Characters/Pairings: Dean, Sam, OCs
Rating: PG-13, but note: there are some mature themes/scenes
Spoilers: set directly after 3.10, Dream a Little Dream of Me. Includes references to characters and situations from previous stories.
Summary: An unreal heat, an unusual enemy, and an unresolved relationship buffet the brothers through the storm of Dean's deal. No wound is healed without leaving a scar.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
A/N: A good friend recently told me that I was using fanfiction as a ‘crutch’ and not a ‘stepping stone.’ I’m not sure yet how I feel about that, though I know it was said with love; I do want to make an attempt to write “for real,” but until that time, I really enjoy telling these stories, as long as you guys enjoy reading them. Because nothing lasts forever, I know there will eventually be an end to this for me. But I hope until that time you remain entertained, and I want each of you reading to know that I really appreciate your time and the gifts of your reviews.
Chapter 1, A and B
Chapter 2, A and B
Chapter 3, A and B
“What do you need that for?”
Dean pressed his lips together, shoving a full clip into the base of his 1911 and pulling back the bolt to load a bullet into the chamber. He slid his eyes askance, skimming Virgil’s doubtful countenance a moment before he answered.
“I’m not going in there naked,” he replied. “Besides, I don’t trust that guy.”
“Thought he was a hunter.”
Dean lifted a brow, tucking the pearl-handled Colt into the back waist-band of his jeans and flipping the tail of his too-big, borrowed shirt over the weapon to hide its existence.
“You trust every paramedic you run into?”
Virgil tipped his head to the side, conceding the point. “Wanna hand one over?”
The corner of Dean’s mouth pulled up in a partially-amused grin as he tapped the trunk closed with the butt of his hand. The black metal had drawn in the sun’s intensity until it felt like a branding iron.
“Sorry man,” he said, closing and locking the trunk. He moved around to the front of the car, grabbed his cell from the hot front seat, then locked the door.
“You expect me to go in with you, confront a guy you don’t trust, and not have a weapon?”
“No.” Dean shook his head, sliding the cell phone into the front pocket of his jeans. “I expect you to wait outside while I go in and confront a guy I don’t trust.”
Dean lifted a hand, silencing Virgil’s protest. His mind was made up; no one else was going to tangle with Griffin’s messed-up sense of retribution. Dean knew he was the only one who could truly put a stop to this run-away train of revenge.
“Listen, man. You’re coming along ‘cause you can put us back together if this thing goes sideways,” Dean pointed out. “So, while I go in there and talk to Mr. Bad-Ass Hunter, you head to your truck and get whatever you need. Meet me back here in twenty minutes.”
Virgil narrowed his eyes. “Hey,” he said, squaring his shoulders. “I’m not your kid brother. You can’t just… give an order and expect me to follow.”
Dean felt his face empty of emotion even as his pulse spiked. His lids lowered in a dead-eyed, defensive expression he’d perfected over years of building up protective walls; he unconsciously shifted his stance into one preparing for a fight, only realizing he’d done so when Virgil brought his head up and took a half-step back.
Ignoring the perceived insult to Sam, Dean said in a low voice, “You got a better plan? Have at it. But I’m going in there. Alone”
Turning on his heel, Dean stepped away from Virgil, his ears tuned to the other man’s movement. A smirk of satisfaction played across his bruised mouth when he heard Virgil swear, then stalk with measured, angry steps toward his red pick-up. Jogging across the narrow street, Dean stepped up to the entrance of the Iron Bar, leaving the heat outside with the dying light of day.
Brookville’s Iron Bar was no different from any other saloon, pool hall, or dance club he’d been inside over the years. Music from a jukebox or live band filtering through the empty spaces and gaps in conversation. Bar in the center or at the side, manned by a heavy-set man or a hard-won, tough-sold woman. Stale cigarette smoke and cologne weighing down the air. Worn furniture masked by bright lights tossing well-placed shadows.
Places such as this were as familiar to him as the inside of the Impala, the well-used décor of a motel room, or the gutted edge of a highway. For a moment, Dean felt a stab of nostalgia slink through him as he took in the ambience of the Iron Bar and its evening patrons. It was strange, the things he found he’d miss when the year was over.
Sam, of course.
The Impala, sure.
The smell of the earth after a hard rain, the soft give of a woman’s belly against his lips, the weight of a weapon in his hand. He never thought it would be the inside of a bar; he allowed that perhaps it wasn’t the environment causing an almost tangible sensation of homesickness, but the idea that his version of normal was what brought him to this fate.
For a brief moment, he wondered if his dad had time to contemplate loss between making his deal and fulfilling his end of the bargain. Were we on your list, Dad?
Giving himself a mental shake, Dean stepped farther into the room, his arms loose and ready, his hands open at his sides, his eyes lidded with malice and protection as they skipped over the road-weary men, shifting to warm invitation as they caught the lazy grin of a blonde waitress.
He knew where to find Griffin: far corner of the room, back to the wall, eyes reflecting the light of his cigarette. The urge to roll his eyes at the whole gunslinger image was nearly overwhelming. The only thing that kept him in check was the fact that he was purposely alone in this confrontation, leaving his only trusted back-up, the other side of his coin, behind.
He knew he needed his brother. He was good at his job, but he was better with Sam. He was best with Sam. But he also knew that he trusted no one else to cover Brenna. And she needed covering, despite what she might say. He needed to know she was okay. Sam was his only guarantee of that.
Focus, Dean, he admonished himself. Thinking of her now would lead him down a path he couldn’t afford to travel.
Taking a shallow breath, Dean moved easily through casual grouping of people, stopping at Griffin’s table, his hip bones pressed against the back of an empty chair positioned opposite the swarthy hunter.
“Winchester,” Griffin nodded. “Knew Sam wouldn’t be able to collar you.”
Dean felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise at the second insult to his brother in the last ten minutes. He exhaled slowly, tightening his jaw as he ticked his head to the side.
