Easy, this had been too friggin easy! Dean should have known better, nothing was this easy, not even normal jobs were this damn easy. Their jobs weren’t normal, and it shouldn’t be this easy.
Trying his cell phone for maybe the fifty-third time in the past ten minutes, Dean prayed silently, answer the phone Sammy, just answer the phone. Make an over reacting big brother out of me. You can make all the fun of me you want for the next week. “Answer the goddamn phone!” He shouted.
Ten minutes; they’d been in this old crappy building ten minutes, fifteen, twenty-five tops. Construction workers renovating the old apartment building were dying, blown up of all the insane things. How the hell do you stand around and let yourself get blown up? Dean had no clue, but that’s what happened. Workers would not be where they were assigned then….ka-bam!
Interesting fact about this building, it had been home to a rather insane, very nasty man by the name of Roger Marlin; Dr. Roger Marlin. Dear Dr. Marlin got rid of his medical failures by blowing them up, alive. They hadn’t figured out how the good doctor got his victims to cooperate so well, but he had. In 1927 he’d killed more than a dozen people before he’d blown himself up. Seems he was back.
It had taken him and Sam three consecutive nights to gather the bits and pieces of bone that made up the remains of dear Dr. Marlin. It had taken them four minutes to pile those bits into a metal wash tub in the basement, and another thirty-five to burn Dr. Marlin’s ass. It was during that thirty-five minutes Dean realized either Sam had gotten quiet, even for Sam, or Dean was talking to himself.
Turns out he was talking to himself.
One minute Sam was there. The next he wasn’t.
After the bones were burnt Sam didn’t reappear, hence Dean storming through the building, checking room by room, calling Sam’s phone. Sixth floor, two more to go. The good, dear, sick bastard doctor had lived on this floor.
“Which apartment? Which one?” Dean kicked the door to the first apartment open. “Sam only told me nine times, which shit apartment was it?”
Not this one, on to the next, then the third. Foot slamming into the door, shattering through it, Dean yanked his leg back, swearing as he extracted himself from the door. Hitting it with his elbow the door bounced open, Dean through it before there was even enough space for him to fit. Gun up, ready, he stalked through the entrance to the small living room.
And stopped so fast his vision swam.
The sight of his brother made Dean want to vomit. He shoved the urge away, that wasn’t going to do much good. Sam’s chin was dropped to his chest, bangs hanging in front of his eyes. Dean saw his chest move, but wasn’t sure Sam was conscious. At the sound of Dean’s voice Sam pulled his head up far enough to meet Dean’s eyes. Red rimmed and bright with pain, fear, Sam simply looked at him.
Dean’s first impulse, pure instinct was to go to his brother. He’d happily kill what did this, no one hurt Dean’s kid brother, but it was already dead, and dispatched. So he’d have to contend with being angry at the situation.
Tucking his pistol behind his back Dean stepped forward, “Sammy, its ok, kid, I’ll take care of this, of you.”
“Dean, don’t…it might…” Sam’s voice rasped out and faded.
Dean froze. Sam was right. Dean’s question of why someone would stand around and get blown up was answered, a little too clearly. Standing in the middle of the room, arms slung almost casually over a bar Sam stared at him, wide-eyed. The bar threaded through Sam’s elbows, behind his neck. It was suspended from the ceiling with chains. Sam wasn’t cuffed or tied to the bar. The explosives, to Dean they looked like homemade grenades, however were. There was a nice bouquet of them on either side of Sam’s head. They in turn were wired to Sam’s chest in a crude harness. Any movement too far to one side or the other, up or down would pull the pins.
Pulling on the pins would be bad.
A second apparatus was strapped around Sam’s waist, a line running from it into the vein along the inside of Sam’s forearm. A tension wire ran from the line to the bundle of grenades on Sam’s left, removing it would pull pins. Dean spent about eighteen seconds trying to decide how the hell a ghost could get this stuff, and from where and what the thing stuck in Sam’s arm was. It didn’t matter. What mattered was his brother, his kid brother, his purpose for living, breathing, the boy he’d vowed to always keep safe was harnessed up in pressure sensitive wires. What mattered was Sam could, at any moment, blow into tiny bits.
