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: Thanks so much for reading and for your wonderful, thoughtful reviews. It’s through the thoughts expressed in one such review that I bring you this note. When conceiving this story, and thinking of the bond between the brothers, I held the Gaelic word dlúthchara in my mind. It means “close friend, rarest friend.” It’s the Irish way of saying soul’s mate. “Soulmate” is a modern term. I’m told that Europeans tend to interpret it to mean “close friends,” while Americans tend to interpret it to mean “fated lovers.”
At no time did I intend to insinuate a love between the brothers that was anything other than a rare connection. Some people believe that souls are literally made and/or fated to be the mates of each other, or to play certain other important roles in each other's lives.
a/n 2: After I got this beta’d by someone with a bit more medical experience than me (which isn’t hard since I have none), I realized I should remind ya’ll that I’ve made everything up in this fic. I have decided to lean on the sturdy wall that is fiction and tell a story that could, in the realm of reality, probably never happen.
Chapter 1, A and B
Chapter 2, A and B
Chapter 3, A and B
Chapter 4, A and B
The song was wrong.
Brother or not, Dean was damn heavy. Sam’s shoulders ached from the strain of being bound for so long, and the added weight of Dean’s arm felt like the yolk of a burden he wasn’t sure he was strong enough to carry. He felt Dean working to move his feet the few steps they’d taken away from the support beams Adoamros had tied them to, but blood loss had made his limbs uncooperative and Sam had to readjust his tenuous hold on his brother’s side.
“You came in from… from up there,” Sam said, peering up through the wavering candlelight to the heavy velvet curtain, the wetness from Dean’s body chilling his skin. “I don’t know if we can — Dean? Dean!”
The weight against his side and in his arms suddenly increased and Sam stumbled, grabbing for Dean. Going to his knee, Sam grappled with slick, bloody limbs as Dean’s head fell back revealing closed eyes in a pale, bruised face.
“Aw, no,” Sam shook his head, balancing his brother in his grip. He reached up and tapped Dean’s face. “No, no, no, man. You stay with me. Dean? Dean! C’mon, open your eyes, man. I need you right now, okay?”
Dean’s eyelids fluttered and Sam felt the trembling in his brother’s body increase to full-on shivering. Swallowing hard, Sam shifted, sliding Dean into the hollow of his arms and easing him down, hissing as the sliced, broken skin on his thigh and sides pulled with the movement. Using his free hand, Sam felt for his brother’s pulse. It was racing.
“Hey,” Sam said, tapping Dean’s cheek again. “Hey, Dean, c’mon, man. I need your help to get out of this cave, okay? I can’t do this by myself.”
Dean’s lips moved in a slow, sluggish breath of muted sound.
“What?” Sam leaned closer, his ear centimeters from Dean’s mouth. “What was that?”
“Y-yes… you can.”
“Yeah, well,” Sam pushed out through chilled, numb lips, “I don’t want to.” He swallowed again, the sour taste of panic at the back of his throat as the impact of his words rested heavy on his tongue.
He used the pad of his thumb and brushed some of the cave dirt from Dean’s face, knowing the truth of those words went far beyond this moment.
He felt the muscles in Dean’s back and belly tighten with effort as his brother forced his eyes open once more, the pupils wide with shock and pain. Dean’s shivering had become visible in the moments since he’d begged Sam to help him find Brenna.
Gotta get him help…
“Cold,” Dean said, frowning as he tried to wrap his arms around his bloody chest.
“I know,” Sam said, looking up and around. “You’re going into shock, I think. Gotta keep you warm.”
Carefully sliding his arm from beneath Dean, Sam stood, his eyes on the bedding covering the ledge about six feet above him. Just above that ledge was the opening Dean had emerged from. Sam looked down at his brother, watching his gore-covered body tremble, and knew that there was no way they were escaping the way Dean had arrived.
“I’ll be right back,” he said.
“I’ll… just w-wait… here,” Dean quipped, closing his eyes.
“Don’t go to sleep on me,” Sam ordered, reaching up for a hand-hold and pulling himself painfully to the next outcropping. The cut across his side stabbed ruthlessly and he muttered a curse, pressing his hand on the exposed meat of his skin, fully expecting to remove a blood-covered hand.
When he saw his hand was clean, he looked over his shoulder at Dean, unable to tell if his brother was bleeding again or not. Sucking in a breath through clenched teeth, Sam scrambled to the ledge. He rifled through the bedding and removed an old Army blanket, tossing it to the cave floor.