“Sam’s got more important things to worry about right now,” he said.
“I’m sure he does,” Griffin smirked. “Doesn’t matter. I was counting on this.”
Dean narrowed his eyes. “On what?”
“You.” Griffin looked up. “Sam woulda just wanted to try to save the bastard.”
“And I won’t?”
Griffin shook his head. “You won’t have a problem wasting him,” he answered calmly.
Dean felt the muscle in his jaw tick. It didn’t matter that what Griffin said may have been true in extreme circumstances; the fact that he was perceived as having so little regard for the human condition turned something inside of him cold. He felt his pulse slowing, his body working to remain calm, as he leaned over the table, tenting his fingers on the wood, his face inches from Griffin’s.
“Don’t forget,” he said, his voice low and dangerous, “that Sam did what you couldn’t with that spirit back in the clearing.”
Griffin’s dark eyes glittered. “I haven’t.”
The two hunters held each other’s gaze for another tension filled moment, then Dean straightened, leaning a shoulder against the wall near Griffin.
“So, you know where this bastard lives.”
Griffin nodded, pinching the remainder of his cigarette between his index finger and thumb, pulling the smoke into his mouth and exhaling it through his nostrils.
“You wanna play nice or what?” Dean pushed away from the wall, his irritation with Griffin’s forced nonchalance obvious in the set of his jaw. “I don’t have time for this shit.”
Griffin smirked, crushing his cigarette out on the table top. “There’s a mine outside of town. Been abandoned for awhile; I think it’s the wizard’s own personal Fortress of Solitude.”
“What makes you think that?”
Griffin looked up, his dark eyes holding a hint of amusement at Dean’s curiosity.
“Turns out I’m more than just a pretty face,” he taunted.
Dean curled his fingers against the palm of his hand. His entire body thrummed with the need to crack his knuckles against the hunter’s smug face.
“Listen, asshole,” Dean ground out through clenched teeth, “you’re the one that changed your tune, not me. I’d be just fine looking for this freak without your help—“
“Looking,” Griffin interrupted, “not finding.”
“You need me.”
“I need your little Latination,” Griffin waggled his hand like he thought the Latin rituals and spells to be a bit sketchy, “and your distraction. I don’t need you.”
Dean lifted a brow, quietly seething. Sam had mentioned going back to their rail car hideaway to get one of the spells from John’s grenade boxes. Dean knew that if he were to step into his brother’s shoes in this trumped-up scheme, he was definitely going to need that paper.
He ran the pad of his thumb across the inside groove of his ring, picturing suddenly an image of John, younger, perhaps, but still road-weary and time-worn, folding the bits of paper and stacking the photographs, setting them behind the wall, backing out slowly to set the tripwire. Had he ever intended on going back? On taking them back?
“Fine,” Dean said finally, meeting Griffin’s eyes once more. “I’ll head back to the rail car and get the spell.”
“I’m coming, too.”
“Aw, that’s sweet, but I don’t need you to hold my hand—“
Puzzled, Dean turned, seeing Griffin straighten in his periphery. Virgil stood in the doorway of the bar, attracting curious glances and inciting muffled speculations with his sudden appearance and frantic voice.
Virgil caught sight of Dean and Griffin and pushed his way through the crowd of people, rushing up to them. The music recycled, drowning out the hushed, hurried conversation of the trio of men in the back of the room, returning the bar patrons to their own business.
Dean stood, reaching out instinctively to grip the other man’s shoulders, focusing Virgil’s attention. He was sweaty, pale, and Dean could feel him a subtle tremble beneath his hands.
“What? Who’s gone?”
“Brenna and your brother.” Virgil licked his lips nervously. “And I don’t think they went willingly.”
Dean’s brows met across the bridge of his nose in a fierce frown, his jaw muscle bouncing. “What are you talking about?”
“I was getting my supplies and I remembered Brenna has this… salve stuff, so I went back to the museum and,” he held up a bright red plastic tube, about two inches in length, with what looked like frayed tassels on the end, “I found this just outside of the door.”
“Looks like a dart,” Griffin commented from over Dean’s shoulder.
“Son of a bitch,” Dean growled, shoving Virgil out of the way and moving like a human missile through the growing crowd of people. He didn’t bother to see if the other two followed. He simply moved.
His pulse beat harder, a fast tattoo of pressure against his temple, his heartbeat echoing denial in his ears as he slammed through the doors of the bar, ran across the street, and met the unyielding lock of the museum entrance.
“Son of a bitch!” he yelled, slapping the flat of his hand against the window.
The lights were off inside and there was no sign of Sam or Brenna. He took a step back without regard to logic or the thought of a security system, and reared his leg, pelting the lock of the door with a powerful kick.
The screech of the alarm almost covered his bellow of “SAM!”
His frantic eyes shot around the darkened, empty room, looking for some sign of his brother. Near the far wall, he saw something reflect in the flashing white lights of the security system. Striding across the room, he bent down just as the pounding of feet shook the wood floor beneath him.
“What the fuck are you doing, Winchester?” Griffin exclaimed. “You wanna bring the whole town in on this?”
Dean straightened, holding between his index finger and thumb a silver charm twisted in the shape of the Celtic Trinity knot, its broken chain swinging against the side of his hand. He looked directly at Virgil who moved around Griffin’s imposing shoulder, his face paler than it had been in the bar.
“Recognize this?” Dean asked in a strangled voice.
Virgil nodded. “It’s… Brenna’s.”
Dean flipped the chain into his palm, and stuffed the necklace in his jeans pocket. “I know.”
“Where are they?” Virgil bleated.
Dean looked at Griffin. “That psycho’s got them.”
“You don’t know that.” Griffin frowned.
Dean stepped toward him. “I know that this is the last place the first two victims were seen,” he yelled over the wail of the alarm, ignoring the curious onlookers from the bar gathering in the open doorway, and continued forward, “I know the next two were in that bar,” he pointed across the street, “and I know that you wanted to take a train from this place.”
