Sam tried the strength of the bars again, as he’d done countless times the last three days. Nothing changed, why did he even bother? A steel rod slammed across the bars, he cringed away, barely avoided his fingers being smashed.
“Don’t worry, boy, your turn is coming.” The man, older, scarred face, wild eyes snarled at him. It was evident he enjoyed Sam’s fear, the fear of the others who’d been there with Sam, gone now, dead. Sam watched them die, screaming at their captor to stop, unable to offer help.
The man took another of his steel rods, wrapped it in cloth soaked in kerosene. Sam watched, he knew what was coming. Pressing as far back in the small cage as he could, trying to watch the man without being obvious. The creep had discovered, almost immediately, Sam’s intense fear of fire. It was almost as if he got off on seeing Sam’s fear. Sitting in the far corner, the cage was maybe three by three foot square, knees pulled up, arms wrapped around his legs Sam tried making himself the smallest target possible.
It didn’t work.
Flames darted at him, the man laughed. Sam could see him through the fire, just as the creep could see Sam. He could see Sam pull farther away, shoving against the bars at his back, fighting off threatening tears. Could see how the muscles of Sam’s jaw jumped, then clenched tight as he refused to make a sound. The torch was pushed so close the heat from it caused Sam’s eyes to shut tight, turning his head away, involuntarily throwing one arm over his face.
When the man withdrew a few steps, taking his torch with him, Sam watched him warily, trembling, trying to gain control over his ragged breathing. The guy cracked a grin. Throwing the torch on the ground, stomping it out the man turned without a word, flicking the light switch off as he left the room, locking the door.
The worst part was the last time he’d spoken with Dean, been with his brother they’d fought so horribly, been so angry with each other. In truth Sam had started it, been the one refusing to let the anger die, forget the argument. Yet, Sam knew, Dean would look for him, would never stop till he found Sam, or Sam’s body. Sam clung to that thought, to the knowledge Dean would not let him down.
Alone in the dark Sam couldn’t hold back any longer. Letting his head dip down until his face pushed against his forearm Sam let the tears loose, let the sobs come.
Sunlight filtered through a hazy late October sky. The air was cool, but not unpleasantly so. The car Sam sat on, however, was hard. Propped on the hood, leaning back against the wind shield, knees bent he read the newspaper. Between articles he watched Dean, who grumbled something Sam was sure was better off left unheard. Sam smiled. Dean dropped another tool, rooted through the tool chest, produced something looking, to Sam, just like what he’d discarded, and ducked back under the hood of the car he worked on. Stretching one leg, flexing it, Sam resumed his original position, shivering a bit as the wind picked up.
Dean straightened, banging his head, “ouww, damn.” Rubbing his head he looked Sam over, maybe a bit more critically than he needed to. “Sammy you don’t have to sit out here with me, go inside.” Jerking his chin at the car Sam was pretending was a couch, “that looks uncomfortable.”
One little shiver and Dean homed in on him like some sort of bloodhound. How the hell does he do that? “ ‘M fine. Want some help?”
Sam smiled, really smiled at his brother. The man before him really was his brother, not the frightening stranger of a year ago. Not the brother he worried daily would die in some hideous manner. Not the brother who seemed always angry, out of control. Not the brother he was starting to fear. This was really his brother, in control, fearless, focused. Not quite whole, but almost, getting there. The brother who since Sam’s earliest memory made him feel safe, who called him ‘Sammy’ more often than not. Sam wasn’t quite sure exactly when the real Dean Winchester had returned, but Sam was awfully thankful he had. While Sam never stopped loving the guy, he sure had stopped liking the brother he had those first few months after their father died. Living in daily fear of losing that brother was no longer reality for Sam. He hadn’t been any gem either, and now Sam was doing what he could to make up for it, for his own wrongs, wrongs Dean never deserved.
“Yeah, actually I would, but there’s barely room for my hand in there, let along your bear paws too.” Dean grinned. “But you still don’t have to sit out here with me.”
“I know. Nothing else to do though.” Sam flipped the pages of the paper, folding it and resettling it against his knees.
He sat, propped on the hard car, with his ass falling asleep for two simple reasons. The most important was it made Dean feel better, not that the man would ever come out and admit it, but that was ok. Secondly, and far less important in Sam’s eyes was it made Sam feel better. People left Dean, Sam had left Dean. The fact he always bounced back to Dean was all that kept him from being over-run by the guilt of those actions. Months ago, too impatient to give his brother the little bit of time he’d asked for, too selfish. Dean would have never done that to him, and Sam knew it. Sam promised his brother he’d not take off like that again, and meant it, Dean would never ask again. But Sam saw the looks, every now and then, as if he expected Sam to not be there. So Sam planted himself solidly in front of Dean at every opportunity, stayed right where Dean could watch him. The looks were fewer and farther between; being called ‘Sammy’ happened more and more. The fact it made Sam feel he could get through each day and not always have to be afraid of demonic plans and revenge-filled hunters was a bonus.
Hunting was another issue, one not so easily solved. But they were working on that one too. Dean’s drive to hunt for the sake of saving innocents had been smothered by his drive to preserve and protect his brother. Sam saw the fire coming back, little by little, knowing that flame could never really be extinguished. Literally Sam, over the past few months had sometimes needed to force Dean to hunt, but Dean was the best, the world needed him. Almost as much as Sam needed him. Sam was far too selfish to give him up, but he could share his brother every now and again.
When Bobby asked them to ‘house sit’, which also meant ‘business sit,’ at least for Dean who could do the work on the vehicles brought in, Sam willingly agreed. Bobby’s sister was ill, very ill. He’d gone to be with her and her family in her final days. Dean got his time off with a purpose, and Sam got to save face not having to admit Dean had been right all along. In the brief week they’d been there he’d seen it had done Dean a world of good. Another week or two and Sam was sure Dean would be antsy as hell, wanting back on the road, and it would be look out world, Dean Winchester is back. Frankly Sam couldn’t wait.
The slight wind shifted around, now coming from the west, it was going to storm. Another involuntary shiver worked its way down Sam’s spine. He waited for it, three… two….one...and coughed to cover up a short laugh when Dean’s head popped up again.
“Sammy, go inside before you catch something, ‘cause I’m NOT spoon feeding you soup for a week while you sneeze and drip.” Tossing the tools into the chest, muttering, “piece of crap should be junked,” he straightened, wiped his hands together and slammed the hood shut.
“Want me to find a manual online?”
Dean turned slowly, crossed his arms over his middle, arched one eyebrow and put on a fake dangerous glare. “As if I’d need one.”
Rolling his eyes, Sam swung off the car, “whatever, man.” He stuffed the paper under one arm, and picked up one of the tool boxes with the other hand. “Let me know if you change your mind.”
“Excuse me; Dean Winchester does not need directions.”
Sam snorted a short laugh through his nose and shook his head. “Dean Winchester sounds ridiculous talking about himself as Dean Winchester.”
“Not nearly as ridiculous as you sound right now.” The toolbox Dean carried was put just inside the garage door. He turned and took Sam’s, placing it beside the other one. Locking the door, they headed to the house. Going straight to the refrigerator, half of Dean disappeared inside. Sam could hear things being moved about, more grumbling from his brother. “We need to go shopping Sammy, there’s nothing decent in here.”
“Maybe there’ll be a movie somewhere too.” Sam dropped the paper on the table.
Snatching the paper, Dean scanned an article. “What’s this, a hint?”
“Sam, come on. You been researching hunts? You want to check this out? Say something, don’t pull leaving hints bullshit.”
Dean rolled his eyes, tossed the paper back down in disgust. “Quit the crap and games!”
“What are you talking about? I was reading the paper. It’s about the only thing in this house in English. I was trying to keep you company, and since you never want me helping……not that I’m much help with engines anyway….I wanted something to read. Excuse me for trying to be nice to you. I’ll try not to let it happen again.” Sam snapped back.
“Then what is this?” Dean grabbed his arm, forcing Sam to face him, retrieving the paper and shaking it under his nose, probably knowing how much that would just piss Sam off.
Sam viciously swatted the paper away from his face, then, curious as to what Dean had read, jerked it from his hand. He didn’t remember any articles being ‘hunt’ worthy. Then again he hadn’t been reading the main news section either. “Lemme see.” His eyes followed Dean’s finger down the front page. Sam lifted his eye brows, gaze meeting Dean’s. “I hadn’t seen this, sorry. I really didn’t know what you were talking about.” Sam’s voice trailed off as he read more of the article.
“Not some kind of Sam Winchester hint then?” His brother’s voice and expression softened.
Sam shook his head, completely involved in the article. “Think we should check this out?” He asked after a few minutes.
“No, I think we should stay the hell away from it.”
“I mean it Sammy. I don’t think this is one we should mess with. It’s probably a serial killer and nothing supernatural.”
“Dean if these people are dying and we can do something….”
“The police ARE doing something, Sammy. This is a sick bastard, I’ll give you that, but I don’t see anything that’s our kind of case.”
“Because you don’t want to see it. Because these victims are men and women my age. Tortured, murdered and their bodies burnt, and then dumped.”
“And smart ass, the cops have a few leads, and they’ll be crawling all over everything.”
“That’s not the reason.” Sam insisted. “Since when have cops bothered you before? Hell, you get a thrill out of antagonizing them.”
“Not this time.”
Sam watched as his brother walked purposefully out of the room. Dean stopped just the other side of the doorway, turned and looked at him. Sam waited quietly, he knew that look. That was the ‘Dean-was-going-to-say-something’ look and he wanted to be sure he had Sam’s full attention, which he mostly did anyway. Sam just let him think otherwise at times.
Dean stood looking at him for a few minutes, until Sam had to resist the urge to squirm or look down to see if he wasn’t completely dressed or something. Finally he decided to speak. “You coming with me to get groceries, or you want to stay here?”
“Definitely going with.” Sam dropped the paper and sprinted after his brother.
Remaining quiet the majority of the ride into the small town near Bobby’s junk yard/auto shop ate at Sam. He wished Dean had never pointed the article out, he might not have ever seen it. He suspected his brother might feel the same way. “Dean?”
“It’s more than an hour away.”
“All the more reason, it’s too much travel time if we’re going to look after Bobby’s business too. Drop it.” When a muscle in Dean’s jaw jumped Sam knew he was pushing Dean’s buttons. Dean’s fuse, where Sam was concerned, was incredibly, almost unnaturally long, but it did have its limits. Sam was more apt to stop before lighting the fuse, but this time was different. For some reason this time he felt it was important, really important for them to look into this.
The heel of Sam’s hand connected solidly and loudly with the dash of the Impala, doing exactly what he knew it would do….light the fuse.
Dean shot him an angry glare, “hitting the car won’t work, and just points out how much a kid you are! Now give it a rest, it’s not one of our cases, we’ve got no business anywhere near there and we’re not going. Period.” Voice rising with every word, knuckles white gripping the steering wheel as if he were holding it to the car. Dean was definitely pissed.
So was Sam.
“Why won’t you consider it? Why won’t you listen to me?!” Even Sam hated the whine creeping into his voice.
“Oh for…..what next you’ll be saying how I don’t understand you? Get done being a teenager Sam. THAT you ARE to old for.”
Realizing the squealing of brakes was from the Impala when Sam was thrown rather roughly into the dash, he decided maybe he’d gone just a bit too far. The car spun around on the road, slipping onto the gravel shoulder, dirt flew out from under the tires in all directions.
“NO!” Dean shouted, voice deep, pushing up from his abdomen with force and conviction. “I’ve had it! There’s nothing there for us to investigate. Nothing we can do with cops all around but get into more trouble. And you sure as hell aren’t baiting the sick bastard. Enough. Done.” Dean hit the steering wheel with such force it shook. “I’m not going along on this one. Final.”
Maybe lighting the fuse wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Dean slammed the car into gear, stomping on the gas pedal, wheels spinning in place for a few seconds before the vehicle lurched back onto the road. Sam had definitely gone too far, his brother would never listen to him now. He pushed himself back onto the seat, glaring out the window, refusing to even look at Dean, who was being stupid and pushy. Sam resigned to the fact he could still do plenty of research and Dean would never know. If there was something to look into, he’d try again. Being armed with more info, if it was one of their types of cases, Dean wouldn’t refuse. Maybe. He hoped. He’d deal with that when and if he had to.
By the time they reached town, pulled in front of the grocery story Dean had calmed considerably. Sam was still pissed at him, not as much, but enough to rebuke Dean’s attempts at conversation. He stared murder at his brother when Dean tried teasing him. Huffing a breath Dean had simply gotten out of the car and headed into the store.
Guess a movie was not going to happen.
He trailed behind Dean through the store answering his brother with angry glares when asked what items he wanted. Then, daring Dean to say a word with nothing but a vicious expression Sam tossed a few things into the cart that normally would have brought snide remarks from his brother. Dean pissed him off even more by shrugging and keeping his own expression mild, almost amused. The bastard. Dean could push Sam’s buttons just as well as Sam pushed Dean’s. Maybe better.
When Dean started flirting with the check out girl Sam left the store, heading across the parking lot to the car. He’d about decided he was acting like a teenager, and he should stop being an ass because he couldn’t always have his own way, when he saw an old man trying to pull a spare tire from the trunk of a car. Sam stopped, halfway to the Impala, turned and looked back at the store, seeing Dean through the window. Dean looked up, at him…..how the hell does he do that?...their eyes locked for a minute before Sam dipped his head toward the man with the flat tire. Dean sort of nodded, but no smile, no real expression at all, just an acknowledgement.
Sam’s chest squeezed, he looked down at his hands for a brief moment before crossing the parking lot. He didn’t know what he loathed more, the look on Dean’s face, or the fact Sam caused it. Positions reversed if Sam had reacted that strongly to a hunt Dean would have dropped the issue. Dean’s reasons were valid, and he rarely, if ever, backed away from a true hunt because of how he felt personally about it. Sam admitted it probably was a serial killer, and that they had no business involving themselves. Dean had put up with a lot of crap from Sam in particular and the world in general lately, and didn’t deserve more from Sam. So, he’d change the tire, suck it up and apologize.
“Hi.” Sam stopped next to the old man, now on his knees struggling with the lug wrench. “Need some help?”
“Well, aren’t you a kind young fella. I sure would.”
“It’ll just take me a few minutes.” Sam reached for the lug wrench, fingers not quite connecting with it. He felt an odd sting under the skin in the muscle of his forearm. Blinking, confused, in the next instant he was on his knees, looking up at the guy. Not sure what happened, not a vision, and his arm burned, but he couldn’t grasp it with his other hand. He couldn’t do much but stare up at the stranger as blackness slithered in from the edges of his vision. As the blackness closed in completely Sam’s mind screamed Dean!!! His voice wasn’t so cooperative, cold, raw terror crept into his muddied brain, he’d been drugged, a shallow grunt escaped him and Sam slumped face first to the ground.
He couldn’t even go to the grocery store without finding trouble.
Dean snagged a few candy bars from the rack next to the cashier just as she finished ringing up the groceries. Peace offering is what they were, they were Sam’s favorite. Waiting for his change he glanced back out the window, in the direction Sam had wandered off, changing a tire. He didn’t see Sam, didn’t see the car. Damn, the kid was fast. Ok, he admitted he hadn’t really listened to Sam. And there was no harm in doing a bit of research, reading up on the events. There was no harm in that, and Sam was right, if people were dying and they could offer some help, they should. There was always the option of anonymous tips to the cops if it was a human evil, not a supernatural one. Dean was still confident this was human evil.
Grabbing the bags Dean headed across the parking lot to the car. He was a good ten feet away yet when he realized Sam wasn’t waiting in it. Tossing the bags in the back seat, Dean made a quick scan of the parking lot. “Sammy!” A bit annoyed Sam had just wandered off, without saying where he was going, Dean headed to the general part of the lot he’d seen Sam changing a tire. It had become very uncharacteristic of Sam to go off by himself, and when he did Dean usually was given forewarning, even when Sam was pissed off at him.
Maybe he had the direction wrong. He walked a complete circuit of the lot. No, he decided, he’d had the right section. He came back to the empty parking space. There were few cars in this part of the lot, being it was the farthest from the store. He took another look back at the Impala, still no Sam. Annoyance evolved into a bit of queasiness.
Where the hell was his kid brother?
Dean examined the ground near where the car had been a bit more closely. Crouching down he scrutinized the area. A small tube of plastic caught his eye. Dean picked it up, holding it in front of his face. This was a curious thing to find here. It was the needle cap from a syringe. Dean looked around, more closely this time, but found no syringe, no needle, nothing else. Almost nothing else. Caught along the guard rail in front of where the car had been, Dean found a small bit of material. Material matching the hoodie Sam had been wearing, the one Dean had given him not so many months ago for his birthday.
Looking up, Dean’s heart fell when he saw no surveillance in the lot. It was a small town, a small store, a long shot there’d be any cameras. He fished his phone from his pocket, dialing Sam’s number. Voice mail. Dean had two possibilities. One, Sam had taken off, which he doubted. They’d had much better fights. Sam had done that in the past, but not completely unexpected, and not without leaving Dean a note saying he was going, and would be back. It still made Dean smile, the minute Sam ran into trouble, he’d been on the phone calling Dean. There was nothing to smile about now. Sam hadn’t taken off. He’d had no reason to. He’d been going to extreme lengths to show Dean, tell him, at every opportunity that would not happen again. Dean believed him.
There were few people in the lot. Cell phone in hand, Dean flipped through the pictures of Sam he’d stored on it, finding a fairly recent one that wasn’t something stupid, he started asking if anyone saw Sam. There were five people in all he questioned. Three mentioned the series of killings when Dean told them Sam’s age, which did nothing to assuage his fears. The last person, an elderly woman who kept patting his arm kindly, remember seeing Sam just minutes before Dean left the store.
The relief flooding through Dean was immense and short-lived. She’d seen Sam alright, seen him with a man next to a car with a flat tire. She apologized, she couldn’t be positive, but thought when the car drove away there might have been two people, one in the back and one in the front of the car. The most she could tell him about the car was it was dark blue and a bigger car. Dean’s stomach did a flip. He barely made it back to his car, after thanking the woman profusely, before breaking out in a cold sweat. He fought down bile rising in his throat, threatening to burst out.
He hated himself just then. The last thing he’d done was yell at Sam. Yes, Sam yelled too, and yes they’d both been pissed. But it was what Dean saw in Sam’s eyes, beyond the anger, the defiance, and the stubbornness. In those few moments after Dean slammed on the brakes, causing the car to skid off the road, after facing his brother, shouting at Sam., there had been a small amount of fear, his outburst scared Sam. Dean had seen it, covered up, and short lived, but there.
Dean would be damned if the last thing between he and Sam would be anger and fear.
An eternity she’d watched them. This life was no different. Tucked into a corner of the room, near the ceiling she’d watched the pair, wondering why they never noticed her.
The older one returned, alone, despondent, she plainly saw his fear. Fear deep and powerful, fear that drove him. Fear of losing the younger. Many wouldn’t see it of course, but she could. She’d known him, both of them, since before conception, before this life. She’d known them for an eternity, and would continue to do so.
Watching as he methodically prepared weapons, the tools of his trade, then as he moved on to gathering information she considered him, what he had been….
On a cold, blustery January evening, nearly three decades ago, in the midst of a blizzard, she’d delivered this one, again, into the world of men. A world desperately in need of him. The whole thing took surprisingly little time. She knew, even in her mortal form, right from the start this child was special, different. Saying so only brought knowing nods, kind smiles, all new mothers had those same thoughts of their children. But she knew better.
This time it really was true.
He hadn’t been like the other children they knew, others he played with. He wasn’t filled with childish silliness. He simply didn’t find things most children found frightening worth his time or effort. He was a contemplative child, almost quiet, fearless, with an endless charm. His was not merely an old soul, his was an ancient one. Within him beat the heart and spirit of a warrior, the most powerful of all combinations.
Always seeming the slightest bit incomplete, without focus or purpose he was driven, even at a young, tender age to defend those less able to defend themselves. She understood, this one needed a focus, and it was only a matter of time before that focus would follow him into this life. They were never very far apart after all.
From his earliest days it was plain for her to see, he had a purpose in this life. A very important purpose. He was a warrior of men, a gift from the gods.
She watched him walk out of the house, now as an adult full of purpose, still driven. The warrior, the hunter, he was onto his quarry.
Pulling into a police station parking lot with a car full of not only guns, but a variety of weapons, more on the illegal than legal side probably wasn’t the smartest thing Dean had ever done, but he really didn’t care at the moment. Making sure nothing was on him, no knives, throwing stars, nothing more harmless than a bottle of water, and no one could tell it wasn’t plain water, but holy water, he didn’t hesitate. Bounding up the steps two at a time Dean strode with purpose through the doors, to the officer at the front desk. A quick explanation of why he was there, and he was led to a detective’s desk. It seemed they weren’t taking disappearances lightly, especially when it concerned the disappearance of a twenty-three year old, with no warning and no reason to run. Two others had gone missing from this area, Dean was informed, and later were found dead, victims of the serial killer.
Dean learned quite a few things he didn’t want to know about this particular sicko-wack job. The victims mostly were male, only a two were girls. They’d been snatched from not only the county Dean was presently in, but three surrounding counties as well. The suspects, there were more than one, all lived in the next county, about an hour away, and were suspect only because of prior crimes. In reality the police had almost no leads. The victims ranged in age from late teens to early twenties, most commonly being between twenty-one and twenty-four. Some had families, some didn’t, the majority lived away from their families, so the fact they were missing wasn’t apparent immediately.
It was the condition of the bodies, what must have happened to these kids before their deaths that monumentally turned Dean’s stomach. He wasn’t given specifics, but the detective, Dean could see, was trying to prepare him. He didn’t come out and say it, but the details Dean learned made it plain enough. So far none of the victims had been found alive. Preparing Dean for the very possible reality Sam wouldn’t be found alive, and what Dean may have to see wouldn’t be pretty. The victims suffered torture, dismemberment, and burns probably inflicted prior to death, possibly the cause of death.
There was no waiting before a missing person’s report was made, no pleading with cops to search for Sam. They regarded Sam as the killer’s eleventh victim. The only thing Dean could wrap his mind around right then was Sam was out there somewhere…alone, possibly hurt, and probably scared to death. He wasn’t laying his hopes completely with the cops. If they found him, great, but Dean was going to do his own investigating. No way was he going to sit around and hope and wait for someone else to find his brother.
He’d picked up a few clues at the police station, and had seen the shot in the paper of where the last body was found. He’d start there. The picture Dean held in his shaking hands was from the same paper Sam had been reading only this morning. A sloppy field, more mud than grass or crops, young trees scattered around the area. He knew it was in the next county, but didn’t know anything else, the name of the road, or the general area, nothing. He couldn’t even be sure that was close to where this guy took his victims, but it was a place to start.
An hour later Dean emerged from the small library in town armed with copies of earlier articles. The same field was pictured in several of them. Of course he wasn’t stupid enough to think the cops were so dense they didn’t notice bodies cropping up in the same field. He didn’t even know if he’d be able to get close to the place, but he’d try. He still had the small problem of finding it without spending days driving all over the area looking. It was getting dark as Dean turned the Impala onto the road back to Bobby’s and he hated doing so, but driving down dark country roads trying to find a muddy field and old farm house would be spinning his wheels and he knew it. He’d grab a few hours sleep, head out before dawn. Dean would be able to search then. He did have some time, the pattern had remained consistent. The bodies turned up in the same order the disappearances happened, and all not for at least four days. If it held true, if it wasn’t stopped there would be another body today, or early in the morning.
The rest of the evening he spent on line, searching for pictures of the countryside, more news about the killings. Twice he flipped on the TV, but no news on another body being found. By the time he fell into a fitful sleep, head bent down into arms folded onto the desk he’d narrowed his search to a five or so mile radius.
“Come on, Sammy, it’s ok, this fire won’t hurt you. We’ll be warm.” Dean tried coaxing his brother nearer the only warmth in the room, the fireplace. He could just grab the five-year-old and make him move, but that wasn’t what Dean wanted. Sam trusted him and forcing him to do this would tarnish that trust. Sam shook his head, pulling his blanket tighter around him. “Don’t want to be close to it.” He watched Dean with wary, teary eyes. Dean picked a spot a little farther from the fire, but still closer than Sam sat. Making a big show of arranging pillows and blankets he plopped down, rolling with his back to Sam. “Fine, suit yourself, but you’ll be cold all the way over there.” Smiling when he heard Sam sniffle a little, Dean rolled onto his back, looking over so his eyes met his little brother’s. He patted the floor between them. “I’ll be here; the fire won’t get by me to you.” Sam scooted closer, “promise?” The little boy’s voice was barely a squeak. Dean nodded solemnly, “absolutely.” Sam scooted closer, but still not within touching distance. The fire popped and crackled making Sam duck his head, sort of get smaller, wiping a small fist across his nose. Dean pushed up on his elbows, dipping his head to the pillow next to his. In a small flurry of activity Sam and his blanket scrambled over to Dean settling beside him, hiding his face from the fire against Dean’s shoulder. Dean wrapped the blanket securely around Sam, rolling over so he could put one arm fully around Sam’s small shoulders. Sam wriggled and squirmed for a few minutes, then relaxed, warm and sleepy. “Warm enough?” Dean’s drowsy words slurred ever so slightly. Sam nodded. Dean woke with a jolt, sitting up right so quickly the room spun. He spent a few minutes gasping for breath before looking around the room. A dream. He’d been dreaming. Then why was it he could still feel small, five year old fingers around his arm, his brother curled against him, sleeping because Dean kept him safe from fires? Why had his mind chosen to dredge up that particular long ago forgotten moment?
Sam was afraid, no terrified, of fire. Hell, Dean realized, Sam was probably sixteen before Dean coaxed him into lighting matches. Sam was now in the forced company of an insane man who quite probably used fire to torture and kill.
Dean barely made it to the bathroom before vomiting, his entire body wracked with spasms for what seemed an eternity. He sat back, palms against his thighs, gasping, trying to quiet his hammering heart. It was a few more minutes before he struggled to his feet, rinsing his mouth, face, back of his neck with cold water. Hands on sink rim Dean looked at his reflection in the mirror.
Screw waiting for daylight, he’d leave now. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Moving, he was moving. Sam was pretty sure he was moving. Barely able to crack his eyes open, and when he could they were mere slits he came to the slow realization he was in a car. Not his car. The head was all he could see of the driver, but it was absolutely not Dean’s head, not unless Dean had suddenly gone partially bald and changed his hair color to dirty brown with gray in it. There was no way of knowing how long he’d been in the car before waking up, but it was a little more than a half hour before the car pulled off the road, and finally came to a stop. He was handcuffed, a chain going from his wrists to cuffs around his ankles. It didn’t matter though, he could barely move. The idea he’d been drugged wormed a lazy path across his mind. He almost rolled off the seat and onto the floor when the car stopped; just barely getting his knees bent and pulled forward in time to block his movement.
He had to bend his head back to look at the car door when it opened, had to make a conscious effort to remember to keep his eyes open if he wanted to see anything. It was with fascination, and a little horror Sam watched his captor remove his face. The first thought flitting through Sam’s brain was shape shifter, but a few seconds later he realized the man was wearing a mask. The old man he’d gone to help wasn’t really that old, in his forties maybe Sam guessed.
Grabbing Sam by the shoulders, the guy was much stronger than Sam first thought; he was hauled from the car. Even though he offered no resistance, the only movement he made was to try and get his feet under him Sam was punched viciously in the stomach, doubling him over with a heavy grunt. Wheezing, doubled over, not able to catch his breath Sam half stumbled, was half dragged away from the car. The ground was muddy and slippery. Sam lost his footing sliding down on his side getting covered with the thick, cold mud. He gasped, then yelped in spit of his efforts not to when he was kicked in the side, angry words were shouted at him, but Sam was still too foggy from the drug to catch them. Yanked up again, shoved ahead of the man this time.
Sam wasn’t sure how long it took to reach the steps he fell up. It seemed like hours, slipping in the mud, stumbling over his chained feet, a few more hits from the eerily silent man who grabbed him under the arms and shoved him up the steps and onto what Sam took to be a porch. He hit the wood, pain exploding from his shoulder to radiate along his back and chest.
“W-why? Who are you?” Sam panted, trying to sit up, a boot rammed into his bicep forced him back down.
“Hey!” The man stepped over Sam, yelled at the door. It opened, Sam could feel a ribbon of warmth, see light from inside the building.
Someone stepped clear from the innards of the building, rolled Sam onto his back, and reached under his arms. His legs were still free. Pulling his knees to his chest, curling up as far as he could Sam hesitated only a second before kicking out with all the force he had. His boots connected with the first man’s thighs. Sam felt the impact, the give of meaty muscle, but not bone. The man swore. Sam heard him stumble back.
“You little bastard.” The man punched Sam’s face, then again.
Sam turned his head, wincing when the man’s fist pulled back for a third strike. His buddy grabbed his forearm, “save him for later.”
Nodding, grunting something Sam couldn’t make out the first man grabbed Sam behind his knees, they hefted him up. He tried to fight, but in reality he only managed weak squirms. He was carried through what he could see now was a house, a shabby, not so very clean house, down creaky, shaky steps to another heavy door. When opened the first thing hitting Sam was the acrid, foul smell. Decaying, burnt flesh permeated everything, surrounding him, threatening to smother him. Gagging and coughing Sam twisted, trying to get free. It was useless, the men were too strong, had too good a grip on him. And there was the slight matter of the chains.
The men laid him down on cold, damp flooring, cement he could tell. They removed the shackles, Sam barely had time to process the thought when he was hefted up, and thrown a few feet, landing on equally cold, damp cement.
A clang of metal on metal. The sound of a lock turning.
Sam was alone amongst a sea of vile odor and damp air.
He pushed onto his forearms, head turning on stiff neck. In a small cage, not high enough for him to stand completely, not long enough for him to fully stretch out. Not alone. There were other cages, three others. Two other young men, one young woman turned dull, defeated eyes on him.
The lights went out, they were left in a dark so thick Sam couldn’t even see his own hand in front of his face.
“Dean. Dean! Come on man, put a move on.” Sam hated how his voice kept cracking, it made him sound like a scared little kid. ‘Yeah, yeah, keep your pants on, I’m coming.” Dean sauntered to the Impala. “Ya know Sammy, when it’s warmer, no more snow on the ground how about I teach you to drive?” “Really?” Sam slid into the car. “Maybe.” Dean smirked, getting into the driver’s seat. “Not that you’ll drive MY car.” Sam snorted, “You just get your license and Dad gives you this old car, and now you’re all important.” “You betcha.” Dean pulled the Impala onto the back road, snow fell around them, the road was slick with ice and slush. Sam leaned forward, trying to see, to find a landmark. Dean’s hand pushed against his chest, forcing him back against the seat. “You’ll end up through the window doing that!” As if to prove the point the car skidded sideways, spinning, slipping to a halt on the shoulder. Sam looked over, Dean gripped the steering wheel with one hand, Sam’s coat collar with the other, his hands shook. “You ok?” They asked together, laughed a bit, to ease the tension. “Just sit back, I don’t want to lose you out the windshield in this storm.” Dean’s hand let go of the steering wheel and ran through his hair, not meeting Sam’s eyes. Sam knew the only reason Dean wouldn’t look him in the eye because Dean was scared. “I won’t.” Sam said in a quiet, solemn voice. Not once in his thirteen years had he ever thought Dean would be lost to him. He realized for the first time, really realized how much Dean thought someday he might lose Sam. White crisp snow turned to dank, foul smelling dark. It took a few minutes for him to remember where he was, that he was awake. Sam was more awake than he’d been earlier, his head clearer. A dream. It’d been a dream. Memories forgotten long ago, feelings never buried. It was slowly dawning on him; he’d been taken not by another hunter, but by a serial killer, a mad man or in this case mad men. Dean would be looking for him. Dean, Sam knew, would be scared he wouldn’t find Sam in time. Sam had to be there for Dean to find. It would kill Dean if he wasn’t there, maybe not right away, but eventually Dean would self-destruct. He didn’t want Dean to die.
Sam had to survive.
Watching, merely watching, always watching. That was the hardest part for her. Even separated they cared more about the state of the other than themselves. If she’d had a heart it would have been torn out, broken. Feeling their fear, different yet the same, she felt it all from them. Fear wasn’t the only thing she felt, they had much more between them; it was that more which kept the fear at bay, kept it down, tucked away where it belonged. There were many other things they had for each other, pride, a boundless love and trust, and a need for each other’s safety. Those were the things that truly saw them down their path. Those were what each clung to, held dear, knew to be absolute truths. Those were what bound them together.
Something solid and metal rang across the cage bars, jerking Sam awake. He was moving before he’d really woken enough to know what was happening or where he was. In the next instant his memory flooded back. His head connected with the bars above him, sending him dizzy and disoriented onto his butt so hard it sent pain up his spine. “Dean…” Sam couldn’t help his brother’s name escaping him. The room swam in sickening waves for a few minutes. The ground wriggled with….something…he wasn’t sure what, but he didn’t want them touching him, wrenching away brought him more pain when his back slammed into unyielding bars. Sucking air into his lungs and huffing it back out almost at the same time the room finally steadied, and the wriggling floor stopped, becoming a regular cement floor.