What the hell! Just what the HELL?! What were they supposed to do with this crap?
“Ok, Sam...we gotta…just…”
“Do what Dean?” Sam rasped out, eyes dropping to the floor. “If I move…it’ll. Dean, just leave. You can’t get me out, I didn’t want you to find me, hadn’t had the nerve to pull yet.”
Deciding to hell with it, Dean closed the space between him and Sam, putting a hand on either side of his brother’s neck, thumbs against his jaw. He forced Sam to look at him. “Don’t be an ass Sammy, I know you don’t mean that or I would’ve heard the explosion ten minutes ago and we wouldn’t be standing here talking about it.”
When Sam’s eyes met his, Dean knew he was right. Taking a few deep breaths, Dean closed his eyes for a few seconds, let one palm move up, rest against Sam’s cheek for a minute. He felt his kid brother relax a fraction. “I’m here Sam.” He murmured.
Sam nodded the smallest amount, “I knew you would be.” He whispered.
Which put to bed any fears Dean had of Sam really wanting to blow up. “Ok,” Dean let go of his brother, took a step back, getting a better look at the contraption. When something on Sam clicked, two sets of eyes looked down.
“Timer?” Sam groaned.
“No, I don’t think so.” Dean looked around, leaned over to look behind Sam. “I don’t see anything counting down, but this thing is doing something.” Lightly fingering the small device strapped to Sam’s waist, he traced the line to Sam’s arm. “There’s something in it.”
“Yeah, f-figured.” Sam started to fidget. The tension wires shifted, barely, nothing else moved. Sam would have to jerk, or bend his knees, something more pronounced to make the wires pull on the pins. Jerking in a breath, Sam giggled nervously, face splitting into a fast, frightened grin. “Dean, it’s…I gotta move man, I’m trapped.” Eyes widening Sam shifted his weight from one side to the other.
“No. Sam, no.” Dean laid a hand on each of Sam’s shoulders. Shitshitshit what was being pumped into Sam? Hallucinogens, stimulants, both?
“The walls are coming, they’re crawling.” Sam was sweating, panting, eyes roaming around the room too fast.
“Sammy, look at me.” Dean let go of his brother with one hand, pointing two fingers to his eyes. His other hand gripped Sam’s chin, forcing him to focus on Dean’s face. “Breathe with me, in…out…” It was an effort to steady his own breathing, but it was working, Sam was focused on him more than anything else. “That’s my boy…that’s it.” He could barely manage a whisper. His throat was dry, mouth drier. Sam swallowed convulsively, gave him one curt nod. “Thirsty?”
“Yeah.” Sam snorted a short odd sound.
“Ok, Sam, you need to listen to me. Don’t be a pig head and do what I tell you, ok? Please?”
Another short nod. Sam’s arms twitched; the muscles along his neck, shoulders and chest jumping. One lip kept curling into a snarl. Dean’s stomach twisted watching Sam trying to control everything rolling through him, fight the urge to twist and stretch, to run.
“I have to go down to the car, get something to cut these with. I’ll get you some water. Sam, this is important, no matter what you don’t move.”
“I’ll try.” Sam’s voice was too close to cracking for Dean’s liking.
“No Sam. You won’t try, you will do. Understand me? You will do it for me.” A quick jerk of his head, Sam’s bangs flopped over his eyebrows, into his eyes. Dean smiled, trying to encourage his brother. Brushing his fingertips through those bangs, moving them away so he could stare straight into his brother’s eyes, “Ok Sam?”
Squeezing the back of Sam’s neck Dean nodded. “Five minutes kiddo.” He held up five fingers for emphasis.
Sam stopped him before he stepped out of the door, “Dean.”
Turning back to watch his brother over his shoulder, “I know Sammy.”
