket, and when Dean tied someone up, they stayed that way. Valkyrie bounced into the back seat, beside Sam, lips pulled up in a silent snarl aimed at Dean. The car swung erratically off the road. Sam’s breath caught in his throat.
“Dean. Stop it!” Pulling his knees nearly to his chest and kicked out, connecting solidly with the seat in front of him.
“You think, you sniveling brat, that your brother is going to help you? That he even wants to? You’re nothing but a burden. He’d be so much better off without you.”
Sam’s efforts to close his mind to the verbal assault, to the words were only partially successful. Was the spirit tapping in on Dean’s true feelings? Sam wanted to think not, it was a taunt. But there was the tiniest bit of doubt. Sam kicked the seat again, hard enough that Dean was shoved into the steering wheel. The car swerved again. “Dean, stop it!” He shouted, not sure how much his brother could hear, feel.
The laugh from the front seat as the car skidded to a stop was humorless, without feeling, nasty. Terror ripped through Sam when the back door was pulled open. If he was abandoned here he’d have no way of preventing the spirits from hurting Dean. Dean’s hands reached for him, Sam twisted and kicked again, this time connecting with Dean’s chest.
His brother was sent sprawling onto the ground beside the car. He bounced up immediately, after Sam again. Not having enough time to get out Sam was trapped. Dean grabbed him by his ankles, hauling him out of the car.
“Dean, stop it. Come on, it’s me! It’s Sam. Don’t do this.” Shouting, Sam found out a bit too late only seemed to fuel Dean’s rage. His brother’s face was red, eyes filled with hate, loathing. His mouth a tight line, nostrils flaring with each harsh breath drawn. Sam had never seen Dean this frightening.
Landing on his back, Sam flipped over, trying to get his legs under him. He flexed and relaxed the muscles of his shoulders and arms, trying to loosen Dean’s impromptu straight jacket. The effort did little more than tire him. Nothing budged. Dean had him by the hair and one arm, yanking him to his feet.
Letting go of Sam’s hair Dean’s fist slammed into Sam’s middle, doubling him over with a grunt, driving Sam to his knees. Neck clamped in the crook of Dean’s arm, held tightly against Dean’s torso, Sam was punched again just under his solar plexus, shoved back against Dean by the blow, his cheek banged into Dean’s chest. Dean wasn’t calling the shots, he didn’t know who possessed his brother for sure, but he knew one thing with complete certainty. This might be Dean’s body, but it wasn’t Dean.
Ramming his shoulder up and into Dean’s shoulder as hard as he could, Sam wrestled away, falling to his back once again. Dean launched at him. Pulling his knees to his chest Sam kicked. He didn’t want to kick so hard as to crack all Dean’s ribs and puncture a lung, but he needed to kick hard enough to render his brother incapacitated for long enough the spirit would leave. Sam’s boots caught Dean’s shoulders and upper chest, flipping him back. Sam’s legs caught Dean’s and with a twist of his lower body he flipped Dean away, slamming him into the car.
Pushing away with his legs Sam watched as Dean staggered to his feet, stumbled back, then dropped to his knees. Sam leaned against the car, shoving upright against it, kneeling there, panting. He tried to wipe the blood on his face off on his arm, but could quite get it all off. Leaning down so his forehead almost touched his knees he pulled in long, ragged breaths, willing his head to stop spinning.
His brother groaned, rolled to one side, and slowly pushed against one hand to straighten. Swaying for a minute, Dean fell back against the car near Sam.
“Dean?” Sam wheezed out between pants.
“You ok Sammy?”
Sam slumped against the car, head falling back until he could rest against the cool metal. He concentrated on quieting his breathing to something closer to normal. Dean hedged closer to him. Sam almost didn’t flinch when Dean laid one hand on his shoulder. Dean froze, but didn’t move his hand away. A minute later it started sliding down Sam’s back.
“No.” Sam scooted away. “Don’t untie me.”
“Sammy this is nuts. I could have killed you.” Dean panted. His look of sheer horror made Sam’s throat close up, his eyes burned hot. Dean moved on his knees to the driver’s door, pushing the upper half of his body into the car, Sam saw his arm reach to the dash for something. Back down a second later, sitting next to Sam, close enough Sam could lean against his side Dean held up his cell phone triumphantly. “Got an idea.” Flipping his phone open Dean made a call. Sam rested his forehead against Dean’s shoulder, gagging and pulling in ragged breaths, fighting to steady the quakes wracking his body. Dean’s hand patted his knee. Dean shut the phone, and struggled to stand. Leaning against the car briefly, Sam saw him sway ever so slightly. Dean made his way to the trunk.
Next to Sam a minute later, Dean’s hands wound around Sam, pulling him up and guiding him to the back seat of the car. One hand on Sam’s head so he didn’t hit it on the door frame Dean eased him onto the seat. He grabbed a blanket, moving a bit more easily now, reached in and tucked it behind Sam’s back so he could lean against the far door, legs stretched over the seat.
Carefully closing the door Sam watched Dean climb into the front seat after leaving something on the hood of the car. Taking handcuffs from his back pocket Dean handcuffed himself to the steering wheel of the car.
“Bobby is bringing his tow truck, he’ll pull us in. We’ll never make it otherwise. He shouldn’t be too long.”
“Do you think it’s them, or maybe it’s me?”
“You? Sam that’s crazy, why would it be you?”
Sam shrugged, eyes focusing on his boots. “Maybe I’m turning into something evil and I’m causing this.”
“You know I don’t believe that for one minute.” Dean took a deep breath. “Besides Sammy somehow I don’t think you turning evil involves getting the crap beat out of you by me.”
“Something had you.” Sam said softly.
“I was wrong again?”
Finally he could look up, meet Dean’s eyes, nodding. “Do you remember anything?”
Dean’s simple, “I remember enough.” Tore at Sam’s heart so badly he thought it would rip in two.
Lost in the night Feeling so invisible A dead man walking the wire High above the devil’s net that’s made of fire….’Alive’ by Meat Loaf
Bobby had no idea what he’d find when he got to the boys, his boys, the closest thing he had to a family even before his sister was gone. If Dean’s first phone call sent shivers through him, his second one stopped Bobby’s ability to swallow or breathe properly. Dean at least was ok enough to be able to make two phone calls. As for Sam he had no clue what condition the boy was in, he wasn’t even fully convinced Sam was alive anymore. Dean calling, voice breaking and cracking asking…begging…him to come get them, tow their car in. Did he remember correctly Dean saying there wasn’t much more they could survive? They! Two of them. But then again would Dean ever stop speaking of Sam in the here and now even if he’d died? Bobby doubted it. He seriously doubted Dean’s sanity, if not his own life would survive Sam’s dying.
Armed with what he hoped were appropriate weapons, gas tank of his tow truck full, Bobby sped down the dark roads, following the directions Dean gave him. Christ, what would he do with Dean if some had happened to Sam? The man’s voice was like Bobby never heard it before. Dean was clearly at the end of a very short rope, clinging desperately to keep from falling into some dark abyss he’d never crawl out of.
Finding the Impala exactly where Dean said it would be Bobby relaxed a fraction, the car looked fine, so there’d been no accident. He could check that worry off his list. However it just meant one of his other, more dangerous worries was likely the culprit. Grabbing his shotgun, holy water, a knife and stuffing a pistol into the small holster at his back, Bobby approached the car quickly, quietly, cautiously. Holding a flashlight in his free hand, high and aimed into the car Bobby took stock of the situation.
Sam was propped against the back passenger door, Bobby’s relief when he saw movement made him pause, catch his breath. Sam’s knee bumped the back of the front seat, he saw Sam’s lips move, knew the word was a very low, quietly spoken Dean. Sam’s eyes shifted from Bobby’s approaching form to Dean, back again, then as Dean stirred stayed riveted on his brother. The poor kid looked like he was tied up and had gone nine rounds with a brick wall and lost. He was moving, that was what interested Bobby the most, moving and alive, if not completely healthy. Valkyrie was sitting on Sam’s legs, hanging over the seat so her front legs rested on Dean’s shoulder.
Dean groaned awake, stirred, glanced first out the window, met Bobby’s eyes and asked Sam if he was ok as he nodded to Bobby. All that let Bobby know they were both pretty much themselves. Though he thought it a bit odd Dean was handcuffed to the steering wheel. Dean wore a pissed off rabid dog expression, Sam more like a deer facing down headlights and a cannon. The driver’s side window was partially rolled down so Bobby merely had to lean down to talk to them.
He was close enough now to take in more details. Sam was tied up in his own shirt, straight jacket style. A nasty looking bruise covered most of the right side of his head and face. He was a collection of scrapes, shallow cuts and smaller bruises. He leaned against the passenger back door, a blanket balled behind him, legs stretched as much as Sam could stretch in the back seat. Dean’s eyes were red rimmed, he looked exhausted. His hands were discolored from small bruises and there was a gash along his left temple. His movements were stiff, unsure and when Bobby looked closer Dean’s eyes were not their normal mask of calm and calculating hunter. If Dean’s voice had sent Bobby’s alarm bells off his eyes turned those bells into blaring sirens. He looked on the verge of complete panic. Bobby was sure the only thing keeping Dean together right now was his always present tendencies to protect Sam. The sudden realization came to Bobby that was what kept Dean on track and together most his life, he focused on his kid brother, used his own need to keep Sam safe to keep himself going, keep his head clear. Dean was so focused on Sam he never saw danger to himself or even thought he might lose himself someday.
“I’m going to guess you two have a good reason for this, and it’s not some joke.” Bobby attempted to lighten the mood, it worked too. Dean relaxed the smallest amount. When Sam saw tension ease from his brother’s shoulders he relaxed somewhat too. Bobby took a deep breath, mission one accomplished.
“We think it’s one of the McCreedy twins, and Redding. The key to my cuffs is on the hood,” Dean moved his wrists in the direction of the windshield, jutting his chin that way too. “Please, just leave us here, tow the car in. We’ll explain everything, but first…” A glance back at Sam, “…can we just go?”
Sam’s eyes were glued to Dean. He hadn’t said anything since waking his brother. That was very un-Sam-like. It took Bobby back to the first few days after he’d returned home, learned what happened to the boys while they’d stayed at his house for him. How Sam would go an entire day without saying more than three consecutive words. How he followed Dean like a lost, beaten puppy, refusing to let his older brother out of his sight, how he didn’t do a thing unless Dean said it was necessary. Bobby still wasn’t over feeling guilty for lighting a fire in the fire place which sent Sam skittering out to the front porch one night. In the months between then and now he’d been pleased to hear Sam’s voice start to sound more normal. Dean seemed happy with his brother’s progress. They were getting through. Bobby had even dared to think they’d be whole, themselves again.
Now Bobby feared all that was undone
“Sure.” Bobby couldn’t say much more, his throat was too dry and closed. He tapped the rim of the car door, stepped away and grabbed the key. “Can you shift to neutral for me?”
Making quick work of hooking the car up to be towed, Bobby glanced at them a few times. Sam’s eyes followed his movements, slipping back and forth from Dean to Bobby. It was eerie. Dean’s eyes were closed, head leaned back against the window frame. Without opening them at one point when Sam’s gaze stayed on Dean, the older brother mumbled softly spoken words, “It’ll be ok, Sammy.” How the hell did Dean do that? Bobby had seen it more than once, and it fascinated him. Dean didn’t have to be in the same room with Sam, able to see him or hear him and yet was able to know even the smallest distress from his brother. Maybe Sam wasn’t the only psychic.