The man watching him put on round, wire glasses, adjusting them with small, precise movements. He turned mild, dark eyes on Sam. “Dean, whoever he is won’t help you, will not find you here.”
Sam had a good sense that wasn’t entirely true, but didn’t share his thoughts with the man. He tried to look defiant, but considering the panicked breathing and constant checking the floor for movement he doubted he looked anything close to defiant. Food and a bottle of water shoved through the bars at him. The water was sealed, so at least that was safe, the food probably was too, poisoning wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as the alternatives. His stomach lurched menacingly; the smell was worse than it’d been earlier. He had to eat, if he didn’t eat he’d eventually become too weak to fight. That logic was of little consequence to his protesting stomach. He forced the food and water down, clamping his mouth shut to keep them down.
Trying to remember how long he’d been here, he wasn’t sure, and there were no windows to see daylight, or night time through. Even with the drugs he’d probably slept no more than eight or so hours. Every part of him ached, deep down to the bone. Dried, caked mud flaked off damp clothes which offered practically no protection from the chill surrounding him. He had a vague sensation of being taken from the car, hitting the floor somewhere and that he’d decided for some reason when he first arrived this man wasn’t a hunter. Sam realized, horrified all over again, when the actuality of the situation slammed into his brain, he’d been snatched by the serial killer. He was sitting in a cage, in a room that from all appearances looked like it might be underground, basement maybe? There were three other people, the next victims, after which would come him.
Shivers ran freely up and down Sam’s spine, he as having a difficult time keeping his hands from shaking as he drank the remainder of the water. For a distraction he looked around for anything he might use to pick the lock, or as a weapon. His captor had been meticulous in preparing Sam’s prison. There was nothing, nothing at all of use anywhere near his cage, or the three other cages in the room. The flooring was cement, he couldn’t dig. The bolts holding the cage to the floor were too tight for him to work loose with his fingers. He wasn’t getting out until the creep with the key let him out.
Moving only his eyes Sam followed the man’s movements around the room, taking in every detail, every item in the place. It was like some bizarre shop of horrors. A tool cart, the kind on wheels sat in the middle of the cages, well out of reach of even Sam’s long arms. The cart didn’t hold the normal array of wrenches and screwdrivers; it held surgical equipment, knives, lots of knives and a variety of gas burners and torches in different sizes. The pliers Sam could see probably had never been used on pipes or cars. Some of the items had blood specks on them. There were fine chains, and thick serrated wires along with a couple of small ball hammers.
This just kept getting better and better.
The man stood, back to Sam, picking up and replacing a few items from several of the cart’s drawers. “You’ve been chosen for a reason, a purpose,” he held up one of the welding torches, ran one finger down its length of maybe a foot. He caressed it almost lovingly. Even though he was not facing Sam, Sam knew it was he who was being addressed. “It’s up to you if you excel or not. My name is Abaddon.” He lit the torch, adjusting the flame to a glowing blue spear coming to a point six or eight inches from the tip of the nozzle.
Swallowing hard, Sam clenched his jaw and twisted his body to follow Abaddon’s movements as the man came close to Sam’s cage, paced around it. The flame from the torch flickered off the glasses perched on Abaddon’s nose. Abaddon smiled down at Sam, now just out of reach. All Sam needed was to get his hands on the guy for a few seconds, and this would be over. Keeping his expression as neutral as he could Sam met his gaze, followed his movements.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again boy!” Abaddon thrust the torch forward, at the same time turning the knob along the base of the nozzle. The small flame immediately grew, shooting out at Sam, catching the sleeve of his sweatshirt on fire. “Don’t you ever look at me like that again.” Abaddon’s voice was low, quiet, frightening.
With an involuntary gasp Sam jerked away from the flames, pounding out the part of his sweat shirt set afire. Try as much as he did he couldn’t quiet the shaking which had taken over his entire body, or the harsh quick breaths forcing air into his lungs.
Abaddon smiled, pleased. “You have a special dread of this.” Holding the torch up for Sam to see. “You have promise.” He lengthened the flame even more, advancing a few more steps on Sam.
Equipped with a few pictures and the cap to a syringe along with his usual arsenal Dean drove to the area he’d start his search. It was drizzling, but the road wasn’t so slick he couldn’t go along at a good sixty mile an hour clip. As the car rolled through the predawn, Dean tried to work out a few details. Firstly, the oddest thing in his opinion was the age group these kids fell into. The syringe cap led him to believe the guy, Dean had barely gotten a glimpse of him or his stupid big blue car from the store, drugged his victims. He had to, considering his more advanced age, and the guy didn’t look so spry. If he’d physically attacked any one of those kids they would have spent about half a minute overpowering him. He most certainly couldn’t have physically overpowered Sam, who’d actual hand to hand training. That fight would have lasted about three seconds with Sam the victor Dean was sure.
So, drugs had to be involved. Quick acting drugs that could be injected anywhere, muscle or in a vein. This meant drugs stolen or gotten by some other illegal gains.
The next matter, how the hell did this guy choose his victims? How could he so specifically target such a narrow age group? Dean was a horrible judge of age, unless someone was obviously very young or very old. Then again most the types he normally hunted down often had ages in the hundreds of years, so judging age wasn’t a big deal for him. And why Sam? Had the guy come to that particular parking lot prepared with drugs and syringes in the hopes someone striking his fancy would show up and offer to help change his tire? No, that was stupid.
Sam had been targeted, possibly stalked, and anticipated.
That insight set Dean’s nerves on edge and his hands shaking, he had to grip the steering wheel tightly to steady them. They’d been there, at Bobby’s, just about a week, hardly leaving the auto yard. The fact his brother had been watched followed without either of them knowing it sent a new, deeper fear coursing through Dean’s stomach. How the hell did neither of them know? Dean realized this guy was good, no excellent. He planned, thought out his moves, did his homework. Hoping he’d slip up, make a mistake Dean could benefit from was useless. Well, in fact the guy had slipped up, he’d taken Dean’s brother, intended to hurt Sam, kill him, which in Dean’s book meant the creep needed to die in a big, ugly way.
Dean ticked off in his head where they’d been since getting within fifty miles of Bobby’s home. They’d stopped for gas, a half hour or so away, but Sam waited by the car while Dean pumped the gas, then they’d wandered the small store at the station together. At no time there had Sam been out of sight or hearing, where he might have had contact with someone and Dean didn’t know about it.
When they’d arrived at Bobby’s they’d left a few hours later, driving Bobby to the airport. Again they hadn’t split up. They’d seen Bobby to the customs area, waited with him till he could go through, and driven back to his house. The whole thing had taken four or five hours, they’d done it pretty much straight through, and again he could think of no time he and Sam separated.
The next couple of days after that neither left the junk yard. Dean could think of no time Sam hadn’t been with him or could’ve had contact with someone coming into the yard Dean didn’t know about. His mind cast about, searching the faces of the people who’d come to pick up cars, drop them off, order parts, whatever. Nothing.
A few days ago they’d gone into the town, picking up parts, and taking care of the banking for Bobby. Dean sucked in his breath; they’d separated for a short time. Sam had gone to a video store.
“Yeah!” He hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand. “The damn video store!” Of course. All the kids taken so far were college age, not all had been in college, some had worked on the area dairy farms, some went to school and had jobs, some had jobs and didn’t go to school. But they all had one thing in common, wanting cheap entertainment. And what was it kids that age liked, Dean smirked, he certainly knew. They liked movies, more importantly they liked games. Games could be rented at video stores. Sam was no different in that regard than many other kids his age, he loved movies and he loved to play games on his laptop. Anytime they were in one place longer than two days Sam was pestering to find a video store. Dean thought movies were great, but he didn’t see the appeal in games. The games were trouble, this was his proof. Sam was never getting a game again.
Sam was also friendly, and even after all they’d both been through still a little too trusting of what he considered normal people. Dean snarled at the windshield, he was going to just beat that boy with a short stick when he got him back. Sam would talk to anyone in a store, or gas station, or diner, or video store. One thing nagged at him, Sam always somehow mentioned Dean. More specifically mentioned his brother Dean. So if the killer talked to Sam more than three minutes he had to know Sam had a brother in close proximity. Granted the killer may not know any more than Dean lived and breathed, but still he would know Sam wasn’t far from family, someone who would miss him immediately.
Sam was victim eleven. Useless leads, a few suspects, but nothing the cops could arrest anyone on, nothing stopping the carnage so far. The guy was getting ballsy. It wasn’t enough of a rush to kidnap and kill someone, now he was taking it one step further. Sam had been snatched practically right out from under Dean’s nose, in the middle of the day, in a grocery store parking lot. Dean had no proof yet, but he was sure the killer, or killers had been in the junk yard and both he and Sam had seen him/them more than once. Yet, Dean couldn’t remember the old man, or the car.
Dean considered the fact Sam was not one of the earlier victims a huge stroke of luck as he got hit between the eyes with yet another probable motive the killer had for targeting that particular age group. Involvement of demons aside, that age group in general, and the male half in particular were an unpredictable lot. Sam was no different than any other kid his age, not really. Dean knew all about early twenty-something unpredictability, he’d had to live with it and take care of it. One minute Dean would decided Sam was a grown up, the next Sam would do something reverting him to the approximate age of ten. And here Dean stupidly thought Sam as a teen was irritating. Now he was doubly irritating, not to mention bigger and louder. Kids that age would go off with friends, it probably wasn’t too uncommon for them to be out of contact with family for days at a time and no one thought much of it. The earliest victims most likely were dead before any missing persons reports were made, or even thought to be made. Even before anyone realized those kids were truly gone. Sam didn’t have any friends to go off with, he didn’t have anyone but Dean, who knew within minutes his brother had disappeared. Not a huge stroke of luck, it was a miracle is what it was. For once their not so normal life was working in their favor.
So while Dean had done his errands for the junk yard, Sam had gone to the video store. A half hour. They’d been separated a freaking half hour and Sam finds a serial killer. Now wasn’t that just perfect?
All this brought Dean to another realization; Sam rarely went off on his own anymore, he’d been staying closer and closer to Dean. It’d been so gradual Dean hadn’t noticed until just now when he’d consciously been going over their every move for the last ten days or so. Now that he thought about it, other than when they were actively hunting Sam was almost never alone, out of Dean’s sight. Dean thought it was to prove Sam wasn’t going to take off, but it was too overboard, too extreme for only that. Something else motivated Sam, something deeper. Hunters were after Sam, demons threatened him in ways neither of them still understood, and now the Feds were after Dean, the least of their problems as far as Dean was concerned. But not so for Sam who lived with the very real threat that if it weren’t for Dean he’d be totally alone in the world and possibly become something horrible, or hunted down and executed. Sam trusted him without question or reservation, loved his brother more than he did himself, had faith Dean would keep him safe. Sam, Dean knew, was one tough kid, but that toughness came from the same place Dean’s did, they had each other. Sam wasn’t the only one demons had interest in, and in truth Dean was starting to wonder why it was demons were after him too, he didn’t have visions, or could manipulate minds.
Breathing quickening, knuckles white on the steering wheel Dean’s mind went back to the fact Sam was now out there….alone, because whoever he was with surely didn’t care anything about the young man he’d kidnapped.
The Impala stopped, pulled in front of a dark building; the business where he intended to begin his search was still closed.
Four days between disappearing and the previous victims’ bodies being found.
Dean had three and a half days to find Sam, or he’d be identifying Sam’s body.
Stopping in the dense, too quiet stand of trees, chest heaving from the effort of his run, Dean listened. The air around him was god awful hot and humid, making his skin stickier than from sweat alone. Summer in Georgia, yeah! Beyond the trees were neat rows of houses, manicured lawns, and fruit trees. And some people thought ghosts were scary. “Dean!” The hoarse, rough not terribly quiet whisper made him start a bit, turning. Grinning, Sam crept up beside him, hunkering down behind the short fence barrier, shoulder brushing Dean’s. His kid brother’s voice had finally stopped cracking and completely changed to its deeper pitch. He was hedging up in height on Dean, but somehow Dean still saw the little boy who would draw him pictures at school, wondering if it would always be that way. Sam was just fifteen and full of himself. He made a career out of arguing with their father to the point Dean wanted to clank both their heads together in hopes of splitting skulls. Yet, for some reason Dean might never understand Sam listened to him, did everything Dean told him, insisted on hunting with Dean even though Sam hated hunting. And for an equally unfathomable reason their father let him, probably just to get a few hours peace Dean figured. “You get it?” Sam asked. Rolling his eyes, shaking his head a bit, “yeah, Sam of course I did.” Dean held up the small amount of hair. “And all we really have to do is burn it and bury the ashes under their rose bushes?” “That’s the plan.” Dean patted Sam’s back, dipping his head in the direction of one of the manicured lawns. “You stay with me, and anything goes wrong I want you to run like hell.” “Dean…” “Sam!” Dean snapped. “You get picked up by the cops and it’ll be big, deep shit trouble and I’ll have to learn how to break you out of jail, just do it, promise me you’ll do it. Don’t want you stuck in a foster home.” Sam scrunched his nose, and gave his brother a snotty look, but nodded and agreed. Keeping low they moved quickly to the chosen yard, the owners of which were kind enough to have a pool house. That would do. They settled behind it, prepared for their ritual in a few short minutes. Dean’s back pressed against the pool house, Sam sat facing him. As Sam read the ritual, Dean completed the steps, the final of which was lighting the hair along with a few herbs in the small bowl sitting between the brothers. Dean lit a match, holding it over the bowl, eyes meeting Sam’s, waiting for the final words to be spoken. What Dean didn’t expect was Sam’s eyes getting seriously wide, and the color dropping off his face in seconds. He felt something odd latch onto his shoulders, barely having time to think about what it might be. Heard Sam gulp some odd noise and wondered why his brother was lunging at him. He blinked when Sam’s arms wound around his legs, latching on like a giant leech. Eyes back open he couldn’t figure out how or why he was staring at the ceiling inside the pool house. Frigid air covered him. Bolting upright he grabbed Sam’s shirt, yanking the kid up and making him loosen his grip on Dean’s legs. Sam rolled up looking one way, Dean spun to see if anything came from another direction. Backing up as fast as he could without getting off the ground, Dean slammed his body full force into Sam, shoving him back. “Crap. Damn!” Dean spat. Sam finally got his footing and Dean braced against him to get to his own feet. They didn’t have time to make another move before the spirit, the really pissed off, ugly, nasty spirit flung waves of flames, igniting the small pool house around them. The brothers threw themselves at the door, it wouldn’t budge. Sam backed up a pace, and kicked frantically at the door. It rattled, but held. The fire ignited to a full blown inferno in seconds, this just wasn’t good, and wasn’t normal. Ghost fires were the worst. The way Sam battered the door, which was useless and Dean knew it, told Dean he had maybe another half minute of rational thought from his panicked brother. This was Dean’s worse nightmare come true….again….trapped in a burning room with a brother who was pretty much useless when fire was involved. Quick scan of the small space let loose a deep groan from Dean. These people were scuba divers! Great. In a locked room on fire, with Sam, and surrounded with oxygen tanks. Smoke roiled across the ceiling, settling closer to them. Dean’s lungs burned, his head ached. Not having a good day. “Sam. SAM!” Dean grabbed Sam’s arm and jerked back as hard as he could. Sam spun to face him, hacking up a lung. Dean dropped, using his weight to pull Sam to the floor, “down!” Back up in the next beat and two steps to his right, he grabbed one of the oxygen tanks, backed up further then jumped forward, using the tank as a battering ram. It went through the door, splintering it, making a hole in it. Sam rolled on his back, long legs coiled and he kicked, feet landing just beneath the tank. The door cracked apart. One more solid kick from them both and the door dropped away. Dean grabbed Sam’s arm, hauling him up. Sam latched onto him, one fist balled in Dean’s shirt, the other hand clenched around Dean’s bicep. It hindered his movements some what, but Dean didn’t free himself. They dashed out the opening, stumbling over the remains of the door. Dean tried to stop to find the bowl, but it was under the splintered wood, and Sam kept yanking on him, pulling him farther away from the pool house, the fire. “Dean, come on…..please….DEAN!” When sirens split the air Dean decided getting away wasn’t such a bad idea. Spinning Sam around, Dean yelled, “Go, go…” and broke into a run. They crossed the manicured, torched yard, vaulted the short fence to the small stand of trees and skidded down in the dirt. They laid there, chests heaving up and down, gasping in clean air. Punching Sam’s shoulder, Dean said, “You were supposed to get lost if there was trouble.” Sam’s head rolled to the side to face his brother, a half-ass grin on his face. “Forgot.” Sam half-heartedly slapped Dean’s side with the back of his hand. Dean laughed, low and short, which caused more coughing. Patted Sam’s chest, then rolled to his feet, “I’m outa here, coming with?” Shivering awake, Dean moved away from the inside door of the Impala, pulled up straight. Out of sheer reflex he looked down at his arms, now clad in leather, no soot smudged the exposed skin of his hand. The sensation of Sam’s death grip on his arm lingered. Dean rubbed his left bicep and took a look around at the stores and shops in the small plaza where he’d parked.
Coffee, he seriously needed some coffee. There was a bagel place across the plaza. He headed there. Along with the coffee he ordered a bagel sandwich. He wasn’t in the least hungry, and barely tasted the thing, but he knew he had to eat. He’d worked so hard to forget being trapped with Sam in the small pool house, now he could still smell the smoke, feel Sam’s arms shaking from exertion when he’d grabbed for Dean being sucked into the pool house. Walking back to the car Dean glanced again at the door of the place he was waiting to open up. Another half hour. He leaned against the front of the car, had to set his cup down on it when his hands started shaking violently. A few deep breaths calmed him. He forced the last bit of the sandwich down and took a few extra deep, shaky breaths.
Dean didn’t believe in coincidence and he’d seen far too many ‘unexplained’ things to blow off the fact he’d had two dreams in less than twenty four hours centered on Sam, him and fire. Dean was no stranger to stress, or impossible situations, dangerous people, but nothing like this had ever happened to him before. Then again Sam had never been stolen by some creep who was known to set his victims on fire to hurt them, kill them. Maybe that’s all it was, his subconscious dredging up his own fears of not only losing Sam, but losing him this way. Dean doubted it was that simple, and he hoped, earnestly hoped it was more. A cold block had settled inside him, threatening to take over completely if he wasn’t careful, and it started the night before, when he’d awoken from the first dream.
Finally, after what seemed a long decade the half hour was up and the door to the medical supply store unlocked, the ‘OPEN’ sign displayed. Shaking off the emotions, not quite succeeding in shaking off the feel of Sam’s fingers around his arm, not sure he wanted to, Dean headed into the store. He smiled politely at the woman behind the counter.
Producing a business card from his jacket pocket, this ruse was going to be easy, and closer to the truth than Dean ever wanted to get again. “Morning. I’m a private investigator, working for some of the families of the missing kids. I was hoping you could help me out?” He held out the card, she didn’t take it, barely glanced at it.
“I don’t know anything about any of them.” She said.
“Actually,” Dean pulled the syringe cap from his jeans pocket, “I was hoping you could tell me if this might have been purchased here?”
She took the cap, looked it over, and shook her head. “No, we don’t carry this brand, use that supplier.” The cap was placed back in Dean’s palm.
“Are there any other places someone could buy syringes around here?”
“A couple counties south, we’re pretty much it for this whole part of the state.” Good ole’ South Dakota, everything was a hundred miles from anywhere.
The other two counties kids had been snatched from were north and west. “Thanks.”
Dean turned back to the woman, eyebrows raised.
“I hope you can find that monster, ‘cause the cops sure aren’t having much luck. I hope you find them before anyone else dies.”
Nodding, Dean said, “Me too. Thanks for your help.”
Back in the car Dean took a few minutes to decide where to go next, he’d hit this town’s library, look for more news articles, and more places one could get syringes without a lot of hassle. He supposed it was possible, but unlikely the killer would go as far as the next medical supply store across state. There was always the internet, the syringes could have been ordered online. Dean thought it unlikely as that would involve use of a credit card. Even stolen cards were traceable, and this guy seemed too careful for that.
He headed back into the bagel shop for more coffee and directions to the library and any newspaper offices, the city records office. Back out a half hour later with fresh coffee and a list of stops Dean was on his way.
Juggling hot coffee, and paper, reading directions Dean didn’t see the chuckhole. The Impala bounced a few feet, swerved as Dean steadied her back on her course. Hot coffee spilled down his hand, across his legs.
“Ah, shit….damn.” Shaking his hand, wiping it on his jeans Dean pulled off to the side of the road. “I can’t even sue anyone for this.” He grumbled. Reaching into the back seat for a rag he caught sight of the sign over the doorway of the lone building he’d managed to stop in front of. He stared at it, blinked at it. “Well. Hmmmppff.”
Dean Winchester really didn’t believe in coincidence, or miracles, but a few more like this today and he just might have to start.
“What’s your name?” Sam said to the pitch dark. He waited a few beats, could hear the breathing, sometimes soft crying of the other three captives. “I’m Sam. Please, who are you?”
“Brandon.” A voice, thick and deep like Dean’s answered quietly. “They, the others can’t answer you.”
Sam scooted along the cold floor to the side of his cage he heard the voice from, pressing his face to the bars. “Why not?” He whispered just loud enough for the other boy to hear.
“Abaddon doesn’t want us talking to each other. He cut their tongues out. Mine will be next I guess.”
“He…” Sam broke off, squeezing his eyes shut against the dark, breathing deep despite not wanting to, the awful stench making him sick.
“Kills us in order, after me, you. You’ll have a few more days down here.” Brandon kept his voice low, Sam heard the quiver.
“Who is next?”
The girl, Kristen, tried saying something Sam couldn’t understand, her words garbled and distorted. Then she broke off into soft sobs. Sam desperately wanted to give her something to hold onto. He gripped the cold bars of his cage as he spoke. “Listen to me. My brother is looking for me, he’ll find us, and he’ll stop this. Kristen, listen to me, when he lets out of the cage, kick Abaddon as hard as you can in the balls and run.” He could tell by her whimpers she was afraid to try, to even think about it. “You can do it, you can. Find my brother, his name is Dean. We’re staying in a junk yard called Singer’s Auto and Salvage. My brother will find this place, and us. Abaddon is a dead man when he does.”
“He can’t find us. No one can.” Brandon hissed.
“Dean can, he will.” Sam insisted.
Brandon snorted a short laugh, “Yeah, like all the cops in three counties haven’t been able to. What makes your brother so special, he some sort of super hero?”
Sam smiled and bit back a laugh. Super hero? Dean? Hell no. Dean could banish demons, take down Wendigos, ward off vengeful spirits, and all sorts of other things most people refused to even think existed. What did super heroes do? They just kept buses from falling off bridges. “Na…that would be a demotion.” Sam fell silent for a bit listening to the others’ broken breathing, their movements in their own cages. “We can get out, if we make a plan, work together, there’s four of us, and one of him.”
“Yeah, genius, real simple. We’re in cages in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“It’ll only take one of us getting out.” Sam tried getting them to believe. No one answered. If only he could convince them, Dean would find them, get there. They just had to hang on, fight back. Sam lay on his side, trying to see the others in the dark, but it was impossible. At least his clothes had dried and offered a small amount of warmth against the damp basement air. He tucked one arm under his head; let himself drop off to sleep.
“Sam? Sammy! Where are you?” Sam crouched farther down against the bleachers. He heard Dean’s voice, could picture his brother walking very fast through the playground, checking behind everything. He felt bad, hiding from Dean when he heard the hitch in his brother’s voice, how he sounded scared. But if Dean saw him crying, Sam didn’t want Dean making fun of him, calling him a girl. Besides, nothing scared Dean. When Dean shouted, “SAM-MMY!” Sounding as if he were about to cry Sam kicked at some stones, it was enough noise for Dean to hear him, locate him. “What are you doing?! I went to pick you up from school and you weren’t there. Why did you leave without me? You know you’re not supposed to do that.” Dean’s words came out in a rush, making Sam feel doubly guilty. Sam’s arms wrapped around his bent legs, he pressed his forehead down against his knees, hiding his tears. “What’s wrong?” Dean’s voice immediately soften, concern taking over where something else had been. Kneeling next to Sam, Dean put one hand on Sam’s back. “Did those kids hit you again? Cause if they hurt you I’ll…” “No.” Sam shook his head, but still didn’t look up at his very much bigger big brother. Dean settled on the ground beside him, close enough that their calves, knees, shoulders touched. “You sure? Sammy look at me, lemme see.” Dean coaxed. Sam knew he’d sit there until Sam was ready to look at him. Dean never forced him to do anything, always explained things to Sam, not like their father who ordered and became angry when Sam asked questions. “Sammy.” Dean’s voice was firm, kind, he used the special tone reserved only for Sam. Lifting his head so his chin rested on his knees Sam looked at Dean. Dean’s hand cupped Sam’s chin, turning his head first left, then right. “They haven’t bothered me, not since you explained it to them how they shouldn’t.” Sam smiled, wiping his face on his shirt sleeve. It seems, Sam learned recently, that even the kids in this school older than Dean’s twelve years didn’t want to mess with Sam’s brother. Just one look from Dean kept them from messing with Sam too. “You’re going to call me a girl?” Dean’s face softened, “are you upset over something?” When Sam nodded Dean shook his head no. “Not when you’re really upset, then it doesn’t count.” They sat quietly for a few minutes. Dean nudged Sam’s shoulder with his own. “So you gonna tell me what’s up? Since you scared me and all.” “You weren’t scared, you’re never scared.” Dean huffed a laugh, “I’m scared when I can’t find you, you little weasel, you hide too well. Come on dude, what gives?” “Joey Webber’s dad went to work. His grandmother had to come get him this morning. His dad got killed at work.” Sam straightened a bit, meeting Dean’s eyes. “What if Dad goes to work and doesn’t come back?” Dean’s fingers pushed Sam’s bangs back away from his eyes, then his hand brushed down the back of Sam’s head. “Dad is gone so much it’s like he just comes visits us anyway. We’d take care of each other Sammy. We’ll always have each other.” “We could stay together?” “Sammy! Of course we would. No body is going to split us up. No one will take you away, ever.” Dean stood up and brushed off his jeans. “Guess what I got for us?” Sam looked up took Dean’s offered hand to pull himself up. “What?” “Hot chocolate with real milk.” Dean ruffled Sam’s hair again. “Ya know someday you might be as tall as me.” “Some day I’ll be taller.” Sam smirked. Then howled and squirmed when Dean got him in a head lock, delivering a few fake punches to Sam’s middle. “Not gonna happen Sammy boy.” Screaming was what brought Sam from asleep to awake in a few seconds. This time he remembered not to try and stand up completely. This time he remembered to stay down, rolling from curled on his side in a fitful sleep to kneeling in the same movement. The lights assaulted his eyes, he covered them with one hand, squinting, trying to see what was happening.
Kristen was crying, screaming. Brandon was shouting at Abaddon to stop, to come get him. The other guy, whose name Sam never did find out, shouted wordless noises, beating the bars with his fists. Sam couldn’t see clearly what was happening, Abaddon had come down, was between him and Kristen’s cage. But he could hear, and he could smell. The smell hit him first. Burning flesh, it was a distinct odor, and once experienced never forgotten. Sam had no doubts, this was burning flesh.
When his eyes adjusted and Abaddon moved and he could see. He wished he couldn’t. Kick him, Kristen, kick him and knock him over here and I’ll take care of the rest. Sam would have happily snapped the man’s neck, and knew how to do it too. He didn’t think about how they’d all still be trapped in their cages, all but Kristen who was out, tied to a lounge type lawn chair.
“Pick.” Abaddon’s voice was calm, soft, as if he were asking her, them to pick a new CD. He held what looked like a knitting needle, only it was glowing hot from the fire, Sam could see the color change along its length. On a wheeled stand beside him he had a small array of surgical blades, handles and what looked like a small filet knife.
“Me! Whatever you want, do it to me!” Sam shouted, blood rushing in his ears, heart hammering in his chest. All he had to do was get his hands on this guy for a few seconds, that’s all it would take. To hurt Sam, really hurt him Abaddon had to open the cage door, and that was all the opportunity Sam needed.
Abaddon turned his head, cocking it to one side the slightest amount, “Oh I will be getting to you, don’t you worry about that boy.” Turning back to Kristen he selected one of the surgical blades, attached it to a handle with ease. It was curved and deceivingly small. Opening a plastic container filled with small, square, gauze pads and something orange, thick and gooey he selected one of the pads and began to wash it over her face, another was used on her eyes. She cried more, shaking her head side to side, tears welling and falling away from her eyes. The stuff probably stung too.
“Gentlemen, pick.” Abaddon repeated.
“Pick what?” Sam snapped. His attention briefly shifted to the boy whose name he didn’t know as the guy started vomiting.
“You need to learn how to behave.” With that Abaddon carefully set the poker and knife on the tray. Moving with purpose to the tool chest he pulled out one of his many welding tanks, lighting it, and advanced on Sam, the flames at full. Without comment he cranked the flame to full, it shot out a good couple of feet. That allowed Abaddon to stay far enough from Sam’s cage he couldn’t grab Abaddon. The flame was shoved straight at Sam.
Flinging one arm over his eyes, Sam scuttled back, clamping his mouth shut, holding his breath was the only way he kept from crying out. Abaddon scooped up a steel rod wrapped with material that ignited in a whoosh when the welding torch was touched to it. The torch was turned off, laid with care on the floor at Abaddon’s feet. Using his home-made torch Abaddon advanced again toward Sam’s cage. This time he thrust the torch straight through, slamming against Sam’s chest for long enough to smolder Sam’s clothes, make him feel the heat from the flame.
Sam’s reaction was immediate. Pulling his feet under himself he jumped back, colliding full force with the bars at his back. He tried to push the torch away with first his hands, then kicked at it with his feet. Abaddon smiled. Pulling the torch away, giving Sam a few seconds to brush embers from his sweat shirt, Abaddon shoved the torch at him again, this time aiming for the side of his head. Sam shuddered to the side, again hitting the bars, one arm up in front of his eyes, a strangled cry let loose before he could stop it.
Abaddon backed away. First he smiled. Then he laughed, giggled with delight. Sam shook so badly his teeth chattered. Arm still up in defense he pressed against the bars, trying to get as far away as he could. Sam had to think about how to calm and deepen his breathing which was too fast, too shallow, he was getting light headed.
“That’s better.” Abaddon laid the torch beside Sam’s cage, but did not put it out. “Now,” returning to Kristen’s side, “where were we?” Maniacal smile splitting his face. “Ah yes, I remember. I pick the right.” He retrieved one curved blade, reached out and carved away Kristen’s right eyelid. Blood sprayed, Kristen screamed. The nameless boy’s voice got louder in wordless screams. Brandon pleaded with Abaddon to stop, Sam roared angry words.
Ignoring them Abaddon took another of the small, curved knives, the one looking like a small filet knife and methodically, with precision started where her tear duct was, pressing down on the blade. When Kristen’s body bucked and arched, he used his free hand against her chest to hold her down, and to Sam’s absolute horror, hushed her as he would a child. Sam gasped and shoved away as far as he could, fist pressed against his mouth. Abaddon pressed the blade down, slicing along the top of Kristen’s eye ball, making a complete path around the orbit. A sucking sound and Kristen’s screams shattered the air in their prison. Her eyeball dropped to the floor. Kristen fell silent. Abaddon reached onto the tray and picked up the small, heated poker. He jammed it in the empty socket, stemming the flow of blood.
“Must cauterize the wound.” He commented to Sam, Brandon, the room.
Whatever sound Sam might have made stopped, trapped in his chest, along with his breath. He starred, wide-eyed until his vision started to haze up. He exhaled, sucking in a harsh breath, then another and another.
Kristen’s body jerked, her mouth moved, for a few seconds a gagging noise escaped her. Abaddon pushed the poker in a bit farther. Spasms caused her to wrench up and down for a minute before she went limp. Sam met Brandon’s eyes for the briefest second. They looked at the other boy who was curled in a fetal position, barely making any sound. Turning back as Kristen’s body took an odd, raspy breath, a minute or so later it repeated. Sam couldn’t see any movement in between.
Abaddon stepped on the eyeball on the floor. He calmly retrieved a large bag of what Sam took to be lime, covering the blood on the floor, the smashed eyeball with it. He left them, for how long Sam did not know. Sam didn’t know how long he sat there, staring at the dead girl. He couldn’t stop shaking, couldn’t get his breathing to even out. When Abaddon returned he untied the body, using the ropes dragged her to the stairs. Sam could hear her head thump on each and every one as she was pulled up.
Brandon vomited again, trying to push his face as much through the bars as he could.
“You ok?” Sam asked, it sounded lame.
Sitting back, wiping one hand across his mouth, he looked back at Sam. Then at the other boy. “Just great. Hey, dude, come on talk.” Brandon called softly to the unnamed boy. He looked back at Sam after a minute of no response, shook his head. “How much longer till that superhero brother of yours gets here?”