Turning around, he slid down the ledge, landing in a crouch, then grabbed the blanket as he made his way over to Dean. He worked the other sleeve of Dean’s tattered shirt free, then carefully smoothed the gray blanket across Dean’s bare, blood-stained shoulders. He saw with a degree of fear that new blood leaked from Dean’s side. Pulling his lip in and catching it between his teeth, Sam looked up, meeting Dean’s pain-saturated eyes.
“I know,” Dean whispered. “Damn strong… spell.”
“I’m trying to remember what he said,” Sam confessed. “It was all Latin, but I… I wasn’t paying close enough attention. I’m sorry, man. I should have—“
“There’s… an elevator.”
Dean closed his eyes and drew in a shaky breath. “Saw it… from the outside. Elevator.”
Sam rested his hand on Dean’s arm, rocking back on his heels. Thinking back, he pictured Adoamros lifting Brenna over his shoulder and disappearing into the shadows. Wincing with the movement, his body starting to feel hollowed-out, Sam stood and moved to where he’d last seen the wizard.
“There’s an opening here,” he called back to Dean. “Looks like it… yeah, there’s a tunnel or something.”
He turned, feeling the chill of the cave make itself at home under his skin. Stumbling as he moved back to Dean, Sam pressed his hand against his heart, feeling a sudden, sluggish beat that sent his head spinning.
“What the hell?” he wondered aloud.
“Comin’,” Sam said softly, rubbing his chest through his opened shirt and tentatively palpating the slices in his skin.
“What’s wrong?” Dean asked as Sam cupped the back of his neck, easing him into a sitting position.
Sam lifted a brow. “What’s wrong? Really?”
“With… you.” Dean shivered.
Sam closed his eyes for a moment, the wizard’s rant clear in his head. …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…
“We gotta break this spell, man,” Sam said, one hand still on Dean’s neck, the other, pulling the blanket tighter around Dean’s shoulders. “It’s… it’s not enough to just… not believe.”
“You’re kidding,” Dean deadpanned, looking for a moment like the smart-ass brother Sam truly needed in this moment.
Sam laughed, hearing the sob under the desperate humor and nodded once before lifting Dean to a wavering stance.
“Can you walk?”
“Bear… woods… you get the idea,” Dean coughed once, wincing and Sam felt a stab of pain cut through his own chest. “Sam?” Dean reached for him as Sam stumbled forward. “Sammy?”
“Dean,” Sam drew in a breath. “We need to move. Now.”
“’Kay.” Dean nodded, shuffling forward, the blanket and bowed shoulders shrinking him in the candlelight. “Lead on.”
“Right,” Sam put an arm around his brother’s trembling shoulders. “Like you’re going to be able to make it two steps without help.”
“I’m… st-stronger than you th-think,” Dean stuttered through chattering teeth.
“Dude, you’re the strongest person I know,” Sam said as he moved them into the shadows just outside the entry to the tunnel. “But you’re not Superman.”
“Says… who?” Dean pressed, his body weight shifting against Sam despite his obvious efforts to remain self-propelled.
“Clark Kent,” Sam returned.
“’S okay… like Batman… better.”
“Save your strength, man.”
“Nothin’ to… save,” Dean said, his voice a raspy whisper. “Keep… talking.”
“Why?” Sam asked, then realized that for the last few minutes he’d not felt the pain of his slices and cuts. He almost stopped moving, his surprise was so great. They crossed the threshold from the candlelit cave to the complete darkness of the tunnel and he whistled in appreciation. “Okay, so, yeah… an elevator, huh?”
“Watch out… land mines,” Dean said, then groaned and stumbled.
Sam tightened his grip, working to ignore the heat that was building in the cut on his thigh. “Land mines?”
“Griffin… almost tripped one… way in.”
“You think this guy would booby-trap his own escape route?”
“Dude… thinks he’s a… wizard.”
“Where would he get land mines?”
“Dad… had ‘em.”
Sam nodded, remembering the plethora of items hidden away in that secret storage unit. It was a prime example of where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“It’s dark in here,” Sam said, just to be talking. “Like, really dark. Can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-fac
“I get the idea, Sam,” Dean grumbled.
“Where’s your Zippo?”
They bounced slightly against the tunnel wall, straightening their direction with dual hisses of pain.
“Dunno,” Dean confessed. “Needed it earlier. Didn’t have it.”
“You w-wonder… why… he didn’t t-tell us?”