“You two ok in there?” He slowly winched the front end of the car off the ground.
“Just great.” Dean managed a small smile. “Thanks. Thank you.”
A nod from Bobby and he climbed into the cab of his truck, gently easing it into gear and onto the road, acutely aware of the precious cargo he pulled behind him. Fortunately the drive was quick, the Impala only being twenty or so minutes from Bobby’s junk yard. Once safely back, the car unhooked, Bobby set about the task of getting the two of them free. He went first to the back door, knowing Dean would stubbornly refuse anything until he knew Sam was ok.
“Come on Sam, let’s get you outa there.” Bobby reached in, grabbing Sam’s arms, ignoring the slight flinch from the boy, and the scrutiny of Dean’s intense gaze. Sam scooted along the seat with Bobby’s help and thankfully stood on his own. Bobby looked him over quickly, no broken bones, no obvious blood, he seemed fine that way. It was the haunted look to his eyes, the one he’d seen too much so many months back Bobby hated and was willing to bet Dean hated as much times ten. Sam waited patiently next to the car while Bobby fished the handcuff key from his pocket and extracted Dean. To Bobby it appeared Sam had given up, was resigned to whatever fate he’d come to because of the spirits. That Bobby knew would only lead to defeat.
“Thanks.” Dean repeated, rubbing his wrists, and rolling his shoulders. Stepping closer to Sam, Dean laid one hand on his shoulder, turning Sam so his back was to Dean. “Probably getting tired of this get up, huh?” He gave the tied sleeves of Sam’s flannel a tug.
“Dean.” Sam barely whispered, turning his head to look at his brother, eyes sliding for the briefest second to Bobby before settling back on Dean again.
“It’ll be ok. Besides don’t even try telling me this isn’t getting uncomfortable. Sorry, Sammy, I think I tied this too well.” He used both hands now to tug on the bindings behind Sam’s back. “Going to have to cut it off.”
Sam shrugged. “It’s your shirt.”
That made Bobby smile. It was the first Sam-like thing he’d heard from the kid. Maybe his earlier assessment Sam had given up was wrong. Bobby very much hoped that boy had some fight left in him. He watched as Dean produced a small switch blade from his jacket pocket, told Sam, who hadn’t actually moved, to stay still and expertly cut away Sam’s restraints.
“You ok?” Dean gave Sam’s arm a squeeze before stepping away from him.
Sam merely nodded, shed the flannel before moving his arms back and forth, flexing and relaxing what had to be very stiffened muscles. He didn’t move otherwise, stood still watching Dean and Bobby. When Dean handed him one of their duffels Sam took it, staying put until Dean tapped his elbow, smiled a small shallow smile and dipped his head a fraction. As if reading Dean’s mind, and Bobby realized Sam almost did, he was perfectly capable of reading the intent of Dean’s actions, Sam obediently trailed along behind them to the house.
Valkyrie bounced up the steps to the front porch, down and up again in the time it took the three men to get there. When Bobby opened the door she sprinted inside, hopped onto his recliner and curled there watching them. The dog acted as if she owned the place, on second thought he decided maybe she did.
Sam stopped in the living room, eyes drifting up to the ceiling before settling again on Dean with brief glances at Bobby.
“Ok, now tell me what’s been going on, from the start.” Bobby looked from one to the other.
“Ever since Sam…” Dean shifted from one foot to the other, glancing briefly at Sam before continuing, “Ever since Sammy was kidnapped, since we left here after that he’s been having nightmares. They’ve gotten progressively worse, totally out of control since we decided to head back here. At first they were mostly centered on something happening to me, something either Redding or McCreedy would do, sometimes Sam himself, forced by them.” He continued on, listing a litany of recent events, culminating with Dean knocking Sam out cold after the kid tried slaughtering a train full of people.
Bobby didn’t miss the fact this was the first time Dean had said the words to him ‘Sam’s kidnap.’ He also didn’t miss how Sam was suddenly more interested in the floor, the furniture and everything but meeting Bobby’s eyes. Damn stupid kid thought it was his fault.
“They seemed to be more centered on Sam. But they’ve gotten me too. Forced us to…” Another glance at Sam. “To…um…we went after one another.”
Bobby couldn’t even comprehend what that tactic had done to the brothers. “When does this happen?”
“At first when one or both of us was asleep. The last few just happened, no warning, like a possession. We still have those charms; I thought they guarded against possession.”
“Demon possession. But there are other things.”
“There were no signs Bobby. Nothing. No cold air, no flickering lights, no feeling anything or smelling ozone or sulfur.”
“There’s always signs Dean. Just they won’t always be the traditional types. What did you feel just before, maybe even several minutes before? Anything you can remember happening each time?”
The brothers exchanged a look. Dean shook his head once, “I’m not—“
“Warm.” Sam blurted out. “I got warm each time right before. And Dean said he got warm and drowsy at the lake, when they tried to drown him. They almost, he…”
Dean sighed deeply, “I’m fine Sam.”
“Dean you turned grey and stopped breathing.”
“I’m fine now.”
“What did you see when that happened? When any of it happened?” Bobby pressed.
“A lot of water.” Dean smirked when Bobby snorted and Sam huffed a disgusted noise.
“Dean that’s not really funny. You could have…”
Leveling a stare at Sam that silenced him Dean said, “Later Sam.” He turned to Bobby. “I saw Redding, or thought I did. It was really Sam trying to get me out of the water. Things got hazy, then, and the other times. I saw black and red haze too.”
“Each time it happened to me, Dean was after me, or I thought he was. I saw haze too.”
Bobby had stopped watching them, moved to a stack of books near his desk, “Here. This is, it’s, well I’ve only read about this type of thing, never seen it.”
“Oh great,” Dean quipped to Sam, “We’ve got something he’s never seen before. Just our luck.”
“What are you thinking?” Sam did precisely what Bobby did and ignored Dean.
“A type of entity. A spirit, similar to a vengeful spirit, one that can’t or won’t move on. They can manipulate what a person thinks is reality. Demons give them power to exist even if their bodies are salted and burned. Unlike normal spirits, these are more like actual souls. Instead of cold as warning, warmth is. What they do isn’t exactly a possession, more like an infestation. You both remember what happened while it was with you?”
“Yeah, but our perception of what was happening was seriously skewed.” Dean said. Sam nodded.
“Something holds them here, usually to a piece of land, rock formations, big ones, permanent geological type things.”
“What type of thing holds them?”
“They’re almost always connected with land, rock, so something in stone, metal, something like that.”
“What about this?” Dean pulled out his cell phone, flipped it open and shoved the small screen under Bobby’s nose.
Squinting at the picture Bobby nodded slowly. “Where did you find this?”
“Where their house was.” Sam said softly.
“Makes sense.” Bobby looked from one to the other. He hated what he was about to do, but knew it was necessary. “We need this.”
Sam’s face fell. He grasped the meaning of Bobby’s simple statement a half second before Dean. The kid took on the wild rabbit look again. Dean stared at him for a few seconds, eyes widening, his head shook once.
“We have to go back?” Sam stumbled over the words.
“Not we Sam. There’s no way we can both go back together and not be attacked again. Bobby won’t find it in the dark.”
Bobby’s heart bled when Sam looked from Dean to him. The boy’s fists bunched, he recoiled as if he’d been hit and hit hard. Watching him fight some horrible inner battle to keep control was devastating. Sam was in no shape to go, Dean wasn’t much better. Bobby knew Dean would never allow Sam going to retrieve the marked stone. The simple fact remained it could take Bobby wasted hours to find it, not to mention he’d have to wait until daylight to even have a chance.
Having to twist around to see Dean completely it nearly killed Bobby to look at him. For the first time ever Bobby saw Dean look totally lost, uncertain. Even when John Winchester had died Dean hadn’t looked like this. Leaving Sam right now meant not only leaving him alone, but entrusting him to someone else. Dean simply didn’t have a concept of how to do that.
Bobby wanted to reassure them it wouldn’t be so bad, it would be all right, a quick run to the property and back. But he couldn’t do that.
“Look, Bobby, if you’re right about this, then those things have been at Sam for a while. We’ve had our rooms warded, salted, and still it, they…whatever… got through. What happens if they get him while I’m gone? No offense, but how are you going to stop him when I barely could?” Dean was pacing. That was never good.
Pointing to the ceiling Sam asked, “What about your Devil’s Trap, will it do any good?”
“I-I don’t know.” He glanced at his ceiling. “It sure can’t hurt.”
“Dean?” Sam’s voice was so soft he was more exhaling his brother’s name than speaking it. The kid’s eyes shimmering with moisture.
Dean still paced. “Bobby, I can’t…” Breaking off he looked at Sam. “I…” He didn’t seem to know what to say or how to say it.
“Sam, look through those books,” Bobby pointed to one of his many stacks. “There might be more in one of them.” Taking Dean by the sleeve Bobby pulled him along out of the room. “I’ve got an idea, come on, two minutes, you can see him just fine from the kitchen.”
Once in the next room Dean whirled on him, the pissed off rabid dog resurfacing. “Bobby I can’t. I can’t leave him now. You see how he is. I can’t.” Dean’s breath was short bursts. Bobby had the distinct impression Dean not wanting to leave Sam wasn’t merely for Sam’s peace of mind. “He’s my responsibility. I’m the one who watches out for him, I’ve always done that. I can’t just leave him.”
Bobby learned years ago, if he wanted Sam to do something he first had to convince Dean. The sense of security they provided each other had been rammed home in a big way the night he’d helped Dean free Sam of a possession. It amazed him now as much as it had then, how once released from the demon Sam scrambled to Dean’s side. Even after a punch from a very frustrated Dean, Sam shoved along the row of shelves until he was wedged partially behind his brother, and Dean scooted forward a bit, letting him. It hadn’t escaped Bobby how then, as now, Dean was constantly between Sam and everyone including Bobby. Hell he’d seen it when their father was alive, Dean between John and Sam. He was willing to bet this was something they were both so conditioned to neither one gave it a thought. Dean led the way, cleared a safe path. Sam followed without hesitation.
“We need that stone Dean. If I go we’ll have to wait until it’s light, I’ll never find it half buried in the dark. I’m not sure you two have that kind of time.” Bobby kept his voice low so only Dean heard him, but put enough snap into it he hoped Dean would listen. He returned Dean’s glare unwaveringly. “I’ve got an idea.”
Rummaging through one of the cupboards he pulled a small bottle of liquid out and held it for Dean to see. “A tablespoon of this in some water, he’ll be out for an hour or two. They won’t be able to get at him. You should be back by then.”
Dean’s mouth dropped open. He stared at the bottle then Bobby for probably a full minute. Damn this kid was in trouble, he was never this slow at picking up what needed to be done.
“Drug him?” Dean stammered, whispering. “You want me to drug my brother?”
“Well, you could hit him in the head again with the butt end of your pistol. I thought this would be a bit nicer.”
Bobby almost got a smile from Dean, but it vanished the second his lips started to form it. “Bobby,” he shook his head, “I don’t know if….I don’t think Sam trusts—“
“Yes Dean you jackass he does!” Bobby lowered his voice when he saw Sam look up from one of the books. Grabbing Dean’s sleeve he yanked roughly and spat out. “He does.”