“Soon. I hope really soon.” Sam looked down when he felt his cheeks damped with tears.
“Good,” Brandon laughed a short, shaky laugh, “maybe he could hurry up.”
Sam’s response was cut off when the basement door was opened again. Abaddon stepped slowly, purposefully down the steps, coming to a stop between Sam and Brandon’s cages. He glared first at Brandon, then at Sam. “Your brother won’t find you, not here. And no one is going to kick me in the balls.”
“He will.” Sam insisted. “And when he does, you’re going to die when he sees what you’ve done.” His words were much braver than he felt just then.
Abaddon’s mouth cracked into a wicked smile, his eyes were hard and cold. “Well, let’s just have him join us and see.”
That set Sam’s nerves on fire, the almost quieted shaking ratchet into overdrive. Abaddon stalked away, turning out the lights, leaving Brandon and he in the dank, acrid dark.
Pulling the door open, Dean stepped inside the building. The first thing he saw, under the business sign reading, Brush Road Animal Hospital, was a bulletin board with what he took to be pictures of the employees and their pets. He looked at it for a few minutes, while the woman behind the counter finished on the phone. She turned to him, smiled, asking, “Can I help you?”
“Oh, I hope so.” Dean fished the business card from his jacket pocket, wiping the remains of the coffee on his jeans. The woman handed him some paper towels. “Thanks. Having sort of a crappy day here. I’m looking into the deaths, disappearances for one of the victim’s family, the kids that have gone missing, been killed.” He pulled the syringe cap out of his pocket. “Do you know where around here someone could get this particular type?”
The woman took the cap, turned it over in her fingers. She was older, short, heavy set with dyed red hair. “I think we use this kind, let me go ask one of the techs, they’ll know.”
She reappeared a short time later, a younger woman, about Sam’s age Dean guessed, in tow. “Hi.” She gave him a bright, sweet smile. Dean was struck immediately by the fact her hair was remarkably like Sam’s in color, thickness, even the same slight wave. Hers however went nearly to her waist. He felt almost silly realizing how much he knew about his brother’s hair. “You’re looking for syringes like these? Like I told the last person, these are cheap things, I can order you better ones for not very much more.”
“No,” another card passed to her, “um…”
“Candy, I’m looking for someone who might have bought these.”
“We had a bunch of them stolen a few months ago, and then some seriously creepy guy came in wanting to buy the same kind. We got them by mistake, and never reordered them.”
“Anything else stolen?” This interested Dean.
“Drugs. We have some we keep around there for anesthesia, ketamine is popular, the date rape drug. Though I’ve gotten some on my hands and it’s really bitter so I’m not sure what is done to it to put it in someone’s drink so they don’t taste it. That and some stuff just used in animals.”
Dean wondered when she’d stop for air. “Could you use them on people?”
“I don’t see why not. It’d be easy, they can be used intramuscular or intravenous.”
“What sort of drugs? They fast acting?”
“Yeah. There’s a couple we use, mix them together a lot. Dogs and cats it takes maybe five minutes for them to go down.”
Nodding, Dean smiled at her, gave her an honestly sincere look, “can you tell me about this guy who wanted more of these?”
“Do you think he’s involved?”
“I think it’s the best lead I’ve got so far.”
They were interrupted by a woman, white lab-coat down to her knees, probably one of the vets Dean guessed. “They just found another body. The girl who went missing last week.”
Dean struggled to keep from shouting and hitting the wall behind him. Lips pressed firmly together he inhaled a few deep breaths through his nose. His eyes met Candy’s for a brief second, sensing she understood this was very personal for him.
Turning her head she spoke to the other two with her, “give me ten minutes.” They nodded. She turned back to Dean. “He was just bizarre. Um…maybe around 50 or so. He said he needed the syringes and needles for goats, but I tried to tell him those were the wrong kind, too small. Some people you just can’t tell them anything, you know?”
Dean nodded. She really did need to come up for air. Her description was curious since the man he’d seen with Sam was elderly. Or at least looked elderly.
“And then I ran into him a few times around here, in town, he kept asking me stuff about his damn goats, just stupid stuff. He really freaked me out. And my dog growled at him. I always take her with me unless I’m coming to work. My dog has never, ever growled at anyone, but she growled, a few times at that guy. He quit after that. That’s her,” Candy pointed to the bulletin board; there was a picture of her with a big, black dog. “That’s my Millie.”
Glancing back at the picture, Dean smiled a bit. A dog to be reckoned with for sure. “Great Dane?”
“What can you tell me about these drugs, how they act, any side effects?”
“The animals get hallucinations, but we give them stuff first to prevent that. They’re knocked out completely, but not for very long, half hour or so on average. Makes them really sleepy for a while afterward, most will sleep the rest of the day. I suppose it would be the same for people, but I don’t really know.”
“How long do the hallucinations last?” This fact scared him. If these drugs were used on Sam, and he had hallucinations afterwards, well suffice to say it could make the situation even more dangerous.
Candy shrugged a bit. “In the animals, when it happens, which is rarely, it seems to last an hour at the most. But like I said we give them stuff so it doesn’t happen at all.”
“Where did you run into him? Did you see his car?”
“At the video store of all places. A dark blue car. I think it might have been a Caddy, an older one, but I’m not exactly sure of that. My grandfather had one, and it looked sort of like his.”
That settled it. Sam was really never going into a video store again. “How old are you?”
“I just turned twenty-four last wee….” Leaning against the counter, shaking, one hand over her mouth Candy’s eyes met his. “Oh my god. You think…he’s…?”
“I do. If you see him again, call me, Ok? Try not to go out alone until this guy is caught, and if you have to, take this,” Dean reached over and tapped at the picture of Candy and her dog, “dog of yours with you. And no talking to strangers. Maybe get HBO.”
Turning from him, she tapped on the keyboard of a nearby computer, “hang on a second.” She scribbled on a paper for a minute, handing it over to Dean. “That’s the best I can do. He didn’t leave a house number, but he lives on Arlington Road.”
“The field where the bodies are being found, is that on the same road?”
“No. A few miles away.” Taking the paper back, she drew a simple map of lines and road names.
Dean smiled at her, tapped the counter with two fingers, “thanks a lot, you’ve been very helpful. And I mean it, you see him again, anywhere, even just driving down the street, call me. Don’t let him get close enough to you to touch you either. If you see him, you run and call me. My number is on the card.”
Smiling a barely there smile she nodded, “I will, believe me I will. Thanks. And good luck, I hope you find who you’re looking for.”
Dean drove to the field, but couldn’t get near the place. The most recent body, the second girl, had been found there earlier. It was crawling with cops and reporters and who knew what else. Going to the police to report Sam missing was one thing. Dean figured it pretty safe, since there was no reason for them to finger print him, or run a report on his fake name. But getting his face in pictures of a crime site making national news… now that would be just stupid, and careless. He didn’t expect to find much in the field anyway.
Following Candy’s map he found Arlington Road. He also found it spanned a good bit of the county. Making several trips up and down he saw no blue Cadillac, or any car resembling the car now twice described to him. Deciding there was nothing more he could do here, he headed back to Bobby’s. He wanted to check the records Bobby kept. Maybe the car had been there at some time. Dean was convinced the killer had been there in the last week. He’d asked Candy about goats because she was a veterinary nurse. He’d used the pretense of changing a tire because Sam currently lived in an auto yard, and would presumably know how. This meant at some point Dean had to have seen him, or some evidence of him.
Once back at Bobby’s, Dean forced down some food then set to work going through the records. Clicking on the TV, incase there was more news on the killings, he set about his task. Fortunately Bobby kept fairly decent records, albeit in a bit of an old fashioned way. Dean smiled in spite of himself. The records were 3 x 5 cards in boxes. They were alphabetic by name, so Dean had to go through each and every one. He was up to the H’s when whatever program was on the TV was interrupted, the words ‘Special Report’ flashing before the screen changed to what was to Dean an all too familiar picture.
“God Dammit!” Dean’s arm cleared the table of dishes and glasses and silverware, and everything except the boxes of 3 x 5 cards. Another body found, a boy whose picture on TV reminded him all too much of Sam. Another body had been found with in the last hour. Another person died. The killer broke pattern, two in one day. To distract himself, calm himself enough to reason this out, plan his next move, try to anticipate the killer’s next move, Dean went around the room, garbage can in hand, picking up the broken dishes.
He needed a shower, and then he’d finish with the cards. He’d drive back to the video store Candy had seen the man in later that night. The place was open till one in the morning. He’d stake it out for a bit. Running the water as hot as he could tolerate it, Dean removed his watch, bracelet and ring, leaving them on the dresser in the bedroom before stepping into the bathroom and under the water. The hot, liquid projectiles stung along his back, down his legs. Leaning back he let the water pound at him, loosening the bunched and tightened muscles which were his body at the moment.
Without warning he felt a bit of cooler air along his feet, lasting a mere few seconds. Straightening, eyes snapped open, Dean was immediately alert.
What was that noise? Shower off, sweats on, gun in hand in less than half a minute, Dean stalked the house silently. Nothing.
“You’re getting paranoid Winchester.” He said to the empty hall near the front door. Then snorted a laugh, “getting? Yeah, that’s funny.”
He checked the house again, just in case. The only thing in there was him, a bunch of really old, musty books, and whatever ghosts Bobby let live there with him. He tried and tried again the doors and windows. Locked. He needed a few hours sleep, as if that would happen, but he had to try later, this was really getting to him.
He went back to the bedroom, dressing quickly. Sliding his watch and then bracelet back on, reaching for his ring…which wasn’t there. What the hell? Dammit! It must have fallen under the dresser. Great. On hands and knees Dean tried reaching under the dresser, his hand wouldn’t fit and he couldn’t see very well. He shoved against the dresser; it wouldn’t budge, weighing approximately a few tons. Giving up, he decided to wait till he got Sam back; they could move the thing and retrieve his ring.
Back to the first floor, settled on the couch, Dean set about finishing his task of going through all the cards. Bobby had a large client base, and good business. Goodie. His mind however kept drifting back to the ring. How did it roll off the dresser? He was sure he’d put it inside the circle of his watch band, purposely so it wouldn’t roll away, get lost. He’d been doing the same thing for the fifteen or so years he had it. As thoughts of his ring rolled around his head, he was pulling cards out of the file, setting them in a stack on the couch alongside his thigh. It took the better part of an hour, but in the end he had a stack of cards, all people who’d come here, who lived on Arlington Road. Some of the cards had what types of vehicles were brought here, others did not. None of course said, Cadillac, go here. None were written in Sam’s handwriting. Life just wasn’t that simple for Dean.
But where was his brother? And his ring?
“Forget the stupid, freaking ring!” Now he was shouting at himself.
The ring bugged him. Not having Sam here safe, with him, bugged him more. Dean let his head drop back onto the back of the couch, sighing he closed his eyes, trying to remain calm, focused. Trying to piece together the right pieces to find Sam, get to Sam while he was still alive.
Blood. Dean! More blood. Deeeaaannnnn! Blood and screams. There was blood everywhere. It sprayed in the air, dripped to the floor, covered everything within a radius of a few feet. Knives, blades, scalpels, wielded in the hands of…..who? He couldn’t tell, couldn’t see. Where the HELL was Sam, could hear him, shouting Dean’s name, pleading for Dean to get there, get him. Dean ran, but had no idea where to go or even where he was. Flames. Blood. De-eann. Scared! DEAN!! Dean’s blood, nononononononoNO…..finger not cut off…nononono…lying… the ring…..DEAANN! FLAMES!!! Where in the name of all things unholy had the flames come from? SAM! SAMMY!! He tried shouting, getting Sam to answer, but Dean couldn’t hear his own voice. DEEEAAAAANNN!!!
Waking up so quickly it physically hurt, Dean was standing in the middle of the room. The shouting, it took him a few seconds to process, was coming from him. Head snapping down, Dean involuntarily slapped at his chest, which just seconds ago was on fire. His breathing was deep, raspy, quick. Dean leaned forward, hands bracing against his thighs for support.
“When the HELL did that ever happen?” The fact was, and Dean knew it for sure, it hadn’t. Not that Dean had ever witnessed, been part of. The next thought ricocheting through his brain made him ecstatically happy his heartbeat and breathing was something he didn’t have to think about doing, since he might have just forgotten to do both. Jerking his right hand up and in front of his face he checked, had all five fingers. Someone was going to get one of his fingers all right, in fact someone was going to get all five at once, bunched into a fist when Dean caught up with the creep.
The dream, nightmare thank you very much, wasn’t something from their past, at least not their childhood past. Maybe the past few hours, but this one, it was now, happening or just happened to Sam here and now.
The cards, now scattered all over the room caught Dean’s attention. There, in the middle of the room, still half bent, Dean’s eyes moved from the cards, riveting to his left arm. Midway between elbow and wrist were three small marks, bruises. Dean straightened, held his arm up to the light. How old had Sam been in his first dream? Five, six? Fingers, the marks on his forearm were from fingers, small boy fingers. Dean covered them with his own fingers. His left hand made a fist, before he flexed his fingers straight again.
Moving only his eyes, Dean’s gaze shifted to his left bicep. Something….Dean pulled the sleeve of his T-shirt up and felt dizzy, like he was going to pass out, he just dropped to his knees. Along his bicep, right where Sam had grabbed him while they escaped from the burning pool house how many years ago, were two marks. Bruises, fingerprint bruises. Just like the ones Sam left on him at the time.
Three, two. Or was it two, three? On his feet Dean was at the couch in one big bound, grabbing up the cards he’d sorted out. Fortunately those hadn’t been tossed, just the box of cards. Bobby would forgive him when Dean told him the story. Sam would help him sort them out and make them right. Clutching the stack in his hand, Dean headed to the kitchen, spreading them out like Tarot cards.
“Help me out here kid, tell me where you are, I’ll get you out. I will. You know I will. Tell me where you are Sammy.”
With uncanny ease Dean’s eyes found eight cards with the numbers three and two in the addresses. Eight was a lot of houses to check, but a whole lot less than he’d had this morning. Eight narrowed it down.
It was getting dark outside. He’d have to wait to start checking until dawn. But he could still go with his original plan of staking out the video store near the veterinarian’s office, and hopefully no one would think he was the killer. Grabbing his jacket, Dean headed outside to his car.
“What the hell is this shit?” This annoyed him, a lot. Just as he’d reached for the door handle something flapping under the wiper caught his attention. Damn kids always putting flyers on his car. He yanked the two pieces of paper off, froze for half a beat, then gun out, was turning in circles, scanning the auto yard with keen eyes. He paced around the house, back to his car. Nothing.
Sam carried two and only two pictures in his wallet. One was Sam and Jess, taken at Stanford. The second was one of Sam and Dean taken earlier in the year in front of a now demolished old hotel in Connecticut. Now they were in Dean’s hand, he’d taken them out from under the wiper blade of the Impala. Dean was in his car, and had it roaring out the drive and onto the road in seconds. He’d driven a few miles, seeing no cars on the road he began to relax. Turning a corner, the glove compartment door rattled. Frowning, Dean looked at it. Last he’d been in there he’d closed it, tight. He opened the door, pulled out the box of tapes.
One of his tapes was missing. First his ring, now a tape. Dean didn’t believe in coincidences.
This guy was getting ballsy, really, really ballsy. Dean was really, really going to stop him.
When the lights went back on Sam remembered to look for cameras. It was obvious, there was some way Abaddon had of listening to them, since he’d repeated back to Sam his own words to Kristen…..dead, she’s dead. He didn’t see any, but that didn’t mean squat. His eyes met Brandon’s. Brandon looked scared, more scared than he had.
The other kid, whose name Sam could never find out had died, been killed earlier, his body taken away. Both Sam and Brandon could tell Abaddon was not pleased enough, the kid had just curled into a ball on his side and died.
Brandon would be next.
Sam pointed to the stairs. He took his hand, pretending to hit his nose with the heel of his palm, mouthing the words ‘hard as you can.’ Brandon nodded, understanding what Sam was telling him. Sam gave one curt nod back. They waited. The lights remained on. Until now, the only time the lights had come on was when Abaddon was down there with them. They waited. Sam had no idea how long they waited, his watch had been taken, gone when he’d first woken up.
Finally the door opened. Briefly they heard the sound of a TV, cut off as the door closed softly. The footfalls, slow, exacting, determined, came as one heavy thud after another down the stairs. Sam counted twelve. With each one Sam’s breathing deepened, quickened until he struggled to quiet it. His fingers clenched to a fist until his hands and arms hurt.
Abaddon stopped between the two cages, taking a long, leisurely look at Brandon. Glee all over his face. Sam watched as Brandon trembled, rubbing his arms with his palms, looking everywhere but at Abaddon. Abaddon’s hand, the one closest to Sam was bunched tight. Wordless, he turned to face Sam. Gleeful smile becoming wider, more gleeful. It made Sam shiver.
Holding his hand at a height and angle that put it at Sam’s eye-level Abaddon slowly uncurled each finger, one at a time until his palm was exposed. Sam’s eyes widened, he couldn’t help the gasp, or the reflexive backing away. Abaddon’s hand jerked just enough to send the object off. It arched along through the bars of Sam’s cage, rolling in a small circle when it hit the ground until Sam grabbed it in his own hand, pulling his fist to his chest. Wincing as if he’d been hit hard, Sam fought back tears, totally lost control of his breathing, now able to do nothing but gulp in big swallows of air.
Abaddon stood, smiling at him. “Your brother’s ring. I thought you might want it since I had to remove his finger to get it. Amazing really how much blood comes out of a man’s hand when a finger comes off.”
Sam screamed wordlessly, up and moving he threw himself full force against the bars, stretching as far as he could, trying to reach Abaddon. Mild eyes watched him. Abaddon laughed, obviously amused. Turning on his heels he calmly retreated back up the stairs, laughing all the way. When the door closed behind him, the lights were turned off.
Sam rolled onto his back, kicking over and over at the bars, shouting through gritted teeth with each impact.
“Sam!” Brandon yelled at him, “Sam stop. Come on, man, stop. That’s not helping.”
Sam paid no attention, barely registering Brandon’s words. He kicked until he was exhausted, his shouts nothing more than sobs he tried to swallow.
“Think about it.” Brandon pleaded. “If he had your brother, he’d be down here with us. He’s messing with your head.”
“Dean hardly ever takes off this ring.” Sam bit out in a weak voice between huffing for air.
“But hardly ever means sometimes. He stole it, somehow.”
“He knows where Dean is, who he is.” Sam stuffed the ring into his jeans pocket.
“That may mean your brother is getting close to knowing where we are.” Sam could hear Brandon shifting positions; hear his clothes move against his bars. “Sam, you’re the one whose been telling me we’ll get out, your brother will get us out. Don’t give up on him now.”
Sam lay on his side, head resting on his arm which was instantly wet with tears. “I’d never give up on Dean.”
It was one hundred percent true.
Every warrior needed its focus, something to fight for. The older of the two was spectacularly not special in that regard. That’s how she always thought of them, the older and younger. They’d had so many names throughout the eons, she’d lost track, and it was easier this way.
It was a sunny, balmy May morning a few years later she was blessed, honored again, and brought to her little warrior his focus. One was never very far from the other after all. This one, the younger one was far different from its older counterpart. His soul was young, a bright, shining beacon, full of curiosity and an exhausting energy, evident even in his first few hours in this life. She wondered how she’d ever keep up with this one. He was as special as the older one, in a different way, some way she couldn’t quite identify, but time would tell. For now she was content to have brought them back together, where they belonged, because without one there really was not the other. Two halves of the same whole is what they seemed to be, they’d been bonded together so long. She really couldn’t even imagine them as separate entities any more.
It took but a few mere minutes after the two were brought together physically, the younger one’s body being but not even a day old. He did what he’d always done, what he would always do, young, stubborn, determined soul that he was. Wrapping himself around the older one, settling effortlessly into every fiber of his being, becoming the elder’s drive, his focus. That’s where the younger one stayed, where it was loved, protected, safe, that’s where its strength drew from, for whatever battles it would be called to fight.
For a few months things were as they should be, with two young children harbingers of such special souls to care for. But alas this time they were not hers to see to adulthood. She’d be nothing but an observer this time around. A small child and an infant left with barely anyone to care for them. No matter, she knew, they had each other. They’d care for each other. It was all they ever really needed, because she knew better than anyone, without one there would not be the other.
Two souls bound together forged by fire into a brotherhood of men.
It didn’t matter if Sam closed his eyes or not, it was too dark in his prison to see anything. His back and legs ached. Being forced to spend what was probably a few days now not being able to stand fully, stretch out, and only sleep curled on his side already made him achy. Now his legs, feet and back throbbed relentlessly, result of his own actions. The bars didn’t seem to be suffering at all. His breathing had died down to uneven hiccups mixed with the occasional deep gulp.
He could feel the weight of Dean’s ring in his pocket, against his thigh, but he dared not take it out. He wanted to hold it tight in his fist, but was too afraid he’d lose it, or Abaddon would somehow take it away from him. The safest place Sam had for that ring was his pocket, so in his pocket it stayed.
Cut off Dean’s finger. Abaddon, the evil bastard had Dean now too, somewhere, and was slicing things off him. The fact Sam had seen no blood on the ring didn’t register as proof Abaddon might be lying to him. It would have been easy to clean the ring before giving it to Sam. Dean could have bled to death, died thinking he’d failed Sam somehow. The ring may very well be the only thing Sam had left of his brother.
“Sam, listen to me.”
Brandon’s voice, reminding Sam of Dean’s voice, barely got through the haze of Sam’s brain. He sounded far off, maybe wasn’t even there, maybe Sam was hallucinating him. Maybe Sam was, always had been, alone down here in the dark, foul place in this cage? Maybe that’s why Brandon sounded so much like Dean?
Rolling up so he was sitting, sniffing a bit, wiping his face on his sleeve, Sam almost laughed. The guy really did sound a lot like Dean, especially when he yelled. “Yeah?”
“Just how important is that damn finger anyway? I mean what do you do with it? Nothing.”
Sam couldn’t help the small laugh, it was true. Dean could still shoot a gun with nine fingers. The one his ring had been on was pretty much useless, other than for holding the ring.
“And he, your brother, he didn’t bleed out, he’s not dead, he’s probably not even hurt.”
“How can you know that?”
“How can you know otherwise?” Brandon shot back. “I now because Abaddon is a sick freak. You think he’d miss the chance of making you watch so he could enjoy it?”
That got Sam’s attention. Abaddon got off on seeing his victims suffer, not only physically, but emotionally. Maybe even more so he wanted to see the emotional effects, their fear.
“You think?” Sam’s voice cracked, his throat raw, scratchy, painful. He wished Abaddon would bring them water and food again. It had been a long time, since before he killed Kristen that they’d been given any.
“No. I know. And I also know you were right when you said we could get out if we could fight back. There’s still more of us. He’s one, we’re two. And I’m still willing to bet you brother is close enough to finding this place, that’s why Abaddon is messing with you, maybe him too. So, really it’s three to one.”
Sam had no argument for that, even if he did, he would have ignored it. Brandon was right or right enough at least. Sam had no proof anything had been done to Dean. He could hear Brandon shifting around every few minutes, probably doing the same as him, trying to get comfortable, ease out some of the cramps in muscles left too long in one position. He slipped his hand into his pocket, fingers curling around Dean’s ring. It was cool and solid in his grip. He had something to hang onto, something tangible, something anchoring him to his brother. This was probably the opposite reaction Abaddon expected, wanted, worked for. And that made Sam all the happier.
Dean cruised along empty country roads, was a half hour or so away from the video store and his date with its parking lot when his phone sang at him. He fished it from his pocket, holding it against shoulder and cheek to talk.
“Yeah?” He was expecting Bobby, there was always the hope it was Sam. The cops he’d given the auto shop number to, just in case one of them decided to recognize Dean.
“Candy?” This surprised him, it was after mid-night.
“Yes. I’m sorry to bother you. I think that guy is following me. I had to go into work, do some after hours treatments. I keep seeing the car, the blue Caddy.” “Where are you?” Dean’s heart rate increased a few notches.
“I was halfway home when I saw it. I made a few turns, it kept following me. I’m still driving.” “Ok. Stay calm, that’s number one important. I’m about twenty minutes from your animal hospital. Can you meet me there, in the parking lot? I don’t want him to know where you live.”
“Yeah, I can do that.” “Good deal, here’s the plan. You play along with me, it might get a bit bizarre, but I don’t want him knowing I’m on to him. We’re gonna get him to leave you alone, and hopefully I can follow him from there. You game?”
“Oh, I am.” “Whatever happens do not get out of your car till I get there. I have a black Impala.”
“What’s an Impala look like?” Dean sighed heavily, “Just look for a big, black, older car.”
When Dean slowed to pull into the veterinarian’s parking lot he saw a set of tail lights pull in just minutes before him. He purposely drove by, went a few hundred feet down the road, did a turn and came back. Two cars were now in the lot. A dark blue, and it was in fact a Cadillac, had stopped farther into the lot, so Candy’s car was between it and the street. Dean watched a man get out. He moved in a similar fashion to the man Sam had gone to help days earlier, but this guy was not elderly, not in the least. Dean guessed he used disguises or some kind of make-up as part of his ploy to lure his victims.
As soon as the guy was up to Candy’s car Dean drove into the lot, gunning the engine before skidding to a halt between the two cars. Flinging open his door, out and moving, door slammed shut after him, fists bunched, stride long and determined, Dean wanted to look the picture of anger. It wasn’t so much of a stretch.
“You bitch!” Dean shouted, pointing two fingers as he strode at them. “This is the guy you’re banging behind my back? Cheating on me with this old fart?!”
Candy was out of her car in a second, her door slammed shut with equal zealous. “Stop following me!” She shouted, marching right up to him. “If I want to screw him I will!”
The guy stood watching, he seemed to enjoy their performance.
“I’ll follow you all I want. I wouldn’t have to follow you if you’d stay home.”
“Until there’s a ring on this finger,” Candy shook her left hand at him, Dean bit back a smile and a laugh, “I’ll go where I want, when I want.”
Dean growled, swore more, then brushed by Candy to the man. “What are you looking at asshole? You gotta problem?”
The man held up both hands, backing up a step. He smiled calmly, “nope. Just wondering why your girlfriend here has to go out and find herself more friends, why you can’t keep her happy and at home.”
Bunching one fist, acting as if he was going to punch the guy, and in fact it wasn’t so much of an act. Dean would have happily beaten the crap out of him, except he needed the man to lead him back to Sam. His original plan had been to grab the guy, make him take Dean to Sam. But seeing how this man reacted, or didn’t react to his enraged act changed his mind. The guy was too cool, didn’t seem to know Dean was supposed to inspire fear in him. This guy would die before giving up Sam’s location, which would do Dean no good.
Dean’s fist stopped mid-swing, his fingers combed roughly through his hair. “Hope she gave you something.” He sneered. Grabbing Candy’s arm he roughly shoved her ahead of him, to his car. He opened the driver side door; she slid inside Dean’s car. Never taking his eyes off the guy Dean asked her, “you all right?”
“Yes. Thank you so much.”
Dean nodded, glancing back at her when the guy got back into his car. “Now, would you please go straight home, and be careful.”
“You don’t think he’ll follow me?”
They watched the car move slowly through the parking lot.
“No. So far he’s only gone after people unattached. He thinks I’m going to be hanging around you. Not worth his effort. But be careful. I’m going to follow him.”
Candy left the Impala, running to her own car.
“Hey,” Dean called, “nice work.” He smiled at her, the first true smile he’d had in days.
“Thank you.” She mouthed through the closed window of her car door, and waved, keeping her hand low so only Dean could see.
He let her drive off first, pretending to follow. The Cadillac went the other way. Dean had his car turned around and following in seconds. It was difficult to be inconspicuous driving down a mostly deserted road, trying to follow the other car. If he hung back too far he was afraid he’d lose the car. Getting too close would make the guy bolt. When they came to an intersection, and train tracks the Cadillac’s engine gunned. A train rumbled along the tracks, already in the middle of the intersection. Dean barely glimpsed the dark figure tumbling from the car just before it slammed into the freight train. Cracking in two, exploding, parts of it being dragged by the train Dean was forced to stop quick. The smoke, flames and car parts flying around made it hard to see. Trying to see where the man ran to was impossible. He couldn’t have gone forward; there was a moving train there. But Dean didn’t see which way he’d run, he seemed to just melt into the night.
“God damn it!” Dean’s hand slammed the steering wheel. Parking to the side of the road, flash light in hand, Dean did a search of the area, finding no tracks, nothing to point him in the right direction. He hoped saving Candy hadn’t doomed his brother.
He’d stopped Candy from being the twelfth victim. But was no closer to Sam. Making mental note of the area, he’d come back in the day light, leaving when he heard sirens coming at the intersection.
Driving back to Bobby’s Dean thought out his next moves. He was pretty much at another dead end. His only option left was to one at a time do a search of each of the properties he’d found in Bobby’s cards. That meant breaking into and entering possibly eight houses, prowling around eight properties. Possibly eight chances to get caught. Not great odds, but not the worst either. He’d start in the morning again. The chances people would be gone were much higher during the day.
Dean spent the few hours he had for sleep tossing and turning. He dozed a few times, but no more dreams, no more freaky clues. He tried desperately to push away the feeling of urgency, panic that he was running out of time. Sam was running out of time.
Deciding to make coffee to take along, again shoving food down just because he knew he had to Dean prepared to head out. His pistol load was verified and he stowed away a couple of knives, strapped to his ankle, one at his belt and one in his pocket. He’d turned on the TV on his way through the house from upstairs, half listened to it for any news as he worked. Back in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, his cards in hand he sorted them into the order he would go. The road, Arlington ran roughly an east-west route, cutting the county almost in half. He’d start at the eastern point; he had no particular reason for that, it just seemed right. Dean decided to go with his gut feelings.
The rest of the cards he’d gathered up from the floor the night before and had tossed them, along with the box they went in onto the kitchen table. Reaching for his jacket, which was slung over one kitchen chair Dean’s eyes fell on the cards and box.
They’d been moved from the center of the round table to the far side. Maybe Bobby really does have ghosts here? Laying dead center on the table was an envelope.
What the hell? His name on was it, printed in neat block letters…….Dean Winchester. Not Sam’s handwriting, not Bobby’s either.
Dean went through the house, top to bottom, the garage, the surrounding yard. As before he saw nothing, no one. Back inside Dean picked up the envelope, it was a regular letter sized, white envelope. Nothing special about it other than his name, his real name, was on it. Carefully he ripped it open, extracting the contents. What he found inside was certainly not even close to what he’d expected.
Photos, dozens of photos. He started flipping through the stack. The house, outside and inside, the junk yard, the auto shop, the Impala, garage, even Sam’s laptop, Dean’s lips curled to a snarl, breath quickening, nostrils flaring. Sam. Pictures of Sam. In the video store, in places they’d gone in town, the library, where’d they gone to eat, buy groceries. In the junk yard, sitting on the car reading the paper while Dean worked on the customers’ cars, in the house, outside the house, in the garage, some with Dean, some Sam alone. The final one of the stack was Sam, unconscious, in chains on the ground.
Sam’s movements had been watched, documented. For the first time in his life Dean was angry enough to actually understand the meaning of the words, seeing red. Every bit of him shook from sheer hate and rage. Taking a few deep breaths to calm his nerves, he needed to keep his cool. This guy who had Sam was playing him, wanting him to become irrational, do something to get himself hurt, possibly caught himself? To take Dean out of the equation. This just confirmed he was close, very close. He was being taunted with his brother’s life. He sure as hell wasn’t going to fall for it, become part of this sick bastard’s game or become so wrapped up in running in circles Sam would pay by dying.
He rifled through the stack again, this time scrutinizing each and every one, looking for clues, anything to lead him to Sam.
“You screwed up asshole. You screwed up big time. Made that one fatal mistake.” Dean held the photo of Sam chained in one hand, crumpled it in his fist. “And you will pay for hurting my brother.”
Dean’s search had narrowed to three houses.
When the lights snapped on again, Sam didn’t think it’d been very long since Abaddon left, he and Brandon exchanged nods. Sam once again tapped the tip of his nose with the heel of his hand. After a minute or two he spread his hands, palms up, out a bit to his sides, shrugged. Brandon, who had a better view of the stairs than Sam angled around for a better view, glanced over at Sam and shook his head.
Sam looked from Brandon to the stairs a few times. He could tell the other boy thought the same as he, this was another of Abaddon’s mind games, making them sit there, wondering what would come, what would happen to them when Abaddon finally appeared. The smell of the basement made the situation even more horrific. Combined with the cold and damp was the lingering smell of burnt flesh, human waste, blood and lime. With the light off at least Sam didn’t have to look at the surgical tray, the lounge chair Kristen died in, the cart full of torches and knives and things Sam couldn’t even identify, not sure he wanted to.