Calm, gotta keep calm, stay calm. Dean will be right back, he will, he promised, he never breaks his promises to me. How long has it been, where’s Dean?
Sam fought the urge to jerk free of the bindings. He concentrated, closing his eyes to the room, the swimming walls, bouncing floor, the pains shooting through his legs still for too long.
Breathe in, breathe out, in through my mouth, out my nose.
Sam squeezed his eyes tighter, forcing the image of Dean’s face to the forefront of his brain, remembering how his brother breathed with him…would breathe for me.
The little machine strapped to his waist stopped clicking, the line sagged a bit, nothing being forced through. Maybe, if he was lucky his blood would clot in the needle in his arm. He was never that lucky.
The breathing technique was working, maybe too well, or was he crashing after whatever was being pumped into his system stopped? His legs felt rubbery, arms heavy, his head too big. Sam’s shoulders sagged, the wires pulled, the grenades clinked. Eyes snapping open Sam froze. The slight shift hadn’t moved anything important, at least not yet.
Stand still. Hafta stand still. I’m tired, can’t stand. Need to lie down, can’t, have to, can’t. Dean said stand still, promised I would, promised Dean. Stand still for Dean.
Sam felt something moist drip down his cheek, along the side of his nose. He struggled to stay upright, not give into gravity and slip to the floor. His legs screamed at him, quavering, demanding relief. Maybe he could bend, just a tiny bit. The grenades clanked again. Sam gulped in a breath.
Sit down, be done with it, so easy. Dean will die trying to save me, not worth it. Promised, promised, promised Dean…stand still…hang on…I promised Dean.
Sam didn’t break his promises either.
The machine clicked, he felt something cool slither up his arm, heading straight to his brain. He pictured it, a tiny snake inside him, winding its way through every part of him. He wanted to run, scramble away from the snakes in his veins…Sounds like a really bad movie…stand still…promised Dean I’d stand still…not try…do. Concentrating on his breathing, Sam tried desperately not to think about the snakes, tiny, nano-snakes working around his body. He wanted to wrench free, rake the things out of his arms, neck, legs.
Images of snakes all over him, in him, through him fought him for control. Run, he had to run. Maybe if he was fast enough he could out run the explosion. No, can’t run, promised Dean. Where is Dean? Hours…has it been hours? He said five minutes…longer must’ve been longer. Dead, Dean is dead, not coming, gone, dead, it got him…come back!
His chest spasmed. Every muscle along his back clenched, like a contraction working from his spine to his breastbone. He fought to breathe, fought to stop the sobs…Dean must be dead, wouldn’t leave me…dead…dead…Everything in him slowed, dropped to the pit of his stomach. His knees were jello, close his eyes, just for a minute, he could do that.
Hands gripped Sam’s sides, making him shudder. Barely able to keep his eyes open long enough to focus, he saw Dean swimming along with the moving floor. “‘M tired, rest. Can’t stand anymore.” His words slurred out of his mouth, he could see them moving sluggishly over the top of Dean’s head. His brother was breathing hard, too hard. “Why you out of breath?”
Dean’s jaw dropped, Sam thought he looked irritated. “Dude! I just ran down six flights of steps and back up again. What do you want?”
“Oh.” He sagged against Dean’s hands.
“Ok, Sammy,” Dean pushed him more upright. “We gotta get you out of this.”
Sam felt the loss of Dean’s hands against his sides as if they’d left holes in him, torn his flesh away. Warm palms pressed against his face, turning his head so all he could see was his brother.
Focus on Dean, watch Dean, breathe with Dean. Sam swayed, Dean immediately stepped closer. He was grateful, and able to brace against him. I’m gonna blow us both sky high. Promised, I promised to stand still, stand…still.
“I’m going to get you out, neither one of us is going to explode.”
Could Dean read his mind now, or was the babbling in his head coming out of his mouth? His head would have dropped forward, hit his chest if not held up by Dean’s hands. One of those hands slid to his chest, the other under his chin. His head got a slight shake.