Apparently Dean hadn’t seen the looks Sam had been directing his way since Bobby picked them up. When Dean’s eyes met his Bobby barely held back the gasp. They were some mixture of haunted and just plain scared. Dean nodded. Sensing he’d better do this before Dean changed his mind Bobby filled a glass with water, mixed in the drug. Dean took it with shaking hands. He went back to his brother.
Looking up expectantly Sam’s eyes rested on the glass. He’d moved Bobby’s couch under the Devil’s Trap, sat there with the books Bobby asked him to go through.
Dean perched on the arm of the couch. “Sammy I have to go get that stone. You need to stay here. If we go together they’ll just get us again. We both know that.”
Sam’s head jerked once, he looked away at the floor, trembling ever so slightly. “What’s that?”
“It’s um….Bobby mixed it up, water and something to make you sleep for a bit. I can’t leave unless I know they won’t get to you Sam, I can’t. It’s the only way, the only thing we have time for right now.”
Sam took the glass, but didn’t drink. Bobby watched, not sure what exactly passed between the brothers, he was never sure, but damn didn’t they communicate somehow. He’d seen it before, it amazed him every time. Anyone else, particularly if that anyone else was John Winchester, could never convince, coerce or trick Sam Winchester into doing anything he didn’t want to. In fact if John wanted it Sam did the opposite for that reason alone. But if Dean wanted it, if Dean asked, Sam never questioned, even if Sam didn’t completely agree. That Dean asked was reason enough for Sam.
Staring at the glass before meeting his brother’s eyes Sam whispered, “Am I going to wake up?”
“Are you going to…?” Dean’s shocked expression mirrored Bobby’s he was sure. Shifting so he knelt in front of Sam, hand on Sam’s arm, Dean asked what Bobby wanted to. “Awww, Sammy, where do you come up with this stuff? Of course you are.”
Downing the liquid in one gulp, “Uughh…Bobby it’s awful!” Sam sputtered, shaking his head and making a face. “How long does it take?”
“Just a few minutes.”
Pulling the books away from the couch, Dean nudged against Sam’s shoulder until the kid was curled on his side, lying down. “I’ll be back before you wake up, hopefully.”
Sam merely nodded, yawned and let his eyes drift shut.
Bobby backed away, gave them space. There was a certain tenderness in Dean Winchester that extended out in the direction of and only as far as his brother Sam. There it stopped. Bobby wondered if he’d been the only other person alive, or dead, to see it other than Sam. It certainly had never been experienced by anyone other than Sam. Maybe it was part of their strength.
A few minutes later, Sam was deeply sleeping. Dean had to get going, but hadn’t moved. Bobby shuffled close enough to lay one hand on Dean’s shoulder, making enough noise he didn’t startle the other man. “Dean,” he kept his voice soothing, “Dean, I’m sorry, but you need to go.”
Standing slowly Dean glanced at him, nodded, looked back at Sam.
“Dean, I’ll look after him, I will.” He gave Dean’s shoulder a mild push. “I will.”
Wiping one hand over his face, Dean nodded again, said nothing, but reached out and squeezed Bobby’s arm for an instant before bolting out the door.
Dean pressed the gas pedal closer to the floor.
Left Sam. He’d left Sam. Just doped him up and left him. Dean couldn’t catch his breath; the inside of the Impala was lonely and empty, expansive and too small all at once.
He had to get back before Sam woke up.
Left him, he’d left his brother. The fact he’d left him with Bobby was of absolutely no comfort. Sam wasn’t Bobby’s responsibility, he was Dean’s.
The road swam in sickening waves. Dean was sucking in air in harsh, short bursts. Pulling the car off to the side, Dean cut the engine. Get it together. He had to get control of himself, wrecking the car and dying wasn’t going to be overly helpful. Left Sam. Lefthimlefthimlefthim.
Dean gripped the steering wheel with both hands so tightly his arms ached. Squeezing his eyes shut, he leaned his forehead against his knuckles, slumped forward and cried.
Pull it together.
Dean was back on the road, the Impala doing ninety.
Left him, left Sam. There wasn’t much Dean could wrap his head around right then, in fact there was only two thoughts he held onto. He’d left Sam, alone, defenseless…alone. Bobby was there he reminded himself, Bobby was with Sam. Sam wasn’t alone, Bobby would watch after him. Get the stone, the words bounced through his head on the heels of left Sam.
Hands gripping the steering wheel with intensity enough to yank it off Dean took a bend in the road too fast. Nearly losing control of the car, it fishtailed, headlights swinging into the woods before being righted back onto the road again. Horns blared angrily from an oncoming van he avoided hitting by mere inches. Heart pounding wildly against his ribs, Dean struggled to steady his breathing,
Going back to the property alone wasn’t what frightened Dean to the point he nearly couldn’t formulate a coherent thought, it was leaving Sam. He’d been separated from his brother all of one time in the last six months, a few short weeks ago when he’d left Sam at a library. Then Sam was safe, cell phone in hand, calling Dean every ten minutes. The air inside the Impala was thick and stifling. He’d left his brother, drugged him and left him. Sam trusted him and Dean betrayed that trust. Dean was just as alone as Sam. He didn’t like it, he hated it.
Sam’s alone, left him, left him, left him.
Yanking his cell phone out, Bobby was on speed dial. His heart nearly blew out of his mouth when Bobby answered before the first ring completed.
“He’s still out. Sam’s ok.”
“Thanks.” Dean wanted to say twenty other things, ask more questions, tell Bobby how grateful he was for the man’s help. Tears dripped down his cheeks, his throat completely closed.
“Did you get it already?”
“N-no. Not quite there yet. I just wanted….needed…thanks Bobby.”
“You be careful. You won’t do your brother any good if you get hurt or killed.” Even though Bobby’s voice was gruff, Dean could picture the soft look in his eyes.
“I will. Thanks.” Dean closed the phone slowly, carefully and put it in his pocket. Bobby would never fully understand, and Dean could never fully express his gratitude right then. It wasn’t just Bobby helped them so willingly, it was his simple ability to recognize and acknowledge them, what they needed, how they felt.
It pained Dean to think his father would never have thought to reassure him Sam was safe, not in pain, and did in fact trust Dean, need him. Being brutally honest Dean had to admit, John would have shoved Dean’s fears to the side, ordered the job be done. That is if Sam had even survived to this point, John could be a bit trigger happy. John’s constant reminder all of Dean’s life to take care of Sam had been more because John needed someone to, didn’t really want to do it himself. He never understood Dean wanted to, never needed to be told. What John ordered and expected out of family loyalty Dean did out of love. Dean really only had a grasp of one way to show his brother that love, and it was to provide whatever he could for Sam. To John, Sam was a responsibility; to Dean he was a reason to live.
Dean’s main goal right now was to get back to his brother. Retrieve the stone, take it back to Bobby and send those spirits, or whatever they were on their way. Far away, where they’d never be able to hurt Sam, or him, or anyone again.
The Impala bounced down the bumpy drive leading to where the McCreedy home once stood. He imagined Sam, in the back of a car, drugged, semiconscious, confused as he’d been driven down the same drive so many months ago. The place was still a mud pit, it seemed each time Dean was here it was the same. Splashing through, sprays of darkened water arched into the air in the wake of the tires. Dean could hear tiny pings as the splattered mud hit the side of the car. Driving as close to the foundation as he could Dean parked the car, cut the engine. Cell phone in pocket, Dean sprinted to the trunk. A small blessed silver edged knife was secured with a strap around his ankle. Pistol with consecrated rounds went into the back of his waistband, shotgun with rock salt held firmly in his right hand, a small, folding shovel in his left. The flashlight he shoved into his jacket pocket.
Dean started across to the section of the buried foundation he remembered the stone being implanted. He ignored the mud his boots slapped through, ignored the droplets that sprayed the bottom of his jeans.
Spinning around, Dean faced Sam, watched fascinated as the breath from his voice made a fore trail in the night air while Sam jogged at him. “What are you doing here? How’d you get here?”
Sam grinned mischievously, “I didn’t swallow the sedative, faked being asleep. Borrowed Bobby’s truck and followed you, I thought you’d need help.” Head cocked to one side, offering a sweet, lopsided grin.
Inhaling sharply Dean stared at his brother. “Sam, I just talked to Bobby not ten minutes ago, he said you were out cold.”
Shrugging, Sam reached for Dean’s shotgun. “He lied so you wouldn’t worry and to give me time to catch up to you.”
When Dean pulled the shotgun away from Sam’s grasp, Sam looked down at his feet, hands dropping to his sides. Looking at Dean from under his bangs, following his eyes Dean saw a hint of moisture brighten Sam’s eyes. “You don’t believe me?” Sam’s voice was soft, wounded.
“Sammy…I…” Dean took a step back, reached into his pocket for his cell phone. If it was true Bobby was in for one helluva speech, not to mention the split lip Dean was planning.
Dean’s stomach twisted viciously, Sam sounded so lost, so uncertain. Taking his eyes from Sam only long enough to flip open the phone, his gaze popped back over to Sam when he heard a stifled gurgling sort of sound. When his eyes met Sam’s, his brother was lifted from the ground and flung away with a gasp. He hit the ground with a thud and a groan, sliding a few feet in the mud.
Away from the stone.
Before Dean could do much more than inhale Sam was picked up and tossed again, like a giant rag doll, landing solidly against a dead tree.
“Sammy.” Dean pushed the word out between his teeth. This couldn’t be Sam, couldn’t be. Trick, it was a trick, Redding, or McCreedy were doing this to keep him from the stone.
But if he was wrong?
A few steps in Sam’s direction he watched Sam roll away from the tree, stand up, shake his head. “Dean. Please, don’t let them. Hurts Dean. Help me, please.”
Spinning on one heel, Dean sprinted at the plot of ground where the stone was. Sam screamed after him, Dean tried shutting out the voice, concentrated on the sound of his blood rushing through his ears. Can’t be Sam. Cell phone out, he ignored Sam’s pleas, his begging Dean to help him.
“You on the way back?”
“Not quite. Is Sam there?”
“You can see him, touch him?”
“Yeah, Dean, what’s--“
“Bobby, just do it, touch him and tell me he’s there, really there.”
“NOW Bobby!” Dean heard rustling, movement on the other end of the phone. Tucking the shovel under his elbow, rested the shotgun in the bend of his arm, Dean pulled out the flashlight, flicked it on, and started searching.
“He’s right here. I have my hand on his arm, it’s Sam, he’s here, just like you left him.”
Snarling, Dean clenched the phone in his fingers, snapping it shut. The beam of light fell on the spot, Dean ran, dropping to his knees and sliding next to the stone. He started to dig.
Sam’s screams, pleading increased. Dean ignored it, don’t look back, don’t look back. Realizing in the next instant there was quiet. Dean looked up in time to see Sam charging him, yelling at him to stop, or he would be hurt, die. Pulling up his shot gun, dropping everything else Dean faced Sam off.
“Stop!” Dean shouted.
“I’ll make you kill him.” Sam snapped back, not slowing down.
Dean took a step back, wavering. This isn’t Sam. Isn’t Sam. Dean took another step away from the stone. “Don’t.” The word choked out of Dean’s throat. Shaking his head, blinking through tears. “Don’t.”