Nearly touching Griffin’s chest with his own, Dean tilted his head in a challenge. “Now tell me that he doesn’t have them.”
The fact that he had left Sam here, with all those facts piling up around him, made him almost physically sick.
“What’s going on here?!”
Dean didn’t take his eyes from Griffin, recognizing Calhoun’s nervous squeak. “Just doing a little FBI work, Cal,” he replied.
“Who busted in here?” Ross demanded, stepping into the room next to Calhoun.
“I did,” Dean and Griffin replied as one.
Dean blinked in surprise, and Griffin winked at him. Dean pulled back, suddenly off balance. Griffin turned to face the police as Virgil stepped up beside Dean.
“Officers.” Griffin nodded, smirk firmly in place.
Ross moved up to Dean. “You better tell me what’s going on here, or—“
Dean’s already short fuse snapped with an almost audible crack. “Or what? You might have to do your fuckin’ job?” Dean pushed past him, pausing next to Calhoun and looked back. “The freak that’s been killing people in your town? Just took my brother. If it’s all the same to you, I’m gonna go get him back.”
He walked from the doorway of the museum toward the Impala.
“Your brother?” Ross yelled after him. “Thought he was your partner!”
Dean ignored him, as Virgil replied, “You work together long as they have, those two words mean the same thing.”
Dean paused with his hand on the Impala’s door, jerking his head up at the sound of his name. “What!”
“Not that way.” Griffin shook his head. Virgil appeared next to Griffin just as the lonely wail of a train whistle filled the silence left in the security alarm’s wake.
“What do you mean?” Dean frowned, feeling time speed up around him, pressing down on him with a weight to rival the oppressive heat.
Griffin pointed toward the approaching train. Dean looked over his shoulder as the large black engine slowed to a crawl. For one moment he hesitated; Sam had said he needed the spell. He knew his brother had been through those documents forwards and backwards. He also knew that Griffin was right: Sam would use the spell to spare the wizard while getting the knife.
Dean was in no mood for mercy. Not if that freak had Sam.
Who knows if the damn spell would have worked anyway, he thought. Dad had them tucked away like something he was ashamed of… right along with pictures of us.
“Hey!” Griffin snapped him back to the present. “You coming or what?”
Dean nodded, glancing once at Virgil, then followed Griffin as they headed toward the train, pausing where the grass disappeared into a slight gravel embankment. Dean rolled his bottom lip against his teeth nervously, his hands curling into fists and flexing free rhythmically, waiting for the train to stop.
After a beat, the box cars began to pass and the train started to speed up once more. Dean suddenly realized what Griffin intended.
The swarthy hunter bounced once, twice, then started to jog along the side of the train, reaching up smoothly to grip the edge of an open car, swinging into the opening as if he were mounting a horse.
“C’mon, you pansies!” he yelled back at Dean and Virgil.
Dean jerked his head at Virgil, then, pushing trepidation low where it could hide comfortably beneath the recklessness he was willing to engage in when it came to Sam, he began to run alongside the train. He started to pant as he caught up to the opening, reaching, but unable to grip the doorway. Daring to look up, he saw he was just shy of tall enough. Griffin was looking down at him, a grin playing around his mouth.
“Keep going!” Virgil gasped behind him. “Go!”
With a feral growl, Dean found a fifth gear, his legs churning, his lungs burning, the barely-healed wounds on his back crying out. He reached up once more and this time felt the rough, warm fingers of the older hunter wrap around his wrist. His feet left the ground and he instinctively tucked his shoulder in as he slammed against the dirty floor of the box car, rolling to a stop against the opposite wall.
Wheezing, dust pluming around him with his sharp bursts of air, Dean pulled his head up, propping his upper body with his left hand and looked toward the opening where Griffin was pulling Virgil into the otherwise empty car.
Virgil lay in a heap, panting, sweating, then lifted his head to look back at Griffin. Framed in the half-light of moon-rise, his long hair whipping back out through the opened door of the box car, Griffin swayed comfortably with the rhythm of the train.
“Well, now,” he chuckled, rubbing a hand over the dark scruff that framed the lower half of his face, marred on one side by the remarkable scar. “The gang’s all here.”
The sound of his name drew him from the comfortable stillness of complete black into a foggy mire of gray laced with pain. The inside of his head felt like bits of a jigsaw puzzle scattered across the floor of a child’s playroom.
One more level, a little more light, and he was forming the edges of the puzzle, pulling back a heavy curtain that cloaked memory and stifled realization. The voice calling to him was insistent, fearful… female.
Sam blinked heavy-lidded eyes, trying to figure out why he was cold, why his body felt so heavy, and why, for the love of God,his head hurt so badly. He ran a thick tongue over dry lips. His mouth tasted sour, as though he’d gotten sick in the night.
“That’s it, Sam. C’mon back to me.”
The voice again. He knew that voice. He felt a spark of irritation at that voice. Irritation he didn’t understand. He tried to lift his head, carefully easing the positional kink from his screaming neck muscles, almost afraid that if he moved too fast, his head would roll from his shoulders.
“Shake it off. It’s the drugs, Sam. Shake it off, okay?”
“Wh-wha—“ he tried, his mouth so dry he felt as if he were speaking through sand. “The hell?”
She barked it this time. Demanding. He reacted instinctively, jerking his head up and wincing as the muscles along his back and shoulders screamed protest. Blinking rapidly, he felt the webbing of confusion clear as he looked around.
He sat on a dirty stone floor, his back against a thick iron support beam, metal cuffs binding his wrists and pulling his hands behind his back around the beam. His legs were bent in front of him, lying where he’d been dropped, his feet tingling from lack of circulation. He stretched his legs out in front of him and let his eyes roam his surroundings.