“Sam…Sammy, pay attention to me. Just me. I’m going to do this, but I need your help. Ok? Can you do that?”
Dean needs my help. Do what? Nothing I wouldn’t do for him, he’s my big brother…nothing… I… wooo-uudn’t dooo…Everything went dark, the world was black, he must have exploded, he didn’t hurt. Dean would be angry. His head got a quick shake…maybe it hit a wall?
“Keep your eyes open Sam.” Dean snapped.
“Sorrrryyy.” He tried not to slur, but so tired, he was so tired. Promised to stand still, promised. Don’t be angry Dean, please…promised I’d stand still. Promised I’d stand.
The little machine clicked, Dean groaned. For a few seconds Sam felt better, lucid, almost ok, other than the fact he was trussed up like a Christmas turkey to a bomb, he felt great. Bouncing on his toes, he contended himself with giggling softly when Dean glared at him. “Wuuaaattt Deeenn?” Eyes roved the room, the walls were changing colors, the floor smiling at him. “Everything is funny, moving, the floor has a mouth.”
Sighing, Dean pinched the bridge of his nose with the hand that had been under Sam’s chin. “Stand still.”
Biting his lip, Sam nodded slowly. “Don’t wanna blow up.”
“Me either Sam. I want you to focus on me, nothing else. Forget the floor and the walls, I’m the only thing here you need to worry about and if you don’t do what I tell you to, I’ll kick your scrawny ass into the middle of next month. Got it?”
Don’t be angry Dean, please, please don’t be mad at me…I’m sorrysorrysorry…promised to stand still, promised to stand. Promised Dean, do it for Dean.
“I’m going to cut the chains holding this bar, so you can sit down, but you have to hold up the end I cut first, so there’s no change in pressure. Can you do that for me?”
It scared Sam, the last few words out of his brother’s mouth were spoken too gently. Dean was scared. Scared because of him. Keep my promise, I’ll keep my promise no matter what. “Yes.” His voice sounded more like a croak than his own voice. He was offered a small smile from Dean, and a pat on his chest.
“We’re in this together Sammy, one way or the other.”
Together…Promised…Stand still…Stand. “Ready.” He wished his voice didn’t make him sound five again.
Dean drew in a few deep breaths, met Sam’s eyes and nodded. Sam braced, things were starting to slide down, his eyelids, his knees. The room tilted and swayed. Focus, focus…watch Dean, nothing but Dean, focus on Dean. Promised to stand. He watched as the bolt cutters Dean retrieved from the car moved toward the chain on the left. Carefully they were placed around the chain, Dean’s eyes shifted to him for an instant. Sam nodded again. It was now or never.
The snap reverberated through the room, through Sam’s head, went straight down to his knees trying to make them buckled and sink. Jerking his now free left shoulder to keep the bar straight Sam scrunched his eyes shut, held his breath and tried to stop swaying. A hand, firm and gentle and reassuring all at once pressed flat against his side. The room stopped tilting. Prying his eyes open the world snapped into focus. The world centered on Dean who stood still, as if frozen in time, bolt cutters still held above Sam’s head, to his left. Sam would have swallowed, but he had no spit, no moisture at all in his mouth to swallow with.
“Good, that’s good.” Dean, opened his eyes, moved slowly, withdrew the bolt cutters, stepped to Sam’s other side. It seemed as if Dean was having trouble breathing, maybe it was the giant hand Sam saw clenching his chest?
Don’t think about it…not real…stand still…keep my promise.
Sidestepping slowly, Dean eased his hand away from Sam’s side, pointed to his face with one hand. “Watch me Sammy, just me. You’re doing good. Now for the next one.”