Dean fired, squeezing his eyes shut. “Sam.” He barely whispered, opening his eyes.
The sight meeting him drove him to his knees. Sam made gurgling, choking noises. Dean was barely aware of the world around him, his vision narrowed down until Sam filled it completely. Sam stumbled back, one hand trying to cover the gaping hole in his chest, his mouth dropped open, but no words came out, just wet, pained gasps. Blood trickled down his chest, oozed through his shirt, dripped to the ground. His other arm flailed the air in a desperate attempt to not fall. Upper half of his body bending down Sam wheezed out, “Deea—“
“Oh Christ…Sam…Sammy?” What if…Sammy? Can’t be Sam, can’t be, can’t be, cantbecantbecantbe. Dean fought the atmosphere closing in around him, forcing the air from his lungs and trying to fill them all at once. Staggering to his feet, Dean dropped everything but the flashlight. Needing to concentrate on even the tiniest movement of his muscles he made his way to Sam.
“Oh, God, Sam. I’m sorry. Sam.” When Dean reached out, wanting to take hold of Sam, his hand skimmed right through.
Sam looked up at him, sadistic smile spreading across his face. “You should see your face right now. Killed your precious little Sammy. Next time you shoot him it’ll be for real.”
Dean fumbled for the shot gun again, pulled it back up, steadied its shaking. “You leave him alone you bastard.” Dean fired again, again and again.
A whoosh of air and blast of warmth assaulted Dean and signaled Sam’s evaporation. Back to the stone in a few long, fast strides Dean snatched up the shovel, redoubled his efforts to free the thing from the ground.
“Wanna see how he’ll die?” Sam whispered in his ear, hanging over his shoulder, re-coalesced, and warm feathers of air brushing Dean’s neck.
Dean ignored it as well as he could, kept digging. Sam flickered away, then reappeared on his other side, kicking out, connecting with surprising force with Dean’s ribs. He landed with a grunt a few feet away. Pulling one arm around his middle, Dean shoved off the ground with the other, snarling out, “Go back to Hell.” He had the shovel working at the dirt around the stone again.
Sam was hanging over his shoulder again, “Maybe you slit his throat, or shoot him. Oooohh…no, better you beat him to death with your own hands. Can’t you feel it, his bones breaking, flesh tearing and bleeding while you hit over and over? What his final breath feels like under your hands. See the pain, the hurt, the betrayal in his eyes as they go lifeless. Feel his dead, cold body.”
Wishing he could just elbow Sam in the face and shut him the hell up, Dean wiped sweat, and a few tears from his eyes. Popping up one corner of the stone, he covered it with his legs and went onto the other side.
Sam disappeared only to reappear crouching in front of him. “Ya know what Dean? You’ll never get back to him in time. Not ever.”
Dean froze, looking up. There was nothing but dying trees and darkness. Scrabbling the dirt with his fingers until they bled, Dean yanked the stone free. Gathering everything in his arms Dean ran to the car, tossed it all in the front seat, threw himself in after, slammed the door, gunned the engine and peeled out to the road.
Cell phone out Dean nearly passed out from relief when he heard Bobby’s voice. “Did you get it?”
“Back, on my way back. Bobby watch out. They’re coming after….Bobby, Sam?” Dean bit down on his lip to steady himself.
“Dean, listen to me, he’s fine. Still asleep. Ignore them. I’ll take care of Sam, I promise you Dean he’ll be ok.”
“Thank you.” Dean wasn’t exactly sure he’d said the words before hanging up or thought them.
Going after Sam. Alone. Not alone. Left him…lefthimlefthimlefthim.
“And it’s a long way down from the top of the world You better look around or you’re gonna get burned… …And as the dust clears look in my eyes If my shadow’s all that survives I’m still alive….” Alive by Meat Loaf
When Sam appeared in the back seat it was all Dean could do to keep from driving off the road. Hanging over, wrapping one arm across Dean’s neck and around his shoulders Sam whispered in his ear. “Maybe little brother Sammy should do it himself, save you the trouble. Spare you. He’s said himself he’d die for you, but will he kill himself for you? Interesting question, don’t you think?” The voice shifted from his right ear to his left. “How should he do it?” Bone chilling laugh. “Step in front of a train maybe? Naaa…too quick, something slow, agonizing. Take his knife and cut his own arms open, bleed out. I know,” the voice shifted to his right ear again, “—fire—“
Dean’s eyes slipped, for an instant, to the apparition. Stupid ass! Shouldn’t have done that.
“That’s it isn’t it? Poor Sam, so afraid of fire. He’ll have to torch himself up, nice and bright so you can watch, hear his screams, smell his burning flesh, see the terror in his eyes. And he’ll do it all for you, for his big brother. Sammy’d do that for you, he’d do anything for you, even die, even kill himself.” The voice dropped to a low, husky pitch. “Even burn.”
Staring straight ahead, Dean refused to acknowledge the spirit, but he couldn’t ignore it. Couldn’t ignore the words and the images they invoked. Memory of the sight of Sam, tied to a pyre, flames swirling around him still too fresh. Dean’s heart flattened, clenched tight in his too small chest. His stomach flipped against itself, tightening to a ball the size of a marble. Hot, angry bile crawled up to his mouth, swirled around his tongue. He forced it back down.
A stream of warm air lapped through the car, Sam was gone. Christ!
Yanking his phone out, Dean dialed Bobby again. This time it was two rings before Bobby answered. “How’s my boy Bobby?” He didn’t even attempt to conceal the agitation in his voice.
“He woke up a minute ago.”
Dean’s fingers tightened even harder around the steering wheel. “How is he? Behaving himself for you?”
“I’m not who he needs here. How do you think he is?” Bobby snapped.
Wincing Dean closed his eyes for a second, taking a deep breath. “On my way back. Can I talk to him?”
Dean heard movement of the phone, could picture Sam’s expression looking up at Bobby from the couch, probably as soon as the phone rang. He heard Bobby say his name, heard Sam mumble a thanks.
“How much longer?”
The softness of Sam’s tone made the road blur until Dean blinked it clear. “You ok Sammy?”
He could hear the soft rustle of the phone against Sam’s ear, imagine his brother nodding. “Yeah. How far are you?”
“I’m not sure, not long Sam, I promise. Listen to me kiddo, you hang in there, do what Bobby says. I’ll be there.” He waited, but there was no answer. “Sam?”
“That’s my boy. I’ve got the stone, we’ll get them.”
“Did they…are you ok?”
“Hey, I’m on this phone talking to you, aren’t I?” That earned him a soft chuckle from Sam.
“Be careful. Ok? Please?”
“You betcha I will.” Dean held the phone against his ear for a few minutes after the call had ended, he and Sam disconnected.
Bobby watched as Sam carefully set the phone down on its receiver. He watched as Sam bit his lip, one hand running absently through his hair. Sam’s eyes wandered the room for a minute before coming to rest on Bobby. Bobby saw the sheen of moisture, but didn’t say anything. Sam looked away after a few brief seconds. It was easy to see Sam wanted to say something, tell him something and didn’t know what or maybe how, Bobby wasn’t sure. Watching closely as Sam stood up, sat back down, took another look around the room, Bobby frantically worked for something to say to the kid.
“I remember when we were kids, Dean and I would come here…you used to call us two halves of the same whole, the same brain or person, something like that.” Sam wasn’t really talking to him. He nudged Valkyrie off his lap where she’d bounced after Sam sat down again. She’d spent the entire time he was asleep curled on his legs.
Bobby snorted softly, no usedto be about it. Sam had been awake maybe a minute before Bobby’s phone rang. Nope, no used to be about it at all. “Sam.” Bobby said gently, waiting until Sam looked up at him before continuing. “Something’s wrong?” Sam bit his lip and nodded. “Is he ok?”
Sam shook his head slightly. “Something happened, but I don’t think he’s hurt. Something bad.”
“I got this put together, the ritual, I should say rituals, there’s a string of them we’ll need to do. One to free the spirits from demons, then one for each of the spirits themselves.” Bobby shuffled through papers, books; more to occupy his mind and not look at Sam than anything else. If he’d been worried before what he was going to do with Dean if something happened to Sam; that just paled in comparison to his worry over what the heck he’d do with Sam if he were left without Dean. Bobby came to the sudden and saddening conclusion he most likely wouldn’t have much opportunity to find out. He seriously doubted one would survive long without the other.
“How do we free the spirits from the demons?”
“That’s going to be the tricky part—“ Bobby’s words were cut off by his front door opening. “He made good time, guess he was closer than he thought.”
Bobby turned away from Sam to face Dean. His heart dropped to his knees, his intestinal tract did a complete flop, goose bumps rose on his arms and neck. Cold, raw fear swept through him like he’d never experienced before. When he heard Sam slowly push off the couch behind him Bobby took a step into the middle of the room, between the brothers.
The second to last person on this planet Bobby Singer had ever, in his life, known and never wanted to face off was Dean Winchester. Buying time, hoping his voice sounded normal, Bobby asked, “Get it ok?”
Stalking through the house, letting his fingers drop to a table, skim over them as he walked by Dean barely glanced at Sam, instead settled blazing eyes on Bobby. Bobby could feel Sam’s own gaze bore into him, or by him, to Dean.
“I got it.” Dean’s voice was rough, gravelly. “For that you wanted me separated from my brother?” Dean stopped a few feet from him, eyes that were green molten fire fixed on him.
Somewhere around the time Dean turned thirteen or fourteen Bobby recognized in him what his father trained him to be. Lurking beneath a mostly calm, calculating exterior, cocky smile and generally kind nature was a killer. A killer most dangerous not when Dean thought himself at risk…but a killer most dangerous when he thought Sam was at risk.
The last place Bobby ever wanted to be was between Sam and Dean Winchester, especially with Dean looking at him as a threat.
The last person on the face of this Earth Bobby ever wanted to face off was Dean Winchester, possessed.
Bobby seriously faced the fact he might be about to die. Dean, certainly not himself, was glaring at Bobby; saw him as some kind of risk, road block to Sam. Behind him he heard Sam swallow.
“Bobby that’s not—“
“Where is it?” Bobby snapped, cutting off Sam’s words. Taking another step towards Dean and putting himself squarely between the two. One thing was for sure, he really would be dead if he let this…thing masquerading as Dean do harm to Sam. Dean, the real Dean would be unforgiving and merciless. From somewhere under the kitchen table Valkyrie snarled.
“I have it someplace nice and safe.” Dean ran fingers over the back of a chair as he moved closer, intent stare never wavering from Bobby’s. “It’s not going to work you know. You’ll never split us up.”
Bobby sidestepped again, moving between the brothers. Hearing Sam move behind him Bobby put one hand out to the side, trying to keep Sam back. It was like trying to stop the ocean with a piece of paper. Even when his hand brushed Sam’s arm, shoved back against it, the kid didn’t stop.
“Leave him alone, get out…” Sam’s words were stopped with a choke.
Dean sneered, “Shut up.”
Sam was flung completely off the ground, slamming to a stop against the couch. It partially tipped over, teetering on the back legs before dropping back to its normal position. Bobby twisted around long enough to glimpse Sam moving, struggling to get his feet under him. Other things, books, magazines, candles took flight, making both he and Sam duck and weave to avoid being hit. Bobby made a grab for a fire place poker sitting in one corner. He couldn’t do anything about what held Dean until he could contain it. Asking him to simply step under the Devil’s Trap probably wasn’t going to work out so well.