“Who?” Sam frowned, peering ahead and feeling with his free hand along the dirt wall. He could barely make out a light from what looked like a vertical shaft ahead of them. “Tell us what?”
Out of the blue, the memory of the softness in his dad’s voice as he stood on the other side of Dean’s hospital bed asking him for a cup of caffeine cut through Sam like a physical pain.
Dean’s voice was fading, wavering like the sound of a water faucet being slowly turned off. Sam tightened his grip once more, trying to absorb some of the shaking, and took a few more steps toward the wan light.
“You mean… about his deal?”
“Deal?” Dean tripped, then caught himself. “No… the storage unit.”
The light was right in front of them, shining like muted starlight down into an alcove. Sam breathed a sigh of relief, setting his brother against the wall and scanning the tunnel for something that looked like a call button. As he stepped away, moving his hand from its support on Dean’s chest, he saw his brother’s knees buckle and Dean slid to the ground, barely keeping himself from face-planting in the cave dirt.
“’M fine,” Dean slurred, pushing himself more or less upright. “Look …for a rope.”
“’S a pulley system.”
Dean coughed again, and Sam braced himself against the wall and doubled over as a phantom pain lit his wounds on fire.
“Shit,” he breathed, then began to drag his fingers along the walls looking for the rope that would lower the elevator.
The air from the shaft above spilled hot and heavy, reminding Sam that the cool of the cave was actually a respite from the unnatural heat, which seemed to have only increased during his time below ground. His fingers tripped across the rough hemp of the thick rope and he grinned.
Silence met his announcement and he looked over his shoulder.
“Where… else’d I be?”
“Talk to me.”
“I know you’re tired. Talk to me anyway.”
Sam’s brain was fuzzy, tripping over thought and matching the hollow, puppet-like sensation of his heavy limbs. Time folded for a moment, forcing him to lean forward, his forehead against the crumbling stone and dirt of the alcove wall. Voices echoed in his head, adding to the lingering dizziness that threatened to take him to his knees.
He heard his own voice whispering memories of breathing with Dean to calm himself. He heard his dad’s voice talking them through an escape from social services—a fate worse than any hunt gone wrong. He heard Dean’s voice on the other end of his phone telling him he was proud. He heard the cry of pain that he’d been unable to voice echoing in the sound of his own name as it ripped a bloody path on its escape from his brother’s mouth.
He heard Dean say one year.
“Talk,” he choked out, clearing his throat and fighting away the vertigo, “talk about Dad.”
Two heartbeats of silence were enough to bring Sam’s head up. He looked over at Dean’s slumped form and for one agonizing moment feared the worst as he saw the starlight illuminate Dean’s pale face, parted lips, and opened eyes staring at nothing.
Then, Dean blinked and Sam’s world began to turn on its axis once more.
“He never… mentioned it. All… that talk about… need to know… shoot first… ask questions later…” Dean grunted slightly, the last words hissing out on a breath of escaped pain, “never was a later…”
Sam wrapped his long fingers around the rope, working to ignore the fact that he couldn’t really feel the rope against his skin. Instead, he could feel himself tipping backwards to a dark abyss that no deal, no sacrifice of soul, no stay of execution would save him from.
The elevator platform was lowered on a dual rope system. One rope had to be pulled from the anchoring and then fed upwards while the other lowered or raised the platform. Clenching his jaw, Sam yanked on the rope, pulling it from the anchor, feeling a catch far above him and the slack in his grip contrasting with the release of another rope stretched alongside the one in his hands.
“Tells me he’s proud of me…” Dean was saying, his voice undulating between tightly wound vocals and breathy whispers, telling Sam that his brother was far enough gone that he didn’t realize what he was saying, or perhaps that he was even speaking aloud. “Tells me… tells me I did good… never said that before… never was a later, though… never got a chance to ask…”
Sam kept silent, mourning the loss of chances with his dad with as much quiet pain as he heard in his brother’s confession. He fed the rope upwards, listening to the ancient creek of gears as the platform well above their heads began to crawl slowly downward.
“Pictures… Sammy, he had pictures,” Dean continued, and Sam saw him begin to slip a little further toward the ground. “Of all of us… from… from a long time… ‘go…”
“Never said… had it the whole time…”
“Hey! Hey, Dean!”
Dean seemed to sink a little into the wall and Sam’s feeling of disconnect amplified. The rope slipped through Sam’s numb hands and he fell to his knees, his body fighting his will in a battle for survival.