Abaddon appeared, looking not as calm as he had the previous visits. Stopping in front of Sam’s cage he picked up one of the steel rods, smashing it across the bars, smiling when Sam jumped and leaned away.
“So, you need proof.” Abaddon sneered. His gaze shifted from Sam, to Brandon as he moved to a spot between the cages, now closer to Brandon’s, “think this is all a game?” The steel rod coursed a path across the bars of Brandon’s cage. Abaddon lit one of the home made torches, took a few steps so he was again closer to Sam’s cage.
“You don’t have Dean. You couldn’t get near him, no matter how hard you tried.” Sam growled.
“Oh?” Abaddon pulled a cassette tape from his shirt pocket. “Found this in your brother’s pretty black muscle car.” Holding the tape between two fingers and up so Sam could see. “Right after I cut off his finger.”
Sam tried ignoring the queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach, the tremors developing in the muscles of his arms. He tried to keep his eyes on Abaddon and the tape, but they kept shifting against his will to the flames and torch. Abaddon held the tape just above the flames. Sam glared at him, willing the moisture he felt in his eyes to stay there.
Abaddon leaned down, his face on level with Sam’s. “You think I won’t drag his ass down here and make you watch me kill him, slowly? One finger, maybe a foot or an eye next. Enough to make him scream, but not die.”
Sam shook his head, not sure if he should believe Abaddon or not.
“A demonstration for you I think.” Dropping the tape just outside the line of bars, the torch a foot or so from it Abaddon moved quickly to the cart, putting on rubber gloves. He pulled out a rod. It took Sam a minute to place what the thing was. Not a taser, he was pretty sure of that.
Cattle prod. It was a cattle prod.
“Look out!” Sam’s warning came a second too late.
Brandon had been watching, hands gripping the bars. Abaddon had moved so quickly neither Sam’s warning nor Brandon’s reflexes were fast enough. The jolt made Brandon lurch back, a shout cut short when he clenched his jaws tight.
Amped up cattle prod.
Before Brandon could get away Abaddon reached through the bars, grabbing the boy’s ankle, yanking his leg out, exposing skin. The prod was pushed down on Brandon’s calf. He screamed.
“Stop it!” Sam shouted, it was useless, he knew, but did so anyway.
Shoving Brandon away, Abaddon released him as quickly as he’d grabbed him. Before Sam could process the man’s actions he’d crossed the short distance between the two cages, fingers clamping around Sam’s wrist as he reached for the tape. Sam tried wrenching away, but discovered Abaddon had an iron grip. He jerked down on Sam’s arm, pulling it farther outside the bars, slamming Sam into the inside of the cage. Dropping the prod between his feet, Abaddon reached through the bars, grabbing a fistful of Sam’s hair. When Sam’s free hand clamped around Abaddon’s forearm Abaddon released his hold on Sam’s wrist, scooped up the prod and jammed it, end first into Sam’s collar bone. The force of Sam’s body shoving away left a chunk of hair in Abaddon’s fingers.
The electric shock coursed through him, making him lose his grip on Abaddon, the tape clattering to the floor next to Sam. He couldn’t stop the deep scream that came right up through him. When the prod withdrew Sam collapsed onto hands and knees, his entire body shuddering. He could barely pull any air into his lungs, making him cough and gag. He had no idea how many minutes it was before he could raise his head, look at Abaddon through stringy bangs fallen in front of his eyes. Somewhere in the haze surrounding him, not too far away, he heard Brandon’s sobs.
“Will be interesting to see how your brother compares to you with this.” Abaddon returned the prod to the cart, extinguished the torch, and left.
Sam didn’t move until the lights went out, then he let his trembling arms fold and he dropped to the floor, hardly able to feel the tape pressed against his chest.
Sam and Brandon tried, for distraction more than anything, to find a way to mark the passage of time. It was nearly impossible in the dark, with no external clues. Brandon slept more and more. Or maybe it was Sam who was sleeping more and more and not noticing when Brandon was awake. He had no idea which really. The gnawing growl in Sam’s stomach was nothing compared to the searing pain in his shoulder. Each time he woke he tried moving his arm in small circles. It brought tears to his eyes, made him hold his breath in a desperate attempt to stop the pain from going straight through him. Sam had a picture of it, a sharp, hard spear of energy entering his flesh just below his collarbone to cut a jagged path through him, flinging itself out through his shoulder blade.
He’d finally located Dean’s tape. It’d been trapped beneath Sam’s chest all along. It was stuffed into his pocket along with the ring. The last two things he might have of his brother. Stop thinking like that! It was more and more difficult to not just give in and believe Abaddon’s threats, taunts. The tape jabbed and poked his hip and thigh if he moved the wrong way. Almost like it was trying to jab and poke away Abaddon’s words, convince Sam his captor was lying. The tape was losing.
He hated Abaddon, wanted him dead, he’d do it himself given the chance. And if….when, when, when you stupid ass WHEN….Dean got there, took one look at this dungeon, at Sam, what Abaddon had done to Sam, to the others. Dean would kill him. Sam didn’t have to guess, or wonder. It was simple fact; Dean would rip the guy apart. Sam could stop him. All he really had to do was ask Dean not to. His whole life anything Sam ever asked of Dean…well, except to kill me….. his brother had done everything in his power to comply, provide Sam’s request.
This time Sam wouldn’t say a word to stop him.
This time Sam just might cheer Dean on.
This time Sam just might believe Dean when he said he’d save Sam……from everything, not only this cage……Sam desperately needed to believe.
“How you doing?”
Sam rolled onto his back. Able to stretch his long legs up and rest them against the bars above his head gave him some respite from the cramping. “Just great, how about you?”
“We should get some beers. You like to play darts?”
“Only when I have to. Dean likes to though.”
“Cool, he and I can play, you can keep score.”
Sam laughed. “Deal.” Oh, yeah and remember to make sure Dean doesn’t hustle him for all his worth.
Abaddon finally appeared. It was only a matter of time, stomping down the steps in a hurry. His eyes blazed. He looked wild, enraged. Sam didn’t have much time to wonder what was going to happen, it happened so fast he could barely keep up. Abaddon went straight at Brandon’s cage, without slowing down he’d grabbed the cattle prod off the cart on his way by. He didn’t stop until he was in front of Brandon, leering down at him. Brandon pushed back, until he was at the farthest most point in the cage. His eyes flicked briefly to Sam, who bit his lip and nodded the smallest amount.
Reaching down to the lock on Brandon’s cage Abaddon paid no attention to Sam squirming around to see how it worked. Sam cursed words Dean would be proud of under his breath. It was some kind of combination lock, no key. Damn harder to pick. Sam stopped cursing under his breath and started shouting loud and clear in the next instant.
Flinging the cage door wide Abaddon stepped in. At the same time Brandon rose to meet him, heel of his palm going just the way Sam showed him. The thought flitted through Sam’s brain, Dean would really like Brandon.
The prod hit Brandon’s oncoming hand, he recoiled, surprised. One quick yelp escaped before he clenched his teeth shut. Sam grabbed his bars in both hands, shaking them furiously, with everything he had left in him. The bars didn’t seem to notice his efforts. Abaddon did, however, he turned and sneered at Sam.
“You two have screwed with me for the last time.”
Sam didn’t know which two, him and Dean or him and Brandon. It didn’t matter. Brandon was paying for it now. Pain ripped down Sam’s throat at he shouted, screamed at Abaddon to stop.
Abaddon’s hand latched onto Brandon’s shirt collar; stepping back he yanked the boy with him until they were out of the cage. It was as if he wanted Sam to have the best view possible.
The prod hit Brandon’s neck, making him scream. The second Brandon’s jaw dropped Abaddon let go of Brandon’s shirt, simultaneously the prod was shoved inside Brandon’s mouth. Brandon’s screams turned to gargled noises. His body jerked, spasms made his arms flail back and forth at his sides, his eyes bulged. Brandon’s feet shuffled, mostly from the spasms, but he finally flipped and jerked away from the prod. Abaddon didn’t follow, or attack again, just watched, smiling as Brandon crumpled to the floor, still twitching from the electrified shock. Using his foot Abaddon rolled and kicked at Brandon until he was back in his cage, the door locked again.
Abaddon turned to Sam. Replaced the prod and in its place had one of the blow torches. He flicked it on, turning it up full.
“You’re a sick bastard!” Sam spat, jerking away, backing into the farthest corner of his cage. He tried, truly tried to quell the shudders ripping through him, but the effort was pointless. Just as pointless was him trying so hard to keep his eyes from sliding to the flame. They didn’t seem to want to follow what his brain said.
The flame came at him, Sam didn’t know how many times. He ducked, pressed back against the bars as far as he could, one arm up over his face. Twice his jeans were ignited, and twice Sam slapped the fire out. Finally it stopped. Sam’s breathing was nothing more than gulps, hitching and catching every few breaths, making him light headed. He shook so badly he worried he’d shake apart.
Abaddon finally moved away. The torch turned off, put back in its tray. Picking up what looked like a braided piece of wire Abaddon held it out for Sam to see. “Do you know what this is?” The wire was stretched between both his hands. Sam shook his head no. “It’s called a giggly wire, interesting name, don’t you think?”
Sam’s eyes followed Abaddon as he walked back and forth, as if giving a class lecture.
“It’s used to saw through bone, joints when one performs an amputation. I used one just like this on your brother. I’ll need a bit thicker one,” he waved nonchalantly back at his tool chest, “For his head.” He glared down at Sam. Sam refused to back down and glared right back. “Allow me to demonstrate how I removed your brother’s ring. Really it’s amazing you didn’t hear him screaming all the way down here.”
“You can’t prove to me you have Dean, because you don’t. You’re afraid of him, aren’t you?”
Abaddon snorted something disgusted through his nose, “Hardly.”
“You should be. Because when he get here, you’ll…”
“Shut UP!” Abaddon screamed at Sam, voice rising to a high pitch, breathing hard. “There is nothing left to be afraid of, if I ever were going to be afraid. He won’t be here, not now, not ever. I made sure of that.”
In two long, determined strides Abaddon was back at Brandon’s cage, reached in, grabbed the mostly unconscious boy’s left wrist, yanking it through the bars. Placing one foot over Brandon’s wrist, pinning him to the floor, Abaddon calmly, methodically sawed off his little finger. Splatters of blood peppered Abaddon, Brandon, the floor near his cage. Screams from Brandon, pleading from Sam split the air. By the time Abaddon tossed Brandon’s still twitching finger to the side, the only voice left was Sam’s.
Without saying or doing another thing Abaddon climbed the stairs, leaving them in the dark. Sam wrapped his arms around himself, pushing back the bile rising in his throat. Leaning his head down, he wiped tears from his eyes and face on his sweatshirt sleeve. Brandon was going to bleed out, he needed to do something, but couldn’t.
“Hey.” Sam called softly. “Come on man, wake up before you can’t.” Staring in the direction he knew Brandon’s cage to be, Sam could only wait and hope his new found friend would come to in time.
He didn’t think it was long before he heard Brandon move, small cries and whimpers of pain came from the other cage. Sam could definitely hear as Brandon’s feet pushed against the bars, giving him purchase and support to sit up.
“No.” Brandon whispered softly.
“Brandon…” Sam wasn’t too sure what he was going to say.
“No, I’m not ok.” Laughing almost hysterically for a few seconds Brandon then broke off into more almost inaudible whimpers. After another minute or two he seemed to collect himself, “Don’t…. worry, that one…..” he broke off, coughing. “Is useless too.”
Sam took off his hoodie, balled it up tying it with the sleeves. Standing as best he could in the confined space, he reached his arm out, and threw the sweatshirt in the direction he knew Brandon’s cage to be. When he heard Brandon’s soft, surprised, “damn” he knew it had hit its mark.
“Take the draw strings out and make a tourniquet, then wrap it around your hand.”
“Ok.” From the soft rustling noises Sam could tell Brandon did as instructed.
“Pull it tight enough so it hurts.”
“Hurts more you mean.” Brandon’s voice was garbled, odd, wet. His words slurred and were difficult to understand.
Sam curled on his side, facing Brandon’s cage, his cheek as close to the bars as he could manage. He’d finally regained some control over his breathing, the tremors quieted to an occasional shiver. He felt the exhaustion setting in. He was so afraid to pass out, fall asleep, whatever, because he truly feared when he’d wake up he’d be all alone.
“Did you call my brother? Is he coming?” Sam asked, pleaded with the nurse, the doctor again. His head hurt, he couldn’t remember what they’d told him before. Whenever he tried to sit up the room spun wildly. The last time the nurse threatened restraints if he didn’t keep still. Where was Dean, why wasn’t he here? Why didn’t he come through the curtains surrounding his bed? He shut his eyes tightly, willing Dean to be there when he opened them again. His heart sank when it didn’t work. “Yes. I told you, I talked to him. I used your cell phone, remember?” The doctor, a gruff, hurried, harassed man not much older than Dean sighed, talking to him as if he were three not twenty-three. “Because you couldn’t remember the number.” Shaking his head, and had to stop that because damn it hurt, Sam muttered, “No. Sorry.” “I talked to him. He said he was on his way. Give him a chance to get here.” Now the doctor was snapping at him. “How long?” Sam pressed. Deep, disgusted sigh, “I don’t know. Just lay there, relax and when he gets here I’ll happily discharge you to him. But you can’t go wandering around like that, with a concussion, by yourself.” Sam wondered when he’d gotten a concussion. He’d arrived at the hospital in the midst of some big emergency, gang war, or train wreck, or something, he wasn’t really sure. He didn’t remember being moved, the last thing he remembered was following Dean into some old building after what turned out to be a very vengeful spirit, who very much didn’t like them. And woken up here, in the midst of people running around, and stretchers being pushed here and there, and crying and……where was Dean?? They, the hospital staff, had treated him then sort of shoved him in a corner. Sam’s injury wasn’t life threatening, he needed watching. Why wasn’t Dean here? Left him. Dean had left him. There was no other explanation. If Dean wasn’t here, and Dean wasn’t dead, then Dean had finally gotten fed up with watching Sam, trying to protect him from demons…and hunters….and himself. FBI thundered through Sam’s hurt and tired head. They’d gotten him, no, they wouldn’t get Dean, he’d get away. Why did Dean leave him? What had he done? Sam didn’t understand what he’d done to drive his brother away. Oh yeah, what hadn’t he done? Like maybe get possessed and shot Dean, or taken off in the middle of the night, very mature….He never listened….and why didn’t he ever listen? If he listened, Dean wouldn’t have left him here, wherever here was. How long had he been here, hours? Days? These people did nothing but tell him to lie still and wait. Wait for a brother who was finally rid of him and wasn’t coming. Making it worse his head really, really hurt and his stomach was doing jumping jacks. “In here?” Sam heard a voice, just outside the curtain surrounding his bed. He held his breath, hoping…wishing. “Yes,” the nurse, Sam remembered her, slightly less harried than the doctor, slightly less irritated with him. “We need to….” Sam lost track of her voice, what she was saying, he concentrated on the other, deeper voice, willing the universe to let him hear it again. “Sammy, how you doing?” Dean stepped through the curtains, the nurse following him. The relief washing over Sam, through every bit of him was overpowering. “Sir you really shouldn’t be here, there is a waiting area.” When Dean leveled a stare at her she closed her mouth, but didn’t leave the small area. “Dean? What did I do? Why’d you go? Why are you mad at me? I’m sorry, whatever it is, I’m so sorry, I won’t do it again, why’d you leave me? Just tell me what I did.” Sam wanted to wipe the tears going down his cheeks away, but his arms and hands and head didn’t seem to be getting along well enough to talk to each other and follow his brain’s commands. Dean just looked at him. Then frowned a bit, opened his mouth, shut it, took a breath, opened it again and turned to the nurse. “Concussion?” She nodded. Dean sighed heavily. “Ok, look whatever you need to do for him, you do, but you do it with me right here, cause there is no way I’m leaving him, he’ll freak out.” Whatever reply the nurse was going to offer was cut off by the doctor, clipboard in hand, pushing his way into the area. Dean had moved around the bed, was now standing next to Sam, one palm flattened over Sam’s forearm, fingers tucking around his wrist just enough to offer Sam a protective grip. Sam never took his eyes from Dean, too afraid he’d go away. And why was he in a hospital bed? His head hurt, a lot. Why had Dean left him? “You want to stay here for a bit Sammy, or should we take off?” Sam could only look at his brother, eyes wide, more tears threatening, shivering, he did manage to squeak out, “Dean.” Nodding, Dean smiled down at him and winked, “That’s what I thought.” “Mr. Gallagher your brother really should….” Holding up one hand, Dean cut off the man’s speech. “Look, I appreciate it, I really do. But you’ve got enough on your hands out there,” Dean waved in the vague direction of the curtains, “and it’s just a concussion. Get me whatever drugs you want him to have, and whatever instructions you want followed, and it’ll be done. He so much as hiccups wrong I’ll bring him right back. I can take care of him. And you don’t have enough tissues and buckets in this joint for the water works that will start shortly.” The doctor cracked a grin, glancing down at his clip board, scribbling something. “One of those huh?” “You’ve no idea. It’s an amazing thing. It truly is. Last time I thought he’d shrivel up from dehydration.” “Last time?” “Rock climbing. We do a lot of rock climbing.” Dean said smoothly. Sam figured it was close enough to the truth. “Ok. Give me twenty minutes.” “Thanks.” Dean turned back to Sam, sighed heavily again, looking down at him. Sam looked back up meekly. Tipping his head to a cupboard Dean asked, “Your stuff in there?” Sam could only nod and hiccup down a small sob. Dean helped him get dressed, by the time he was done the doctor had returned. A few quiet words with his brother, a bag and a few pieces of paper from the doctor and he was gone again. “I thought you ditched me. That you didn’t want me around anymore.” Sam stared at his boots dangling off the bed, he guessed they were attached to his feet, which were probably still attached to his legs, which were probably still attached to... “I wouldn’t do that Sammy.” “I did it to you.” Sam gulped, “Where were you?” “Yes you did, but I’m older and wiser and I know better. You’d just follow me anyway.” Dean moved around the small space, collecting Sam’s phone, his jacket and watch. “Dude, you were thrown into a wall….three times, then dragged I don’t know how far. By the time I caught up there was already paramedics and an ambulance. They told me to go to one hospital, but you were taken here because there was some plane crash. The roads are a mess, there’s a freaking blizzard going on, everything is shut down, I got lost. It took me four goddamn hours to find you Sam.” “Oh. But I shot you.” “Yes you did.” Dean slid one arm around Sam’s middle, hefting him with total ease off the bed. “But it wasn’t you and not your fault.” “And I called you a goof ball in front of that girl.” “Um hum, did that too Sammy.” Dean held on long enough to make sure Sam wasn’t going to hit the floor, before his hand moved, now gripping Sam’s arm just above his elbow. “That was you and totally your fault.” “I didn’t let the air out of the tires.” “I know that Sammy.” Dean steered him down the hall. “I glued your beer to your hand.” Dean pulled open the hospital door, “Yep, you sure did.” “I don’t want you to die!” Propping Sam against the car, Dean dug in his pocket for his keys. “I think I can stay alive for the week at least.” “Deeannn……are you paying ANY attention to me?” Sam’s voice was nasally and high pitched. Sam was shoved inside the Impala. Dean patted the top of his head gently, “No, Sam, not really.” He trotted around, getting in the driver’s side, giving Sam a sidelong glance as he turned the ignition key. Taking the box of tissues Dean held out to him Sam asked, “You’re not leaving me here?” Dean shook his head, smiled a bit, put the car in gear and drove away from the hospital. “No Sam, not leaving you here or anywhere else.” Sam heard his brother grumble something about vomiting like regular people do when they have concussions. Sam’s head hurt, he didn’t get that. “Sam. Hey, you awake?”
Waking with a start, Sam wasn’t sure he’d heard his name. The voice sounded sort of like Dean, but not quite. Maybe he wouldn’t be hearing Dean’s voice again. Someone coughed in the darkness. Pulling his head away from the bars Sam turned, angled toward the voice, leaning his cheek against the cool metal.
“Sam?” More of the wet coughing.
“Yeah? Sorry, didn’t mean to drop off.”
“Hurts. Won’t stop bleeding.”
“It’s gonna hurt like hell, but press against the wound.”
“Won’t matter.” A coughing fit cut off any more words from Brandon for a few minutes. “Will you do something for me?”
He’d been quiet so long Sam thought he’d passed out. “Sure, anything.”
“My dog…hope she’s still alive….” Rasping breaths were cut short by hacking.
“If she could get water, she should be. Hungry, but alive.”
“Think she could. Will you….” Brandon’s voice broke, “Please, just her…and me.” He started sobbing, “Take care of her. Please?”
“You won’t be in the hospital more than a day. They’ll just stitch that up and kick you out. But sure, we’ll look after her till you’re sprung.”
“Sam, I don’t think….” His voice cracked. “Valkyrie, she’s a good girl.”
Tears slipped away from Sam’s eyes. “Cool name.”
Through coughs and rattled breathing Brandon stuttered out where he lived, and didn’t say any more. A few times Sam called to him, tried getting him to talk, but it didn’t happen. Later, he wasn’t sure how much later Sam couldn’t tell if he heard breathing from Brandon’s cage anymore.
Sam was all alone.
The first house Dean stopped near looked harmless enough from the outside. Leaving the car a few hundred feet down the road Dean crept up to the three story farm house. There was a neat flower garden all the way around it, split only by the walk way. There was plenty of shrubbery for Dean to slink behind and peek into the windows.
He started with the other buildings on the property, near the house. There were two barns, each methodically checked and a large building looking like a bunker Dean discovered was a huge storage shed. He thoroughly searched among cows, horses and chickens. No sign of anything or anyone who shouldn’t be there. Making his way back to the house he started near the back, keeping low, out of sight first he checked for any outside entrances to a cellar. Finding one it took him nothing more than a few minutes to pick the locks. His quick, efficient search turned up nothing more interesting than canned pickles. Certainly nothing threatening or deadly.
Walking silently, crouching as he walked, Dean crept to the windows along the rear of the house. Inside he found someone who needed help desperately, the poor woman was in a grave situation indeed. Dean grinned. He wasn’t up to this task, not today anyway. He watched for a bit. With the woman were about a dozen younger girls. Giggly, silly, noisy girls. He could see a Girl Scout book and vest on one of the tables set up in the room beyond the kitchen. He felt for her, he truly did. She looked as if she hadn’t slept in a month…..lady, I know the feeling…and if she heard one more little girl squeal she might just need a shotgun.
Moving to the side of the house, he wanted to see if there was anyone besides the doomed woman and her brood of racket in the house. It was possible Dean supposed she had a husband/boyfriend, father, brother some male in the house who might be the killer and not even know it. Considering the pack of children running around he wanted to be doubly sure.
He went to each window on the first floor. There was a basement under the house too, but the windows were glass block and he couldn’t see through them well. He wondered if the outer cellar had access to the basement, he’d check that in a bit. He doubted anyone could be hidden on the second floor or attic, and getting a grown probably unconscious adult through the first floor to an upper floor without anyone else in the house knowing wasn’t likely. If the killer was connected with this house, odds were good his captives were under not above. Dean made his way back to the cellar, rechecking the walls for a door. He found one, blocked by a heavy shelf filled with preserved foods, dry goods, and tools. It didn’t look like it’d been moved in years. The thick film of dust against it showed no track marks.
One house down, two more to go.
Dean jogged back to his car. As he rounded the bend in the road, his car coming into sight he swore, breaking to a full run. Panting, his breath steam in the cool morning air Dean stood next to the driver’s side door, staring at the top of his car. On the roof was Sam’s watch, a chunk of hair……Sammy’s hair?...wound in the links of the band. Dean couldn’t help his free hand resting against his own head for a few seconds, mouthing the word ‘Ouch.’ Drawing his pistol Dean looked around, in the woods next to the road, under the car, in the car, paced a few hundred yards one way, then the other. No one. He hadn’t expected to see anyone.
Taunting him, trying to make him slip up, go the wrong way, something. The bastard had Sam and was getting a thrill out of what he was doing to him, Dean as well. Again Dean vowed silently, this asshole wasn’t going to win. He’d win, find Sam, find him alive, get him back. Demons weren’t the only things who couldn’t have Sam.
His second stop turned out to be an abandoned house, looking like it might blow down in the next good storm. Still, Dean spent more than an hour checking the house, property thoroughly. Outward appearances were deceiving, and this would be a good hiding place, most people wouldn’t look here, thinking the structure too unsound, broken up for anyone to be in, hold captives in.
Again, he found nothing.
The third house was a few miles from the second. Dean found a small side road he pulled off on and parked. Leaving the Impala he went on foot. The yard was a mud pit, trees lined the long drive, helping him stay concealed. The drive had a bend, the house wasn’t visible from the road. As it came into view the hair along the back of Dean’s neck rose, the flesh on his arms prickled and tingled. There was wrongness here. It smelled wrong, felt wrong. It gave Dean the creeps.
He made a quick check of the house, seeing no one through the windows, Dean eased open the back door, and slipped inside. The house was old, shabby, almost as dilapidated as the abandoned one. But someone obviously lived here. There was a TV in the living room, Dean could hear it. Quietly moving through a mud room to the kitchen Dean stopped there. On the table were more pictures, Sam, others Dean had seen on the news, Candy. A shelf near the sink held small bottles, Dean peered at the labels. Ketamine. There were others he didn’t recognize, but he remembered Candy mentioning Ketamine. Balling one hand in a fist he fought the urge to send the little bottles crashing into the wall. Actions such as that, however, would only alert whoever lived here he was inside. If he found no one on any of the floors, he’d start calling for Sam, but that had to wait. Dean satisfied himself by taking the bottles, using the syringes laying on the grimy counter next to the dish-filled sink he emptied them, squirting the liquids down the sink.
Hearing movement coming through the house from the front, then a voice, someone talking to himself, Dean was forced back out the door. He took the time to see if there was a cellar as well as a basement in this house also. Torturing people made noise, basements were the best place. He’d start there. The house became silent once again, Dean could see the kitchen was empty. Whoever it was hadn’t gotten that far, gone elsewhere in the large house. Dean was back inside a minute later, slipping through the house without a sound. Opening every door, checking everything.
Pulling one door down the hall from the kitchen open, Dean was immediately hit with the smell. Rank, rancid, decaying flesh mingled with human waste and smoke. “Ugh.” He pressed his wrist against his nose.
The house was old, the steps probably creaky, making it likely impossible to get down them unheard. His foot froze mid-step. He’d heard….something…someone…someone familiar. Straining to hear, to be sure, Dean hesitated another minute, then as quietly as he could stepped onto the stairs, closing the door soundlessly behind him.
Abaddon took another of his steel rods, wrapped it in cloth soaked in kerosene. Sam watched, he knew what was coming. Pressing as far back in the small cage as he could, trying to watch the man without being obvious. He’d discovered, almost immediately, Sam’s intense fear of fire. Sam knew, Abaddon got off on his fear, yet try as he did Sam couldn’t force his body to quiet the tremors, or the cold sweat. Sitting in the far corner, knees pulled up, arms wrapped around his legs Sam tried making himself the smallest target possible.
It didn’t work.
Flames darted at him again and again. Sam could see Abaddon through the fire, just as the creep could see Sam. He could see Sam pull farther away, shoving against the bars at his back, fighting off threatening tears. Could see how the muscles of Sam’s jaw jumped, then clenched tight as he refused to make a sound. The torch was pushed so close the heat from it caused Sam’s eyes to shut tight, turning his head away, involuntarily throwing one arm over his face.
When the man withdrew a few steps, taking his torch with him, Sam watched him warily, trembling, trying to gain control over his ragged breathing. The guy cracked a grin. Throwing the torch on the ground, stomping it out Abaddon turned without a word, flicking the light switch off as he left the room, locking the door.
Dean would look for him, would never stop till he found Sam, or Sam’s body. Sam clung to that hope, to the knowledge Dean, if he still lived, would not let him down. He used it to push away another thought, pervasive and growing that Dean had already given up. That Dean was dead.
Sam tried convincing himself, told himself over and over, if Dean died he would know, would feel it. His arguments with himself were losing ground, his belief his brother wouldn’t stop looking was slipping away. His hope in seeing his brother again was sliding down some deep, dark abyss. Sam was afraid he’d lose it all together.
Alone in the dark Sam couldn’t hold back any longer. Letting his head dip down until his face pushed against his forearm Sam let the tears loose, let the sobs come.
How long it was, Sam didn’t know, but he was sure it wasn’t more than an hour, maybe less. Abaddon was back. He didn’t take away Brandon’s body. He lit a torch, then a second. A handful of the pokers were set into the first flame, the second Abaddon carried with him. Picking up one of the wires he stalked slow, even steps toward Sam. When the first flame hit him, Sam wasn’t able to stop the hoarse yell from escaping his throat.
Sam would follow Brandon shortly, he was sure. Until now Abaddon had been calm, collected, planning out what he did to both boys. He’d taunted Sam more than actually hurt him, psychologically attacked him more than physically. Abaddon still had to let Sam out of the cage to do any lethal damage, unless he planned to simply light Sam on fire and leave him inside the cage. That pleasant though initiated more shudders. Abaddon was pissed as hell. Sam was hungry and thirsty, having had nothing for twenty-four hours or more. But he wasn’t so hungry, or thirsty that if let out, given the chance he couldn’t do some serious damage to Abaddon. Abaddon must’ve suspected, or else Sam was sure he’d have been pulled out and tortured as the others had been. Abaddon was wearing him down, keeping him confined until Sam could be dealt with.
All this insight, however, was getting Sam no closer to freedom. It did him no good, and Abaddon all the good in the world. It was just ratcheting Sam’s anxiety, fear level higher. Probably exactly what Abaddon wanted.
What scared Sam more than anything up to now was the sheer anger, hate for him in Abaddon’s eyes. Until this point Abaddon was cold, methodical, rational. Now he had a feral glaze to his look, he’d become angry, irrational. Sam found new, bigger fear in those first few minutes. This man terrified him like nothing ever had.
He tried, as before, to keep silent when the flames came at him, to clench his jaws tightly shut. But he couldn’t stop the howls ripping free from his throat. Off to the side of his vision he saw something barely moving near the top of the stairs. Something he couldn’t quite make out, something his eyes riveted on for a few seconds…..something….between Abaddon’s taunts and the flames….something was coming down….something he knew.
Sam’s earliest memories were of his brother. His first word, according to Dean, was ‘De De’ which of course must have been baby-talk for Dean. Sam knew everything about Dean, how he walked, what he sounded like, smelled like, every movement Dean made, everything about him imprinted on Sam’s mind when Sam was so young he couldn’t form his own thoughts. Sam didn’t have to see the thing ghosting down the steps fully to know it was Dean. He simply knew. Sam didn’t know if this was Dean alive or Dean’s spirit, but just then he didn’t care. His brother was there, had come for him, was with him, and at the end of the day, it was all that really mattered to Sam.
Tearing his eyes from Dean, focusing on Abaddon, he didn’t want to alert Abaddon. Sam’s heart nearly stopped when the boards under Dean’s foot creaked the smallest fraction.
Dean froze for a few seconds. One foot held just above the next step. Sam started shouting at Abaddon, covering the sounds, drawing attention to himself, baiting Abaddon to open the cage. He fought the desperate urge to smile, because the figure moving down the steps was surely Dean, really, very much alive Dean. Spirits didn’t make steps creak. Though Dean wasn’t far enough down the steps to see him, Sam was sure Dean heard him.
Taking the opportunity Sam offered, Dean ran down the steps, Sam saw him stop; probably to let his eyes adjust to the light. Two steps into the room he stopped, turning a slow circle, taking in all the details, eyes moving up, down, completely around the area.
Dean looked…..annoyed. When Dean was annoyed, he became irritable.
Sam could tell by Dean’s expression he put everything together, formed a good mental picture of what happened down here. His eyes narrowed, taking on a truly dangerous, lethal glint. Dean was a few stages beyond irritable.
Dean was there. Dean hadn’t left him, in any sense of the word.
Pivoting on one heel Dean faced Sam’s cage, Abaddon’s back to him. Sam quieted, glaring up at Abaddon. Sam had lived his entire life under the umbrella of protection that was Dean Winchester. He doubted even their father would’ve crossed Dean when it came to Sam. Abaddon straightened, glared back at Sam, probably wondering why Sam had become so quiet, so still. That pissed Abaddon off even more. He raised the hand gripping the torch. Sam knew the movement all too well. Abaddon was preparing his assault on Sam. He adjusted the torch again. Dean crossed the room in a few long strides. Maybe Abaddon sensed the movement, Sam couldn’t be sure. Abaddon whether he knew it or not, was about to be whapped by that umbrella. Abaddon dipped his chin down the slightest, eyes never leaving Sam’s. Raising one hand, Abaddon’s expression turned shocked when that arm was grabbed from behind
Sam was a bit sorry he couldn’t see the expression on Abaddon’s face when he was spun around to look into Dean’s eyes.
“I really don’t think so asshole!” Dean growled and gave Abaddon a smirk. His right fist came up hard and fast.