Dean’s hand jerked away from his body at nearly the same instant as Bobby’s moved, the poker flew to Dean’s grip. Swinging it in both hands Dean took out a lamp, sending it shattering into a million small shards. “Really now, that’s not so nice.” Advancing a few more steps, Dean’s attention riveted on Sam. “You stay put!” He barked.
The sound of Sam hitting the far wall was sickening. Bobby didn’t dare take his eyes from Dean to assess the damage. He heard coughing and gasping from Sam, if he could cough he could breathe, and if he breathed then he was still alive.
“You’re finished.” Sam sneered just before he was tossed sideways. This time he must have been ready for it, Bobby was pleased Sam stayed on his feet.
The sound of a car engine distracted Bobby from his thoughts. The next thing he knew he heard Dean barking, “Hey!” Followed by heavy footsteps thundering up the front steps. Dean literally crashed through the door, banging it unceremoniously against the wall behind it with enough force to crack the plaster. “Sam! Sauumy….Bobby!”
Skidding to a halt a few feet from Bobby, and himself, Dean didn’t bat an eye. Leveling his shotgun he fired point blank into the other Dean. In a blast of heat and red haze the Dean-thing vanished. In motion again at once, Dean crossed the room, going by Bobby as if he was invisible, not stopping until Sam’s arm was firmly in his grasp.
Sam looked at him, stunned. Dean shook his arm a bit, repeating, “You ok?”
“Ye—yeah.” Sam looked from Dean, to Bobby to the spot Dean had been standing. “That was…?”
“Yeah, charming new trick, isn’t it? You’ve been following me around for the last hour. Frankly you were getting to be a royal pain in the ass.” Turning back to Bobby, “You ok? What a mess.” Dean let a duffel bag hanging on his shoulder drop to his hand, offering it to Bobby. “They’ve been using some dirty tricks to try and stop me from getting this, taking it.”
“That’s…” Bobby waved at his wrecked room in general, “Bad Dean. Boys, this is really bad.” He carefully laid the stone on the table amongst the piles of books.
“Try not to cheer us up too much Bobby.” Dean smirked, heading for the table of books, dragging Sam behind him. “What do we do? I don’t know how much time we’ve got before they come back in one form or another.”
“Bobby said we have to separate the entities from the demons.” Sam fingered the edge of the stone. “How do we do that?”
Bobby sighed, “That’s the part I’m not sure about. According to what I’ve found out, somehow the wrongs done to the entities, the spirits of these men has to be at least acknowledged, better yet righted. Once that’s done, it’s a fairly straight forward binding, locking them in this stone so they can’t leave it. That’ll break the link to their land. Smashing the stone inside a salt ring, then mixing the salt with it sends them on their way.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me?!” Dean sputtered.
“Huh? How the hell do we right their wrongs, they weren’t the ones wronged, they were the ones doing the wrongs!”
“Sam. Sammy.” Dean tried putting a placating hand on his brother’s shoulder. Sam twisted away, angrily shoving Dean’s arm away.
“No, this is insane! I didn’t do anything to them. Brandon didn’t do anything to them, none of us did. They put me in a cage and…and….I still can see the flames, I still have nightmares and I’m supposed to make something right for them?!”
“Sam, they perceive a wrong, that’s why all that happened. It’s not right, but it’s what was in their warped minds.” Bobby put enough harshness in his voice so both brothers paid attention. Sam turned away from him, from Dean, but it was still easy to see the anger all over his face, in his body language. Bobby didn’t blame him, not one bit. The kid’s entire body trembled.
Dean laid his hand on the back of Sam’s neck, this time Sam let it stay, but didn’t look at his brother, didn’t look at Bobby. “It may not be right, but it’s what we have to do, or try to do. And in the end they’ll be gone, get what they should. Isn’t that what counts, no one else gets hurt by them, ever?”
When Sam looked at Dean and nodded, Bobby saw the shimmer in the boy’s eyes.
“I’m probably the one they think wronged them anyway.” Dean said softly.
“For what?” Sam snapped, “Doing the same thing they claimed to be doing, looking out for your brother?”
“You said it yourself Sam, all three of them were warped. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just the way it is.” Bobby said.
“You want them gone, I want them gone, they’re gonna be gone. But this is what we have to do.” Dean added.
“It’s not your fault Dean, you didn’t do anything wrong. How could you even think such a thing?” Sam ignored his brother’s calming words, shouting loud enough he figured it had to get through to Dean.
“I don’t Sam. They do, that’s the point. I don’t think I did a thing wrong, and I’d do it all over again. The only thing I’d change would be letting you walk out of the store that day alone. But the fact is we have to work with how they feel.”
Sam couldn’t stop his breathing from quickening he didn’t even want to try. Chest pumping, he grabbed Dean’s arm roughly. “You ARE NOT going to sacrifice yourself to them in some twisted plan to fix something they think were done to them.” He jerked on Dean’s arm again. “You’re not.”
“Where do you come up with this stuff? No, I’m not.”
“Promise me.” Sam hissed.
“God dammit Dean, promise me right now.” He growled. The surprised look was all Sam really needed. Dean would, to save Sam, give himself up to the spirits. That was unacceptable. There was no way Sam would lose his brother to them. He hadn’t before, and hadn’t come this far or suffered this much to be left alone because of the McCreedys and Redding.
Dean nodded, glancing down before lifting his eyes to meet Sam’s. One hand came up to rest against the side of Sam’s neck, sending tendrils of warmth, confidence and reassurance through Sam.
“I’m not going anywhere Sam. But we are going to figure out how to do this. If that means I have to grovel a little to ensure you’re safe, then I don’t care, I’ll do it.” He took a deep breath, staring intently at Sam. “But I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not letting them win Sammy.”
Sam believed his brother. Believed him with everything he had, believed him and in him. Some of the knots in Sam’s chest released, letting him breath freer.
“Let’s get set up for the ritual.” Bobby said. Sam had almost forgotten about him.
Dean set about laying down a partial salt ring while Bobby copied the words to the rituals they’d need on index cards, those would be easier to keep in their pockets if things got dicey. Sam readied the stone and the makeshift alter they’d use to trap the spirits. From there the stone would have to be carried into the circle and it completed.
Kneeling on the ground, sitting back on his heels, Sam watched his brother work in the adjoining room. They were putting the salt circle under the Devil’s Trap. None of them knew if it would help, but it couldn’t hurt. Dean was diligent and exacting when it came to salt rings, it made Sam smile, watching him, how he bit his lower lip when he concentrated, pulled his eye brows together just a small amount. The same diligent way Dean cared for their car…their home…cared for Sam. If Sam could be granted any wish in the world it would be that Dean would learn to care for himself the same way. Sam did the best he could to make up for what he considered something lacking in his brother. If Dean wouldn’t be diligent in caring for himself, Sam would be doubly so in caring for Dean.
You’d die for him.
Glancing around Sam saw no one; neither Dean nor Bobby seemed to have heard the voice. He knew the voice. He’d spent nearly a week fearing that same voice six months ago. Drawing a deep breath, Sam had to warn his brother, Bobby.
Say a word and he dies where he stands.
Sam wasn’t so sure the spirit could actually do such a thing, but he wasn’t going to test his theory.
You’d die for him.
Nodding the smallest amount, Sam whispered, “Yes.” Careful not to alert the other two men.
Kill yourself for him? Burn for him?
He couldn’t help jerking around to look for the source of the voice. “Yes.” Sam could barely get the word out. He’d made Dean promise he wouldn’t sacrifice himself, and what was Sam doing now, but the same thing he’d feared Dean doing. He believed in Dean. Believed enough to do what he had to to spare his brother. Believed in Dean, believed Dean wouldn’t let him burn to death.
He won’t know until it’s too late. He’ll watch you burn.
Compelled to move without knowing why, Sam’s feet carried him, silently, through the kitchen, out the back door. Dean promised, wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t sacrifice himself to the spirits, he’d promised, he wouldn’t.
Funny, he didn’t ask the same of you.
Sam stepped down the back stairs pausing on each one. His eyes slid first to the left, then right. No one was with him. Dean hadn’t asked. The thunderbolt hit Sam, Dean wouldn’t think to ask, he’d never think anyone would sacrifice themselves for him.
Prove him wrong. You’d die for him. Do it. Do it or he dies where he stands. Do it and I’ll go away forever.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut, hearing the voice above the rushing of blood in his ears, the pounding of his heart in his chest, throat, stomach. Fists clenched against the shaking that gripped his entire body, Sam opened his eyes as he took another step. He was beyond knowing what was real, what wasn’t. Arty, or maybe it was Joey, both were Abaddon as far as Sam was concerned, had stripped him of reason, defenses. They’d worked hard on it. Sam was tired, ready to give up, give in, let go. Standing on the ground now, Sam stared at what was in front of him, not knowing if it were real or not. It didn’t matter. The effect would be the same.
If Dean died, they won. If he died, and Dean lived maybe they would still win, but they wouldn’t continue to exist. Dean would see to that. Do it for Dean. A voice whispered; his or Abaddon’s Sam had no idea. In his head, or from the apparition hovering before him, he didn’t know. It didn’t matter. If it could do this, what it had been doing to them both, it could kill Dean with a thought, Sam was sure of that now.
Tiny ribbons of smoke registered in his brain. That part was real. Whether the rest was for show or not, Sam had no idea.
Biting his lip Sam took another step. The rest of the world swung out of focus, the only thing he saw was the pyre in front of him. He was going to die. Burn, he was going to burn up, die engulfed in flames. Sam didn’t want to die, but Dean dying wasn’t an option, so he had to do this. Do it to keep Dean safe from them, to make them leave him alone. To make them leave. Eyes traveling up to the torch planted in the ground beside the pyre to the small flame there Sam took another step. Die, he was going to die trapped in a prison of flames.
He wanted more than anything to explain to Dean. Say goodbye. Oh, you’ll see him. Now, or his next breath is his last. Stepping forward Sam’s fingers wound around the torch, pulling it free he watched, mesmerized as it shook in time with his quaking arm. His breath hitched. Squaring his shoulders Sam moved forward until he stood over the pyre.
Sam was more afraid than he’d ever been of anything in his life.
Dean straightened, wiped his hands together to brush off stray bits of salt and surveyed his work. It was a perfect circle. His were always perfect circles no matter how much time he had to lay them. Sam’s were usually more like ovals, circles with squishes in the middle, round edged squares. Dean was often harassed over his ability to lay a perfect circle. Sam said he was anal about them. Dean figured if he had to do this job, he was damn well going to do it well. Sam was just jealous he couldn’t draw, let alone lay down a perfect circle.
He was going to use his perfect circle to send three souls to where he did not know. The fact was they were more likely going to be destroyed completely. His brother, Bobby and he were going to completely end the existence of three souls. It was disturbing on multiple levels. Dean tried not thinking about it, but the thoughts kept ramming to the forefront of his mind.
Was he any better than they were, than Redding was? Dean would do anything, literally anything, to protect his brother, keep him safe. He didn’t have any doubts, if need be he’d kill to keep Sam safe. Was Redding that different? Dean didn’t really think so. Like him, that man wanted to protect his brothers, keep them safe. The difference was Redding had let his brothers hurt others, destroy lives, kill. Dean might be willing to kill for Sam, but he wasn’t willing to let Sam harm others, he’d stop him, just as Dean had done on the train.