“No…” he whispered. “Not… yet.”
Sam looked up, staring blankly at the rapidly descending elevator platform, confused by what was happening as his heart thudded hard and heavy with slowing rhythm. Something inside him screamed for him to move, that danger was eminent, but he was so tired, so tired…
A soul can be sacrificed, can be given willingly to save another…
Brenna’s rebellious cry echoed so loudly in his head that Sam blinked, looking around, expecting her to be standing in front of him. The movement, the awareness was just enough to propel him out of the way as the elevator platform reached the bottom, thudding against the stone and dirt floor with a cacophonous retort of wood and metal. Sam flinched, covering his ears, his body curled into a position of protection.
A soul can be sacrificed…
“That’s it,” he breathed. “That’s it!”
Rolling to his knees, Sam crawled to the shivering form of his brother. He grabbed the front of the blanket and dragged Dean up and close to him. It seemed strangely silent in the wake of the blast from the crashing platform. The air from the open shaft wrapped them in a steamy, suffocating heat, and the muted starlight shone significantly brighter without the barricade of the platform to filter its power.
Dean’s head hung back limply, his throat flashing with his rapid pulse. The shudder of his body shook the blanket in Sam’s hands, but he ignored it, cupping his brother’s neck and pulling his face toward him.
“Listen,” Sam said, his voice barely above a whisper as need sapped the strength of his demand. “It can’t get you, Dean.”
Wincing as another phantom pain struck him, this time on his upper arm, Sam shook Dean slightly. “And if it can’t get you, then it won’t get me.”
He felt Dean catch his breath.
“You don’t own your soul anymore. That’s what Brenna was trying to say…” Sam’s voice faded slightly as he spoke her name, fear and guilt warring for dominance in his consciousness. “That freakin’ Harry Potter wannabe couldn’t have you ‘cause you already gave your soul up.”
Sam’s voice cracked as the very real pain of time slipping away from them and the knowledge that the person he loved most in this world may be gone sped his sluggish heart.
“And if the souls are paired… if it’s a set that he needs… then he can’t have me, either.”
Sam nodded, encouraged by any modicum of sound from Dean’s lips, though his brother’s eyes remained closed. “Yeah, I know, man, believe me. These cuts, they hurt like a bitch, but… I think…”
He watched Dean’s eyes roll beneath his closed lids, noticing the starlight start to fade from silver to a warmer bronze as twilight slid between the dominating gods of night and day.
“I think I remember some of his spell,” Sam said, shuffling forward on his knees so that Dean rested against him, his back to Sam’s front. “The spells in Dad’s boxes… they were repeated a lot. I mean, you would say the same thing with different purpose and, something else would happen…”
“Swell,” Dean grumbled. “That mean… we can… un-exorcise… a demon?”
“I don’t remember what the spells were for, or if all of them were repeated, but I think maybe… maybe if I repeat some of his spell, y’know, and just reverse some key phrases, maybe this will stop.”
“Hunt’s fulla maybes,” Dean sighed.
Sam closed his eyes, his head dropping forward tiredly until his chin rested on the top of Dean’s head. Maybe the knife will save him… maybe Dad meant to tell us about the storage unit… maybe Brenna was a hunter… maybe…
“We gotta believe in something, man,” Sam said. Or not believe…
“C-can’t st-stop shaking,” Dean confessed.
“I got you,” Sam tightened his grip. “I won’t let go.”
He felt Dean draw a breath. Then another. The space between each one tangled Sam’s stomach in knots.
“You start bleeding… ‘m gonna kick… your ass.”
Sam nodded, taking this to be the closest thing to go for it that he was going to get. Closing his eyes once more, he pictured Adoamros hovering over him, stroking the diamond-studded blade down his chest, muttering. He focused his memory on the wizard’s lips, trying to read them, trying to remember…
Soul to soul… bound by fate… I torture to free…
“Did… you just say… crucio?” Dean’s raspy voice broke in.
“Dude… what a freak…”
“He was in love with his brother,” Sam revealed.
Dean stiffened, and Sam realized saying that while Dean essentially lay in his arms was probably not the best timing. “I think he was… talking to him.”
“To… his brother?”
“Yeah. I think he thought his brother chose the victims.”
Dean was silent for a moment. “Maybe he did.”
Sam knew that he had to turn one phrase around, had to stop what the spell had started. He breathed shallowly, hoping as his lips formed the words that he was reversing the right phrase, using the right rhythm, making the right choice.