It was a cave of some sort, domed ceiling decorated with crystallized stalactites that glittered from the light of a dozen lit pillar candles. On the far wall, he saw a heavy velvet curtain pulled to reveal a bed and a large mirror, and on every available outcropping of rock, unlit candles were stacked in varying stages of melting.
He looked to his right.
She was bound to a similar beam, her hands above her head, wrists trapped in heavy-looking metal clasps, T-shirt torn into a deep V between her breasts, feet bare.
“Yeah,” she breathed in relief. “Yeah. You okay?”
“I… I think so.”
“Do you remember what happened?”
“We, uh…” Sam looked across the room once more, “got attacked by… the Phantom of the Opera?”
Brenna’s weak laugh shook out nervously. “It’s that wizard,” she revealed.
“You sure?” Sam looked back at her, twisting his hands painfully in his bindings.
She nodded, her loose hair falling across her face. “Positive. I’ve been…dreaming about the murders. I’ve really only seen that knife clearly, but every once in awhile…”
Sam frowned. “You’ve been dreaming about… what murders?”
Brenna shifted, looking up at her bound hands. “The ones here in town.”
“No,” she shook her head. “Not like before. It doesn’t happen when I touch someone. It happens when…”
“Your guard is down,” Sam finished for her.
He remembered. He remembered the pain of the flashes that took him when he was least expecting it. Visions of death so vivid and distressing that he flinched at the memory. He pulled his legs up, trying to fold his right one beneath him, working to get his fingers on the small throwing knife Dean always insisted he keep tucked in his boot.
“Basically, yeah.” Brenna hissed in sudden pain and Sam looked over. “I think these cuff things will slide if I can—ah!”
“Hey, take it easy,” Sam admonished. “Do you know where he went?”
She stopped struggling against her bonds and shook her head. “I came to and saw you, but nothing else. He drugged us.”
Sam clucked his pasty tongue against the roof of his mouth. “Yeah, that much I figured out, but… how did one guy get both of us… wherever we are?”
Brenna blew her hair from her eyes. “He’s a wizard, Sam. Maybe he has super-strength or something. How the hell should I know?”
Sam huffed out a humorless laugh. “You sound like Dean.”
Brenna groaned, dropping her chin to her chest. “Dean.”
They sat in silence for a moment. Sam watched her breathe, feeling his anger toward her resurface and surge hot. He was able to maneuver his leg beneath him and grunted with effort as he fumbled for the top of his boot, his wrists straining against the metal bonds until he felt as if his bones might snap.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see him again,” Brenna confessed softly, her head still down.
“Didn’t,” Sam grimaced, pausing to take a breath, “stop you from going after him as soon as you saw him, though.” He renewed his efforts as Brenna brought her head up.
“What did you expect me to do, huh? Walk away?”
“Yes!” Sam snapped, his fingers stilling as his attention turned her way. “You just walk away. Leave him alone.”
“Why!” Brenna yelled back. “Why should I? I loved him, Sam.”
“Yeah?” Sam shook his hair from his eyes, staring her down. “And what about now, huh? You still love him? Or was he just part of your master plan?”
“I didn’t have a plan!” She shouted. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, okay?! I was just wandering around, and I didn’t have anywhere to go, and I couldn’t see anything, and—“
“You want me to feel sorry for you, that it?”
“I don’t fuckin’ care what you feel!” Brenna bellowed.
“Fine! ‘Cause I don’t feel sorry for you!”
“Fine! I never asked you to!”
They sat still a moment, breathing in the dank air of the cave. Sam dropped his head, then looked up, feeling his anger drain from him at the sight of tears swimming in her eyes.
“Go to hell.”
Sam winced. “I’m sorry,, Brenna.”
She swallowed hard, looking away, her jaw working overtime, a solitary tear reflecting the muted candlelight. Licking his lips, Sam tried again.
“I know you know about Dean,” he said, his heart slamming uncomfortably against his ribs with the reality of discussing what he still didn’t want to face. “I know you know what happened to… to us.”
She nodded, but didn’t look at him.
“I have to save him, Brenna. I can’t… Without Dean, I mean…” Sam looked down. “Nothing makes sense.”
He lifted his eyes again, watching her jaw tremble.
“The Kestrel Dagger… the knife this wizard has… there’s a chance it can save Dean from Hell.”
She looked back at him, surprise clear in her expression.
“I don’t know exactly how, yet, but I found out enough that if we…” he took a shaky breath, “if somehow we can own the knife, we can control it, and use it to send something else to Hell in Dean’s place.”
“Something?” she sniffed.
Sam shrugged as much as his bindings would allow. “I’m thinking demon.”
“You got one in mind?”
Sam allowed himself a small smile. “I haven’t really thought past get knife from wizard.”
Brenna regarded him silently for a moment—long enough that Sam wanted to squirm, but forced himself to hold still. The memory of Dean’s reflection in her predatory eyes was still vivid and disturbing.
“What did it feel like?” she asked in a small voice, her tears still flowing, but apparently forgotten.
Sam’s breath caught at the base of his throat, snared in a web of surprise. No one had asked him that. Not even Dean. Once Dean brought him back, the fact that he’d actually been dead was forgotten. Erased. As if it no longer mattered. All that mattered was Hell and the avoidance of it.
“It, uh,” Sam swallowed, his body twisted to the right, the backs of his fingers resting uselessly against the leather of his boot, his eyes unfocused as he stared toward Brenna, not really seeing her. Not seeing anything. “It was… dark. And…”
His voice stumbled, his words catching up with his breath, his heart plowing into his ribcage as that night flooded back to him. The pain in his shoulder pounding into his teeth, the complete exhaustion that lifted the moment he heard his brother’s voice, the odd white-hot pain in his back as the knife bisected material, skin, and muscle to paralyze him, the shift of the world as he fell to his knees, the grip of Dean’s arms as they wrapped around him, the sensation of falling, falling, falling—away from Dean’s warmth, away from his words, away from the reassuring breath on his face.
“There was nothing around me.”