Had Redding, as Dean had, cared for his brothers throughout their lives, raised them? He had no idea, and no way of finding out. One thing was obvious Joey and Arty had meant as much to Mike Redding, he’d loved them as much, feared for them as much as Dean did Sam. At the end Dean couldn’t find it in his heart to feel much malice towards Redding, any of them.
However, that wasn’t going to stop Dean from stopping them. They weren’t going to hurt Sam, or anyone, anymore, ever, end of story.
Picking up the bag of salt, Dean headed toward the other room, to check on Sam and Bobby. Something was niggling at him, he wanted to see Sam, know he was fine. He tried brushing it off as months of not being separated from his brother, of Sam being no more than three steps behind him at all times. Bobby had referred to them as two halves of the same whole when they were kids. Once that had annoyed Sam, now Dean knew it brought comfort to he and Sam both. More than habit, Dean needed to see Sam, know where he was, see he was safe.
He needed to know now!
The smell of smoke hit him at the same instant as his desperate need to find his brother did. “Bobby,” Dean stepped into the other room, Bobby looked up expectantly. “You smell smoke? Where’s Sam, I thought he was with you.”
“I thought he was with--” Bobby stopped suddenly. “Dean?”
Dean was able to see through the house to the kitchen, out the open door. He froze...Burn him, get you….will he kill himself for you?... torch himself up, nice and bright so you can watch, hear his screams, smell his burning flesh, see the terror in his eyes. And he’ll do it all for you, for his big brother…I’ll burn him, get you…you’ll watch him die…memory of the words, the notes, the spirits hammered his skull. Everything broke with sudden clarity, their plan, what Dean had to do. Pulling in a huge, ragged breath, breaking himself free he yelled for Bobby. “Get a fire extinguisher, hose, bucket of water!”
In motion, running at the back door, this isn’t goddamn happening, Dean screamed, “SAM!”
Hitting the top of the steps he jumped the distance to the ground, behind him he heard Bobby’s cursing and a distinct, “Oh my God!” Accompanying the footfalls of the other man coming up behind him.
Sam stepped into the middle of the pyre. Carefully he sat, holding the torch in his hand, keeping it up and away from the wood. Dean was going to blame himself for this, Sam knew he would. He wanted more than anything to tell Dean not to do that, to say he was sorry, he didn’t want this, not ever.
He’ll blame himself anyway.
Hating that voice, fearing it more, Sam closed his eyes, tried shutting off his mind to it. If he had to die at least he was doing it for Dean. Not even trying to stop the choking breath, his shoulders from hitching and jerking, the tears, Sam shut his eyes and let the torch fall to the wood surrounding him.
The darkest night ain’t black enough To keep the morning light from shining The highest wall ain’t tall enough To keep the smallest man from climbing The more you resist the tide The more it pulls you in The more you hang on for your life… “Alive” by Meat Loaf
Bobby was two steps behind Dean, closing the distance and trying to get around him, between him and the fire. Between him and Sam. Dean would never see it of course, but Bobby’s vision and judgment was a bit clearer. Getting between Dean and Sam was going to be the only way to save them both. The realism of the situation was, Dean was younger, faster and stronger. Getting between the two could very well be fatal for Bobby, but he had to try.
He’d seen this before. People would run straight into a fire, trying to save someone else, and they’d both perish. If it was the last thing Bobby did he was going to try to prevent that from occurring. Grabbing Dean’s shoulder and arm Bobby threw all his weight back, hauling Dean with him. The flames were already as high as Dean’s head.
Sam’s eyes met first Dean’s then shifted briefly to Bobby’s before returning to his brother. The kid’s absolute terror and resolution to not fail glittered in his eyes alongside the reflection of flames. He’d pulled his knees as close to his body as possible, balling up into the smallest size achievable. Squirming side to side, Sam tried avoiding the flames, slapping at them when they touched his clothes or skin. Bobby saw him suck in a shuddering breath. Eyes squeezed shut making tears ooze down his face. Bobby’s heart lurched when he realized Sam could have gotten himself out, still could, but he’d been forced into this. Horror of losing his brother, being alone, was much greater than any other fears. Something else was there too, something he barely grasped when Sam settled his gaze on Dean. Trust, trust that Dean would never let him burn, never let him die this way, even if he couldn’t get Sam out.
More of the wood circle erupted, being eaten by the flames, causing Sam’s chest and shoulders to shudder and wrench and not merely from smoke and coughing. He twisted away from the flames to one side, only to be assaulted from the other.
“That’s Sam. In there…Sam!” Dean lurched away from Bobby, but the older man managed to hang on with an iron grip. “I’ve got to get him…Sam!” Dean surged forward, and damn holding the boy back was like holding back a freight train. His voice cracked and broke on Sam’s name. Surging forward against Bobby the older man was forced to use his entire body to stop Dean.
“Dean,” Shaking him hard enough to make him turn away from the pyre, Bobby gripped Dean’s neck. “Listen to me. Boy, if you want your brother out safe, listen to me!”
Dean stilled; maybe for the first time in his life, he was completely still. Arms dropping to his sides, Dean stood panting, staring at Bobby. Gone was the man who was a hunter, the man who managed to come up with a plan for every situation, gone was the confident, cocky expression and masked emotions. Now he was looking at Dean, just Dean. Stripped bare for all the world to see; Dean who was faced with losing Sam and had no idea how to stop it, or what to do. Dean who was at this moment a frightened boy searching for help. He looked at Bobby with wide, glistening eyes, nodding a fraction.
Pointing to one of the work sheds, “Over in there, get tarps.”
“Bobby, I can’t leave…” Dean’s voice was raw and thick.
Giving him another shake for good measure Bobby snapped, “Now!”
Another curt nod and Dean spun on his heels, running full tilt to the shed. Bobby took off to the opposite side of the house, hearing the door to the shed shatter under Dean’s foot. Shaking his head, Bobby wondered, did the boy ever use a door knob, even know what one was? Grabbing the garden hose off the ground he sprinted back to the pyre. Sam wasn’t watching them, his eyes were shut, head down. Bobby saw his shoulders heave with coughing, probably sobbing too. Drifting to one side the kid jerked upright, putting one hand on the ground to steady himself and yanking it away just as quickly.
Dean was in front of him a second later, two of the tarps in hand, offering them to Bobby as if they were gold medals. He took one, dropped it at his feet, hosed the other down before turning water on Dean, dowsing him thoroughly.
“Use this to clear an opening in the flames while I try to get them down with the water. When I tell you to, wrap it around yourself, get Sam, wrap him too and get out.”
Dean nodded, more assured now there was a plan and he had a job to do. Beating at the flames with the wet tarp, causing them to lash out to the sides, only to dart back in, covering the bare spot Dean created. Arm over his mouth Dean ducked forward to beat the flames repeatedly while Bobby sprayed water over the entire pyre. Sam was starting to slump further, the smoke choking the air from him, his body getting slack. As soon as he was unable to stay away from the flames his clothing would ignite and he’d be done for. Managing to get the stream of water into the path Dean cleared Bobby was able to turn it on Sam, offering some respite.
Wrapping himself in the tarp Dean barely waited for Bobby to dowse him with water, soaking him completely.
“Go.” Bobby gave Dean’s shoulder a push, but it was hardly needed.
Dean was a blur of motion, a steam roller heading straight into the fire, grabbing his brother.
Sam’s world, his existence scaled down to the small space around him still not aflame. It was impossible to keep track of what was happening outside the flames circling him, the smoke choking and blinding him. He desperately wanted out, away, but he was too frightened Dean would pay the price with his life. Flames roared in his ears, moisture from his eyes sizzled off his cheeks as it formed. Pride be damned, he didn’t care. He was afraid and alone and so what if he trembled, cried.
Heat and smoke swirled around him. Bits of fire danced over him, mostly hitting his jeans and jacket, biting through to nip at his skin with razor sharp pincers. Remaining upright was keeping him alive. Once he was unable to do that the flames would win and claim him. He closed his mind down to the pain and terror, and thought of his brother. His happiest times in his life had been with Dean. It was all Sam thought of.
Something hard and solid and wet and cursing up a storm hit him, pulled him close and wrapped something around him, over him. Strong arms drew him up. He was propelled forward, more carried than anything else. Never had there been a time in Sam’s life his brother wasn’t able to carry him. Sam might have been taller, but in actuality he probably only weighed a dozen or less pounds more than his older brother. Strong, solid and powerful Dean was all muscle. Sam tended to forget just how strong his brother was. It was that strength and power he blessed now.
Barely having time to get his feet under him and his legs going he was hauled free of the flames, though he and Dean were on fire. Sam heard Bobby shouting something at them. He struggled to move toward the man’s voice, but was held back. When Dean’s arms wound around him, demanding he hit the dirt Sam had little choice but to comply, not that he’d fight Dean anyway. They rolled, Sam got dirt in his mouth, it was washed away by a torrent of water almost before he processed the fact he was eating dirt.
Pulled to his knees in the next breath, leaning against Dean, Sam was capable of doing nothing but inhaling and exhaling. Shaking violently he got an arm around Dean’s back, fingers gripping Dean’s shirt with enough intensity they cramped.
“I gotcha Sammy. I got you.” Dean repeated over and over in his ear, holding him so tightly Sam couldn’t fully expand his chest and fill his lungs. “It’s ok, I got you Sammy.”
Sam struggled to quiet the sobs wanting to break free of his chest. The more he fought them the more they insisted on freedom. He tried to quiet the shaking of his limbs, even his abdominal muscles shuddered. Eyes pinched tightly closed, and when Dean’s hand rested securely at the back of his head Sam stopped fighting his own body. Burrowing closer, pressing his face against Dean’s chest Sam let the sobs come.
Explain he had to explain to Dean. Wriggling away far enough he could turn his face up, meet Dean’s eyes Sam’s words came stumbling out. “Ttthey told m-me you…yyouu’dd die if I d-d-didn’t. I-I didn’t waaant t-to.”
Dean looked down at him positively horrified.
Sam tried for a smile, failing miserably, “Eeevvveen noww. Y-you p-putt out the fl-fl-lames.”
“Are you trying to stop my heart?” Dean’s chest drew in big, harsh gulps of air. Sam felt his brother’s heart pounding against his ribs. Leaning away from Sam slightly Dean ran one hand over his brother’s arms, through his hair. “Did you get burnt?”
A quick shake of his head, “Not much…just my clothes…some stings, that’s it.” Hands moving to Dean’s arms, Sam gripped them with the same intensity he had his sibling’s shirt. “I can hear them, see them, they’re here.”
“Boys,” Bobby’s gruff voice barely broke through to Sam’s brain. “We need to get inside.” He was yanking on Sam, which elicited the immediate reaction of Dean’s arms tightening, pulling him away from Bobby. Either Bobby ignored it or didn’t notice Sam wasn’t sure. Bobby’s hands moved to Dean’s shoulders, pulling up on his arm.
Standing, Dean pulled Sam up with him, knees buckling as soon as Sam let go and stepped back a half pace. “Whoa!” Darting forward Sam grabbed Dean’s elbow, Bobby rested one hand against his back steadying him.