The blow flung Abaddon beyond Sam’s cage, Sam turned to watch. The torch rolled away in the other direction. Darting after it, Dean stomped it out. He was back to Sam’s cage a few seconds later. Sam was on his feet, remembering at the last minute to not straighten fully, which meant he only smacked his head lightly on the cage. His fingers wrapped around the bars, knuckles white, gripping them so hard his hands cramped. Dean’s expression darkened even more.
Reaching through the bars, Dean’s hands pressed firmly against either side of Sam’s neck. “You ok?”
Fighting the growing lump his throat had become, Sam nodded, taking big swallows of air in. “More or less.” His voice sounded odd, raspy, cracked. “You?” He saw his brother had all ten of his fingers.
“Let’s get you outa there.” Dean’s expression softened, “Yeah.” One hand slid down Sam’s shoulder to squeeze his bicep the other kindly patted the side of his neck. “Did you see how he worked it?” He pointed to the cage lock. Sam shook his head no. Another tightening of his grip on Sam’s arm before he let go, Dean twisted around, scanning the area. “I’ll find something.”
Sam looked around; as he had so many times before, but he’d never found anything much less anything within reach. A fresh wave of horror crashed into him, shoving one hand through the bars just as Dean moved away, Sam caught Dean’s jacket, pulling on him. “Dean-” his voice hitched, his hand balled in a fist.
Turning, Dean gave him a quizzical look until Sam’s gaze shifted to where Abaddon landed. For once Sam was immeasurably happy his brother could read him without words; Sam’s voice wasn’t working so well. Stepping away a pace, in one fluid motion Dean very gently removed Sam’s grip with one hand, while drawing his pistol with the other. Moving the fingers of his free hand up and down a few times, Dean then stepped away farther, turning as he moved. Sam understood, letting his knees bend, he sank to the floor. Each brother looked all around them, neither saw Abaddon.
Dean was back at the cage, pistol still out. Pointing the far side of the cage with his chin, Dean said, “Get as far away as you can, Sammy. I’ll shoot the lock.”
Sam swallowed hard, nodded and pushed along the floor until his back pressed against the far side of the cage. His eyes darted from Dean to the rest of the basement, Abaddon had to be somewhere. He was so afraid something would happen, Dean would be taken or disappear it was hard to look elsewhere. As Dean leveled the gun, taking careful aim, Sam darted forward, slamming into the bars in front of his brother. “Dean!”
Primal screaming that sent shudders up and down Sam’s spine split the air. Dean didn’t have time to move, or even react more than to look at Sam, surprised. One of the welding torches slammed down across both of Dean’s upper arms, causing him to lose grip on the pistol. The gun hit the floor, spinning away. Dean shouted, grabbed his right wrist with his left hand, spun and kicked. His foot slammed into Abaddon’s middle, the man staggered away from them, but didn’t go down completely. Sam could see Dean was furious, and all his pent up rage and fury was about to be unleashed. Abaddon truly didn’t understand what he’d brought down on himself, or didn’t care, Sam wasn’t sure which. The fool just kept coming.
Obviously not wanting to move too far from Sam’s cage Dean waited until Abaddon was closer to them. Bringing both hands up together he slammed his fists into Abaddon’s lower jaw. The man spun away, staggering as he tried to keep his feet under him, crashing into the lawn chair then to the floor. This time Dean didn’t wait for him to come back. He followed Abaddon. Reaching out to grab his collar, haul him to his feet Dean skittered back at the last second.
Abaddon rolled over, bouncing up, lit welding torch in hand. He shoved it forward at Dean who grabbed up the lawn chair and flung it across Abaddon’s shoulders. As Abaddon backed away, torch in hand, Dean advanced, shouting, “Not quite the same without the cage, is it?”
Abaddon reached Brandon’s cage, his foot hooking on the dead boy’s arm, sending him sprawling down. The torch flipped away. Dean used both hands on Abaddon’s shirt collar to pull him up, punching him repeatedly in the face until he stopped struggling.
Dean let go and Abaddon crumpled to the floor. Crouching in front of Abaddon, Dean again grabbed his shirt collar, thrusting his face close to the other man’s. “You can tell me how to get him out of that cage, or I can beat it out of you. Either way is fine by me.” Dean’s voice was low, menacing, incensed.
Abaddon’s response was to spit at Dean, bring both his hands up between Dean’s arms and throw them out wide, standing and lurching away from Dean in the same movement. Dean hit him with a tackle, sending them both crashing into the tool cart. Sam heard an ear-shattering scream, driving him to his feet again, shaking at the bars. Dean was up and moving backwards, not stopping until he was beside Sam’s cage again, one hand gripping the bars just below Sam’s hands.
Abaddon came after him, staggering drunkenly, crashing into things, falling again. Sticking out from the back of his neck was one of the pokers he’d set into the flames of the first torch. He clawed frantically at it, lurching around the confined area. Falling back he lost his balance completely, hitting the floor drove the poker straight through his neck. It was angled as such it went deep into his skull.
Sam’s hand closed around Dean’s jacket sleeve as they watched Abaddon’s body flip and jerk for a minute, then back arched high to fall to the ground. His body arched again and again, maybe a dozen more times and then he stilled completely.
Dean turned, looked back at Sam, their eyes locked for a few seconds. Sam thought his brother looked a bit dazed.
Running free hand through his hair, Dean inhaled deeply a few times then huffed out a long sigh. “Stay there Sammy, I’ll find something to get you out with.”
Sam couldn’t help smiling, where was he going to go? Dean really was a master at stating the obvious some days. He would have laughed, but anything further was cut short by a series of bangs. They both looked. A lit torch had rolled beyond Brandon’s cage, igniting other welding torches there. Within seconds that side of the room erupted in flames devouring everything in their path, licking close to the steps.
Sam flung himself at the bars, arms reaching through…”Dean…DEAN!!”
“I see it, I see it.” Dean shouted, but was backing away from Sam’s cage, looking around him. He darted closer to Sam, grabbing his head in both hands, “Sam, Sammy…I’ll be right back. I’ll be back. I have to get something to this open with.” Pulling Sam’s grip from his arms, pushing Sam to the floor, “I’ll be right back Sammy. I promise.”
“I can’t get out!”
“Sam, stay low, just stay down.” Dean was moving backwards, not breaking eye contact until the last possible second.
“Don’t…Dean get out...DEAN...LEAVE!”
But Dean had vanished around a corner.
Shaking the bars, kicking at them Sam’s voice rose and cracked, he didn’t want Dean to leave, and didn’t want him to stay and die. “D E A N!”
“Not happening, this is just NOT goddamn happening!” Dean snarled. He’d found a small room off the main one, ducked in there. He’d gotten to Sam before being killed, and now they were both going to burn to death in this dungeon? Not if Dean had anything to say about it.
He could hear Sam shouting to him, at him. His brother alternated between pleading for Dean to get him out of the cage, and begging Dean to leave and save himself. To live. As if Dean would honestly leave anyone in a burning building, especially not Sam. He flipped junk and tools out of his way, kicking over buckets and tool chests looking for something, anything he could smash the lock holding Sam prisoner. There were plenty of welding torches and equipment, but Dean didn’t really have the time, or probably the skill, to use them on the lock.
Dean didn’t have to use much imagination to know the terror Sam must’ve felt right now, he was feeling plenty of it himself. His mouth was so dry his tongue stuck to his cheek, he couldn’t help noticing his hands shook. Moving through the room like a human plow Dean was about to give up, search elsewhere when his eyes flicked over a sledge hammer.
“I should resurrect that evil bastard just so I can kill him myself this time.”
Hefting the hammer over one shoulder Dean sprinted back to the main part of the basement.
“Look out!” Sam’s warning came just in time. Dean dodged falling, flaming timber. Another few minutes and the whole house would be ignited and collapse down on them. “Get out. Get out now….please!”
Heat caused Dean’s eyes to burn ferociously; tears welled up, making it difficult to see. Some spilled over and were hurriedly wiped away. “Shut up Sam!” Dean barked, trying to not inhale very deeply. Shedding his leather coat, he wadded it up and thrust it through the bars at Sam. “Put this over your head, it’ll protect your face.”
“I don’t want your damn jacket! Dean, leave.” Sam’s voice was screechy, he sounded like he had at thirteen when his voice was changing, deepening. He held the jacket to his chest with one hand, the other grabbed Dean’s arm. “You’ve got to get out now.” He shook Dean’s arm so hard it threw him off balance, forcing him back a step. “You’ll die, don’t die, I don’t want you to die! Get out!”
Wrenching free of his brother’s iron grip Dean shouted at Sam, “Not dying Sammy. Not you, not me, neither of us, not here, not now, and sure as HELL not like this.” Backing up farther, planning to get a running start and slam the hammer into the lock, “Now, right now, get your goddamn ass the hell BACK! NOW!”
Coughing, sucking in air too deeply Dean doubled over for a minute, hacking. One of the bodies, maybe both, Dean wasn’t sure and wasn’t taking the time to find out, caught fire. The rancid odor of burning flesh added to the smoke and heat. Gaining control of his lungs, breathing and shoving emotions as far down as he was capable Dean held the hammer’s handle end, sprinting forward, swing it with all his force at the lock.
Sam, for some reason Dean would never understand no matter how long he lived, chose that second to dart forward again, trying to grab Dean’s arm. “Out…” The rest of Sam’s words were cut off when Dean shouted wordlessly, avoiding hitting Sam’s outstretched arms with the hammer at the last second. It clattered to the floor.
“Aaww… for the love of……SAA-UM!” Dean was tired, his lungs burned, his skin itched, he was scared, desperate, and couldn’t think of anything else to do. Swinging the hammer around so the handle end aimed at the cage he slammed it into the bars, clanging loudly and making the bars vibrate. The action had the desired effect. Dean would only feel guilty about that for the rest of his life.
Sam jumped away so fast his back collided with the bars behind him. His eyes widened, turned liquid, a shudder ran through him. He suddenly looked all of ten years old, horribly frightened, vulnerable. Yeah, Dean would definitely feel guilty for that for the rest of his life, which if he didn’t put a move on would be pitifully short. Flipping the hammer around, Dean took a swing at the lock again.
Stepping forward, Sam reached out to him, “Dean…please…what…why?”
Flames lapped at the trusses along the ceiling, embers rained down, stinging the bare skin of Dean’s arms. He ignored them and the sound of blood rushing in his ears. The fire covered two walls now.
Again Dean’s reflexes were fast enough and he narrowly missed smashing Sam’s hand with the hammer. “Back!” He hit the bars with the handle again. The impact wasn’t square on, the handle bounced off the bars, accidentally slipping through, connecting with Sam’s shoulder. Grabbing his wounded shoulder, Sam yelled through clenched teeth, dropping to his knees and doubling over. Yeah, Dean would feel guilty about that for the next two lifetimes.
Dean didn’t stop to worry about Sam’s shoulder. He swung the hammer, smashing it into the lock over and over. When the lock broke and the door popped open Dean stared at it, surprised. Sam pushed to his feet, round eyes fixated on the opened cage door. In the next instant the brothers looked at one another. Dean grabbed the cage door with one hand, opening it wider, reaching in with his other hand for Sam.
His brain barely had the chance to process the fact there was movement in the cage when he learned the meaning of the expression hit by a flying brick wall. More to the point he was hit with the two-hundred plus pounds of sheer panic that was his brother. Sam latched onto him and they landed in a heap on the floor with enough force the air was knocked from Dean’s lungs.
“Christ Sam! You’re heavy.” Dean wondered what cosmic force thought it such a great joke to repeatedly put him in a burning room with Sam who was terrified beyond reason by fire. Hands under Sam’s shoulders, Dean shoved away from the ground, rolling them over. Without letting go, levering to his feet, Sam pulled up with him.
“Go...we gotta go now.” Sam stuttered out, yanking on Dean, pulling him closer to the burning stairs. “Dean, please!” Sam’s breathing was little more than ragged gasps. The color of his face was a few shades lighter than death. They were both coughing and gagging from the foul smoke which was getting thicker by the minute.
They’d gotten only a foot or two when the steps broke apart, bits of them flying out in all directions. Dean and Sam half dropped, arms covering their heads. When Sam ducked back against him Dean pushed his brother behind him.
Sam was shoving against his shoulder, stammering, “That’s the only way out, we have to get up there.”
Dean braced himself, not letting Sam move him toward the collapsing steps. Dean realized they had one working brain between the two of them, his. They were only going to have one shot at this. Dean counted on one thing; Sam would do what Dean told him to do. Some days Sam might argue until he forgot to inhale and he’d pass out, but when it came down to it, really counted Sam listened to Dean, followed Dean’s lead. Dean needed to depend on that now more than ever.
“No, that way.” Shoving Sam ahead of him Dean moved farther into the basement, away from the cages.
“We’ve got to get up before there’re no steps left.” Sam hacked and wheezed between his words. He crashed into Dean, trying to move him at the steps.
Dean roughly shoved at Sam, moving him back again. “Sam STOP!” Thankfully it worked, Sam immediately stilled, wide eyes riveted on Dean. Pointing one finger at Sam, “You do what I tell you or I’ll knock your ass out and drag you.” He was shouting, partially out of frustration, partially to be heard above the roar of the fire.
The rest of the stairs crashed to the floor, flames shooting in all directions. Smoke roiled along the ceiling. As they dropped to the floor Dean’s fingers wound around Sam’s neck, pulling him closer. They crouched close to the ground, arms over each other’s heads. Venturing a glance up, Dean could see the floor above, the fire had burnt through the ceiling, was shooting through openings to the floor above.
Up in the next instant, Dean gave one gentle tug on his brother, this time Sam followed without question. Keeping low as possible to avoid the smoke, hacking and panting strained breaths they made their way to the far corner of the basement. Sam stood silently watching Dean toss planks of lumber, various junk away from the wall until he found the door he knew was there. Together they kicked against it until it gave way under the solid blows.
Fire consumed almost the entire area where the cages were. The odor of charred flesh filled the air, more pops and bangs echoed through the space as welding tanks, and probably the rounds in Dean’s pistol, heated enough to explode.
Dean was through the door in a flash, catching sight of Sam looking back at the inferno. Before Dean could bark his name Sam turned and sprinted after him, colliding with Dean’s back, fingers coiling around Dean’s forearm in a death grip. There was too much smoke and noise to really do more than shout, so Dean tapped Sam’s chest, then grabbed his chin in one hand, turning his head, and pointed up.
It took a few seconds for it to register on Sam’s face he was getting what Dean was showing him. The outside cellar doors, a mere five feet above them. Daylight and fresh air wafted through where they didn’t meet perfectly flush. Sam exhaled then turned to Dean, actually smiled for a second or two. Before Dean could stop him Sam darted back to the main part of the basement, was back in the next instant, one of the long planks under his good arm.
Holding the plank like a javelin Sam took a few long strides forward, thrusting the wood up and rammed it into the cellar doors. That’s my boy! They rattled, splintered, but didn’t open. Smoke poured in, driving Sam to his knees, coughing from his effort. Dean snatched the plank, and repeated Sam’s action. The doors broke apart, bits of them raining down, the latch and bolt lock dangled from one shattered door.
“Go. GO!” Dean shouted, pulling Sam up, using his entire body to shove Sam at the opening.
Sam really didn’t need much prodding. As he jumped up Dean gave him a boost and Sam vaulted clear. He immediately spun around, laying flat on his stomach and reached through the opening. “Dean, hurry UP!”
Dean jumped, catching Sam’s hand and scrambled out.
Once Dean was out Sam rolled onto his back, puffing breaths, coughing up smoke. Dean dropped to his knees, bent over so his forehead nearly touched the ground, choking and gagging, trying to get clean air pulled into his lungs. Heat against his back forced Dean to straighten. Glancing over at Sam he had to smile, the kid had managed to hang onto Dean’s jacket, holding it balled against his side. “Hey, don’t you ever do that to me again.”
Sam turned his head to face Dean, rolling to a sitting position, legs sprawled in front of him. Dean saw his left arm trembled, holding it close to his body. Every few minutes a tremor ran through him. “Ok.” Sam puffed, and dissolved into more coughing.
Cracks and the sound of falling rock and timber made them both turn to the house. Dean stumbled to his feet, pulling on Sam’s good hand to get him up too. They turned to watch the house, fully aflame now. Windows burst outward, every opening glowed orange and red and white hot from flames climbing along the walls, invading every part of the building.
Tugging on his arm, Sam was backing away from the house. “We’ve got to go. Please Dean. Before he gets back.”
“Who?” Dean frowned. With one last glance back at the crumpling house, sirens drawing closer, Dean followed Sam.
“That’s what he called himself? He’s not coming after you Sammy, he’s dead.”
Sam shook his head ‘no’ pulled more insistently on Dean, but not getting more than an arm’s length away. Dean considered this for a minute. Did Sam really not realize the man, Abaddon, was dead? Not giving it any further thought he and Sam sprinted across the muddy field to the road. When they reached the car Sam leaned against the back passenger door, Dean didn’t like that his breathing was still ragged and every half minute or so shudders ripped through him.
“We need to leave.” Sam’s voice had an odd tone to it, almost pleading, his eyes still dark and wide, and he was paler than Dean thought he should be.
Taking a careful look around, it was still late afternoon, plenty of light, “There’s no one around. We’re ok for a bit. Lemme see.” Dean reached up to move Sam’s shirt away from his wounded shoulder. When Sam flinched away Dean’s guilt about quadrupled. “God, Sammy I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
Another shiver. “I know.” This time Sam was still, except for his head turning to look also when Dean moved the material of his shirt away. Centered in the purple and blue bruise blossoming across Sam’s collar bone in a pattern like fireworks was the burn mark. “Cattle prod.”
Dean met his brother’s eyes, pissed off all over again at what this man had done to Sam, to others. He went to the back of the car, opening the trunk, pulling the first aid kit open, retrieving burn cream, not missing the fact Sam’s eyes never once left him. “We’ll get some ice for it too, but this will help for now.” Dean gently spread the cream over the welt line of darkened skin. Reaching around Sam he pulled open the car door, giving his brother a tender shove towards it. “Now we can get outa here.”
Sam slipped into the car, but didn’t pull his legs in right away. He dug in one pocket for something. Dean watched, first curious, then surprised when Sam held out his hand, palm up to Dean. Sam looked up at Dean in silence while Dean took the offered objects from Sam’s palm. His ring and missing tape.
Brows pulling together Dean starred at them for a minute before taking the ring and sliding it onto his finger. “Sam, how’d you—“ He shut his mouth when a few more pieces of Abaddon’s game with them snapped into place in Dean’s mind. Sam watched him, totally silent, still except for another tremor. Reaching into the car Dean flipped open the glove compartment, dropping the tape inside. “Thanks.” Nudging Sam’s thigh with his other hand until Sam was fully in the car Dean then pried his jacket from Sam’s grasp and laid it across Sam’s chest and shoulders. He wanted to believe Sam’s periodic shivers were because the boy was cold, and the jacket seemed a good fix. Deep down, being honest with himself, Dean knew Sam wasn’t the least bit cold.
Part of Abaddon’s torture was to use Dean against Sam, make Sam believe something had been done to Dean also. Dean regretted the fact Abaddon was now dead and burning, because that meant he couldn’t resurrect him and kill him slowly, painfully…..or maybe beat him to death. He saw Sam, through the car windows, twist to the side, watching as Dean went to the other side of the car.
Key in the ignition, Dean suddenly had an urgent need to get some response out of Sam besides being told he wanted to leave, or two word sentences, which Dean realized was about all Sam had said. “Dude, you stink.” He rolled his window partially down.
Sam’s lips twitched up the slightest at each corner, but for only a second or two. He nodded, said nothing. Dean gave him one last sidelong glance before putting the car into gear. He’d worry about this later, after he got Sam back to Bobby’s, cleaned up and some food in him, because Dean knew the kid had to be hungry among other things. Turning the steering wheel, stepping lightly on the accelerator Dean nearly jumped out of his skin and drove into a ditch when Sam jerked across the seat at him, grabbing his arm in both hands, shaking it furiously.
“What?” Dean slammed on the brakes, horrified, “there was still someone in there? We left someone in there?”
Sam shook his head so hard ‘no’ soot and ash flew out of his tangled mass of hair. Dean wondered if his brother’s hair would ever come clean and if he could wrestle the kid down and shave it off. “Not in there. Was Brandon’s….” his voice cracked, he choked and broke off.
“He…he...was in…with…Dean please, she can’t die too! I promised I’d try.”
Putting the car back in park, Dean twisted around to face Sam fully, one hand going up and resting against the back of Sam’s neck. None of this was making much sense. “Ok. Sam, relax and tell me.”
“Brandon was in the other cage, he died. I watched him die. I told him I’d take care of Valkyrie, his dog.”
Dean shut his eyes for a few beats, licked his lips, this really didn’t make much sense. “His daw-“
“Please!” Sam’s voice raised a few octaves apparently mistaking Dean’s stunned expression for a no. “Dean?” Tears clouded Sam’s eyes.
Taking both of Sam’s shoulders in his hands Dean gave him a gentle shake, making sure Sam was focused on him. “We can get the dog, Sammy.” He saw Sam visibly relax, slumping down a bit. Dean was trying to figure out how to find the damn dog. “Any clue where to look?”
“He told me. It was the last thing….” Sam’s eyes were red, his hands slid from Dean’s arm, tears hurriedly wiped away.
They found Brandon’s apartment with a minimal of fuss. Dean didn’t think they’d find anything, figuring the cops must have gone to there during their investigation. But then, on second thought they hadn’t come to the junk yard. He didn’t say anything while he drove. The only thing Sam said was to repeat the directions Brandon had supplied.
Picking the lock to Brandon’s apartment was pathetically easy. Even before the door opened they heard a small, tentative “woof”. Dean turned to smile over his shoulder at Sam, who didn’t smile, but at least didn’t look quite as vulnerable as before. He cracked the door open far enough to stick his head through, “Hello?” What met him was a wave of stink. The dog had definitely been locked in for a while. It would never cease to amaze Dean how people wouldn’t notice, investigate, let the poor dog outside. Did anyone in this building even realize this kid, Brandon, had been missing for a week?
They slipped inside, closing the door behind them.
The dog barely reached to Dean’s knee. She had one triangle ear that stood up and one that tipped over at the point. Chestnut, medium length fur with a white stripe along her face broadening to a white patch with chestnut freckles at her nose. Her white tipped feet were speckled too. A bushy, almost fox like tail arched over her back, wagging furiously. The little thing ran to them, sniffing their feet, standing on hind legs to pat their legs with eager paws. Then she broke Dean’s heart into lots of small pieces when she looked behind them, ran to the door, gazing up expectantly, sniffed at the door jam, returned to Dean and Sam, sat in front of them, looking around their legs every few seconds. Dean met Sam’s gaze suspicious his brother was silent now because his throat had the same huge lump Dean’s did.
Sam turned away suddenly very interested in the rest of the small apartment. It was an efficiency, so the whole place was easily seen from their spot by the front door. There was a shelf along the far wall with pictures of who Dean presumed was Brandon, and this little dog. Pictures of her catching Frisbees, jumping over things, some awards. Some looked professionally taken. Dean watched as Sam picked up a few, replacing them. One framed snapshot was of Brandon and Valkyrie in some bright, sunny park Sam held for longer, studying it. He saw Sam’s shoulders start to shake.
“It would probably be ok if you took it. I bet no one will mind.” Dean said softly.
Sam half turned, nodded. “You think so?” He held the photo so tightly his knuckles were white.
“Yes.” Dean looked down at the dog. Valkyrie looked up at him, tail wagging some more. He knelt down. The little thing shimmied between his knees, tongue lapping at this chin and hands. “Ok,” Dean petted the dog, then held her just under the ears on either side of her head, “Here’s the deal. You can come with us, we’ll find you a good place to live. But sweetie, I’m sorry, you can’t stay with us forever. We live in our car.” Bushy tail thumped the floor in response. Straightening Dean looked around. “Look in there,” he pointed a closet out to Sam, “I’ll check this side, see if we can find her food, toys, whatever.”
At the mention of toys Valkyrie darted to the couch, dug under it for a minute and bounced first to Sam, who actually smiled a real smile for a few seconds, then to Dean carrying a bone in her mouth. “Ok, we can pack that.” Dean patted the dog’s head again.
A few minutes’ search produced a few Frisbees, a leash, extra collar, bowls, food, brushes, more toys and bags of treats. Sam located garbage bags; they dumped it all in, except the food and a bowl. Dean poured a small amount of food into the bowl, which was inhaled in seconds. Valkyrie sat next to the bowl, looking again from Dean to Sam. Dean swore she looked back at the bowl.
“Naaa….you can have more when we’re home, don’t want you barfing in my car. I thought my little brother here had a lot of luggage, chicky you have more.” Dean shook one finger at her, “And no shedding.” When she woofed at him he couldn’t help laughing a bit. “Let’s get outa here.”
Sam followed him silently to the car, as soon as he opened his door the dog jumped in, Sam slid in after her. He shrugged at Dean, holding both hands out for a second. Apparently the dog was going to ride up front with them. If it made Sam feel better, Dean could care less. Besides, Dean liked the dog. The car hadn’t been moving for more than five minutes before Valkyrie curled up, half on Sam’s legs, his arms circled around her, and half on the seat between the brothers. She covered her nose with that bushy tail, snoozing in seconds.
A few minutes later Dean heard Sam shifting around, he yawned. Sam edged his shoulders along the seat, stretching his legs as much as possible. Nudging his shoulder under Dean’s his forehead rested on Dean’s shoulder. Dean reached over, rubbed Sam’s arm for a minute, before holding the steering wheel with both hands again. By the time they left town, hit the highway Sam’s breathing was deep and even. It was an hour drive back to Bobby’s, both Sam and Valkyrie slept the entire way.
When Dean pulled into Bobby’s auto yard it was dark. He was hoping Sam would be a bit better after some sleep, but he really wasn’t. Dean tried to convince himself maybe his brother was slightly less jumpy, but his hopes dashed away when, without thinking about it much Dean hit the play button on the answering machine (Bobby hated cell phones) and Sam heard the message from the detective. Dean could have kicked himself, but he certainly didn’t expect the reaction Sam handed him. The message had informed Dean there was some news regarding Sam and the killings.
“You went to the cops?!” Sam’s voice reached near screeching. Valkyrie darted away from him, lying behind Dean’s feet when Sam’s arm reached out and cleared off the nearest table. Books and magazines and other general crap Bobby owned fluttered and flapped in all directions.
“Yes, Sam, I did. You were gone, and I wanted to be sure I got my kid brother back alive! So, yes I went to the cops so they’d look for you too!” Dean shouted back, he was tired of being patient today.
“Dean! What if they…you could have been….THAT was stupid!”
Heaving a deep, longer than necessary sigh Dean resisted the urge to just backhand Sam and knock some sense into him, or knock him out. “Sammy, they weren’t interested in me. I bet none of them even remember what I look like. And if me getting arrested meant you lived, then so be it!”
“But you can’t…”
“I’m not, I didn’t. I’m here, and here I’m going to stay.” Realizing he was shouting, Dean softened his voice, “They were after a serial killer, one right here. They were investigating the disappearance of nearly a dozen kids, one of whom was you. They could have cared less if I was Al Capone, Sammy. Hell, I’m not even sure that man knows my name.” Grabbing Sam’s shoulders Dean turned him around and shoved him at the stairs. “Enough of this. You need a shower.”
Sam fell back to silence. He reverted into looking like that vulnerable, frightened ten-year old. Sam stopped in the bathroom doorway, suddenly incredibly interested in his boots and the pattern of the rug in the hall.
Dean gave him another shove, “I’ll make something to eat, any requests? I know you’ve got to be starving.” Dean was more desperate to get normal conversation out of Sam. Maybe he’d be more normal in the morning, but somehow Dean doubted it.
“You’re going downstairs?” Sam didn’t look at him, didn’t look up. Looked embarrassed.
Sliding down the wall, leaning back, knees half bent, Dean said, “When you’re finished showering.” He dropped one arm over Valkyrie who took the offered lap and plopped herself across his legs. “And wash your hair good.” He called through the partially closed door. Patting Valkyrie’s head, Dean looked down at the dog. “This is not good. It’s going to be a long haul I think. Hope you’re up for it.”
Valkyrie’s tongue darted over his hand. Dean bumped his head against the wall a few times before he closed his eyes.
“Sammy, you don’t have to do this.”
“Yes I do.” Sam said softly, looking up at Dean, watching him pace around the kitchen. Sam hated when Dean paced, Dean usually paced when he was worried, and he usually only worried enough to be pace-worthy when Sam was involved. It was Sam’s fault his brother was worried enough to pace.
“No, Sam, you don’t!” Dean stopped pacing. His voice was deepening, getting louder, which meant he was frantic with worry. Sam hated that even more.
Sam had no clue what to do, how to alleviate Dean’s worry. He couldn’t think very well, concentrating even more elusive. “It’s the right thing to do Dean. Please?” Sam learned, around age three, to get Dean to agree he only had to ask permission.
“What good will it do? The others, their families know they’re dead, gone. Do you think they really need to know the gory details? How will that help them? They think you’re dead too Sam, why not drop it?”
“To catch him, make sure more don’t die.”
Dean opened his mouth, and shut it again. He stood a few feet from Sam, frowning down at him.
Eyes narrowing a bit, Dean didn’t seem to understand his words, grasp his meaning. “Maybe I can tell the cops something to help them catch Abaddon.”
Dean just stared at him another minute. Sam jumped when Dean suddenly grabbed a chair, spun it around and straddled it. He sat less than a foot from Sam. Dean looked around the room, took a few deep breaths, he looked confused, then more worried. Licking his lips he spoke slowly, as if measuring each word he said to Sam. “There is no one to catch Sammy. He’s dead. I watched him die, so did you. You and I weren’t any farther apart than we are now, and he wasn’t any farther than the sink,” Dean turned to point to the sink along the far kitchen wall. “He’s dead Sam. He’s not going to hurt you or anyone. He’s dead. The cops had to identify him from his dental records, he burned with the house. It was in the message. We both heard it, remember?”
When Sam shook his head Dean’s lips thinned to a straight line. “I have to tell them.” He tried to make his voice stronger than a rough whisper, but it didn’t work. “I have to do this.”
Sighing deeply Dean looked away for a few minutes. Sam thought Dean was going to say no, probably knowing Sam wouldn’t, couldn’t do it alone.
“You won’t talk to me about it, but you’ll talk to them?” Dean sounded hurt, jealous.
Dropping his eyes to the table, Sam couldn’t explain something to Dean he didn’t understand himself. He was missing something, and he felt an overwhelming need to tell the cops all he knew. “I’m not sure I can talk to them alone. But I will I guess.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Sam. You’re NOT talking to them alone.” Dean snapped.
Despite how hard he tried not to, Sam flinched, shivered.
Head dropping, bridge of his nose pinched between thumb and forefinger, then rubbing the same hand through his hair Dean sighed again. “Ok. But we need to get the story straight.”
“Can’t we tell them the truth? You found the house, broke me out. The fire was an accident.”
“I don’t think anyway we do it will be good.” Dean grumbled. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. They assumed you burned with the house, I didn’t exactly set them straight.”
“You’ll do this with me?”
Dean laid one hand on Sam’s forearm. “Of course I will.” His voice softened, his face softened even more. “You want me to call?”
Sam nodded. “Thank you.” He watched as Dean stood, looked down at him for another few seconds before going to the other room, where the phone was. Before Dean could disappear around the corner, Sam followed, Valkyrie on his heels. Dean arched one eyebrow when Sam sat near him, Valkyrie jumped onto Sam’s lap. In hushed tones Dean talked to some detective, presumably the one he’d talked to before. The conversation took a few minutes.
Hanging up, Dean turned to him. “He’s coming here. I think he may have already figured out you weren’t in the house.”
Sam spent the next hour watching Dean pace and fume, mumbling words every few minutes Sam couldn’t catch. Dean didn’t believe him, that Abaddon was alive. Yet, Sam had no idea how to convince his brother. There was something missing, something Sam couldn’t remember. If he could remember, tell Dean, he knew his brother would believe him. But the details danced away each time he thought he grasped them. Valkyrie bouncing off his lap at the sound of an engine pulling up to the house made Sam start. Dean glanced at him, then the door when Valkyrie barked two sort woofs, sitting by the door, tail wagging.
Dean stopped next to him. “You’re sure about this Sammy?” Dean’s voice was edged with tension, though he was doing a good job of covering it. He couldn’t fool Sam, and in another situation Sam might have found it amusing Dean even tried. The fact Dean was trying made Sam worry for him even more. “Cause I can get rid of him.”
“At the very least he’s going to wonder why I’m not dead, we should explain.”
Dean nodded, “You’re right on that. Ok. But if he says, does, anything I don’t like, you don’t like, he’s done, out of here, and you will not talk to him again. Agreed?”