Blood of blood… bound to me… soul to soul I set you free…
“Jesus… Christ,” Dean gasped, his eyes flying open, his head pressing back against Sam’s shoulder as his back arched, his body bowing up in a taut reaction to pain. “Fuck me… what the hell, Sam?”
Sam felt nothing, not even the sting of the cuts that had been burning just moments before. Hastily, he looked down at his side where the worst of the wounds were and saw that it was still there, still pulled wide, still wet and raw, but blood-free.
“Ah!” Dean cried out, his shaking increasing until Sam all but lost his grip on the blanket, parting it to reveal a flash of his brother’s skin.
“Oh, you gotta be kidding me,” Sam breathed watching with horror as Dean’s skin parted in a gash as deep and long as the one on Sam’s side.
Sam slid from beneath his brother and laid Dean’s jerking form flat on the ground, searching hastily in the growing dawn light that filtered down through the elevator shaft for more wounds, knowing exactly where they would be.
He could feel the heat from the wound on Dean’s thigh, though his brother’s jeans stayed intact. He opened the blanket completely and watched with horror as each slice, each cut from his body was mirrored in the gore on Dean’s bare chest as his brother writhed in agony.
“Dean!” Sam’s hands hovered, unsure where to touch, what to hold, how to stop the mess that he’d apparently created.
“What? What’s burning?”
“Me,” Dean panted, rolling to his side and looking as if he were going to push to his knees, unable to get his trembling arms beneath him. “Son of a bitch!”
“I don’t know… I don’t know what to do!” Sam rested his hand on the wound on Dean’s side, only then realizing that while the skin had split, the wound was not bleeding. “Wait… wait…”
“Aw, fuck,” Dean panted. “Fuck!”
The heat of Dean’s skin beneath Sam’s hand was dangerous, a fever causing Dean’s body to spasm violently. Sam pressed his other hand on another visible slice, pressing down on the wound.
“The weapon and the wound,” he muttered to himself. “There’s always two… there’s always two…”
“Sam, God, make it stop,” Dean pleaded, his voice barely above a strangled whisper. “Un-do whatever you did.”
“No, wait… wait, man, I think it’s working. Hang on, Dean. You can do it.”
Dean’s hand reached up, his palm slapping against Sam’s bicep, his fingers twisting tightly into the loose material of his shirt, gripping as if letting go would mean a fall into his own chasm.
“That’s it,” Sam encourage, not daring to remove his hands from Dean’s body. “That’s it, hang on. Dean, listen, it’s getting better. Can you feel it? You’re cooling down.”
“Holy shit.” Dean pressed his eyes closed, his face pale and taut, his jaw muscle jumping in time with his visibly racing pulse.
“There’s always two, Dean.”
“Wh-what the hell does th-that mean?”
“It means that… that I’m cut, you bleed, right? So… reverse it and the wounds show up to match your bleeding.”
“Fuck’s sake, Sam… get to th-the good part…”
“They’re healing, Dean.”
Dean started to breathe again, slow, easy breaths, working to calm himself, working to combat the obvious pain.
Sam shook his head, though his brother’s eyes were still closed. “And risk getting my ass kicked? Not on your life.”
Sam released one of the wounds, reaching for his brother’s fisted hand, digging his fingers into Dean’s grip and holding on tight. Before his eyes, the slices in Dean’s skin started to seal, pulling together as if by invisible stitches. Dean cried out once more, but then clenched his jaw, holding himself inhumanly still as the spell worked its magic.
Sam looked down at his own wounds; still visible, but slowly beginning to seal from the inside out. And no blood. He breathed a small sigh of relief. At least he was strong enough to get his brother out of there.
“Try to relax, man.”
“Bite me,” Dean muttered through clenched teeth.
Sam grinned. “Not really my thing, man.”
Dean huffed out a weedy laugh, his body shaking weakly as he relaxed his muscles incrementally. Sam grabbed the edges of the blanket, wrapping it close around Dean’s bare shoulders, then carefully helped Dean to a sitting position. The spell reversal worked to stop the bleeding, and apparently the pain-tolerance connection, but it didn’t reverse the damages already inflicted.
Sam could still feel the warm air from above skim across his open wounds in a stinging reminder that flesh that wasn’t meant to be uncovered was gaping. Dean’s pale features and trembling limbs exposed a body weakened through blood loss and pain.
The rising sun caught on a piece of metal above them and shone a beam down to spear the ground between them, sending motes of dirt and dust into the air and giving Sam a gauze-like filter through which to view his brother.