“Did it… hurt?”
“Yeah. I mean, no. I mean…” Sam focused on Brenna’s face. “I was scared. I was really scared. Dean was there, and, uh, he was holding me, but I started to fall… kinda fall inside myself. Fall into… black. And I couldn’t reach back or say anything. And I felt… nothing.”
“Nothing. Cold, pain, wet, tired, relieved… it was like it… went away,” Sam said, the metallic taste of the drugs at the back of his throat evaporating as the memory of that night replaced it with bile. “And then… I woke up.”
“Just like that?”
Sam nodded. “Just like that. It was like… swimming to the surface of water, y’know? I just suddenly took this really big breath and… I didn’t know where I was, or what had happened, and then… Dean was there. Holding me again.”
Brenna sniffed, silent for a moment. “You know, I never asked to have the sight. I actually fought it for years and years. And then one day,” she wiped her cheek on her straining shoulder, “just like that, I decided to hell with it. I used it. I directed it. And… it grew. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s the only way I can think to describe it.”
“I understand,” Sam said softly, shifting upright once more, unable to reach his knife. “More than you realize.”
He thought of the death visions, the terrible pain that shot through his head, the nauseating, disorienting reality that would send him to the ground with only his brother’s hands as an anchor. He thought of the extraordinary feeling of a weight lifting from his heart when Dean’s bullet plowed into Azazel.
And then he thought of the hollowness that weight left behind. The empty, helpless feeling of seeing nothing. Knowing nothing. Affecting nothing.
“It was always strongest around Dean,” Brenna continued, her confession barely punctuated with sound and strangled tears unshed as pride overcame them. “He… overwhelmed me. It was almost like he was part of me when I touched him.”
Sam looked down, feeling his face heat up, remembering the sensation of a lover’s touch, the need to crawl inside of them and feel only them all around.
“But he was gone, y’know?” Brenna pulled Sam’s glance up with the question. “He was gone and I was… I was dying inside. I had to do something.”
“So, you found the wizard.”
She nodded. “It was almost by accident. I was looking for something that could grant wishes. I found something called a trickster—“
“God,” Sam exclaimed. “Don’t ever—ever—tangle up with one of those.”
Brenna blinked. “You’ve met one?”
“Yeah, and let me just say, Weirdest. Case. Ever.”
“Good to know,” she smiled.
Sam felt something shift inside of him at that smile. Something softening and giving way. Something allowing that he might not be the only one that needed his brother whole, alive, and there.
“Anyway, I traced wishes, and the origins of something called a djinn,” she tilted her head when Sam flinched. “Another weird one?”
“Took me about three months, but I found Adoamros. There wasn’t much on him, but what I found out said he was immortal because he was able to feed off of human souls.”
“And you thought that could help you because…”
“It wasn’t the souls part,” Brenna explained, arching up and shifting against the bonds above her head until the flesh of her hands turned white. “It was the immortality part. He was powerful enough,” she started to stretch her leg out, pointing her bare toes toward Sam’s boot, “to find a way to live forever… maybe he was powerful enough to…”
“Give you back your sight,” Sam finished, realizing what she was doing. He shifted his foot to the side as far as his knee would allow. “It’s just at the top.”
Brenna hooked the cuff of Sam’s jeans with her toes, pulling it up. “I can almost… reach…”
A breeze stirred the candle flames. Sam froze.
“Shit,” Brenna breathed.
“Hurry,” Sam encouraged. “C’mon, Brenna…”
Craning his neck to see her foot as it inched beneath his pant leg, Sam could detect the barest hint of silver from the blade.
“Careful… be careful…” He shot his eyes up to her and saw that she was gripping the beam, the metal cuffs digging into her soft flesh deep enough to draw blood, her back arched away from the ground to add length to her leg. “You can do it…”
The knife slid free with a soft shink, dropping into the dirt just beyond Sam’s fingers. Brenna sagged against her beam, panting, eyes closed, head back, thin trails of blood snaking down her arms.
“Interesting,” came the same raspy voice Sam remembered hearing in the museum, just before his world went dark. “I’ve never had a couple try so hard to touch before.”
Sam darted his eyes around the cavern as the voice emanated, seemingly from the rocks themselves. “Who are you?”
“Oh, who I am isn’t important,” the voice mocked. “It’s what I am that you should worry about.”
“Yeah?” Sam twisted his hands, trying to find the blade with numb fingers. “And what’s that?”
When the wizard stepped into the candle light, Sam froze in honest surprise.
“I am your end,” Adoamros proclaimed with a lofty flourish of his hand. “I am your confessional and your executioner in one.”
The man was slight, almost mousey-looking, wire-rimmed glasses covering wide blue eyes, a mustache twitching nervously as he spoke, small hands with tapered fingers as if he’d never seen a hard day’s work in his unnaturally elongated life. He wore dark jeans, the hems trimmed with orange thread, and a light blue button-down Oxford shirt. Sam half expected to see a plastic pocket protector filled with ink pens in his breast pocket.
As he descended carefully from a hidden opening behind the velvet curtain, Sam exchanged an incredulous glance with Brenna, her expression clearly echoing his own feeling of what the hell?
“You undoubtedly have questions,” Adoamros continued as he hopped from the edge etched in the cave wall to land gracefully on his feet. “Luckily, I have answers.”
He shoved his hand into the pocket of his jeans and drew out a small white remote. Pointing it over his shoulder, he pressed a button, releasing a cacophony of sound that Sam soon recognized as the guitar solo of a song Dean would have undoubtedly known the name of. Stalactites trembled with the bass of the music and the wizard stepped closer until he was standing between them, looking down at Sam’s booted feet, and Brenna’s bare toes.
“I tend to break tradition with the last two. You’ll notice you’re not gagged.”
“Yeah, we did notice that,” Sam replied. “What’s with her clothes?”