Looking up at his brother with a shy, small smile, nodding, Sam was in fact counting on Dean to be…well Dean. The Dean who if Sam felt threatened would hop right into overprotective, big brother mode, crossing that Dean was dangerous and stupid. From what Sam saw other people thought so too. Sam had no idea how he could ever convey to his brother how very thankful he was that guy was around whenever Sam needed him, and Sam really needed him now, maybe more than ever.
Sam’s agreement brought a change in Dean. He calmed, and stopped projecting pure defensiveness, still on edge, and Sam knew it was because of him, but he was powerless to stop it right then. He followed Dean through the house. By the time they got to the door Dean wore the likeable, charming guy persona so effective at covering the tiger stalking beneath. This conversation got too intense, one wrong word or look, and Sam knew the poor detective would be on his ass in the dirt outside the house before he knew what hit him. Sam sorta felt sorry for him.
When they opened the door, Sam was surprised, and could see Dean was too, there were two men, not one, standing there. Valkyrie was delighted. Sam not so much, Dean looked even less so. When Sam shivered, despite how much he tried not to, Dean turned just enough to make eye contact….really, how does he do that?....then laid one hand on Sam’s back until all four of them were in Bobby’s kitchen. Close to the back door, easier for Dean to bounce them out Sam figured.
Sam and the two detectives sat at the table, Dean took up post, keeping a watchful eye on them, all the while leaning too casually against the counter in front of the sink. The older of the two men, Mike Redding, gave Dean and Sam a warm, friendly greeting. He was maybe around sixty Sam figured, with sympathetic eyes and a calm, passive demeanor. He probably needed to be that way with what he had to deal with all the time, victims, their families. He immediately acknowledged both brothers were affected by this. Not only did he seem to understand Dean’s attitude, he seemed approving of it, which threw Sam off guard. That might have been a first.
The other detective, Tim Forge, a younger man, maybe in his mid-thirties was another story all together. The sparks and antagonism that arched between this man and Dean was palatable to Sam. Fortunately they didn’t have to really talk to one another. Sam caught a few glances, and outright stares pass between the two men, but nothing more, not at the start.
Redding did the talking, asking Sam questions which Sam answered as honestly as he could, careful not to offer more details about Dean’s involvement than he needed to. The detective, while he was interested, and a bit impressed Sam thought, by Dean tracking Sam down and then breaking him out didn’t question it further. He was more interested in the details Sam provided about Abaddon, whose real name they learned was Arthur McCreedy, Kristen and Brandon, confirmation McCreedy/Abaddon did in fact actually kill them. By the time he was done Sam had the impression Redding could have cared less about Dean. Which greatly relieved Sam eased his fear his brother would be taken away, put in jail.
Then Forge spoke, and Sam hated himself, his damn conscious, and what he brought down on them, on Dean.
“Let me get this straight, you…” he pointed to Dean. “Somehow managed to do in a few days what we couldn’t do in a few months, not only found the killer, but found where he took the victims, and managed to get there just in time to save him?” He pointed to Sam.
“That about sums it up, doesn’t it?” Dean’s voice was too calm, too level.
“Then why is it,” Forge rose, took a few steps from the table, and looked Dean in the eye, “He looks like he’s a hostage still?” The man acted as if Sam couldn’t hear him, understand his words, his meaning, as if Sam wasn’t even there. “He shouldn’t be here. He needs to be somewhere safe, where he can get treatment.”
Sam’s heart skipped a few beats. He stuck his hands under the table to cover their sudden trembling. Take him away? This man couldn’t do that, Sam was an adult. They couldn’t possibly take him from Dean. Could they? Didn’t they know the only place Sam felt safe, was truly safe was with Dean? He heard Dean cross the short bit of space between them in quick, determined strides. Sam immediately relaxed when hands dropped onto his shoulders, just either side of his neck, pressing down with enough weight to be comforting. The overprotective tiger Sam referred to as his brother growled to the surface. Sam wasn’t going to be forced to go anywhere he didn’t want to go. He wanted to point these facts out to the idiot detective who seemed intent on antagonizing Dean, but he’d done enough damage, so he kept his mouth shut.
“You know what I think? I think it was you all along, and this is some game you’re playing, getting cheap thrills.”
“Then why would I invite you here, tell you Sam is alive?”
“Sick, twisted minds play sick, twisted games.” Forge said.
“My brother wouldn’t do that to anyone, he wouldn’t torture anything like that.” Sam blurted out. It was true Dean killed plenty of things, but he’d done it quickly, the faster the better. Nothing they’d ever hunted had been hurt or tortured for fun, for pleasure.
“Which brings me to the next thing I need clarified. Proof you’re really brothers.”
Twisting far enough to look up at Dean, Sam could see his brother was as stunned as he was. Neither one had any ready answer, since no one ever questioned them before.
“Proof we’re….What do you want, birth certificates? Because I don’t have copies.” Dean snapped.
“No, we don’t.” Redding said, shooting his partner a look that shut him up. “It doesn’t even matter. We’re done here.”
“I don’t think we are.” Forge insisted.
“I do! Threatening him isn’t going to help. I think he’s in very capable hands, and it’s my opinion that counts.” Redding’s voice was low, even. The man projected the same ‘don’t mess with me’ quality Dean often did.
Sam felt Dean relax. Too bad he couldn’t. When another shiver skipped down his spine Dean’s fingers tightened.
“Isn’t the important thing this guy be caught?” Sam’s voice was quiet. He saw Redding’s eyes flick for the briefest instant to Dean before focusing on Sam again. Looking back up at Dean, their gazes met for a few beats, then back to the detective.
“I think it’s time we go.” Redding said to Forge. The younger man started to argue, but Redding cut him off, “Now.” Halfway out of the kitchen he stopped, turning to them, talking mostly to Dean. “You two need any help, let me know. You have my card.”
“Thanks.” Dean said. He squeezed Sam’s shoulder for a second before letting go. Giving Sam a look that read, ‘stay put’ he followed the detectives to the door.
Forge was out and to their car before Redding made it through the next room. The detective stopped, scratched the back of his head, and looked Dean in the eye. “I do have one other question. Just how did you manage to track down your brother?”
Dean pivoted on one foot, retrieved something off the kitchen counter and was in front of the detective in less than a minute. “With this.” He held out a syringe cap.
Redding took it, examined it, then lifted his gaze to stare at Dean. “You found him, tracked him down to that house with just this?”
Dean grinned and nodded, “yes, that, a few photos, and a little luck.”
Eyes narrowing a fraction, Sam gulped and fought down the urge to tackle the guy. He never expected what came out of Redding’s mouth next.
“Son, you want a job? Because I’ve got detectives who can’t find their ass from a hole in the ground let alone do something like this.” Cracking an unexpected grin, he added, “And no comment on how you disrupted a crime scene.”
The stunned expression on Dean’s face was priceless, for a moment Sam forgot all about Forge and the threat he posed. Apparently the good detective Redding had no idea what Dean was wanted for, or simply didn’t care. Sam wasn’t sure which.
Handing the syringe cap back to Dean, which went straight into his pocket, and Sam wondered why his brother kept it, he looked one more time at Sam, before focusing back on Dean. “If you change your mind, let me know. You two take care now.” With that the man was gone, out of the house. Sam heard the car’s engine grow fainter as it drove away.
“I’m sorry.” Sam said, looking down at the table.
Dean turned to him, “For what?”
“You were right. I shouldn’t have said anything to them. Now that Forge is going to be after you too.”
Waving one hand in the air, Dean snorted, “Sammy, you had no idea he’d do that. It’s not your fault. I don’t think it’ll be an issue. And if it is, what is he going to do, he hasn’t fingerprints or a name I’ve used before, or anything. What is he going to track me down with?”
“You tracked me down with a syringe cap.” Sam pointed out.
“Yeah, that and a few freaky dreams I didn’t mention to them.” Dean smiled broadly, “Besides, I think it’s established I’m better. I haven’t done anything wrong in this entire state he can pin on me. Except, well, what’s he going to charge me with Sam? Grand theft canine?”
“But what if Forge, if he…or the FBI…if they…”
“They won’t Sam.” Dean said softly and with such conviction and finality Sam almost believed him.
“I found some in the papers.” Dean scrunched his nose a bit, turning away so Sam couldn’t see his face well.
“Where’d you find my watch?” When he got no answer Sam pressed further, voice going up, despite his efforts to stop it. “Dean? Dean? What aren’t you telling me?” Missing something, something is missing, what is missing?
“Your watch was left on top of the car, when I was searching houses looking for you.”
“He knows what our car looks like?” Sam couldn’t keep the tremble out of his voice, or stop the shudder from ripping through his sides.
“Knew. He’s dead Sammy.”
“What photos, show them to me.”
“I threw them out.”
“You’re lying. You know you can’t lie to me. You never lie to me. Dean?”
Facing him fully again, Dean sighed heavily. “Sam, he’s dead, what does it matter?”
“He’s not! Show me the goddamn photos!” Sam shouted, standing so fast the chair toppled over. Valkyrie scampered away, lying on the floor in the doorway between the kitchen and living room, rolled to one side, tail thumping.
“You’re scaring the dog Sam. Stop shouting.” Dean’s expression was mild, his voice changed ever so slightly, Sam knew that tone, knew it too well. Dean obviously thought he was protecting Sam from something. Bullying Dean was impossible, reasoning however was very possible.
“Dean, please. Show me. I need to see, don’t keep things from me. Not from me. You promised not to do that again.” Ok, so a little guilt wouldn’t hurt either Sam reasoned.
“That’s low Sam. What’s the point?”
‘I don’t know. I just know I need to see, find out…..Please?”
“Sammy, it’ll just make this worse.”
He had no real argument, fingers running over the table top, Sam stared down. “Maybe. Probably. But I need to know.”
Heaving a very heavy sigh, Dean turned and went to the desk in the other room where Bobby kept the auto yard records. Sam darted after him, stopping right behind Dean, close enough his shoulder touched Dean’s back. Handing the envelope over his shoulder he didn’t look at Sam, just looked at some point farther away, near the fireplace. Sam felt his brother stiffen. Obviously what was in the envelope disturbed him. He’d mentioned them by mistake, Sam knew Dean never intended Sam know they existed. He probably really would have thrown them out in the next day or two.
The envelope had Dean’s name on it, which in and of itself was creepy enough. Pulling out the photos, Sam went through them one at a time. He started to shiver; his hands trembled, increasing with each photo turned over. Him, they were mostly of him. He’d been watched, photographed. Barely aware Dean had grabbed his elbow, and slid one arm around his waist, his knees felt wobbly, his stomach lurched. Dean was steering him away from the desk, Sam offered no protest when Dean pushed gently against his shoulder, lowering him to the arm of the couch.
“Did you think Sam he grabbed you on the spur of the moment?”
Sam handed the stack of photos back, Dean put them back in the envelope, stuffed that into the back pocket of his jeans. Looking up, “I guess I didn’t think about it at all.” His voice wobbled. “In here, was in here?”
Rubbing Sam’s back Dean bent down, on eye level with Sam. “Look at me.”
Sam could only stare at the floor, shaking.
“Sam.” Dean’s voice took on his ‘you will listen’ quality. “Look at me.” His other hand lay against Sam’s shoulder.
Sam’s vision swam when he looked at Dean. He wrapped the fingers of one hand around Dean’s wrist.
“Yes, he got in here. He’s dead now Sammy. He’s dead. And even if he wasn’t, I’m in here too. He’d never get by me, he didn’t before, and he won’t hurt you. He’s dead, he really is.”
Whatever Sam was missing it was elusive and important….and why couldn’t he remember?
“Hey Sammy, did you find the….” Dean straightened, stepped away from the car brought in that morning for repairs, turned to see if Sam had found the right set of wrenches for him and stepped on Sam.
“Sorry.” Sam mumbled, backing away, holding out the small, metal box with the requested wrenches.
Dean moved forward quickly, hands on Sam’s shoulders. “Sam…” When Sam leaned away Dean tightened his grip and refused to allow his brother to move farther. “Sammy. It’s ok. It is. It’s only been a few days, don’t be sorry. You just need a bit more time is all. You’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, the dog will be fine, we’ll get through this. It’ll be ok.”
Three days since Dean had broken Sam from a cage, three days and he was no better. In fact, Dean was coming to the realization, Sam was worse. Watching Sam, keeping him in sight had become a non-issue. Sam hadn’t gotten more than three feet from Dean. Whatever space Dean occupied, it seemed Sam was quite determined to occupy as well. Dean figured if nothing else Sam would get tired of Dean stepping on him. Not that Dean minded, he’d never minded Sam being around, but Sam being this clingy worried him. Sam had never, even as a child, been clingy.
He watched as Sam settled on the ground a few feet from him, leaning back against a stack of old tires, one of Bobby’s old books against his knees.
“I won’t be too much longer with this.”
Sam merely looked at him and nodded. Dean heaved a sigh and slid back under the car.
Nightmares, Dean had expected the nightmares, been ready for them. Well, he’d thought he’d been ready, but he really hadn’t. Ever since he was a small child Sam had nightmares. He had nightmares about their dad dying, about being stolen by poltergeist (Dean wished the kid had never seen that stupid movie). Then as a teen he’d had them about whatever they hunted at the moment. After Jessica died Sam had nightmares about her, how she died, he had nightmares about their dad dying—for real this time—about demons getting him, Feds and demons getting Dean, being possessed and hurting Dean. Then there were the vision nightmares where the kid got to watch in 3-D Technicolor the deaths of people he didn’t know, dying in various degrees of horrific ways. Sam had nightmares. Dean learned long ago how to deal with them, and to differentiate between regular ones and vision ones.
Dean developed various coping strategies. When Sam was a small child, barely more than a baby, the cure was easy, some juice, a hug from Dean, letting his small brother snuggle against him to sleep and it was all good and fixed. As Sam got older the fix got a little more complicated when Sam decided he was too big for cuddling. Dean’s strategy went from snuggling to rubbing his back, and promising to sit up awake, watching guard until Sam was sleeping again. The older Sam got the craftier Dean got. The fix evolved into hot chocolate, and later beer, late night movies and raunchy stories about girls they’d met. Somewhere along the way beer often became hot chocolate again, and neither one was too big for a hug.
Dean had nightmares too sometimes, Sam’s strategy was a bit simpler, talking to Dean until they could both sleep again. But whatever the dream, the scenario one thing remained unchanged in their lives, comfort was sought from the other and given freely. Dean’s current dreams were more like fantasies, the various ways he could resurrect and kill Abaddon all over again. His new favorite was cutting out the maniac’s still beating heart and feeding him a flame thrower.
Never, ever had Sam’s nightmares been like these. A hug, beer and entertaining conversation weren’t going to fix these.
Sam woke up, several times each night, screaming for Dean. Terrified someone or something was going to take Dean away, had snatched him in the middle of the night, or set him afire. The burning was something Sam always feared. Now with his defenses down it came bubbling to the surface unhindered. That idiot cop hadn’t done Dean’s cause any good, planted the thoughts in Sam’s head the police suspected Dean was the serial killer. Sam was convinced Abaddon still lived, and was after Dean. It seemed nothing Dean did or said made a bit of difference. Add to it Sam’s nightmares were keeping them both from sleeping much. When Dean had woken the first night, blasted off his bed from sheer shock and Sam’s voice, he’d woken his brother. Sam flung both arms around Dean’s neck, gripping with such intensity and strength Dean thought the kid would accidentally strangle him before he calmed down and Dean managed to pry him loose. He’d coaxed Sam back to sleep. Dean wasn’t doing that again, pretend Sam wasn’t sleeping, he saw now it had been the wrong thing to do.
To settle his nerves more than anything, once Sam was sleeping again, Dean, for the third time that night, slipped out of the bedroom, locked the door behind him and prowled the house. It seemed impossibly huge, dark with long shadows from the moon and outside lights. The day before he’d dug around, finding the key to the old lock on their bedroom door. It wouldn’t stop anyone, but breaking through it would make noise, give a good warning. Sam was creeping him out, so sure Abaddon was still alive. His patrol was quick, worried the whole time Sam would wake up, find himself alone, if possible making things worse.
Returning to their bedroom, Dean leaned in the doorway, arms crossed in front of his middle, letting his eyes adjust to the light. Thankfully Sam slept still, Valkyrie sprawled across his legs. Her tail thumped a few beats, before her eyes shut again. “What the hell did that freak do to you to mess with your head this much?” He’d asked the sleeping form of his brother in a voice far too low to wake him. Dean had no ready answer, and Sam wasn’t offering his own.
He’d locked the door before crawling back into his own bed. He had no idea if Sam realized Dean was locking them in at night or not.
Dean had barely gotten back to sleep when Sam woke again. This time Dean was ready, grabbing his brother from behind, pinning Sam’s arms with his own. He had no idea how long Sam shuddered against his chest before being able to get back to sleep. The next morning Sam claimed not to remember much about the nightmares. Which if he really didn’t it meant they were regular nightmares, if he did, they were visions and could mean Sam was lying about it. Dean doubted Sam was lying, he’d never done so before, and he had no reason to now.
Not that Sam was going to tell him. Sam barely said two consecutive words at any given time since the cops left. Well when he was awake that is. Asleep, dreaming, Sam said, shouted, screamed plenty of words. That was the part getting to Dean the most. His whole life Sam was never quiet. Before he could talk words the kid babbled. On further thought Dean decided some days the kid still babbled. Hell, the boy hadn’t shut up through an entire week of possession. But no longer did Dean know every detail in Sam’s head, what he thought, what he thought Dean thought, what Sam felt, what he thought Dean felt. It wasn’t that Sam completely stopped talking, he’d respond to Dean, but not initiate conversation. He’d answer Dean with as few words as possible.
Pulling out from under the car when Valkyrie started barking, Dean straightened, automatically turning to where Sam had been. A thick, heavy wave of nausea hit him when he realized the book lay where Sam had been, but there was no Sam. When a Frisbee floated through the air, skimming along the ground to a stop a few feet from Dean he let out a deep breath and laughed. Sam only went to retrieve the dog’s toy, the wrecked cars of the junkyard blocked Dean’s view. He smiled, wondering if Sam realized he was out of Sam’s view too. Still reveling in this very small step forward, Dean was grabbing up a crow bar in the next instant.
Smashing glass, he heard the distinct sound of smashing glass. Valkyrie, with her Frisbee, came galloping around the junked cars at him. Her feet barely touched the ground she ran so fast. Dirt and gravel flew in a small wake behind her. The hair on the back of Dean’s neck rose, his mouth dried. “Sammy!” He shouted.
Another crash. Valkyrie dropped the Frisbee, ran a circle around him so fast she fish-tailed and darted between the cars of the junk yard. Dean sprinted after her, wondering if Bobby could possibly have a well, and if Sam could have possibly fallen down it.
Breaking into a full run Dean half followed the dog, and half followed the sound of Sam’s voice. The damn junk yard was like some bizarre maze from a graveyard of dead vehicles. Sam hadn’t sounded that far away, and Dean doubted in reality he wasn’t more than twenty feet from Dean. Skirting around a pile of compressed cars Dean skidded to a halt, bringing the crow bar up like a baseball bat, ready to hit a home run.
Sam stood before him, pale, shaking, huffing in giant, ragged breaths, pointing to something. Dean looked. Nothing was there. Relaxing, the crowbar dropped to his side. Taking slow steps toward his brother, voice low and soothing, “Sammy? What is it?”
“Right there. He was right there.” Sam backed away from whatever he pointed at, edging closer to Dean.
“Abaddon. Right there, he was.”
“Aww…Sammy, he’s dead. He burned, I saw the whole thing. So did you.”
“You don’t believe me?” Sam spat viciously. He went from looking like he’d been beaten to a pulp to like he wanted to beat someone to a pulp and back again a half dozen times in the span of a minute or two.
“I believe you saw something. I don’t believe Abaddon, or McCreedy or whatever you want to call him is alive.”
Holding up one hand, shaking it at Dean, “I touched him!”
“Sammy, what I don’t believe is what I’m about to say. There’s got to be some explanation for this.”
“He’s not dead. Isn’t that explanation enough? Or he’s haunting me. You mean I’ve got some spirit, and you say the bones burned, after me. How can that be?”
“I don’t know Sam. I do know I saw him die. I had my hands on him when a hot stick of metal rammed into his head. I saw his body light on fire.”
“He was here…” Sam’s voice cracked, “right here.”
“All right.” Reaching out, tapping Sam’s arm, “let’s take a look around.”
“You do believe me, don’t you?”
“I believe you saw something.”
Sam simply glared at him, but followed immediately when Dean wandered the maze for a few minutes. They saw nothing. When clattering farther into the maze had Sam nearly climbing his back, Dean decided they needed out for a while. He wished Bobby would get home soon. Dean wanted nothing more than to pack Sam in the car and drive as far away as he could, put this all behind them.
Spinning on his heels Dean headed back to the house.
“Where are you going?” Sam ran after him.
“Out. So are you.”
“But I don’t want to….”
“I don’t care Sam.” Dean stopped and turned to face his brother. “I’m tired, and I’m hungry. I want steak. I’m going to go get a steak dinner. Maybe see what I can dig up in the library on spirits who can survive after their bones are burnt. You can come with me, or stay here.” Dean quirked an eyebrow when Sam shook his head no. “Alone.” It was probably a mean thing to do, but it got Sam moving.
By the time they were in the car Sam was pouting. Dean resisted the urge to laugh out loud, and grab up Sam in a bear-hug. It was the first truly Sam-like thing he’d done in nearly a week. It gave Dean hope he’d have his brother back, his kind-hearted, never shuts up brother. Sam still didn’t say much, answering when Dean talked, that was it. But he looked a little less haunted, and Dean even got a genuine smile from him when the chocolate layer cake Dean ordered was set in front of him. The library was closed, but they hit the grocery store. Dean caught the look Sam gave the parking lot, and didn’t miss the fact Sam never once left his side until they were back in the Impala.
Dean was pleased Sam relaxed a bit on the way home, his eyes looked clearer, and even though he said very little he concentrated on what Dean said. It wasn’t normal, but it was better, and Dean was happy for even a little bit better. It also gave him an idea. Sam believed he saw something, so he’d go with that. They’d hunt the something down, face it, exorcise it, maybe that would help Sam.
Feeling more than pleased, he was feeling downright optimistic, he had a plan. He was humming by the time they parked in front of Bobby’s house. Climbing the front steps to the porch, finding the right key, Dean’s attention snapped up when something on the door fluttered. Sam had stopped to grab the few bags of groceries, so was a step or two behind him. Dean spun, grabbed Sam’s shoulders and twisted him around, heading him back down the stairs. He didn’t want Sam to see it. If he could get the kid in the back door, maybe Dean could quietly deal with this.
“Other door Sam.” Dean tried hustling him along.
“Why?” Jerking free of Dean’s grip, Sam took the stairs two at a time. Slammed to a stop, turned to stare at Dean. “What the….you saw this, was going to hide it?”
Gone was the small amount of progress. Running one hand through his hair, Dean stepped past Sam, ripping the envelope nailed to the door down. “I’m sorry.” Sam wasn’t really paying attention. His breathing was ragged again, he was shaking.
Dean opened the door, and pulled Sam in after him. In the light they stood there for a few moments, not opening it, not needing to. But still Dean needed to see what was in there, he figured Sam did too. What was written on front made it pretty clear, and looking was merely a formality.
Printed across the envelope were the words I’ll get you, get him. You’ll watch him die. Dean bit down on his lower lip, trying desperately to steady his trembling hands. Wanting to know and not have confirmation at the same time Dean tore open the envelope, glancing up for only a few seconds at the odd noise Sam made.
Pictures of Dean. Pictures of Sam. Pictures of them. In some they were wearing the same clothes they had on now. Sam stumbled back, the pictures fluttered to the floor as Dean let go of them, jerked at Sam, catching him around the waist before he hit the floor.
Bracing Sam against his hip, one arm around his back, the other hand pressed against Sam’s chest, Dean maneuvered him to the couch, and let him drop. Hand on the back of Sam’s head, Dean pushed down and forward, “Put your head between your knees for a few. Breathe deep.”
“G-ghosts don’t take pictures Dean.” Sam’s voice was thin, raspy, he shook.
Dean had no ready answer for that, so did nothing more than stand there, his fingers curved around Sam’s neck, keeping him bent over until his breathing was more even.
“Yeah, Sam. I read that too.”
When Sam lifted his head, looking at Dean, clearly waiting for him to provide an answer Dean found it impossible to meet his brother’s eyes for more than a second or two. “I saw him die Sam. I practically killed him myself. I saw him burn.” He didn’t doubt his face was as ashen as Sam’s, his voice sounded weak.
Giving Sam’s neck a squeeze, Dean stepped away. Sam’s hand immediately shot out, grabbing Dean’s arm. Dean looked down, was met with dark, huge, round eyes.
“Where are you—“ Sam’s feet shuffled, he started pushing his weight up.
“To close the front door.” Dean held him down, it was too easy to hold him there. “Stay there. It’s ok.” He said softly. “It’s ok.” Dean didn’t get two steps before Sam’s fingers clenched around his wrist again. For reasons Dean would never understand everything in him came boiling to the surface, all the tension and fear erupted out of him before he could stop it. “Sam! Quit!” Yanking roughly away, he backed up a few more steps, turning to point at the door, shouting. “I’m going to the goddamn door, that’s it. I’m not leaving. You’re fine. You can sit here for the half minute it will take. It’s ten feet, Sam, ten freaking feet. Stop this, get a grip and stop before I…” Dean shut his mouth. What the hell am I doing? He didn’t need Forge to make things worse, he was doing a fine and dandy job all by himself.
The dark, huge, round eyes became darker, huger, rounder. Sam flinched away as if Dean had hit him, he probably would’ve taken being hit better. Hands falling to his lap, gaze following them. Oh, yeah, Dean would never stop feeling guilty for that, no matter how many lifetimes he lived. He couldn’t look at Sam, staring at his feet, Dean mumbled, “I’m having a hard time….this isn’t easy for me either….” As if anything he could say would fix what he’d just done. Sam looked up at him, gaze dropping almost at once.
Huffing out a deep sigh Dean still needed to close the door. The bags of groceries were still on the porch, he snagged those, looking out at the night. “Valkyrie!” Almost at once the sound of small feet padding across the gravel reached him. Valkyrie bounced up the steps, happy as can be to see him. Standing on her hind legs, her paws patted his knees, tail wagging furiously. “Don’t like me, I’m an ass.” Valkyrie poked his arm with her cool, wet nose, then took a dive into the bags. “Hey, hey, none of that.” Remembering what was in the bags, what he’d bought Dean smiled at the little dog. Kneeling down he rubbed her ears, “You know what, chicky? YOU are a genius.” Jerking his chin toward the living room, “Go take care of him for me, look after him for a few minutes, ok?”
He gave the yard one more careful, searching look before stepping back into the house, locking the door, and double checking it behind him. Heading to the kitchen he caught sight of Valkyrie settling herself on Sam’s lap. Other than retrieving the TV remote, Sam hadn’t moved. Yeah, cause you yelled at him and told him not to. Ass, ass, ass…double moron ass. When he saw Sam’s hand wipe over his face Dean turned away, gripping the sink with both hands until his knuckles went white, leaning down heavily, head dropping. He took a few deep, cleansing breaths. He needed to seriously get a grip. Setting about his task, one simple, mindless task he felt better when he’d completed it. Gave him confidence he could complete other, more daunting, bigger tasks too.
Mug in each hand Dean headed toward the living room. He knew what he had to do, doing it, fortunately for him, was something that came naturally. Staying focused was the key, if he could do that, the rest would fall into place. Obviously someone, something left the photos, the note. Intending what? To frighten them? Ok, did that. But something else nagged at Dean. He nearly dropped the mugs when he realized what. Still taunting, someone, something was baiting, taunting, trying to drive them apart, put a wedge between he and Sam neither could ever cross. Purpose, what purpose? That one was simple, cut your prey from the rest. Whether the prey was Sam or him, or both it didn’t matter. Joke was on someone, something…because that wedge, it would never happen.
Settling on the couch beside Sam, close enough their shoulders touched he held out one of the mugs, trading it for the remote, which he dropped onto his legs. Valkyrie sniffed at his mug, wrinkled her nose a bit, shaking her head from the steam.
“Serves you right for sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.” Dean rubbed her head.
Taking the warm mug in both hands, Sam’s fingers wound around it, glancing sideways at Dean looking away again quickly. Dean pretended not to notice.
“Ya know there’s something in warm milk that’s supposed to help you sleep.”
Dean snorted a laugh. “No, some enzyme or something. And you, my little brother aren’t getting any whiskey for a long time. This hot chocolate is the strongest you’re having for now. I couldn’t decide what would go better little marshmallows or whipped cream, so I put both in.”
Sam took a sip. “It’s good.” Another tentative glance, an almost smile. “Thanks.” He slid down until his head rested against the back of the couch.
“Sam, I’m really sor…”
“I know.” Head turning toward him Sam looked up, watching Dean intently, this time not breaking eye contact.
“I saw him die, Sammy. I swear to you I did.”
Sam leaned his forehead against Dean’s shoulder, stayed quiet, watching him.
“And you’re right, ghosts don’t take photos. So, either he’s not dead, or he’s some kind of spirit that survives having its bones burnt and has a camera. Sammy, I can’t think of anything not destroyed by fire. Are you sure about what you saw this afternoon?”
“And you touched him, you’re sure?”
“Ok. We’re going to do this from the beginning, someone, something took those photos and left them. Tomorrow we’ll start with the property, and this property. Dig up all we can. Then we go over everything step by step, start at the parking lot and go from there.” Jostling his shoulder up and down he took Sam’s empty mug, set it on the floor. “You going to remember this, or do I need to get something to write on?’
“I’ll remember.” Sam shifted around; shoulders against Dean’s side, legs stretched the length of the couch.
“We’ll retrace everything. See if there’s something you forgot, or didn’t think important, anything. Because if he is alive, which I doubt, you’re the only person who can identify him.”
“Lots of it’s hazy, especially at first. There’s something I can’t remember. I think I was drugged.”
“He used Ketamine, maybe with other drugs. Ketamine is a hallucinogen too. We should go back there, it might help you remember.”
Sam went completely still, eyes still on Dean.
“It’ll be all right. We’ll be going together.” Dean kept his voice even, quiet. Picking up the remote he flipped through a few stations, coming to stop on a movie. “Hey, Spiderman Two, I liked that movie. The bus falling off the bridge thing is coming.”
“Mmmm…guy can’t kill a Wendigo though, like you can.” Sam’s voice was thick, slightly slurred, drowsy.
Sam’s words hit Dean like a sucker punch. “Sammy, I’m sorry, really sorry.”
“I know.” Sam mumbled against Dean’s shoulder. “Is ok.” He was silent for a few minutes, then, “We’ll get him…it…right?”
“You bet we will.” He moved his shoulder up and down again, “Still with me?”
“Uhh mmm...” Sam’s breathing was even, deepening, another few minutes and he’d be asleep.
“Listen, you hang on for as long as you need, as much as you need. And ignore me if I’m stupid enough to tell you not to again. You know that, right?”
Nodding, Sam’s voice was barely more than a whisper, “I know.”
Dean had no idea how much later it was when he woke up. He was warm, too warm with Valkyrie sprawled across his lap and Sam leaning against his side. The movie ended, he’d missed most of it. News was on now. Stretching, moving slowly so Sam and the dog didn’t wake up Dean abandoned the couch to them, pulling an afghan from the back of the couch over Sam. Not wanting Sam to wake up and not be able to find him, he grabbed the recliner and swung it around, closer to the couch. Bounding up the stairs three at a time, made a quick check of the second floor, taking a blanket from his bed. Before settling in the recliner he checked the doors and windows on the first floor thoroughly, making sure they were alone in the house. Satisfied all was safe and secure Dean stretched in the recliner, pulling the blanket up to his chin.
He was about to click off the TV when the story on the news caught his attention. There was a picture of the field where Abaddon…McCreedy’s house had stood. One picture after another rolled by of the victims. Some interviews with families, a mention of one survivor, but no name, no picture of Sam, for which Dean was grateful. He didn’t want the news adding to their troubles past or present. His heart went out to the people he watched, crying, grief-stricken parents, siblings, cousins, friends, their pain made him physically hurt.
He glanced over at Sam, sleeping soundly, peacefully, safe and alive a few mere feet from him. Was he a terrible person, so wrong to be stupidly happy he wasn’t one of those people on the news, pain from loss of someone he loved so much broadcast for all the world to see? As wrong as it felt, he could be nothing but thankful. Sam might be damaged, but he would get better, had the chance to recover. Dean was determined Sam would get better, and saw a beginning to the way along that road. He’d already seen some small improvement, and despite the day’s events Sam’s trembling was nearly gone, a fact that hadn’t gotten past Dean. Going to the same parking lot he’d been snatched from, being safe there, protected, able to process the events and still know he was in no danger did some small amount of good. That hadn’t been Dean’s intention in going. He simply wanted groceries, stumbling upon this revelation later. He’d go with it.