“He said the soul couldn’t be feely given.”
“Huh?” Dean lifted a brow, opening one eye to regard Sam.
“The wizard. He said the soul had to be taken… it couldn’t be freely given.”
“He’s full of shit, Sam,” Dean said softly, closing his eyes, his expression screaming that he knew where Sam was headed with his line of thinking and was trying to deflect the questions with a wall of resistance.
“Yeah? You sure about that?”
“I made a deal, Sam. Same as Dad.”
“You’re saying it just took your word—“
“I’m saying it took my will.” Dean opened his eyes, his voice ragged, but no longer breathy and shaking. “I’m saying I did it freely. I’m saying that punk-ass M.E. is eight kinds of crazy and has lived too long. I’m saying no one took anything from me that I wasn’t ready to give up.”
“You were ready to give it up then. Until you realized what it meant,” Sam said, sitting back on his heels, a dizzying hallucination of John’s soft eyes swimming over Dean’s wounded ones staring back at him.
“Even when you said you didn’t want to go to Hell?”
“There’s a difference, Sam.” Dean looked up, his eyes skimming the length of the elevator shaft, looking as if he just realized where they were. “I don’t want to go to Hell. But, given the chance, I wouldn’t choose differently.”
“Why?” Sam asked softly.
“Because the world is a better place with you in it.”
It was such a simple statement said with such honest belief that Sam was unable to breathe for a moment. He looked away, licked his lips, then looked back. Dean was watching him, seemingly unable to do more than that.
“C’mon,” Sam said finally, his head feeling more solid, his body less number. Gone was the sensation that nothing was holding him to the ground. “Let’s get out of here.”
He pushed himself to his feet, reaching down and pulling Dean up. Dean tried, he did, but his body had been through hell, and Sam was simply waiting for the moment when the blood loss would steal Dean’s consciousness. He held Dean tight, moving him forward with soft, encouraging words, then eased him down on the elevator platform, far enough from the outer edge that he wouldn’t scrape against the walls.
“You sure you can do this?” Dean asked, blinking slowly, looking up at Sam through heavy-lidded eyes. His fight for awareness was visible.
“No,” Sam confessed, grabbing the rope, and sliding his eyes up the length of the shaft. “But I don’t really want to stay down here until someone figures out we’re missing.”
“Good point,” Dean closed his eyes.
“Stay with me, okay?”
Sam pulled on the rope, raising the platform incrementally. “Think there’s any way Griffin might find us?”
“Griffin’s hurt,” Dean said, as if just remembering. “Sinatra took him out of the other tunnel.”
Dean opened his eyes, regarding Sam wordlessly.
“Oh,” Sam said softly.
“It’s worse than that,” Dean sighed. “Griffin was the only one who knew much about that fuckin’ wizard.”
Sam opened his mouth to ask why that was worse, pulling them slowly up the shaft, then realized what Dean meant. If they didn’t know much about the wizard, they couldn’t find him. If they couldn’t find him, they couldn’t find Brenna.
“We’ll find her, Dean,” Sam assured him.
Dean closed his eyes, his trembling starting to increase once again. “We’d better.”
Sam tugged the rope, moving them ever upward, feeling sweat bead on his upper lip and along his hairline. He watched his brother’s face pulling tight with worry, somewhat relieved that though Dean lay in a heap of weakness, it wasn’t pain that pulled his brows together.
“You love her?”
Dean’s lips twitched. His forehead folded into a frown.
“It’s okay if you do,” Sam tried, finding it difficult to express his tangled emotions.
They weren’t the type of brothers who offered solace and understanding through words. He fought for a way to say I was afraid of her; I didn’t want her to take you away from me when we have so little time left. He search for words that expressed I was jealous of you; I didn’t want to watch you feel love when I am destined to be without it. When everyone I love dies.
He struggled with I want to be the one to save you; I want you to know that I saved you because you saved me, because you brought me back, because you have given up everything for me and I know I owe you so much and there’s no way I can pay you back and I hate that. And she’s powerful enough. She’s just enough that she might do it.
The jealousy he felt toward Brenna wasn’t something he was used to, and he was ashamed. Watching Dean lay on the platform, fighting just to stay conscious, blood soaking his clothes, Sam realized he was a fool. His connection to Dean went beyond anything either of them would ever have with another.