Adoamros smiled, the humor not touching his eyes. “Degradation of the female is essential to keeping the male in check. You awake to see her violated while she slept; you worry for what could happen to her now, while she’s exposed, vulnerable.”
“I wasn’t… violated!” Brenna exclaimed.
Adoamros slid his eyes to her. “Are you sure?”
“Yes!” Brenna replied, but her frown exposed her doubt.
“The way you are chained, shirt ripped, feet bare… I took you as you are. You were pliant against me.”
Brenna shot an anguished look at Sam. “No…” she breathed. “You couldn’t have. I would… I would know.”
“You do know,” Adoamros smiled. “You know, because I just told you.”
“You’re lying,” Sam said suddenly, almost as surprised by his accusation as he was by his realization. “You’re just… trying to scare her.”
Adoamros turned to Sam, walking slowly around his body until he was at his bent leg. Sam closed his eyes, praying that the knife was far enough beneath his fingers that it couldn’t be seen from above.
“Just her?” Adoamros asked. “What about you? Her lover? Her other half? Her soul’s mate?”
He kicked Sam’s leg viciously, sending waves of shock and pain through Sam’s knee and causing him to cry out in shock as he quickly straightened the damaged limb, sweat beading on his upper lip and forehead as his vision swam.
“You made a mistake,” Brenna shouted in response to Sam’s pained scream.
“I never make mistakes.” Adoamros turned and chuckled mirthlessly. “It’s why I’m still alive.”
Sam pressed his lips tight, breathing harshly through his nose to ward off nausea. Sparks of fire lit the darkness of his closed eyelids and he pressed his chin to his chest as he fought to regain control. For a heartbeat the music faded.
“Oh, shit,” Brenna breathed, and Sam opened his eyes at her tone. It was devastation and desire. Loathing and longing.
Looking up as a new song filled the empty spaces of the cavern, he saw reflecting in the candlelight the diamond blade of the Kestrel Dagger. He shot a look to Brenna who looked back, helpless, angry, and afraid.
“Touched, you say that I am too. So much, of what you say is true…”
“The first pair is done with such need, such abandon, that there’s no time to… visit,” Adoamros said as he swayed to the slow thrum of the music, stroking the flat of the blade with an almost loving caress. “The second,” he looked over at Sam, “is a bit easier, but the killing is no less… amorous.” He shifted his glance to Brenna. “By the third, I am nearly full, almost satiated. But the spell requires six, so with you, I have… fun.”
“Lucky us,” Sam mumbled, wanting the wizard’s wolfish eyes off of Brenna.
“Lucky,” Adoamros crouched down in front of Sam, “yes. I’m so glad you see it that way.”
Holding Sam’s eyes with his own semi-lucid ones, Adoamros stroked the flat of the blade down the smooth plane of Sam’s cheek, the diamond tip ticking his chin without drawing blood. Sam pulled air in sharply through his nose, lifting his face away from the blade as the wizard gently drew it down his throat. The razor-sharp edge of the knife easily popped the buttons from Sam’s shirt with a flick of the wizard’s wrist as he continued his path down Sam’s body.
Sam dared a glance over at Brenna, registering the desperate twist of her hands against the metal bindings before he looked back at the almost gentle expression on the wizard’s face.
“Having fun yet?” Sam ground out.
Adoamros chuckled, tilting his head as he used the blade to open Sam’s shirt, exposing the muscular plane of his chest, the strain of collar bone against his skin.
“Let me tell you why there are two,” the wizard said, standing, kicking Sam’s legs apart, then crouching once more between them. He pulled his glasses from his face, folding them with one hand, and put them in his shirt pocket. “The human soul is practically impenetrable. It is clutched desperately in life, ripped from the body as the last breath escapes, and its journey is forever.”
Sam watched the knife as the wizard tipped it one way, then another, catching the candlelight. He couldn’t pull his eyes from the edge of the blade, remembering Dean’s report of the crime scenes, remembering the paper-fine slices into the victim’s skin. He felt his heart hammer against his ribs, trying to keep the fear from his face, from his eyes as the wizard continued to talk.
“The soul is not relinquished willingly. It must be taken.”
“Shows what you know,” Brenna spat.
Adoamros lifted an eyebrow, then stood.
“Brenna,” Sam warned, shaking his head.
Adoamros stepped over Sam’s leg, moving with a dancer’s grace in time to the music as he approached Brenna. Sam blinked with a sickening realization: it was a performance for him. A show. As if someone were watching. Sam looked around the room, trying to see into the shadowed alcoves of the cave.
“The power of immortality comes at great sacrifice,” the wizard intoned, watching Brenna as if deciding where to bite first. “Taking your soul will eliminate a piece of me.”
Brenna’s body tightened, pulling away from the wizard’s approach. “Well, isn’t that too bad.”
“I will take your soul,” Adoamros predicted, “and I will have your lover’s. He will give it willingly after witnessing your suffering.” Using the toe of his shoe, he edged Brenna’s stiff legs apart, crouching between her knees, then leaning forward with the balance of a cat, inhaling as he moved his face up her chest and to her throat.
The music thrummed in the background, but Sam could still hear Brenna’s strangled whimper as the wizard closed in.
“Hey!” he shouted.
“You see,” Adoamros said, his mouth at Brenna’s neck, his voice somehow audible to Sam, “the spell is specific: one must be the weapon, the other the wound. The pain is felt by both, but while one bleeds the other is helpless and to save sanity, pleads for it to simply be over.”
He pulled away, slowly reaching for Brenna’s torn shirt as she tried to shrink further from his fingers.
“And then… it is,” he continued, “and the weapon is forsaken. And their soul is plucked from them with little effort.”
“You arrogant bastard,” Brenna gasped. “You’re so clueless it’s almost funny.”
At that Adoamros straightened, his hand hovering over the rip in Brenna’s shirt. Sam pulled against his shackles, trying to find the knife that he’d hastily hidden in the dirt behind him. His gaze pinned to Brenna’s fierce face, he watched with awe and terror as her eyes widened.