They would hunt this. Whether Abaddon somehow survived or it was something different was inconsequential. They’d hunt it find some answers for Sam, for them both. They’d both face what happened. Most importantly Dean realized he needed to provide a safe, secure place for Sam, physically as well as emotionally while they completed their task. It was something Dean was good at, excellent at…providing safe for people, especially when it came to Sam. Some days he wondered if he’d been made, bred specifically to ensure the safety of others in general, Sam in particular. It was second nature to him, just as taking care of his brother always had been. So much so Dean remembered becoming annoyed, sometimes even angry being told to watch out for Sam, care for him, as if he wouldn’t, or would forget. There was a time, when he was around nineteen or so he’d been angered every time he heard anyone say how John raised his boys. John hadn’t raised them, he’d trained them. Dean had raised them, raised Sam, cared for him, was really the one who knew what was best for him. Sam wasn’t going to make any forward progress to recovery if he didn’t face what happened. It was up to Dean to make sure Sam would, could face those events, and face them without further trauma.
Dean could do safe and secure.
Daylight streamed through the windows when Dean woke again. Turning his head, vision clearing as sleep receded he saw the couch was vacant. Stretching, twisting till his back cracked Dean pushed himself up, looking around the room. The front door was open, Sam leaned in it, one arm over his head, cheek against his bicep.
The first thought hitting Dean was no nightmare, not one all the night before. He smiled, stood and stretched again. It appeared hot chocolate, a hug and entertaining conversation was part of a safe, secure place, and did wonders.
“Hey.” Stopping beside Sam, nudging his side. “What’s so interesting out there?” Dean stepped past him, onto the porch, sitting on the steps. It was just after dawn, the air still damp from night, bright sunshine making even Bobby’s junk yard look nice.
“Dog had to pee.” Sam grumbled, his voice still thick from sleep.
Dean laughed, “That’s why I get her to sleep with you.” Leaning elbows on his knees he yawned.
Sam trudged across the porch, sat next to Dean. He reached out, touching the marks on Dean’s left arm. “What are those from?”
Moving his shirt sleeve up so Sam could see all the marks, he pointed first to the ones on his bicep. “The night you disappeared, I looked as much as I could until it was dark. Then realizing I needed more information, I came back here to check online. I fell asleep, had a dream. Remember I mentioned I had a few freaky dreams?”
“Yeah.” Sam’s voice was too soft. “I did too, the whole time.”
“Those are from you, your fingers.”
Sam covered first one set, then the other with his fingers, laughing. “Dean, they’re a little small, don’t you think?”
Dean sighed deeply, nodded, “The first dream was you and me, you were maybe five or six in it. We were here, and had to sleep on the floor in Bobby’s living room. It was winter and he had a fire in the fireplace, well you wouldn’t get near it. Sat on the opposite side of the room shivering and crying because you were tired I suppose. So after a while I finally managed to coax you close enough you wouldn’t freeze and get sick. The only way I could get you to go to sleep was to promise to not let the fire get you. You spent the entire night hanging onto my arm.”
“Yep,” Dean turned pointed through the open door, “Right about there.”
“What about the other marks?” Sam touched them lightly.
“Remember that pool house in Atlanta? The one that caught fire with us in it with one pissed off spirit?”
Sam shivered a bit, “Yes. And thanks, I’ve tried really hard to forget.”
“Me too. A night or two later I had another dream, about that. After we’d gotten out of there I remember seeing bruises on my arm where you’d grabbed me. Then another night, right before I found the house, I had another dream, nightmare, freaking nightmare, which was really some kind of blessing I think. I had the customer cards Bobby keeps, figuring the guy had been here at some point to have seen you, us. It was like you reached out, projected somehow….I saw some of it Sam, what happened….could feel what you felt. Hear you calling to me, screaming for me to get there, get to you, and I couldn’t stop it, or help you. I woke up, rather abruptly, and I had these marks. I could feel you holding onto me. There were only eight houses in those cards with the numbers two and three. That’s part of how I tracked you down.”
“Do we have to go back there Dean?” Sam asked after a few minutes’ silence. “I don’t want to go back there.” His voice was almost a whisper. Dean thought he’d paled, slouched down a bit.
“I know you don’t Sammy. I don’t either, but we have to do this, face this. Both of us. There is something still going on, and it needs to stop. You’re not going to live your life afraid of that monster, what he did, and neither am I.”
Sam fell silent, trailing behind him into the house when Valkyrie decided it was time to go in. She scampered through to the kitchen, stopping in front of her food dish, sitting up, bright gaze shifting between the brothers.
“You know, this dog has us really well trained.” Sam said, pouring the food for her.
“That’s ok. The library won’t open for a few hours yet, we can hit some of the other places first.”
Silent again, Sam nodded. A minute later he’d disappeared upstairs.
“Save me some hot water.” Dean called after him. Pointing to the stairs he said to Valkyrie, “he’s doing better, I think so, don’t you?”
Valkyrie sat up, head cocked to one side, woofed softly.
“No, he falls for that, I don’t. You had enough, eat too much you’ll get fat.” A loud thud from the upper floor made him start, “What the…”
Racing through the house, up the stairs, Valkyrie on his heels Dean stopped short at the bathroom door. The thud must’ve been the door slamming back against the wall when Sam probably barreled into it. The look on his brother’s face twisted Dean’s stomach into small, hard knots. Afraid to look where Sam pointed, absolutely terrified not to, Dean shifted only his eyes.
Spray painted in some hideous, neon orange on the mirror, how trite and cliché, were the words….Get you…burn him… For a few seconds Dean stood there, too stunned to move. He stepped back, away from the bathroom door, then remembering Sam was still in there, he darted forward, grabbed his brother’s arm and pulled him out into the hall, bracing him against the wall, placing himself between Sam and the bathroom.
“Did you see him again?”
Sam shook his head no. A shudder ran through him, other than that he was perfectly still, quiet.
“Come on, we need to…” Clenching his fingers around Sam’s wrist when a second shudder ran through him, Dean pulled him along, heading toward the attic door. “Every inch of this house, we search every inch.”
Sam offered him no resistance, following quite willingly. Dean didn’t expect to find anything, and he wasn’t disappointed. Nothing, no can of paint, nothing out of place in the house. Hell the dog hadn’t even barked. How the hell did someone get in here, with he and Sam and the dog all on the first floor, in plain sight of the door? The back door? Some entrance in the basement or attic? Focus, focus, stay focused Winchester. He and Sam searched the house top to bottom again, and then again. No forgotten doors, no jimmied locks, no broken windows….nothing. Focus, stay focused.
This was just pissing him off! Dean smashed the mirror out of principle alone, screw the seven years bad luck. When he caught up with someone, something he…it was going to have centuries of bad luck, and that was if Dean was feeling generous and someone, something was really lucky.
An hour later they were in the Impala, speeding to town. Valkyrie sat on the seat between them, apparently she loved riding in the car. Sam was quiet, shivering every few minutes, hadn’t said a word since finding the writing on the mirror.
First stop was the grocery store parking lot. Sam gave him a funny look before getting out of the car, following Dean to the spot Abaddon had parked, taken Sam from. Dean sat on the guard rail, “Tell me everything you remember. Don’t try to make it fit in order, or make sense, just tell me what you remember.”
Sam looked around for a few minutes, studied the ground at his feet. “He, um…was by the car, trying to get the tire out. I remember that. And you were in the store, I could see you…” he turned, pointed to the window.
“Good, that’s good. Go on.”
Sam’s words stuttered, but he continued as Dean asked. “Um…I asked if he needed help. He said I was nice.” Sam bit his lip, pausing, running one hand through his bangs, moving them away from his eyes. “I think I tried to take the lug wrench, there was pain, sharp stinging, here…” his fingers touched his forearm. He smiled a quick smile that vanished immediately, “I remember thinking you’d be pissed ‘cause I couldn’t even go to the grocery store without trouble.”
Dean laughed, “You got that right. What else?”
Shaking his head, brows pulled down, concentrating, “I woke up in the car, I think I realized it wasn’t our car, not you driving, and that I was tied up. G-got there, t-to the house. He took his face off I think. That was creepy. And….woke up in a cage with the floor moving….I thought it was moving, must have been the drugs. But there’s something else, Dean there is, I can’t remember.”
“It’s ok, you’re trying too hard, don’t force it. Just look around and tell me if you remember anything else.”
“Yeah, I remember being scared and wishing like hell I’d stayed in the store to annoy you more.”
Smiling, Dean opened the car door, Valkyrie hopped in. “Let’s go.” He tipped his head at the passenger side door.
They drove to the next county, Dean made a few attempts at conversation, Sam offered only nods. He saw the shudders going through his brother every few minutes, but pretended not to notice. He finally gave up and turned on a tape, wishing he’d done so sooner. He relaxed, Sam relaxed too. Valkyrie, as usual, was delighted, front feet on Sam’s lap, nose stuck to the window, wagging tail brushing Dean’s arm occasionally. Dean didn’t even mind the wet smudges, well not completely.
Stopping down the road from the house, Dean was relieved to see no one was around. The drive was muddy and sloppy, the yard even more so. Valkyrie made it a point to splash through the puddles, just like any two year old. She raced ahead, then sprinted back to them, leaving muddy paw marks on their boots.
“You used to jump up and down in puddles, get yourself and me soaked.” Dean said.
“You used to hit me on the top of my head to make me stop.”
“Remember that do you?”
Sam smiled, nodding he did. His smile slid away as they rounded the final bend, a pile of smoldering wood, ash, twisted metal came into view. The remains of the house. The warmth of that happy memory trailed away, as did Sam, who slowed his pace, lagging behind. Dean slowed, matching his brother’s, not wanting to push too hard. When he stopped completely Dean reached back, took Sam’s elbow and gently urged him forward. Dean wondered if Sam honestly trusted him enough to do this, but in the end Dean’s instincts had been right on. Hesitating only a few seconds, their eyes locking, Sam followed him to the spot a house had once been.
While he poked around, shifting through the ashes with the toe of his boot, Dean kept a careful eye on his brother. Sam stopped next to one of the cages, the one he’d been in. Hearing a soft whimper, Dean turned, surprised to find Valkyrie lying next to the other cage, covered in ash and soot, head down in the approximate spot Brandon’s body had been. Without a word Dean walked carefully over the mess, picked up Valkyrie and carried her to the edge of the foundation, setting her on the ground above, and jumping back up there himself. He sat, legs dangling over the edge, watching Sam.
After a few minutes his brother turned to him, grief and fear, and something Dean couldn’t identify all over his face. “I remember a lot of things here. A girl, Kristen, and some kid whose name I never knew.” He pointed the spots out to Dean. “Brandon….I watched them all die, and I couldn’t do anything. I wanted to…I tried….I couldn’t get out…” His voice trailed off.
Dipping his head in the general direction of the car, “Come on. I think we got what we came for. Let’s go.”
Sam scrambled up the foundation, next to him in no time. As they crossed the yard, Dean’s cell rang. He had to put Valkyrie down to dig it out of his pocket. Flipping it open, missed call, he checked the caller ID and stopped so fast Sam was two feet away before realizing Dean wasn’t moving any longer.
“What’s the matter?”
“Where’s your cell phone Sammy?”
Shrugging, shaking his head, “Dunno. I didn’t have it when I woke up here.”
Dean turned the phone around, showing it to Sam. The caller ID read ‘Sam’s cell.’
It was probably a full minute before Sam swallowed hard, asking, “Are you going to listen to it, see if there’s a message?”
Drawing breath in deeply, Dean held the phone to his ear, stepped back, wanting to be sure Sam didn’t hear too. He replayed the voice mail, snapping the phone shut after a few seconds. Spinning on his heel, “Come on.” He started back to the car.
Sam stood, staring after him. “Dean. DEAN! What did it say?” Sprinting after his brother, “Dean?”
“In the car.”
“Dean.” Sam tried getting in front of him.
Dean side stepped Sam, barking, “I said in the car!”
Once back in the car, Dean gripped his phone in one hand. Sam was silent, but stole a sideways glance at him every few seconds. Finally catching his breath, locking the car door, and reaching so suddenly across Sam’s chest to lock his door Sam jumped, now staring at him outright.
“Would you recognize his voice?” Dean’s voice was rough.
‘I-I think so. I’m not sure. He didn’t talk a lot.” Sam swallowed, laid one hand on Dean’s shoulder. “You’re scaring me, what did the message say?”
Dean started the car, staring straight ahead. He pulled out onto the road.
“Dean? Where are we going?”
“To the cops.”
“Dean, please, tell me something.”
“The message said I’m watching. I see you with him and the dog.” Dean held out his phone.
“It what?” Sam’s voice was barely audible. He took the phone, listened, when he started shaking the phone dropped. He retrieved it, closing it carefully.
“Well?” Dean pressed down harder on the gas pedal. Eyes shifting to Sam, then back to the road in the next instant. “Sam?” Though he was taking Sam’s silence and shaking as a yes.
Sam nodded, “Him. It sounded like him.”
They arrived at the same police station Dean had gone to the week before, the day after Sam disappeared. Redding had been kind to Dean that day, more importantly he’d been incredibly kind to Sam. Never once acted like Sam was nuts, never said he didn’t believe the kid. The realization hit Dean, maybe he’d been that way because he knew more than he’d told the brothers. Dean was out of the car, into the building, Sam trailing behind. It took very little time before Dean and Sam were taken to an office.
When Tim Forge stepped into the room Dean stopped his pacing, planting himself squarely in front of Sam. Forge stayed a respectable distance from him, leaning on the desk.
Forge shrugged, “In court for the day.”
“We’re being followed. There was a note left on our front door last night, someone was in our house this morning, and just now, got a call from my brother’s cell. Sam is pretty sure it was his, Abaddon, McCreedy’s voice. Is there something you people aren’t telling us, cause really, this isn’t fun.” Dean snapped.
Forge moved away from the table, standing where he could see Sam, Dean immediately stepped between them again, not even trying to be subtle about it. Sam remained rooted to the same spot he’d been in since they’d gotten there, saying nothing. He knew better Dean reasoned.
“It’s possible there’s a copy cat.” Forge said, drawing in a breath, Dean really didn’t like or trust this man.
“And you didn’t tell us, warn us?”
“Look, you might want to consider letting us put your brother, you both in protective custody.”
“You want to put him in what is essentially a cage? No.”
“Not a jail cell, more like an apartment, safe house.”
“No, no one is locking him up anywhere.” Dean wanted to pound this guy to the ground, the only thing holding him back was Sam’s hand on his arm.
“There’s another possibility.” Forge looked down, Dean had the impression he was trying to figure out how to say what he wanted to say. Finally he raised his eyes, meeting Dean’s. “A hospital. Where he can get treatment. Sometimes victims can’t let go, do some things themselves. Keep the hostage situation going even after it’s done.”
Dean stared at the man, fists clenched and opened, breathing quickening when what Forge was trying to say sank in. “No one is locking my brother up, not in a jail, not in some psych ward. No!” I’ll put a bullet in us both first.
‘You think I had something to do with it?” Sam’s voice rose with each word.
Dean half turned to him, arched one eyebrow, covering Sam’s hand on him with his own. “Come on Sam.” He moved Sam toward the door.
“It’s not that uncommon. In a hospital, he can get help.”
“I’m not leaving him locked up in some hospital. No way. Besides, he’s been with me since leaving that house, I’d know.”
“Are you sure you’d know?”
Dean glared at Forge, then shifted his gaze for a few seconds to Sam, trying to read his face. Did he look guilty, or shocked, or plain afraid he’d be locked up somewhere, be taken from Dean, Dean taken from him? Dean wasn’t sure what was what anymore.
“I’m sure I can arrange for you to stay with him.”
Before Dean or Sam could say anything, Forge grabbed Dean’s arm, ushering him out of the room. Dean spun away from the man, now in a hall full of cops, with Sam on the other side of a door. The door at least had a window. Raising one hand, stopping Sam from charging the door, Dean shook his head the slightest. When Forge tried to move him farther Dean braced, not moving. “Say what you have to say here.”
“People see what they want to see sometimes, and minds can play tricks. I’ve seen lots of people fooled because they don’t want to see someone they love continue to torture themselves. They can’t get past the hostage situation, what put them in that frame of mind to begin with so they do things to keep it going. I don’t pretend to even begin to understand why. The best I can come up with it’s like some form of brainwashing. I do know if he doesn’t get help, if you’re not sure it isn’t him, he could end up being very harmful to himself. These things only escalate. I’ll look into it, I will. But that kid needs help.”
Before Dean could argue, or deck the asshole, Forge turned on his heel, disappearing down the hall in seconds. Yanking the door open, he stepped in far enough to grab Sam’s arm. “We’re done here.” Dean snapped, a little more harshly than he intended.
“What did he say?” Sam had to run to keep up.
“Not now Sam.” Really Sam, not ever!
“Just get the hell into the goddamn car.”
Not helpful, that had been not helpful. Dean left, towing Sam behind him. They were on their own. No matter what this thing turned out to be, they were going to have to deal with it themselves. Sam was completely silent as they drove away, staring straight out the front window. For once Dean had no clue what was going through the kid’s head. Sam wouldn’t do that. Couldn’t do that. Dean would know, how could he? Sam was never far enough from Dean to be out of sight. Except when he’d claimed to see Abaddon in the junk yard, and that morning in the bathroom….how could he have done the cell phone, the pictures? Sam had computer skills. Could he do those things with a computer? Dean really had no clear idea.
Pulling off the road, Dean shut down the engine. Sam didn’t look at him, just stared out the window.
“Sam, since this all started I can count the number of times on one hand,” Dean held up his hand for effect, “That you have been out of my sight. Sam look at me and tell me you didn’t do what he suggested, tell me you didn’t plant those notes, tell me he’s wrong, that you had nothing to do with any of it.”
Sam didn’t look at him, didn’t do anything. Dean wondered if he’d heard.
Dean’s heart clenched, his stomach turned violently when Sam cringed away from him, but turning his head, eyes finally meeting Dean’s. “I didn’t….I don’t…how could I?” He looked down suddenly, wiping his eyes with one hand that fell to his lap. “I don’t remember…Dean, I don’t know.”
Gripping the steering wheel with both hands, Dean leaned forward until his face rested against his knuckles. He resisted the urge to punch out the windshield. He had no idea how long he sat there, when he could finally look at his brother, Sam looked shattered.
“Don’t Sam.” Placing his hand on Sam’s neck, thumb rubbing just behind his ear, Dean forced a smile. “It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault. We’ll get through this, we will. We’ll be fine, we’ll figure it out, whatever it is and get through this.” Maybe if he said it enough, told Sam it enough, it would be true.
Sam’s nightmares came back that night.
Dean decided once this was all done and figured out, he was going to need a new brain.
She wished sometimes she could do more than observe. There were times she wished so much to offer them help. Times like this. Watching them, they amazed her once again, as they always did. As long as they had each other, it seemed there was nothing they couldn’t do, for others, for themselves. How often had they protected those in need, each other?
It was different how they went about it, the older, the younger. The older, in true fashion of any warrior used weapons, prowess, cunning, and when needed sheer physical force. The younger one was a bit different, no less capable, just less obvious. He used himself, especially with the older, to protect the protector. He was clever, that younger one, always seeming to know how and when to draw the other closer, using his own need to ensure the older didn’t take on a battle that would destroy him, them.
It came to them both so naturally. She wondered would they ever see in protecting each other they defended an entire world. In fighting for each other they fought for all mankind. Watching from her vantage point, their battle was upon them and did they know the solution was so simple? They had each other, to fight for each other, protect each other. That was how battles were won. It was how they would win theirs.
Sam sat at the kitchen table; cards from Bobby’s card file spread in stacks around him. He knew Dean’s reasons for asking him to do this. One was to occupy him, distract him. The other far simpler, Dean didn’t want to do it himself. Sam didn’t mind, he liked the distraction. He liked having something to do that helped Dean.
He knew Dean felt backed into a corner. There was no other reason he would lash out at Sam the way he’d done in the last day. Dean was on his own, floundering with this mess. Sam needed his brother, and knew Dean needed him just as much. However Sam hadn’t been a lot of help, if anything he was becoming a burden. Feeling lost, frightened and alone, if Sam could only remember. He doubted himself, wondered if that man, Forge hadn’t been right. Maybe Sam was somehow doing these things himself, that Abaddon was dead, there was no spirit, nothing more than Sam’s subconscious acting up on him. But he’d had no memory loss, at least he didn’t think so. Starting to seriously doubt himself. Worse was what all this was doing to Dean, who was trying so hard to set it all right, take care of Sam, not stick him in some psych ward where he’d probably be drugged. And alone. Maybe Dean should put him there, not look back.
Never had Sam felt so confused, so unsure. It didn’t help that Dean changed his mind hourly, his confidence and judgment shaken. Sam didn’t have any missing time, but would he know it? Wasn’t that sort of the definition of missing time, it was missing? He and Dean had done all they knew to be sure there wasn’t some kind of possession happening. Drawing a circle in the dirt in Bobby’s junk yard first Dean had draped a rosary over Sam’s neck, then dowsed him thoroughly with holy water, then Sam drank it. Stepping into the circle with Sam they repeated the same process on Dean. They recited incantations and used every herb and potion either one could think of.
In the end Dean had thrown up his hands in frustration, stalking away mumbling something about demons and spirits at least being consistent. That had made Sam smile.
Twisting in his chair, he could see Dean through the window. He was just outside, as he’d promised not going anywhere Sam couldn’t see him easily. Dean was on the phone. Closing the phone he was up the steps in one jump. A second later, moving briskly, he was in the kitchen.
“Ok, I left Bobby a message, couldn’t talk to him, but told him to call me, we’d explain further when we could talk. I didn’t want him worried.” Dean sat across from him, with that one act his whole demeanor changed. His face softened, as did his voice. “How’s it going with that kiddo?” In the span of a few seconds Dean went from antsy hunter to astoundingly patient big brother, treating Sam like he was some fragile two year old. It was kinda creepy.
“Ok.” Sam shrugged a bit, barely glancing up at his brother.
Sighing, “Sammy, you gotta talk to me dude. You’ve barely said anything since we went to the cops yesterday. You’re seriously weirding me out here. Since when has there been anything you couldn’t talk to me about, tell me?” Dean took a stack of cards, started sorting them.
“I was thinking. Maybe, uh….maybe what Forge said, about going somewhere, a hospital….”
Dean put down the cards, folded his hands in front of him, looking steadily at Sam. “Is that what you want? Or is that what you think will be easier for me? Cause if it’s the latter, Sammy, you’re wrong.”
“No. I don’t want to. Not at all. I just thought…”
“Well stop. It’s my fault. We shouldn’t have gone there, talked to him. It’s insane, what he said.”
“You didn’t know. It’s not your fault.”
“I know I would hate myself if you where stuck away, somewhere like that. Haven’t I always looked out for you, taken care of you? What makes you think that needs to change now? Just because things are a little rougher than normal, that doesn’t change Sammy. You want to see someone, we’ll go, but being committed, I can’t agree to that. And Sam, for the record, I don’t think you’re crazy.”
“Well, that’s a comfort.” Sam said dryly, grinning at Dean’s stunned expression. Smiling even more when Dean cracked a grin too. “Dean if it was me…..I don’t remember.”
Dean nodded, studying him, scrutinizing him for a minute or so. “Then it wasn’t you.”
He’d said it with such conviction Sam could only feel grateful, and for the first time since he’d left Dean standing in the store Sam felt things might really be ok, someday soon.
Tim Forge read, and reread the report he’d pulled from his printer. He’d learned long ago what was written on paper and what he saw in front of him was often two different, seriously conflicting things. This was definitely one of those times.
When the desk officer called, told him to check out the news Forge knew he was out of time. It was on the local station, only a matter of a few hours before it went statewide. How the hell did the story get out? He’d covered it for a day, hoping to have more time. Now he was out of time. Worse yet, a nice kid whose only crime since being in the state had been offering to change a damn tire was possibly out of time too.
He’d blown it yesterday, blown it big time with Barnaby, or Winchester or whatever the hell the guy was calling himself this week. And that kid just might die because he’d screwed up. The kid he was trying so hard to keep alive. Not nearly as hard as the kid’s brother was however, Dean Barnaby or Winchester or Dean Whoever-The-Hell-You-Are-This-Week. The man had skills, that was obvious. Having practically no leads he’d tracked his brother down. Dean Whoever wasn’t the only one with skills. Tim Forge had skills too.
It would take him nearly an hour to get to Singer’s Junk yard. A lot could happen in a minute, a lot more could happen in sixty.
Sirens and flashers on Tim drove, navigating the country roads as fast as he dared. His mind churned faster than his car moved. Murderers didn’t walk into police stations, twice, TWICE for chrissake, risking not only their freedom, but their lives for some information and help, not ones with skills like Dean Whoever. They didn’t give two rips about anyone but themselves, and they didn’t break into dead people’s apartments to rescue little dogs. They most certainly didn’t protect anyone the way Dean Whoever did that brother of his, even after Forge’s blundered attempt to get the kid out of that house, make Dean Whoever dump him and run. But he hadn’t dumped and ran; he’d hung on tighter and fought back. If what Forge read were really true Dean Whoever’s brother would be a serious liability about now, and murderers didn’t keep liabilities hanging around either.
Things written on pieces of paper could be wrong. Things you saw with your own eyes? More often than not were right.
He should have come clean with them, followed them yesterday and laid it all out. He’d have to make amends for that mistake. He tried the junk yard’s phone, call didn’t go through.
A mile from Singer’s yard he cut the sirens and flashers. It didn’t look like anyone was home when he pulled in front of the house. Turning off the engine, Forge drew his gun, ran up the porch steps and kicked open the door.
Sam watched Dean as his brother moved around the kitchen, packing food. “What are you doing?”
Before answering Dean went to the other room, switched on the TV, turning it up. “That asshole cop had one thing right Sammy, we need to not be here. We’re leaving. We’ll get a hotel in town.”
“We’re running away?” Sam blurted out the words before he could stop himself. This wasn’t Dean, not like Dean at all. Dean never ran, not unless he was really scared…Dean is never scared…scared he couldn’t make sure Sam was safe.
Whirling on him, looking angry and frightened all at once Dean shouted, “Yes, Sam! We’re running away.” Deep breath that calmed him almost instantly, he dropped his voice to normal. “We’ll leave tonight, when it’s dark. Staying here isn’t worth being terrorized and stalked. Whatever…whoever this is, I think is real serious about killing us. I’m not willing to risk it, risk you. I told Bobby not to come here till he talked to us first. Get those cards finished, we leave this place looking like nothing has been here. No trail to follow.” Jabbing one finger in the air in Sam’s direction he ground out his last few words, “This time you’ll listen to me.”
“Ok.” Sam was really in no shape to argue, and he knew it.
Dean had bags loaded with food, and Valkyrie’s food and toys. He carted it all closer to the back door, placing them to one side of a table laden with books, keeping the stuff out of sight.
Sam barely noticed, his attention riveted to the television. Dean proceeded to moving the recliner back to its original position, saying something Sam absolutely did not process.
“Dean.” Sam barely whispered. His brother hadn’t heard him, or was more likely too engrossed in his project to hear him. “Dean!” Shouting this time.
Turning to look at him, stunned, spreading his hands wide, Dean asked, “What is it Sammy?”
Sam could only point at the TV. When Dean pivoted to look, Sam heard him swear under his breath. Sam left the table, stopping just behind his brother, hand on Dean’s shoulder, he had an overwhelming need to feel a physical connection. Dean gave him an odd look when Sam’s breathing quickened, became raspy, grabbed his elbow.
They watched the Special Report…Another boy kidnapped two days ago. Found dead yesterday, same type of mutilations, burnings as the others, as Kristen and Brandon. The picture showed a young man with dark brown longish hair. A young man, who from a distance, could have been mistaken for Sam.
“I see it Sam. I’m just not understanding it.”
Sam gasped, then gulped, so much so Dean’s hand left his elbow, and both hands landed a powerful grip on Sam’s shoulders when words tumbled out of his mouth too fast, and probably making no sense.
“Slow down.” Dean shook him a fraction. “Sam, slow down.”
Hands on Dean’s arms, Sam tried again, “Two Dean. There were two, Dean there were two.”
Dean frowned, “What? Are you sure?
“Yes! That’s what I’ve been missing, at first, when he first took me to the house, someone came out and helped him carry me inside, down to the basement. I kicked one of them.”
“That’s victim twelve, Dean there are two!”
Dean’s head jerked around to the TV again. Turning back to Sam, “We’re leaving now.”
As if on cue, the television sputtered, and died. There were no lights on, it was daytime, but there was the distinct sound of the refrigerator stopping. The brothers took only a few seconds to exchange looks, before Dean reached over and tried a lamp. The switch clicked, no light showed through the shade. Sam tried another one, with the same effect.
From under the kitchen table Valkyrie growled. Hackles raised, she puffed up to nearly double her size, showing some good-sized teeth for a little dog.
Not moving from where they stood, each pivoted, visually scanning all of the rooms they could see. Stepping to the kitchen, Dean pulled on Sam’s arm, which was really unnecessary since Sam had no intention of standing there by himself.
Dean grabbed their jackets on the way by, “We’ll come back for the rest later. I’ll get the dog. Car is by the back door. Stick close.”
Sam smiled in spite of the fact he felt jittery and shaky. He wondered if Dean noticed that if Sam stuck any closer just then they’d have to wear the same clothes. No way was he not sticking close.
Reaching under the table, “Come on chicky,” Dean scooped Valkyrie up, whacking his head on the table trying to get out from under it too fast, probably because of Sam’s horrified gasp.
Once straightened, Dean turned into a flurry of activity. In the same movement he dropped Valkyrie, shoved Sam back, and overturned the table. The shotgun the man---the man looking like Abaddon---held clattered to the floor when he was hit by the flying table.
“You killed my brother!” Abaddon shouted.
“He shouldn’t have tried to kill mine.” Dean spat, moving so fast Abaddon didn’t have the time to react before Dean landed a punch to his face.
“Brother?” Sam rasped out.
“We were together our whole lives, every day, we shared a womb, and you took him from me.”
Sam felt sorry for him, if something happened to Dean, if he was taken away or killed…Sam felt this man’s anguish. Standing here, in front of them, like he was, suddenly Abaddon, or Abaddon’s brother, or whoever he was didn’t generate in Sam the same fear he had a week ago. Result of Dean’s presence between them, or the pity Sam felt for his former capture, or some combination of both.
“You’ll have to forgive me for not feeling sorry for you!” Dean kicked the shotgun away as Abaddon lunged across the floor at it. “He, you, the two of you hurt people, killed them, and for what, cheap thrills?”
Abaddon was up, scrambling away from Dean, who was advancing on him. Nearly on top of him, Dean reached down, hands going for Abaddon’s collar, to pull him up and Sam figured to knock him out. Abaddon rolled to one side, grabbing up a chair and smashed it into the side of Dean’s head. Clamoring to his feet as Dean dropped, Abaddon ran out the door.
Sam was at Dean’s side in less than a heartbeat. Dropping to one knee long enough to hear Dean spout “sonofabitch..” Knowing Dean was ok, Sam took off after Abaddon, paying no attention to Dean’s shouts demanding he stop, come back.
In the brief few seconds it took him to make sure Dean wasn’t badly hurt Sam lost sight of Abaddon. Going only twenty or thirty feet into the maze of wreckage that was the junk yard Sam stopped and listened. He couldn’t hear anything. Doubling back to the house, he’d get Dean, and some weapons, they’d track the guy. Sam barely slowed when he got to the house, the front door was open, hoping Dean was still inside, he was up the steps and in the house in a few long strides. He had to find Dean.
Sam slammed to a stop, throwing his hands up.
Catching a glimpse of Sam through the open door, he was moving full speed when he hit the porch, barely slowing down to vault the railing and disappeared into the junk yard after Abaddon.
“Damn it!” Dean staggered to his feet, through the house and followed Sam. “Sammy!” But Sam paid no attention. Great, picks now to act like himself. Hand pressed to his temple, Dean fell down the steps more than ran down them. An entire new universe was born in the amount of stars sparking into being along the edges of his vision. His feet tangled together, he dropped to his knees with a hiss and a grunt.
Taking in the deepest breaths he could, Dean willed his vision and head to clear, and they listened for once. Too bad Sam couldn’t. Lurching to his feet Dean was moving again. Stalking through the yard he could care less if he found Abaddon, or Abaddon’s twin, or whoever the hell it was. He wanted only to find Sam. Now that they’d both seen the guy Dean fully intended to let the cops deal with this.
Rounding each pile of stacked cars, Dean stopped, listening intently with keen hearing for Sam’s footsteps, his breathing, his voice, anything to lead Dean to him. Hearing movement behind him, Dean turned in time to see someone come at him. Abaddon screamed, and flung himself, arms out, hands clawing, at Dean. Stepping back, bracing to catch the weight, Dean caught the man, shoving him to one side. Abaddon’s hands got purchase around his neck, but not with enough power or grip to do much damage.
“Where’s Sam?” Dean shouted.
“After I finish you, I’m going after him.”