It was a link that had been born in the fire that took their mother. It was a melding of souls. Beyond friendship. Beyond brotherhood. When Sam was cut, Dean bled. Literally and metaphorically. And the only thing that could break that was inside of them.
“I mean it,” Sam continued when Dean didn’t speak. “I loved Jess. I looked at her, and, man, I wanted to wrap up the moon and give it to her. She made me… she made me feel, y’know? Like I was good. Like I mattered. Like without me, she didn’t really exist.”
Sam continued to haul them upwards, his weary, wounded body sweating with effort and from the oppressive heat they were emerging into as they ascended the shaft. Thinking of Jessica, he forgot about everything for a moment. He could still recall the spread of her smile. The snap in her eyes when she teased him. The way her skin smelled. The feel of her neck at the bend of her shoulder. The sound of her breath in his ear as they made love.
He never wanted to forget that. He never wanted to forget her.
Sam looked down at his brother, pale, trembling, laying on the elevator platform as if dropped from the sky. He opened his mouth to prompt an answer when Dean spoke, his voice slurred and rough, as if pulled from the recesses of awareness. As if spoken in reluctant confession.
“Yeah,” rasped Dean, “I love her.”
Unsure if he were relieved by the honesty, or more worried for his brother now than ever before, Sam called out to him.
When he didn’t answer, Sam stretched out a foot, toeing Dean’s hand with his boot. Dean didn’t flinch.
“Shit,” Sam muttered, pulling faster. “We’re almost there, Dean. We’re almost out.”
What Sam hadn’t considered, he realized as they crested the opening, drawing level with the ground and the opened door of the elevator, was that out didn’t exactly mean free. He tied the rope, stepped off the platform and into the almost-tropical heat of the Pennsylvania morning. Looking around at the barren landscape, devoid of any form of transportation, he felt his heart sink.
“Son of a bitch.”
Some time ago, Brenna had reached a level of control with her druid sight that allowed her to adjust it like a dimmer switch, seeing just enough into a person that she could take what she needed, and not be burdened with the rest. She accepted the power as part of her. Like the freckles across her nose, or her unruly hair. She hadn’t considered it to be anything of notable significance.
“Perhaps it is you I should have cut.” The whisper was heated, the lips wet pressed closed to her ear, not quite touching.
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” she muttered, pulling her legs as close to her chest as possible, gripping them tightly with her arms.
The cloistered air of the empty rail car was black as the inside of her captor’s heart, the rhythmic rocking of the train a nauseating reminder of how far she was traveling from help, from safety. Brenna was thankful only that the wizard wasn’t currently touching her. The journey she’d taken inside of his insanity had set her on the edge of a very deep, dark hole and she was debating on the benefit of falling in.
“Now, that’s no way to talk,” Adoamros crooned.
She felt him moving around her in the dark; she could smell him. The sour stench of his breath, the heat of his skin, the sulfurous waft of air that followed his motion. Brenna bit the inside of her cheek, keeping the traitorous whimper silent, keeping her eyes open in the dark because the images she’d inadvertently pulled from his brain played too easily across her closed lids.
“Get the hell away from me,” she growled.
“I don’t think so,” the wizard chuckled. “We are going to get to know each other very well, you and I.”
Seeing Dean bleed for his brother had broken a piece of her heart and sent it tumbling inside her, slicing and cutting a lonely, shattered swath in its wake. His touch had once left her defenseless against emotions that ricocheted on each other, fighting to be heard and to hide simultaneously. But he didn’t belong to her. She’d always known that on some level. And now, as much as she wanted to deny it, she had proof.
“Where are we going?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Adoamros retorted. “All that should matter to you is how you are going to give me your power in order to spare you life.”
“Who says I care about sparing my life?”
“Everyone cares about sparing their life. It is the salvation of the human condition.”
Brenna brought her head up, still unable to see much, but fully aware of where he was. “Not true.”
“You delight in contradicting me,” the wizard observed. “You won’t when you’re begging for your life.”
“Oh, for the love… do you have any original material?”
She heard his pacing steps halt. For several moments there was no sound but the clacking of the train as it raced over tracks taking them to God knows where. A bead of sweat traced a familiar path down the side of her face and she shrugged up a shoulder to wipe it away.
Her joints ached from having been bound for so long; the scrapes on her wrists stung as the oppressive heat of the early morning drew moisture from her skin. She scratched at the drying blood and her heart hitched as she remembered Dean, broken, bleeding, his eyes pinning hers with a promise only he could make.
I’m gonna find you.