Laying one shaking hand on Sam’s shoulder, Dean offered him a weak grin, “I’m ok.” He gave Sam a reassuring squeeze, “I am.” Dean’s hand slipped down to Sam’s bicep, holding firmly. Sam made no effort to get free, instead he gripped Dean’s forearm planning to go no farther away from Dean than the length of his arm.
They followed Bobby to the house. Sam felt Dean’s fingers between his shoulder blades, pushing him a step ahead. They hadn’t reached the altar Sam had prepared when every loose object in the room took flight, twirling around in a cyclone of paper, books, plates, knives, forks and things spinning by Sam’s face so fast he couldn’t identify them.
Something reddish and hazy flew at them, hitting Dean square in the chest. Sam felt Dean’s fingers being torn from his arm, from his grasp, as he was knocked several feet. The second Dean hit the floor the haze vanished, the room stilled.
“Hell.” Bobby swore under his breath.
Sam scrambled after Dean. When Bobby grabbed at him, Sam didn’t know what to do, he barely garbled out, “Dean…”
“Sam, we’ve got to be sure.” Bobby’s grip was more insistent, shoving him away from Dean, away from his brother.
Panic surged through his chest, wrapped in a tight ball in his stomach and punched at him from the inside. No one, not even Bobby could do that, not after everything that had happened. “They can’t…he can’t be…” Sam twisted free of the grip, blessing his long legs and faster stride. Dropping at his side, ear pressed to Dean’s chest. Letting out a large sigh of relief, “It’s ok, it’s him, it’s Dean.” Slipping an arm under Dean’s shoulder, he eased his brother up. “Hey, come on, you ok?”
“Sam…” Bobby closed in on him again, movements more wary this time, pulling, or rather trying to pull him away.
“Bobby, it’s ok. He’s Dean, just stunned him. He’s ok, he is.” Sam pleaded standing and facing the older man. He saw Bobby’s eyes soften, wondering if the man believed him or not.
“How can you tell?”
“Please, believe me.” Sam begged, for Dean he’d do anything. “I can. You’ll have to take my word for it.” Kneeling next to Dean again when Bobby didn’t move, Sam helped him up. “You all right?”
Dean groaned, rubbed at his head, grumbling. “Yeah, Sammy, just dazzling.” Sam got firm hold of his brother’s arm once again.
The room warmed, the red haze reappeared, twirling about like some weird tornado.
“Disassociate them from the demon.” Bobby shouted.
“How?” The word was barely out of his mouth when his legs were hit with something and he hit the floor. Dean instantly grabbed him from behind, pulling back while Sam scrambled for footing again. As soon as he was up Dean stepped around him, putting one arm out to keep Sam behind him.
“I’m sorry!” Dean yelled to the far too active room. He stepped away from the haze, pushing Sam with him. “You lost each other, and it HURTS, I know it hurts. No one was there to help, if I could have I would have. You’d do anything for each other. I’d do anything for my brother too.”
“Dean you didn’t do…”
“Shut up.” Dean hissed, pushing him closer to the salt circle. “You loved your brothers and they died and it hurts, I understand that. And I’m sorry. I love my brother too, and I understand how you’d do anything for each other, watch over each other. Protect each other. But Sam never hurt you. None of those kids ever did a thing to you, to anyone. I’m the only one who did. You want someone? You want me, leave my brother alone.”
“NO!...goddamnit Dean you promised, no, you will not offer yourself to them!” Sam grabbed Dean’s arm and the front of his shirt, yanking him farther from the haze. Dean faced the haze, but didn’t pull away from Sam.
“I’m sorry.” Dean repeated in a low, sincere voice. “I’m sorry.”
Everything stopped. The red haze evaporated, replaced by white, the room went cold as ice.
“Sweet lord, I don’t believe it. You did it!” Bobby retrieved the stone, literally throwing it and the brothers into the salt circle. Waving one hand at them he ordered, “Recite the ritual.”
Partially from memory and partially from the cards Bobby made them the brothers said the words in fast, clear sentences. In seconds the air around them was shattered with screeching, a high pitched buzzing that drove Sam to his knees and had Dean leaning heavily against Sam’s shoulders. Something skimmed by him so cold his skin tingled and felt burnt.
Bobby coming at them with a sledge hammer, missing them by inches and smashing it into the stone was all Sam comprehended before there was a blinding flash and Sam’s world went white.
Sam was safe.
He knew it as soon as he’d woken up. He didn’t have to wonder, or think about it, he knew it for fact. The first sensation trickling through to his subconscious was a sound. The sound of utter and complete safety. Lifting his head just enough to look around the room, Sam blinked in the dim light. He still had that ‘flash going off in your face’ vision, but it was fading fast to normal. More of his senses talked to him, none urgently, but enough to know he was unharmed. Warm and comfortable in the chill spring air, still drowsy, he took a lazy look around the room.
A fire crackled happily in the fire place, a Dean-sized speed bump between it and Sam. Smiling warmly, big brother was nothing if not consistent. Sam kept his movements slow and contained, so he wouldn’t wake Dean. This was probably the first good sleep either had had in six months. Valkyrie curled between them. She lifted her head, gave him a sleepy look and a single thump of her tail before resting her head against his leg, going back to sleep. Dean’s arm across his shoulders, a reassuring heavy warmth. Watching the steady rise and fall of Dean’s chest brought a comfort so deep it reached all the way to Sam’s soul he was sure.
They’d wanted Dean, wanted revenge, blamed him for their deaths. Sam could only feel so much malice. If he’d lost Dean he’d be just as vindictive. Probably even before he’d been freed from them, the McCreedys and Redding knew Dean’s only true weakness was Sam, his Achilles Heel. The only way they had of hurting Dean was through Sam, literally. They’d wanted Dean to suffer in the most horrible way imaginable. What they hadn’t counted on was Dean understanding, and deciphering a way to make retribution.
Sam was still a bit angry Dean had apologized to those monsters. He’d done nothing to be sorry for, but Sam had to admit it had done what they needed, separated the ghosts from demon control.
After being hit full force by the blast Sam’s memory was hazy at best. He remembered Dean frantically grabbing at him, and sometime later Bobby saying his vision would come back in a day or so he was sure. The stone destroyed, smashed to bits by Bobby’s sledge hammer, mixed with salt from the ring then locked securely in an iron box. They’d return to the McCreedy property later and bury it, then cover it with cement.
Eyelids heavy, Sam gave up on being awake. One final yawn, Sam let his eyes slide shut and drifted off to sleep to the sound of his brother’s heartbeat.
Dean woke up slowly. For the first time in six months there were no screams, no frightened brother grabbing him, no wondering if it was a nightmare or some kind of possession…infestation as Bobby called it. No wondering what damage he’d done. Most importantly to Dean his brother was safely tucked under his shoulder, snugged securely against his side. He knew now how much he’d not been sleeping either these past months. It was amazing how a few hours of honest to goodness deep, uninterrupted sleep made him feel so much better.
He’d realized, far too late, the spirits of the dead men most likely had been with them since leaving South Dakota the first time. They’d hammered at Sam. They’d hammered at Dean through Sam. They attacked the kid’s subconscious, then conscious every way they could devise. It was only a matter of time before either Dean killed Sam or Sam killed himself during one of their attacks.
The idea for righting the spirits’ wrongs, or perceived wrongs all of a sudden came to Dean. They wanted to be recognized, their pain, loss acknowledged. It wouldn’t stop them completely, that’s what the other rituals were for. It was enough to end the demon control. What type of demon Dean still did not know, but with separation from the spirits it too was gone.
Seeing Sam hit with the white haze from the spirits, watching it surround his young brother completely, knocking him cold immediately was something that would send shivers through Dean for a long time to come. He’d tackled the kid, shielding him as best he could from the spirits’ onslaught until Bobby destroyed the stone finishing their hold on this existence. They were gone, gone for good, Dean felt it.
Dean was mostly grateful he and Sam could finally move on, put themselves back together. For now he was still tired, and Sam slept peacefully for the first time in months, seeming terribly content using Dean for a pillow.
There was only one glitch in Dean’s perfect little world right now. Sam’s pillow seriously had to pee.
After his shower Dean was surprised to see Sam wasn’t in their room, snoozing, waiting for him. He’d spent the last three days mostly watching Sam sleep. He’d had more boring days, but he couldn’t readily recall when. Sam still woke up if Dean got too far away, especially at night, but now he’d merely go back to sleep. Dean and Bobby had the daily pleasure of watching Sam wake up, find a new spot, settle in and go back to sleep. Wherever he sat down for more than three minutes, Sam dozed off, making up for months of not sleeping. Twice Dean found him snoring on the porch, woke him up and herded him inside, only to watch Sam drop off in the first chair he came to.
Dean faired slightly better than his brother, after the first day or two he was refreshed and feeling more himself than he had in months. The biggest change he saw in Sam, even after this short time was the clinginess dropping off more and more with each passing day. That was turning into the most difficult part for Dean, letting Sam let go of him when his every instinct and drive said hang on tight. He knew he had to, it was best for Sam. So, he clenched his teeth against his own inner turmoil and forced a pleasant expression whenever Sam wandered off by himself. Those little forays never lasted more than ten or fifteen minutes, and Sam never seemed to even notice them. Dean did though.
Making his way downstairs, Dean was drawn by the smell of fresh coffee and the promise of breakfast. His eyes skimmed the room, not even trying to conceal his worry, his agitation from Bobby when he asked, “Where’s Sam?”
Bobby barely gave him a glance up from the paper he was reading, “Took the dog for a walk. He should be back soon.”
“How long has he been gone?” Dean was doing some fast calculations. He’d been in the shower nearly twenty minutes, of all the damn times to take a long shower. He had to work hard to keep the panic from his voice and knew Bobby heard it anyway by the slight shift in his shoulders.
“Fifteen minutes or so, not sure. He won’t be gone more than an hour.” Bobby set the paper down and gave Dean an unreadable look. “Besides he’s got the killer fuzz-ball with him.”
Dean snorted, “That dog couldn’t fight her way out of a paper bag.” Extracting his phone from his pocket he flipped it open. Before he could do anything else Bobby’s hand reached up, took the phone, folded it gently closed and slipped it into the breast pocket of his flannel. “Bobby!” Dean tried to stop the sputter, but it left his mouth too fast.
“No Dean.” Twisting in his chair to face Dean, Bobby pointed to the counter. “Now, get your happy ass over there, get a cup of coffee and some of the food I made you boys, sit and relax.” When Dean didn’t move Bobby snapped out an annoyed, “Now.”
Reluctantly Dean stalked to the coffee maker, poured the demanded cup of coffee, moved to the stove to fill the demanded plate. He set them down on the table; sat in the chair beside Bobby, but defiantly refused to touch either food or coffee. “Bobby, you don’t understand, Sam’s out there alone.” He was having a difficult time keeping his anger tucked inside, his breathing even.
“Yes, Dean, I do understand that’s why I told him to go.”
“You told him—what if he gets lost, or hurt?” Dean started to get up.
“He won’t. I told him to take the dog for a walk, to not come back for an hour. He’ll be back in,” Bobby flipped his arm over to peer at his watch, “Thirty-eight minutes. He’s got his phone. In the mean time you are going to sit here and relax. I promised Sam you wouldn’t be angry, you would be proud of him and happy. And you will be or boy I’ll beat you with a two by four until you are. Now sit your ass back down.”