It was all the information Dean needed. The man had no idea where Sam was, hadn’t gotten to him, didn’t have him tied up or trapped somewhere. Shouting, Dean brought both fists up and slammed them down as hard as he could on Abaddon’s forearms. Pulling back his right fist plowed into Abaddon’s middle several times, doubling him over. As he bent in two Dean hit him repeatedly in the face. Using his shirt collar for a handle Dean straightened the guy, landing more punches to his face and jaw.
Abaddon somehow managed to get a foot around Dean’s leg, kicking him down. Crab walking backwards, panting, trying to escape Dean, Abaddon got far enough away he flipped over, staggered to his feet, tried to run. Using a stack of old tires as a support he staggered around them, then started throwing them at Dean.
Each one Dean swatted to the side like they were annoying bugs. Each hit sent spikes of pain up his arms, each one fueled his anger. He didn’t stop, slow down one bit, just kept moving at Abaddon in even, determined, furious paces. When Abaddon ducked to the side, tried running, Dean sprinted after him, stopping him with a tackle. Pinning the other man with his own weight, straddling him, Dean got in a few more punches before Abaddon managed a few hits to Dean’s face, throwing him back just enough to give Abaddon the chance to push away from the ground. He tried rolling Dean over, but Dean was ready for the move, Abaddon didn’t succeed in totally freeing himself, was just able to twist to the side. It threw Dean off enough the creep got his hands around Dean’s neck, forcing him back and down, pressing off Dean’s air with his weight.
Shouting hoarse and wordless, Dean brought both hands up, slamming his fists into either side of Abaddon’s head. He heard a sickening thud, felt movement of bone under his hands, and didn’t really care right then.
Abaddon fell away from him, face down in the dirt. Dean knelt in the dirt beside him, leaning both hands heavily against his thighs, gulping air into his deprived lungs, coughed a bit. The sound of footsteps, not Sam’s, he didn’t make that much noise, and then the distinct sound of a shot gun being pumped caused Dean to turn his head to one side, looking.
Letting out a breath of relief, Dean straightened, looked at the man and wiped the back of his hand over his lips. “I don’t mind saying, I’m glad to see you.”
“He dead?” The tip of the shotgun jerked at Abaddon.
Dean shook his head, “I don’t know.” Realizing he was probably being requested to check that out, Dean leaned to one side, feeling for a pulse. Nodding stiffly, “No, he’s got a pulse, breathing.”
“Well less paperwork that way.”
The shotgun didn’t waver, which was beginning to make Dean nervous. “You want to put that thing down?”
He ignored Dean’s request. “Course we can make a case either way, with your brother as a witness and the pictures, we can lift prints from the photos. Hope you still have them.”
Dean slowly climbed to his feet. “I told Forge about notes, a phone call, nothing about photos.” The damn shotgun still hadn’t really gone anywhere. “You going to put that thing down?” He repeated the request, putting more force into his voice.
Dean shook his head, didn’t say anything.
“His name is Joey,” Redding motioned to the figure on the ground. “Arty is who you killed, died because of your brother.”
Dean’s eyes flicked to the man on the ground, then back again to Redding’s face. “You know them?”
“Their whole lives.”
Bobby had jugs of holy water all over the yard, there was one a few feet from Dean. Holy water or regular water, a gallon jug was still ten pounds. Half expecting Redding’s eyes to suddenly turn some color, filled completely, Dean shifted to one side.
“Where is he?”
Dean shook his head. “I don’t know.” It was the truth.
“You wouldn’t tell me anyway, would you? I have to kill him you know, so he can’t tell anyone what they did.”
“No, I sure as hell wouldn’t.”
Redding shook his head, “I had to cover up for them, protect them, my brothers. You understand that, don’t you?”
“They killed people, kids. They were kids. Sam is only twenty-three, just a kid. Their families have to live with how they died, suffering, scared. My brother has to live with what was done to him the rest of his life, he’ll never forget, he may never be the same again. And you let them? Helped them?” Dean’s voice rose, he got a few more steps toward the jug before Redding barked a laugh at him.
“You would do anything to protect your brother.”
“Sam would never do anything like that.”
“What would you do if he did?”
Dean glared at him, “He wouldn’t, period.” Another step toward the jug.
Joey groaned. Redding’s attention shifted to him, mumbling the name under his breath. Dean didn’t stop to feel sorry for him, he ducked down, snatching the jug. In one swift movement it was open, and water was flung at Redding. Dean was almost disappointed when it did nothing but get him wet. Dean dropped as the shotgun discharged, rolled closer to Redding and came up, cracking him in the side of the head with the now half filled jug. Grabbing Redding’s arm Dean tried wrestling the gun from his grasp. It lowered, Dean shoved the gun away from him as Redding managed to fire a second time. Dean heard the distinctive sound of bullet impacting flesh, a strangled grunt from behind him.
Redding forced him around, to the side trying to get a clear view of Joey. Dean’s head snapped around, a pool of blood oozed out from Joey’s head, his eyes open and staring vacantly. He was dead.
“You bastard!” Redding swung the shotgun up, hitting Dean’s shoulder.
Staggering back, Dean had to take a few quick steps away from Redding to keep from being knocked to the ground. The shotgun trained on him. Shouting from one of the stacks of flattened scrap iron drew both their attention. Dean didn’t need to look, he recognized the voice. Sam hurled off the closest pile of wreckage at Redding.
Redding swung in Sam’s direction, firing. Dean heard two weapons discharge. Redding crumpled to the ground.
Dean flung himself at Sam. “SAMMY!!!”
XIII Sam didn’t stop to think about much other than he was staring at the business end of a pistol, a cop he didn’t trust and his brother was no where in sight, which meant Sam needed to get going and find him.
Flying furniture was always a good distraction. He grabbed a kitchen chair and flung it at Tim Forge. The cop rolled his shoulders to one side, taking the blow, bounced away a few more steps and to Sam’s utter annoyance still had the pistol trained on his chest. Sam tried his best to look treacherous, a feat he’d actually never managed to pull off, and the fact he probably wasn’t now didn’t help his cause any he was sure.
“Kid, I’m on your side, I’m one of the good guys.” Forge barked.
“What did you do with my brother? Where’s Dean?” Yeah, that made him really sound big, bad and lethal. Dean was going to beat him, or kill him, or both for what he did next, but he did it anyway. He really didn’t have the time to deal with this cop and his stupid gun. He tended to forget his size, remembering he was bigger, younger, and likely faster and stronger, Sam charged Forge. Got one good hit to the man’s middle, annoyance growing when Forge grunted, but didn’t go down. It was like fighting Dean……perfect!
“Sweet Jesus, kid, are you nuts?” Forge lurched back, forcing his pistol down, shooting a lovely little hole in Bobby’s kitchen floor.
“You seemed to think so!” Sam shot back, which to his utter surprise made Forge laugh.
“No one was here when I got here. So you tell me, where is your brother?” He didn’t dodge another punch quite fast enough. Sam’s fist clipped his jaw. Forge, Sam noticed was making a real effort to stay out of arm’s reach.
A loud bang clattered around the junk yard, the unmistakable sound of a shotgun. He and Forge both turned toward the sound.
“Your brother armed?”
Sam shook his head. The gun Abaddon carried was still along the wall where Dean had kicked it. “I’m not sure.”
“Listen to me kid, you’re brother is out there with a psychopath. We can either dance around here till one of us knocks the other out, or we can go give him a hand. But I’m not the one you should be fighting. Every second we spend is one your brother might not have.”
Considering the man for another second or two, he was right, Sam knew it. Nodding, “Ok.”
Forge grinned, holstering his gun, a curt nod back and they were out the door. “Hang on a sec.” Forge stopped at his car, surprising Sam by what he grabbed out of the back, handed to Sam. “You might need this.”
Sam took the offering, looked at it in his hand. “Thanks.” He said it with complete sincerity.
“This place is a maze. Got any ideas?” Forge asked.
“Yeah, I know every inch of this place,” Sam sprinted into the piles of scrapped cars. “Hasn’t changed in years, it came from this way.” He pointed as they ran.
Getting close enough to hear voices Forge motioned for Sam to circle around, he’d go in head on. Sam scrambled up one of the many scrap heaps, mainly to get a better view. Horrified, he watched as Redding turned a shotgun on Dean. Without much thought again, Dean was really going to hurt him, Sam shouted, drawing Redding’s attention. He threw himself off the pile of scrap, hearing the crack of the shotgun’s discharge an instant too late. He’d jumped straight into the line of fire.
Dean was going to freak.
Dean fought to keep his vision from clouding over when he saw Sam take a shotgun blast full in the chest. The momentum of Sam’s leap met with a bullet smashing into his chest threw him back. He crashed into the scrap pile, then heaped to the ground. When he heard the discharge of a pistol Dean dropped over Sam, covering his body completely with his own. Gulping in sobs of air, get it together, get it together, Dean righted almost immediately, flipping Sam over, sprawling him across his legs. SammySammySammy!
Where’s the blood? There’s no goddamn blood….Not that he was disappointed. His hands frantically moved over Sam’s chest, automatically trying to apply pressure to….somewhere….and why the HELL wouldn’t his stupid, damn brain work?
Sam’s back arched, his torso lifting off Dean’s legs, only to slam back down. He made some gagging, sobbing, choking noise that bubbled up from his chest, reached out and grabbed Dean’s arms, sounding for all the world like he couldn’t breath.
“SonofagoddamnmotherwhorefreakingassholeBITCH!” Sam screamed the last word through clenched teeth, gasping for air, he rolled on his side, clawing at Dean’s leg, then clamped on with such intensity it brought more tears to Dean’s eyes. “Dean...” Sam sounded like he was choking on something. “Hurts, Dean…Dean, can’t breathe, god, Dean hurts, make it stop…DEAN!”
“God, get it off him, he can’t breath.” Forge appeared from nowhere.
Bending his knees, Dean pushed Sam up. Sam was gulping air, or trying to, biting his lip, hands gripping Dean like he was a life preserver, clawing at his sweatshirt. “Get what off?” Dean snarled, pushing Forge’s hands away when he bent and grabbed at Sam.
Forge refused to be pushed, jerking back toward Sam, this time pulling at his shirt. Dean forgot that he should probably be offended by this man trying to yank Sam’s shirt off when he saw something black against Sam’s chest. At the same time it registered in his brain what his hands were feeling. Hard. Something hard…..”Shit.”
Dean pulled Sam up so he was sitting completely straight. Forge got to one side, Dean ripped at the straps along Sam’s other side. They yanked the vest from Sam, who immediately collapsed across Dean’s legs, shivering and pulling breaths like a newborn. He’d taken the shot from Redding’s gun full force, pretty much point blank. Then been tossed back into the pile of scrap metal. The vest, while absorbing the bullet, keeping Sam from having a hole in his chest had dented. The impact against his back caused it to dent across his shoulder blades. Large bruises were starting to show, snaking along Sam’s chest, across his back.
“I told you it would keep you from getting filled with holes. I never said it would keep you from getting hurt.”
“You gave him the vest?” Dean looked up.
“Yeah. Well, actually I gave him his vest.” Forge pointed back at Redding’s body.
“Thank you.” Dean could barely get the whispered words out of his too tight throat.
When Dean tried pulling Sam up the kid let loose with another string of obscenities Dean didn’t even know Sam knew. Finally he contented himself with draping one arm across Sam’s shoulders, letting him rest there for a few minutes.
“I ask you two to watch my place for a little while and you make a goddamn bloody mess out of it?”
Dean looked up. Bobby looked down at the two of them.
“Get the hell away from them.” Bobby snapped, shotgun trained on Forge.
Forge took a few steps back, hands up, spread wide, “Sir, please don’t shoot me.”
Bobby sort of snarled at him, but didn’t shoot. “And boy, where in the goddamn hell did you learn to cuss like that?”
Sam lifted his head, hand against his forehead, with the other he pointed at Bobby, “You.” Head swiveling around till he met Dean’s gaze, motioning with little enthusiasm at his brother, “Him.”
Grumbling something Dean didn’t hear, probably didn’t want to hear Bobby shrugged out of the flannel shirt he wore, tossing it at Dean. Carefully coaxing Sam into more of a sitting position, Dean wrapped Bobby’s flannel around Sam’s trembling shoulders. “C’mere.” One arm around Sam’s shoulders, rubbing his back lightly with the other hand, “Don’t you ever do that to me again.”
“Ok.” Sam agreed, nodding and curled into Dean’s grasp, against his chest.
“That’s my boy.” Dean said, loud enough only Sam could hear, using that special tone reserved only for Sam. Then to Bobby, “I said don’t come back till we could fill you in.”
“Which was the fastest way to get me back here. I thought it was one of your silly codes.” Bobby took another look around. “What do we do with them?” He motioned to the bodies.
“Leave them right where they are, I’ll get this mess taken care of.” Forge said. ‘Um, can I put my hands down now?”
Bobby grumbled again, but lowered his gun. “You two sit tight, I’ll go get my pickup, he shouldn’t try to walk just yet.”
Dean could only nod and pull Sam a little closer.
Bobby was back a few minutes later, Valkyrie bouncing out of the door after him. “Who is this?”
“Valkyrie.” The brothers said together. She sprinted to them, jumping up to lick their faces, wriggling and turning in circles trying to absorb all the pats they offered at once.
Forge helped Dean hoist Sam to his feet. Walking a bit bent, hands against his damaged ribs and leaning heavily against Dean they got Sam settled into the bed of the truck. Dean jumped in after him, sitting close beside his younger brother. Valkyrie followed Dean. Forge looked from them to the cab of the pickup and back again.
“Get in here, I won’t hurt you.” Bobby shouted.
Giving the brothers one last look Forge headed to the passenger door, “O-ok.”
Once back at the house Forge set to work, calling from his car for coroner and an investigative team, and whoever. Dean listened, a little astounded, as Forge reported how Redding and the surviving McCreedy twin had taken Dean and Sam hostage at gunpoint. How they’d been shot, preventing the killing of their hostages. Sam, Forge happily informed his superiors, was the only person who could identify the maniac who’d held him prisoner. Dean simply was getting in the way of McCreedy finishing what he’d started with Sam, and was possibly the killer’s next intended victim. By the time Forge was done he had Dean believing the whole thing was gospel truth. For a cop the man could lie like no one Dean knew.
Forge climbed the porch steps when he was done, taking Bobby’s offer of a beer. He leaned against the railing, facing the other three men, sitting in chairs along the house. “I’ll keep your names out of the news as much as I can. I think I can get a gag order until it’s officially closed, but that won’t last too long considering there’ll be no trial.”
“Thanks.” Dean took another sip of beer, “For everything.”
“Don’t thank me yet. I owe you both a huge ass apology.”
“You mean the crack about Sam and his grip on reality?” Dean asked, a little more nasty in his voice than he intended.
Forge shook his head, “No, actually. I knew Redding was involved almost from the start, I just could never prove it, or figure out how they were pulling some things off. Twins,” he shook his head again, swigging more beer, “Damn, never saw that one coming though. I thought it was only Redding and the one brother. So when you,” he dipped his head at Sam, “got out I knew Redding would be forced, at some point to do something, hopefully slip up. I thought it would be for revenge and to be sure you couldn’t identify him.”
“So you used my brother as bait!” Dean snarled, stopped from rising by Sam’s hand on his arm.
“No. I wouldn’t use a victim as bait. Actually I used, or intended to use you. I do think you were the next intended target, even before you found your brother. I didn’t know for sure Redding was trailing you both until you came to the station the other day. I figured he thought Sam could identify him too, and would remember sooner or later. And I was betting you could take care of yourself. I should have come clean with you both, I really did want him out of this house. I thought there were two, not three. As to why they did what they did, well only they know the answer to that, and I guess they won’t be talking anytime soon. And I’m sorry.” He set his beer down as two vans pulled into the junk yard, one marked county coroner, the other county sheriff. “I’d best get this mess all tidied up for you.”
Before either Dean or Sam could say anything Forge was down the steps, meeting the vans, directing them to the bodies.
Bobby told them to stay as long as they needed, and Dean knew he meant it too. Bobby rarely said anything he didn’t mean. Not wanting to seem ungrateful they’d stayed a few days. Dean would have preferred to follow his original instincts, pack Sam in the car and drive. While Sam was still pretty much not out of Dean’s sight, more to the point Dean out of his, he was getting better. He actually smiled a few times, looked less and less like a hunted deer. Dean wasn’t kidding himself, it would be months, maybe never, before Sam was back to the person he’d been. The nightmares scaled back in number and intensity, but Dean knew it made Sam uncomfortable being there, in someone’s house, waking up shouting as he often did. Bobby, bless him, never said a word about it, but they both knew Sam’s nightmares were no secret.
Dean decided they needed to leave two evenings later when Bobby lit a fire in the fireplace before Dean could stop him. They’d given Bobby almost no details of what happened to Sam during his time in Abaddon’s prison. Dean really had few more details himself. The poor kid nearly swallowed his tongue when the fire started cracking and popping, then retreated hastily to the porch, not being coaxed inside until he fell asleep in one of the rickety wooden chairs. Dean woke his brother, shoving him inside before Sam was really awake enough to protest.
Sam’s expression nearly broke Dean’s heart the next morning when Bobby tried getting one of them to go to town with him, help him pick up some orders, probably thinking the diversion would do them good. Dean offered to spend the morning working on some of the cars brought in, to help Bobby catch up, claiming he’d feel better if Sam stayed with him. He figured Sam had been under foot for a while now, and probably would be for some time to come, he wasn’t going to push the kid off on even Bobby. He wasn’t sure he’d trust even Bobby right now to look out for Sam. It was what Dean did, needed to do. Dean never minded, or even thought to complain about the situation, never once in his life even questioned it should be any other way.
Dean wished, really wished he’d listened to the little voice that told him to leave the day before when late that morning Tim Forge drove into the yard.
Forge stood at the bottom of the porch steps, clearly not wanting to go any farther. Dean’s eyes focused immediately on papers held in Forge’s hands. He knew, without looking Sam did the same thing. Dean’s stomach lurched, mouth dried, he felt a bit dizzy for a second or two. He had a sinking feeling he knew what those papers were. Hearing Sam’s harsh, ragged breathing close behind him, Dean recognized Sam came to the same conclusion, with a bit different reaction, results.
Dean had no delusions about his brother. Even though Sam rarely fought or became physically violent, in fact avoided it most times, when he felt the need he was about as harmless as a horny, hungry, wounded grizzly bear. Sam, Dean knew, without even looking at him was feeling the need. Dean was only just beginning to understand that as much as he needed Sam, feared being without him, alone, Sam felt that way times ten. The only difference being until their dad died Sam simply hadn’t conceived of Dean not being there, even when they were physically separated. Since then his confidence in that regard had been badly shaken when the idea sunk in separation was liable to be a permanent one, result of Dean’s death. Sam’s sticking so close the last months had been as much for his own benefit as Dean’s.
This cop was most likely here to arrest him, take him away, put him in jail, he’d undoubtedly get a death sentence for murders he didn’t commit. While Dean wasn’t too concerned he’d get away if arrested, the place Sam was in right now prevented him from having the same opinion Dean did. Sam was reacting purely to the threat of Dean being taken away, Dean could feel it radiating off him in tidal waves. Pulling one over on cops, feds, was one thing, actually damaging one, killing one was another. Stupid and troublesome, it would bring every cop, wannabe cop, department store security guard, fed and court official down on them.
This could get real ugly real fast.
Turning to Sam long enough to give his arm a squeeze and a ‘stay put’ look Dean knew this was just going to be big trouble. Every muscle Sam owned was clenched, coiled, ready to strike, he looked back with wide, bright eyes, glared at Dean. But for a few minutes at least he’d do what Dean wanted and stay there. If such a thing as cuffs appeared, Dean thought it pretty unlikely he’d actually be able to stop Sam from attacking Forge. He could only hope Forge wasn’t fast enough with his gun.
This could get really, really ugly, really, really fast.
Walking down a few of the porch steps Dean planted himself directly between Forge and his brother, not exactly sure at this point which one he was actually protecting. “What can we do for you today?”
“I wanted to apologize again for not telling you both everything from the start. There’s a victims’ fund in the state, I took the liberty of putting in for it, for Sam, and you.” He held out an envelope to Dean. “And I took the liberty of cashing it for you.”
Dean stared at the offering for a minute, heard Sam suck in his breath, before he reached out, meeting Forge halfway, taking the envelope. Both men immediately retreated back a pace once Dean’s fingers closed around it. He opened it, took one quick glance at the small thickness of hundreds before shoving it into his back pocket.
“I thought you might want these too.” Forge swallowed, giving Dean the definite impression the man was worried for his safety and wellbeing, and was still taking a plunge. He stepped closer, pushing a folded paper, and a second, opened, envelope into Dean’s hand. “You can do with them whatever you want. I figure it must be some mistake, obviously a mistake.”
Dean unfolded the paper first. Sam was now hanging over his shoulder, looking down at the paper. Dean’s face and his FBI wanted flyer stared back. Sam snatched it from his grasp. Dean pulled paperwork from the second envelope, arrest warrant, rap sheet. Sam snatched those away too. Dean met Forge’s steady gaze.
“I sure don’t see anyone here who would do those things.”
“Guess you have really good eyesight.” Dean smiled enough to look friendly. “Thanks.” A quick glance back at Sam, “For everything.”
“You two take care of each other.” Forge turned, heading back to his car. Stopping after a few steps he turned back, smiling. “Oh, and so much as run a stop sign in this state, and I’ll have to look again.”
Dean cracked a true grin this time, “I’m a superb driver. Would never so much as think about running a stop sign.”
“That’s good to know, I hate rereading things.” He turned, walked back to his car, pulling open the door he stopped again, half in and half out of the vehicle. “Oh, and I know about the offer Redding made to you.”
“Guess that’s a bust huh?”
Sliding fully into the car, “Actually, no. Still stands. Crooks make the best cops, I know.” Pulling the door shut, he rolled down the window, “So do hunters.” He waved, honked and drove away.
Dean blinked at the retreating car then turned fully to Sam, who stood there with his mouth open, eyebrows so far up they’d vanished under his bangs. He simply cocked his head to one side, giving Dean a questioning look. Dean supposed his own expression mimicked Sam’s, minus the bangs.
“We need to leave, as soon as Bobby is back, we’re outa here.”
“Yeah.” Sam agreed, then a small smile, not gone in an instant this time. Dean was keeping count of those, they were being offered a little more each day.
It was much later in the day than Dean would have liked before they were able to leave. Saying good-bye to Bobby turned out to be much easier for both than it was saying good-bye to Valkyrie. She’d have a good home with Bobby, they both knew.
After giving her a hug and a serious belly rub Sam retreated to the Impala, waiting for Dean.
“You listen to me chicky,” Dean knelt next to the dog, holding her head just behind her ears, “You have to stay here, take care of Bobby for us, look out for him, ok?”
He gave her a final pat on the head when she reached out, licked his chin. This time her bushy tail barely moved.
“Thanks.” He barely got out around the lump in his throat. Bobby nodded. Valkyrie watched with sad, sad eyes as Dean headed down the steps, to the car. Sam watched him over the top of the Impala.
“Hey Sam, maybe next time you come to visit could you not be possessed or kidnapped or anything?” Bobby said, slight smirk on his face.
A slow smile spread across Sam’s face, lingering a bit, which made Dean feel warm. “Yeah, I’ll work on that.”
Starting the car, Dean glanced over at his brother, “Where to?”
Sam shrugged, “Anywhere not here.”
“You got it.” Dean watched as Sam turned, looked out the back window as they pulled out of the yard. A glance in the rear view mirror, wished he hadn’t. Valkyrie stood on the porch steps, looking between Bobby and the Impala, clearly confused why she was being left. Tail down, gaze shifting, waiting for an answer. He reached over, lightly smacked Sam’s knee. “She’ll be fine Sammy, Bobby loves dogs, he’ll take good care of her. He needs the company.”
“Yeah.” Sam said thickly, facing forward again, but not before a quick look at Dean. “I hope he remembers she likes to catch the Frisbee.”
Dean flipped on the left blinker, pulling very carefully onto the road, no traffic violations in this state. “He will. We can’t have a dog Sam. I forgot to tell him which treats she likes the best. We’ll get some and send them when we stop.”
Sam nodded agreement. “I know. We can’t have a dog, not with how we live. I forgot to tell him which brush she likes being brushed with the most.”
Stopping at a stop sign, full stop. Dean was careful to look for any traffic, tapping his thumbs against the steering wheel. “I tried to explain it to her. Told her Bobby needed her more.”
“We can’t have a dog Dean.” Sam looked over at him. “Think she understood? Think she’ll miss us?”
Another left turn, Dean pulled into a drive, shifted into reverse and retraced their way back to the intersection. “We can’t have a dog Sammy. We’ll have to come back to take her for her shots in a few months.”
“I think it won’t be so bad, coming back for that, just to visit Bobby. I’ll try not to freak out if he starts a fire again. We really can’t have a dog, Dean.”
The car rumbled down Bobby’s drive, as if it knew the way, on second thought Dean’s baby probably did. Putting it in park, Dean sighed, and climbed out of the car. Bobby and Valkyrie were in the same spot, except now Bobby was sitting on the steps, a duffel bag beside him. One glance at Sam told him this was right, his brother was grinning stupidly for the first time in too long a time. Dean marched across the drive to Bobby, leaving the car door open. Valkyrie sat up, woofed, tail began wagging furiously. Waving one arm back at the car, snapping his fingers Dean said, “Furry ass, car, now. And no shedding on the upholstery.”
Valkyrie was a virtual chestnut and white blur, freckled feet barely touching the ground, dirt and gravel flying in her wake. She bound into the car as if built on springs.
“Another damn mouth to feed. As if Sam doesn’t eat enough. Do you know how much he eats? This is just until Sam feels better, then we’ll bring her back.”
Bobby merely smiled, nodded and held the duffel out. Dean took it, grumbling, “Great more luggage to keep track of.”
Bobby’s fingers tightened around the duffel’s straps. Dean quirked an eyebrow at him, but said nothing.
“You did real good Dean. Real good.”
Dean didn’t know what to say or do. “Thanks. I don’t mind telling you, I had a few doubts for a while that I’d ever see Sam alive again.”
“You did good with that too, but that’s not what I meant, not what I’m talking about.”
He could only stand there, staring at Bobby, waiting to hear what the man meant.
“I’m talking about everything, your whole lives, you and Sam. What you did, what you do, not just for him, but for you too.” Bobby’s chin jutted towards the Impala. “Sam’ll be fine, he will, it might take a while, but he will. You’ll both be just fine. It might be that car of yours, but the boy’s got a good, safe, loving home. You both do.” He gave the duffle straps a jostle, making sure Dean was completely focused on him, paying attention. “You did that, you’ve always done that. It’s something you should be proud of, and you’ve deserved to hear it more than you have.”
Now he definitely didn’t know what to say, wasn’t sure he could say anything. Nodding, which he knew Bobby would understand as thanks, well that and the earnest look of gratitude on Dean’s face, he dropped his gaze. Bobby let go of the duffel, releasing Dean. Bobby nodded in return. They understood one another. Dean understood Bobby wasn’t just talking about what happened here, but what might be coming to them, someday down the road. He was giving Dean a big vote of confidence, he and Sam were survivors, they really would be just fine.
They drove south, winter was coming and that meant snow. Snow meant lots of fires, and Dean wasn’t ready to deal with that part just yet, every motel, diner, camp ground would be filled with cheery fires, they’d skip the fires this year. That part was scaling back some too, but it would take time, like the rest. While they wouldn’t stop for the night till they were at least in Nebraska, they did have to make several short stops to let Valkyrie out.
Leaning against the car, watching Valkyrie bounce around in a small grassy spot away from the main part of the rest stop, Sam standing next to him, their shoulders brushing every so often, able to feel the rustling of his brother’s jacket when he breathed in, Dean felt more relaxed. Sam, he saw, felt, wasn’t as tense. His features smoothed out, losing the lines of tension. He concentrated better, smiled sometimes, looked more like his old self. If anything good had come of all this, it was at least Sam had stopped asking Dean to kill him every third day. Staring at possible death for nearly a week seemed to change Sam’s willingness, attitude on the subject.
“How many more times will I have to do this Sam?” Dean gently nudged his brother’s side.
“Let the dog pee? I don’t know, ask her. You’re the one who wants to stop every two hours so she can stretch and sniff, she wasn’t asking.”
“Naaa…not that. You know, if I hadn’t been able to get that cage door open, save you, I sure wouldn’t have let you burn alive.”
The muscles in Sam’s shoulder tensed, he stilled, giving Dean a sidelong glance. Dean realized he hadn’t given any thought to the what-ifs of that situation. Dean had given plenty of thought to it.
“But I got the door open, got you out, saved you.” Dean was hoping he wasn’t going to have to beat Sam over the head with this. Digging in his side pocket he fished out the syringe cap, holding it up. “Think I’ll keep this, a reminder.”
Sam lifted his eyebrows, gave him an odd look, but didn’t say anything before shifting his gaze to watch Valkyrie again.
‘You know, Sammy, you’re the one who keeps talking to me about hope and belief, you need to have some. You know how I found you?”
“The leads from some pictures, you said some dreams and this.” Sam’s voice was soft, low as he touched the cap Dean held.
Dean pocketed the syringe cap again. ‘Yep. That and I believed I would, I could. I never believed anything else. I paid attention to what I was getting, the dreams, or you reaching out to me, or whatever they were, and I believed those were something, I believed in them too. I believed you’d be there for me to find. I believed in you.” He whistled, waving one arm in an arc towards the car. “Valkyrie!” Reddish triangle ears, one up, one dipped immediately turned in their direction, in the next instant were bounding through tall grass to the car. “Believe me, believe in me Sammy.” Dean rolled off the car, kicking at the grass and dirt as he made his way to the driver side.
He could feel Sam’s eyes on him, watching him. Sam opened his door, Valkyrie bounced in, jumping across the seat to nuzzle Dean’s hand, lick his cheek. As Sam’s door squeaked shut Dean heard his brother’s soft, determined, “I always have.”
Turning the key, Dean smiled as they pulled back onto the highway.
It was late, very late when they stopped for the night. Sam knew Dean would have kept driving till he passed out, putting distance between Abaddon’s prison and them. But finally Sam had enough of being cramped and was about to say something when his brother announced a motel sign, twisted to crack his back and made some comment about Sam needing to be out of the confined space of the car or his shoulder would never heal…….How does he do that?
They were three quarters of the way through Nebraska, it would never be far enough, but it would do for tonight. He was tired, and achy and not too proud to admit it either, but he’d made a point of not dozing in the car, wanting to keep Dean company. He knew what Dean’s little speech was really about, and again felt gratitude he had no words to express, and no way to repay. Well, maybe there was one way, to do as Dean asked.
Sam could do that, Sam could always believe in his brother.
“You want to go play darts later, or tomorrow?”
Dean’s expression of surprise was genuine, making Sam chuckle.
“You don’t even like darts. And sure! Hell ya!”
Sam shrugged, “You do. I really don’t like playing for money.”
“Ok.” Dean nodded, “We play for who does the laundry.”
“You just have to gamble, don’t you?” Sam poked at Dean’s ribs, got the side of his head smacked as a reward.
Sam felt good, still edgy, still had nightmares, but those things would ease off, the good feeling only get better. He’d made Dean feel good too, that was more important.
“Think they’ll cremate Redding’s and the other twin’s bodies?”
Dean shot him a look, Sam realized Dean thought of this already, kept the idea to himself. “I don’t know, couldn’t figure out how to ask. Don’t worry Sammy, if there’s a problem, we’ll deal with it, we always do.”
Sam couldn’t disagree.
A brief stop near the motel office before they pulled in front of their room.
“Ya know Sam,” Dean popped the trunk of the Impala, handing him the supplies bag, hanging Sam’s duffel over his good shoulder, “You go out for burgers and get possessed, you go to a video store and get kidnapped by a deranged psychopath…..I’m seeing a pattern here.”
Sam hooked his fingers around Valkyrie’s bag, pulling it out, “That I can’t have burgers or see a video again?” Cause really that was how Dean’s mind worked.
“Only if I get them.” Dean handed Sam his duffel. “You need a keeper.” He wandered off, opening the door to the room, disappearing inside. “Don’t forget the laptop kiddo.”
“Not a kid.”
“Are…” Sam huffed out a deep, heavy sigh, “…Not….” looking down at Valkyrie. She gazed up at him, tail wagging in lazy circles, she yawned. “Why do I bother?” Then grinned, “I already have a keeper.” He stopped, turning his head from one side to the other, looking at the bags hanging off one shoulder, and in both hands. “One who has apparently mistaken me for a pack mule. It’s a good thing, Val, that I love the guy or I’d have to hit him often and hard.”
Stepping away from the Impala, shutting the trunk, he didn’t quite clear the bumper, whacking his shin, cursing softly under his breath so quietly ghosts couldn’t have heard let alone anyone else, then laughed outright when Dean’s head popped out the motel room door.
“Sammy, you ok?”
“’M fine.” Sam smiled……….Really, how does he do that?
Two souls bonded through eternity. Without one there truly would not be the other. End
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