The room spun erratically, Dean at the center of the twister. Why he wasn’t tossed through a wall Sam didn’t understand. He started to weave in a small circle, he couldn’t help it, he was tired, so tired. Keep my promise, keep my promise…He tried so hard, he did, but the more he tried, the more he failed. Sam closed his eyes when the hand moved to his neck, pressing against his skin, solid and strong. A deep breath, Sam opened his eyes. Dean’s solemn ones met his. They were deep pools of green warmth flecked with gold and pride.
Tired, he was so tired. He could think of nothing but lying down, curling on his side, Dean’s jacket a pillow and sleeping. It would be easy, just slide down, let the tension out, let the rigid muscles in his legs relax, slip into deep, warm sleep. Let it wash over him like a bath. Keep my promise, keep my promise…stand still…stand…Dean wants me to, do… for… Dean…anything for… Dean.
“With me Sammy?”
The voice, Dean’s voice, broke through like a battering ram through fragile glass. At the same time gentle fingers moved his bangs away, smoothed over his head, it felt good. It felt safe, everything would be all right. Dean promised. He never breaks his promises to me.
“Yes.” His voice cracked. Sam wondered if it would ever be normal again his throat was so tight, so dry.
“We can do this, you and me Sammy, we can.” No question, no request, simple fact. That was Dean, all fact, if he said it, it was so, it must be, made it that way by sheer willpower alone.
Sam took a deep breath, set it free slowly. “Ready.”
Another pat to the side of his neck, then Dean was gone, Sam felt the air cool as he moved away, got into position to make the next cut. Not gone, right here, right with me…with me…keep my promise…stand still…stand.
The snap of the bolt cutters coming together, severing the remaining chain sent shivers along Sam’s spine. The floor dropped out from under his feet, the entire building swung and tilted on end. Something crashed at his feet. The bomb, the bomb went off, bullshit you don’t hear the explosion, it went off…I’m sorry Dean, I’m sorryI’msorryI’msorry…tried so hard to…Arms clamped around his middle like a vice, a giant Dean-sized vice, taking some of Sam’s weight. Sam didn’t think either one of them were actually breathing.
“Gotcha Sammy, I gotcha.”
The two of them stood frozen, rooted to that spot for a full minute at least.
Dean sneezed out some nervous little laugh, “Hell Sammy, the next part is easy. Move slow, lets sit you down.” He pressed against Sam, herding him backwards, “That’s it, one step at a time. And for goddsake don’t get clumsy and trip.”
Exhaling an anemic chuckle Sam let his forehead rest against his brother’s for a few seconds. “Winchester sushi.”
“Eeeuww. Ready for a few more steps?”
Sam was guided back, he let Dean take a good portion of his weight and do all the driving. The grenades chinked and clinked softly with each step, each of the shudders working their way through Sam. He’d never been so happy to feel a wall at his back in his life.
“Ok, slow and easy, real slow, let me do this, you just follow along.”
A nod was all Sam could manage. That and biting his lip. Dean lowered him to the floor in one long, painstakingly long movement. By the time his butt was firmly planted Sam saw Dean’s arms shake from the strain. There was plenty of strain on his face too. Dean stepped away far enough to kneel down, leaning back on his thighs. He reached out and steadied the bar still strung through Sam’s arms. A bottle of water was held to his lips, he guzzled half, Dean the other half. It barely touched the parched that was his mouth.
Sam couldn’t turn his head to look at the grenades without moving the wires attached to the pins. It was probably a good thing he couldn’t see them. Dean scooted back another foot. Taking first Sam’s left foot, he flexed and extended his leg a few times. Dean repeated the same procedure with Sam’s right leg.
“Hurts.” Sam winced.
“Can you move them by yourself?”
Sam tried, Dean had asked, so he had to. Carefully he pulled one leg up, bent his knee, then let it extend straight again. As Dean had done, he repeated his tortuously slow movement with the other leg.
Dean nodded. “That’ll have to do.” Standing to his full height he looked back at the shattered apartment door. “I’m going out there, I’ll be right back.” Bending down he let one hand rest against Sam’s cheek until Sam looked up, focused on him. “Sam? Understand me? I’ll be right back. Stay still.”