“Not only is he not my soul mate,” she proclaimed, “but you’re sadly mistaken about the soul.”
“What are you saying?” Adoamros’ voice grew hard, a burst of discordant sound against the hypnotic backbeat of music.
“A soul can be sacrificed, can be given willingly to save another,” Brenna said, her small hands clenched in fists, her body trembling.
“Brenna…” Sam called, wanting her eyes on him, wanting to pull her away from the edge he could literally feel her teetering on.
“You can’t have any soul you want.”
“I can!” Adoamros roared. “I will take until I have enough. I will take until I know enough. I will take until he lives!”
With that, he reached for her, gripping the tattered cotton of her shirt, skin touching skin, contact made. Sam gasped as Brenna cried out in shock, horror, and pain, the pupils of her eyes overtaking the golden irises, her skin paling at what she saw inside the wizard’s mind.
Dean climbed to his feet. “I want some answers.”
His eyes quickly adjusted to the wan moonlight captured in the box car.
Griffin raised an eyebrow. “Gonna have to ask a question, then.”
Dean took a step to the side, watching warily as Griffin moved opposite him, creating a tense circling motion as their feet planted in an effort to remain standing, rocking with the motion of the train.
“I want to know how you found out about this mine.”
Griffin shrugged. “I looked it up. Town’s got a library.”
“You call another hunter? Bobby?” He bit off the name as if the sound of it left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Bobby’s got nothing to do with this.”
Dean felt a shift of relief at that, wanting the older man to have a break after the hell he’d been through with the haunting dreams of his late wife. Rolling his lips in against his teeth, Dean darted his eyes to Virgil. The burly ex-paramedic stood in the open door of the box car, his back to them, facing the swiftly-passing scenery. Looking back at Griffin, Dean saw the other man’s hand slip to his inside coat pocket.
Reacting on instinct, Dean reached back and grabbed his .45, pulling it free and leveling it at Griffin. “Don’t.”
Griffin jerked, pulling his hand away from his coat, empty. Virgil turned around at the bark of Dean’s voice, but remained silent as he watched the pissing contest.
“Just reaching for a notebook, Winchester,” Griffin explained, his hands up.
“Yeah, well,” Dean ticked the barrel of the gun toward Griffin’s jacket. “We’ll see about that. Pull it out. Two fingers!”
Griffin reached in, using his index finger and thumb, and removed a small black notebook. He held it flat in his hand, keeping his arms up where Dean could see.
“You wanna point that thing somewhere else?”
Griffin rolled his eyes. “You’re a real piece of work, y’know that?”
Dean remained silent, watching, unwilling to be caught off guard without back-up, unbalanced, uneasy, and if he were honest with himself, afraid.
“I could have left you back there,” Griffin pointed out. “Didn’t have to pull you onto the train.”
“Nope,” Dean said, brows pulled close over the bridge of his nose. “But, then again, you need my Latination…”
“Isn’t that something you guys should just, like, know?” Virgil spoke up.
The hunters ignored him.
“Tell me how you knew where to go,” Dean demanded. “Tell me we’re not walking into a trap.”
“We’re not walking into a trap,” Griffin replied, his voice devoid of sarcasm. “I told you, I’ve been tracking this wizard since Beck died. That bastard summoned the thing that caused my brother’s death. I wasn’t letting it get away. There’s not a lot out there on him, but there’s enough. If you know where to look.”
“And you did?” Dean’s eyebrow bounced up in an inverted V, incredulity plain on his face.
“You don’t live as long as I have in this job and not learn a few tricks, Winchester.”
“So, you know who the wizard is?”
“I don’t have a name, exactly, but I’ve seen him.”
Dean dropped his gun in surprise. “Why didn’t you say so befo—“
Before he could finish the sentence, Griffin body slammed him, driving him to the floor, knocking the air from his lungs. His gun tumbled from loose fingers. Rolling free, Griffin reached for the .45 while Dean curled in on himself, retching dryly and gasping for air. Through fuzzy vision, Dean saw Griffin’s fingers slap the bare wood of the box car floor, coming up empty.
Coughing, wheezing, desperate for air, Dean rolled to his back, his chest heaving. Over the ring in his ears, he dimly heard Virgil’s rough voice demand for Griffin to just back the hell up and sit the fuck down. Blinking, Dean tried to roll to his knees, feeling gentle hands guide him to a semi-seated position, encouraging slow, deep breaths.
“Didn’t do your back much good,” were the first clear words Dean comprehended.
He felt Virgil probe the wounds at his shoulder. “Brenna’s goop did a good job, but you need to lay off the WWF moves for awhile.”
Dean coughed again, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. “What the hell, man?” He looked directly at Griffin who was sitting with his knees up, arms wrapped around his legs, a scowl at home on his face.
“You pointed a gun at me,” Griffin mumbled.
“Nobody points a gun at me and gets away with it,” Griffin replied.
Dean paused a moment, then shook his head. “You gotta be kidding me,” he muttered.
“Listen, Winchester, I—“
“No, you listen—“
“Both of you!” Virgil shouted, the last man standing. “Shut the hell up!”
Dean closed his mouth with an audible click, looking up at Virgil in surprise. The big man took off his ever-present red baseball hat, rubbed the heel of his hand against his forehead, then jammed the hat back on.
“You’re gonna listen to me right now,” he said pointing Dean’s gun first at one hunter, then at the other. “You’re here for the same reason. You lost someone you love. You,” he pointed at Griffin, “just want revenge. That’s cool. I get that. You pretty much admitted that to get what you want you need him, so how about leaving him the hell alone for once.”
“Yeah!” Dean chimed in.
“And you,” Virgil turned to Dean, “are just being an idiot. You want Sam back in one piece? Quit poking the bear, man. Use him, get your brother home. Then go back to doing… whatever it is you do.”