Dean sat. “There has never been a time I haven’t been proud of Sam.” He grumbled.
“Dean,” Bobby sighed heavily, folding both hands in front of him on the table. “You don’t have to let go, you don’t ever have to let go. Just loosen the grip. He’s not going anywhere, he’s not leaving. You’ll always be his big brother and he’ll always need you, no matter what. He won’t get better, completely better until you let him, tell him it’s ok. Sam’s a sweet kid, because you let him be that, you’ll always have to watch that.”
“What am I supposed to do Bobby, abandon him at the roadside so he toughens up?” Dean snapped.
“No. Of course not. But there are certain things he’ll always be vulnerable to. Things like what happened because you shelter him; protect him from a lot, you have his whole life and he’s used to it. You’re both gonna have to be aware of that, be on the look out for it. That’s all I’m trying to say.”
Dean was silent for a few minutes. Bobby let him alone. When he looked up, met Bobby’s eyes the older man smiled, eyes crinkling at the corners. “Well, I am sort of happy to be able to take a shower without a guard.”
“Yeah, what happened at that lake, might take a bit more effort.” Bobby sounded sympathetic. “Remember you can hold on, don’t smother. Toss him out of the nest once and a while.”
Nodding, Dean glanced out the window at the sound of Valkyrie’s barking and Sam’s voice. Bobby’s hand on his arm kept him seated, though every nerve in Dean wanted to jump up, run out the door and make sure Sam was fine. Bobby’s eyes crinkled even further when he took a look at his watch again. “Twelve minutes early, did better than I thought he would actually.”
That made Dean smile. He watched Sam take the steps three at a time, the dog bouncing along beside him. “Hey.” Sam’s voice was a bit breathless, as if he’d run the distance to the house. Maybe he had. Would Sam ever be comfortable alone? Dean doubted it and knew he wouldn’t, but they had each other. They weren’t alone and didn’t need to be. Valkyrie puffed small breaths out the sides of her mouth. She sat on the floor in the space between Dean and Bobby, sitting up, eyes shifting from one to the other.
Bobby chuckled, “You’re such a tease.” He held a piece of egg for her. She slipped it from between his fingers into her mouth, tail pumping.
A sharp jab from Bobby’s foot against Dean’s leg under the table made him straighten a bit. Sam stood looking at him, his face a mixture of apprehension, guilt and some unasked question. The accuracy of Bobby’s words hit home with a resounding crash, he was right. Sam was there, wanting Dean’s approval, to know what he did was right and ok by Dean. He might never have had the ability to deny his kid brother anything, but he sure did have the ability to read him, care for him.
Smiling at Sam, letting the warmth of his own emotions shine through Dean cleared his throat, took a sip of coffee and made sure he kept his voice casual. “Have a nice walk?”
Sam’s face nearly split in two, dimples working overtime. “Yeah, I did.” Sitting he reached over, pulled Dean’s plate closer, snatching a sausage and swiping it through the egg yolk before gulping it down.
Smacking at Sam’s hand, Dean grinned, “Get your own you brat.”
“Boys.” Bobby’s hand hit the table. He laid Dean’s phone beside him. “When you two are done screwing around maybe we could go bury that box?”
They packed the car first. He and Dean would be heading out after burying the box containing the broken stone and salt. The two of them took turns digging until Bobby deemed the hole deep enough and placed the box at the bottom. Holding a bucket while Dean mixed the cement, they poured it in the hole, covering it with a six inch layer of dirt.
Already Sam noticed grass starting to peek through the soil where before there’d been nothing but black, charred earth. The occurrence didn’t go unnoticed by Dean or Bobby either. Judging by the content expression on his brother’s face neither did the fact Sam felt more at ease, safe, secure, freer than he had since crossing a parking lot to fix a flat tire for an old man. He would never be that person again, but he wouldn’t be the person Dean liberated from the cage six months ago either. His brother loved him for who and what he was…always, and that’s what truly mattered to Sam. As long as Dean was there beside him, often clearing the path for him Sam would do fine, he’d be fine. It was the first time in a long time he truly believed it.
Bobby set them on the trail of something interesting back east, they’d head there. Three nights on the road, and Sam had slept peacefully through every one. He made an effort to not sit and stare hatefully at the bathroom door when Dean showered. Dean didn’t drop the not so long ago established habit of driving only so far, and keeping a schedule, but that was ok, Sam liked the schedule and it obviously made his brother feel better.
Somewhere just east of the Mississippi river they pulled into a town for supplies. Sam was surprised when Dean bumped the keys into his chest, asked him to gas the car up. He was heading across the street where there was a store. Twenty minutes later Dean sauntered back to the car, arms loaded with bags. Sam couldn’t help the warm feeling spreading through his middle when Dean’s fingers wound around the back of his neck for a minute, leaning across him to drop the bags in the back seat.
“Ya did good Sammy.” Was all Dean said. It was all he had to say. Sam could tell by his brother’s tone, Dean knew full well Sam spent the entire time intently watching the store, waiting for his brother’s return.
“Thanks.” Sam’s voice soft, almost a bit embarrassed as he glanced at his feet, but that didn’t stop his lips curling up. Dean nodded, he understood too. His brother’s praise was precious to Sam.
“Hungry?” Dean asked, folding his long legs into the driver’s seat.
“Yeah.” Sam folded his longer frame in the far side of the car.
Nodding, Dean started the engine, pulled back onto the highway. They drove a few more miles, getting farther from the town, “There’s a good spot.” Dean pointed to a rest stop, it was quiet and shady; there were grills. Sam suspected Dean had purchased burgers and beer, probably some cookies or cake too. Dean never forgot dessert it was one of his strong points as far as Sam was concerned.
It was still too early in the year to have many travelers. Another few months the roads would be crowded with families on vacation. But today it was just them, a few truckers and a young couple. The rest stop was big enough even though they saw the other people they couldn’t hear their conversations. Sam tossed a ball for Valkyrie while Dean grilled.
Sam watched his brother for a few minutes, if Dean was aware of it, he didn’t let on. Without warning, Sam was awash in overwhelming guilt, drowning in it as Dean nearly had in the water. How could he ever think Dean had been joking? “Dean, I’m really sorry.”
Dean turned at Sam’s blurted out words. He looked around, down at the ground, squinted at the sky for a few beats then raised one hand and let it fall to his hip. Quirking an eyebrow, looking utterly baffled.
“I thought you were messing with me and you could have died.”
He expected some rebuff, instead Dean’s face softened. “It really is ok Sammy.”
“You wouldn’t have thought that if it was me.” And that was it, Sam realized. Dean would have never thought to be annoyed, or to question that Sam was in danger.
A small smirk and a shrug of Dean’s shoulders, “Yeah, but I’m better.” He piled a plate with burgers, setting them on the table and dipping his chin down in a ‘come eat’ motion. “You figured it out Sam. I know you’d never let me down.” Dean said between bites of burger.
Sam’s appetite flared at the smell of freshly cooked meat. He felt instantly better, because Dean had hit it exactly. It wasn’t the event; it was Sam thinking Dean might not have faith, trust in him.
“I still wonder why me? What did I do?”
“Me too Sam. Maybe a more accurate question would be why them? Why did they feel the need to hurt so many people, was it all some kind of evil influence? We’ll probably never know. I’m just happy they’re gone now, it’s over and my little brother is in one piece. Maybe it’s time we both let it go and accept the fact we might have to live without answers.”
“Do you think it’ll ever go away, really go away. Seeing the fire, how I feel being alone?”
Dean took a deep breath, met Sam’s gaze steadily. “I don’t know Sammy. What I do know is you’re fine the way you are. There isn’t a damn thing wrong with you.”
Sam was more grateful for that than he had words to express. They fell silent again, eating in the warm, late afternoon sunshine. Dean opened a beer, handed it to Sam; opened another for himself.
“I have a question,” Dean said around bites of burger, “when the spirit hit me, knocked me out in the house; Bobby said you knew right away it was me. How did you know?”
He stopped chewing, giving his brother a look that read the answer should be painfully obvious, and swallowed. “Your heartbeat.”
“My heartbeat?” Dean blinked, sounding as if that surprised him.
When Sam looked up he realized Dean really didn’t get it. “Yeah doofus, your heartbeat. I’ve spent three quarters of my life falling asleep to your heartbeat, think I can’t tell when it’s right or wrong? Pick it out of a line up?”
Dean fell silent. Sam could tell he was digesting that piece of information along with his food. When he finally met Sam’s gaze again his eyes, entire face had taken on a warm, content glow. Dean had a hard head, and getting things through it was a challenge on the best days, but something had finally gotten there and stuck. How important Dean was to Sam.
“You know,” Dean stared at the sky for a minute while he spoke. “The day you were kidnapped, I walked out of the store, and you weren’t there.” He dropped his eyes to meet Sam’s. “And I,” a deep breath, “I thought you’d taken off on me again, it wasn’t for more than a minute or two, but the thought crossed my mind. Just like you thought I was fooling around in the water.”
“I’m sorry I ever gave you a reason to think that.”
Dean shrugged, “It’s over. We’re past it.” Sam nodded in agreement. “How do you think I felt Sam when I walked out and you were gone? How it feels to let you walk away, go somewhere I can’t see you’re safe, never knowing if someone, or something, will take you again?”
The ground at Sam’s feet blurred. He’d never thought how it must have been for Dean, be for him now, probably be for him always. “I guess we’ll have to deal with it as it comes.” It certainly added to Sam’s understanding of his brother, how he ticked.
Dean nodded, “Yeah.” He smiled, smacking Sam’s knee, “We will.”
“Ya know Dean, you think I think you’re too overprotective, but I don’t, not really. I get it—why, I do. Honestly the way our lives are, it’s not such a bad thing. For the record I worry about you when you’re not with me too.”
Collecting the remains of their dinner, dumping their garbage in a nearby trash can Dean smiled over his shoulder, “I know you do Sammy.”
Whistling for Valkyrie, Sam ran to catch up with Dean as they headed for the car. Yawning as they left the rest stop, Sam heard the rustle of Dean’s clothes, felt his movements as he reached in the back for a blanket. It never ceased to amaze Sam how Dean could drive and bundle him up at the same time. The radio was toned down, Valkyrie curled against his leg. Sam was home, so was Dean. Together they made a safe, secure place for each other, and whatever came along? They’d deal, together.
Two souls bonded together through eternity. Without one there truly would not the other.
I’m still alive Must’ve been a miracle It’s been a hell of a ride Destination still unknown It’s a fact of life If you make one wrong move With a gun to your head You better walk the line Or be left for dead
I’m a runaway train on a broken track I’m the ticker on the bomb that you cant turn back This time that’s right I got away with it all and I’m still alive Let the end of the world come tumbling down As long as hot blood runs through my veins I’m still alive Lost in the night feeling so invisible A dead man walking the wire High above the devil’s net that’s made of fire And it’s a long way down from the top of the world You’d better look around or you’re gonna get burned
Let the end of the world come tumbling down I’ll be the last man standing on the ground And as the dust clears look in my eyes I’m still alive
The darkest night ain’t black enough To keep the morning light from shinning The highest wall ain’t high enough To keep the smallest man from climbing The more that you resist the tide The more it pulls you in The more you hang on for your life
And if my shadow’s all that survives…I’m still alive!
“Alive” by Meat Loaf
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