Sam nodded, watching through watery vision as his brother disappeared into the hallway.
Darting down the hall, Dean had seen things left by the construction workers he could use. He hit the door to the stairwell, bolted through and down one flight. There by the door to the floor below was what he needed. There were sections of plywood. He grabbed one about six feet long and ran back to the apartment. Along the wall opposite the door he propped the piece of plywood up before ducking back through the door to Sam.
“How ya doing?” He crossed the room quickly, Sam watched him with dull eyes.
Dean ignored the slurring. Pulling the wire cutters he’d brought from the car out of his pocket he pressed them to Sam’s right hand. “Can you make a fist for me? Close these?”
Pulling his lower lip between his teeth, Sam stared at the wire cutters, then swung his eyes to Dean. “Yeah.” Clenching his fingers the cutters closed easily.
“Good boy. Here’s the plan. I’m going to sit you up and get that bar off you. Then I’m going to use my knife and you’re going to use those cutters and we’re going to cut the trip wires.”
“We’ll blow up.” Sam breathed out.
“Not right away. There should be a ten or so second delay. When you pull the pin you have to have time to throw.”
“Soooo…we go boom in ten seconds?”
“No, these will. You and I will be clean over there behind that piece of plywood. The grenades are up against the same wall you are, it’ll blow a hole in it, probably in the floor too. I suppose it’ll start a fire, but the whole building won’t go up.”
“I don’t know if I can run.”
“Don’t worry Sammy, I just need you to stand, I got the rest covered.” Crouching in front of Sam, he eased the bar loose from his arms, turned and set it gently on the floor, out of the way so they didn’t trip over it. Guiding Sam’s hand with the cutters into position he took a deep breath. Shifting his weight so he was at Sam’s left he pressed his knife against the wires there. “Sammy?”
“On three I want you to cut and stand up, got it?”
Sam nodded convulsively.
Sliding his free arm around Sam’s chest and under his arms Dean’s eyes met Sam’s. “One. Two. Three.”
Yanking the knife through, Dean trusted Sam had closed the clippers. Surging to his feet, dizzy with relief Sam was right with him. Dropping the knife Dean grabbed Sam’s arm with his other hand, turned and yanked Sam toward the door. Sam somehow managed to keep his feet under him, leaning heavily against Dean. Ready for the extra weight Dean staggered a step or two before he was able to propel Sam at the door and keep him upright.
As soon as they were clear and into the hall Dean shoved Sam against the far wall, dove on top of him and pulled the plywood over them. The noise was deafening, first a loud ka-bang followed by a series of pops and rips. Dean heard bits of who knew what splatter the plywood.
“Are we Winchester sushi?”
“I don’t think so Sam. I think my ears ringing is a good sign. Let’s get rid of this.” Grasping the line to Sam’s arm from the little box on his waist in two fingers, Dean eased it away where it joined the box. Next he reached behind Sam, undid the strap holding the box and removed a small, empty vile. “Maybe we can find out what was in this. How you feeling?” He flung the box across the hall. The needle in Sam’s arm met the same fate.
“Tired, could sleep for a week.” They sat quietly for a minute while Dean kept pressure on Sam’s arm stopping the trickle of blood from leaking out where the needle had been. “Dean? Can we leave now?”
“You betcha Sammy.” Dean stood, hefting his brother along with him. A quick check over, nothing but cuts and bruises, thankfully Sam’s eyes were clearer already. Both of them had all appendages attached.
“Glad we’re not sushi.”
“Me too Sammy.”
Leaning on each other, supporting one another, together they made their way down the stairs and to their waiting car. Making sure Sam was settled in the passenger seat, Dean folded his leather jacket, slipped it under his brother’s head for a pillow. A glance over at Sam as he slid into the driver’s seat, he quietly pulled the door shut. Dean smiled warmly; let his hand linger on Sam’s arm for a minute before starting the car and pulling onto the street, blending into the night.