Dean frowned silently at Virgil, wanting to snap back, but feeling the quiet conscience of his brother put an invisible hand on his arm, warning him off.
“Why are you here, Cochise?” Griffin demanded.
Virgil slipped the clip from Dean’s gun, drawing back the bolt and ejecting the chambered bullet, catching it in the palm of his hand. He handed the empty gun to Dean, then handed the clip to Griffin.
“Because I lost someone I love, too.” He looked at Dean, shoving the loose bullet into the pocket of his cargo pants. “And I aim to get her back.”
Dean felt his gut tighten at those words, his skin pulling close to the bones of his face, his heart stuttering. He had no claim on her. She made her own choices. But for all intents and purposes, Brenna was his. As he looked at Virgil, however, he saw the same sentiment reflected in the other man’s eyes.
Dean and Griffin stood, staring at the pieces of the dismantled weapon they’d each been given. Dean looked up, meeting his adversary’s eyes, unwilling to be the first to call truce, but feeling this was the moment to do so.
“Hey,” Griffin spoke up suddenly. “This is our stop.”
He moved to the open door, followed closely by Virgil and Dean.
“Dude… the train’s not stopping,” Dean said warily.
Griffin put the clip in his pocket, then gripped the doorway, leaning out. “Never said anything about the train stopping,” he called, swinging free of the box car, landing in a heap and rolling to a halt.
“Dammit,” Dean groaned.
“On three?” Virgil suggested.
Dean tightened his jaw, looking down at the rapidly moving ground, then up at Virgil.
He cursed, swinging out and dropping, feeling the ground rush up to slap his legs with a harsh crack that shook through his spine as he rolled, clacking his teeth shut on his tongue and bouncing his brain against his skull.
He never saw Virgil jump. He didn’t hear the train pass. He was alone in the dark. And in the distance, he saw red eyes mocking him, the edges tilting up in a knowing smile of seduction and triumph. He worked to back away from those eyes and felt the very real sensation of flesh gripping his hand and tapping his cheek.
“Dean,” called a vaguely familiar voice.
“Leggoame,” he slurred, trying to roll away, dizzy, disoriented.
“Open your eyes, Winchester.”
Dean obeyed, reality crashing against him with the force of a cyclone. He sucked in a lungful of air, pushing against Griffin’s help, bracing his trembling body by the palms of his hands against the wiry grass he lay on.
“Lemme go,” he tried again.
“Tuck and roll, man,” Griffin chuckled, standing up. “You’re lucky you’re still in one piece, the way you pile-drove yourself into the ground.”
Dean pressed the back of his hand against his mouth, fighting back the very real possibility of throwing up on Griffin’s boots. His head spun as his vision worked to catch up to the miniscule movements of his eyes. Mentally he checked himself: everything hurt, nothing was broken.
“I’ll try to remember that the next time I jump off a speeding train,” he muttered, winning the battle against bile. “Where’s Sinatra?”
“Here,” Virgil spoke up, trying to reshape the bill of his cap. “Turned the damn thing around backwards,” he explained. “Not a good idea.”
He reached down and gave Dean a hand up, keeping his grip surreptitiously on Dean’s arm until he was able to regain his balance.
“This way,” Griffin said, pointing. “Weapons check. Silver Stag Bowie, Ka-Bar, and clip for a .45. Winchester?”
Dean shook his head. “Now you’re just showing off.”
“You don’t think we should know what we have going for us?”
Dean shrugged. “You can tell a lot about a man by the size of his sticker.”
“You going in naked, Winchester?” Griffin challenged.
Sighing, Dean replied through teeth gritted in annoyance, “Freakin’ empty 1911 and a Hibben thrower.” Instinctively, he rolled his ankle inside his boot, feeling the solid support of the six-inch blade John had given him for his sixteenth birthday. There had been two in the set, each inscribed with his initials. He was rarely without one in his possession.
Dean stepped away from Virgil’s supportive hand. “Left fist, right fist, what more do you need?”
Griffin moved in front of Dean to lead the way. “What about you, there, Cappie?”
“Think I prefer Sinatra.” Virgil huffed.
“Where’d that come from anyway?” Griffin asked, skirting a tree that suddenly loomed in the darkness.
“Sam,” Dean and Virgil replied together.
“Thanks,” Griffin muttered. “That clears it right up.”
Virgil patted the pockets of his cargo pants. “I have bandages, a tourniquet, sulfur—“
“Sulfur?” Dean stopped, turning. Griffin mimicked his movement.
“You need to stop bleeding fast? Packet of sulfur.”
“Huh.” The hunters replied in unison, returning to their trek.
“Sam have anything on him?” Griffin asked, his voice brisk and business-like.
“Always carries my other Hibben in his boot.”
“What about the chick?”
“No,” Virgil replied.
“She, uh… may not need a weapon,” Dean revealed quietly.
“What do you mean?” Virgil asked.
“Nothing, except…” Dean looked back at the paramedic. “If her sight is coming back… that wizard may have more than he bargained for.”
“She’s blind?” Griffin asked.
“Forget it,” Dean waved a hand at him as the ground turned rocky and they emerged between two mounds of earth and gravel, overgrown with weeds that reflected silver in the moonlight. Ahead of them, he could see a chain link fence, rusted and mangled, covering the semi-boarded up entrance to what appeared to be a mine shaft.
“This can’t be it,” Virgil spoke up, echoing Dean’s thoughts.
“This is it,” Griffin nodded.
“No one’s been through that for years, man,” Dean argued. “No way he’s been pulling victims in and out.”
Griffin pointed up. “He has if he used the elevator.”
Dean and Virgil looked up at the three-story, rickety-looking wooden tower that housed the hand-pulled elevator long ago used to carry miners to and from the different levels of the shaft. The entrance to the elevator tower edged up to a rolling edge of hillside.
“Oh,” the duo responded.
“C’mon,” Griffin headed toward the entrance.
Part 4B can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/36742.html>