She knew it was hopeless. Deep inside, in that place she fought to ignore, where truth festered and grew, infecting her with knowledge that she didn’t want to recognize, she heard a small voice telling her that this was it. This encounter, this insane man who thought himself to be a wizard, would decide her fate.
“Dean,” she whispered, closing her eyes and picturing him, hale and whole, standing before her. She traced a mental glance along jeans worn from life on the road, bowed legs relaxed and ready, gray T-shirt pressed against the contours of his body, short hair catching the morning light, green eyes shielded by lashes so long they would keep a secret safe.
Holding that image in her mind, Brenna opened her eyes, pressed her hands flat on the floor of the rail car and pushed herself to her feet. The glow from the rising sun filtered in through random cracks in the car, offering just enough light that she could see the silhouette of the wizard standing across the car from her, looking as though he were speaking with someone.
Brenna took a breath and slowly rolled her fingers tight against her fists. She had lost the discipline to focus her power long ago—now she knew she could be its victim along with the wizard. It no longer mattered. For several months, she’d held on to the illusion of the possibility of love, though outwardly she denied it. Inside, she always hoped. The wizard’s spell had erased that hope.
So she would erase him.
“What are you doing?” Adoamros turned to face her.
She couldn’t see his expression, but she could make out his form. Pulling everything, every hideous image of blood and death, every scream of pain, every plea for mercy, every year upon year of unnatural life, every moment of imagined physical connection with the brother he’d lost so long ago, every dark shadow and glimmer of light she had seen inside his mind to the surface of her own, Brenna cried out.
Her body bucked and she felt something inside of her give way as a force filled the empty rail car, shaking the sliding doors and flinging them from their clasps, propelling them outward into the scorching countryside.
“What. Are. You. Doing!?”
Brenna screamed, falling to her knees, but unwilling to give in, wanting to overwhelm the wizard with the same force as she’d obliterated the doors. Wanting to kill.
The echoing blast of power from the wizard sent her tumbling to the ground, slamming her against the back of the rail car and driving the air from her lungs. Dimly through ringing ears, she heard the raspy, reptilian sound of the wizard muttering. It sounded like a spell, but she didn’t know enough of such things to identify it.
She coughed helplessly, unable to defend herself when he crossed the car and grabbed the front of her torn shirt, ripping it further and exposing her bra and bruised ribs. She weakly beat away his hands, but the blast of energy that had driven the doors from the car had sapped her strength completely.
Adoamros closed his fingers around her neck, causing her to instinctively clasp his wrist in defense. As he pulled her up from the ground, she fell into him, unable to shield herself, unable to save herself. As if slipping through a tunnel, Brenna jerked and flinched as the truth of the wizard’s life played out for her through his eyes in a kaleidoscope of colors.
A young man with blue eyes wearing an olive green Army uniform stepped in close, his lips soft, his skin cool. The image shifted and the eyes she was looking through saw the same young man bruised and pale—death haunting the edges of his expression. She traveled with Adam Carter through the tunnels of the abandoned mine, she felt his sorrow, his utter loneliness, his complete despair. She saw the dagger, she watched him learn, she felt the strange mixture of disgust, horror, and pleasure as he killed his first victim.
She felt his heat, the heat of his need, the heat of his anger. The heat permeated his being, drifted into the world, oppressed the town until his anger was satiated, until his need was satisfied. She felt him lose his humanity as easily as if he shrugged free of a cloak. She watched the diamond blade separate skin, break apart connections, shatter life, and she felt him delight in it.
When Adoamros released her, Brenna fell to the ground gasping, choking, weakly pressing a shaking hand to her throat.
“You think you can kill me? Me? I am forever!”
Brenna lifted her eyes, knowing they were wide, predatory, unnatural. “You are nothing,” she rasped. She pushed herself slowly to her knees, never taking her eyes from him. “You get off on a borrowed power.”
“That’s not true,” Adoamros stated flatly, leaning close. “The power is mine. Mine! Lane showed me, he gave it to me, so that I can return him—“
“Lane is dead, you freak.”
“He speaks to me.” Adoamros straightened, stepping back from Brenna. “He is my soul mate.”
“He doesn’t speak to you. He probably pities you.”
The crack of his fist across her cheekbone wasn’t a surprise, but it hurt like hell. Brenna’s vision swam and her eyes watered as she slowly brought her head back up to look at the wizard with contempt.
“Feel like a big man now?”
“You live for one purpose: to replace the two I lost.”
“Bite me,” she spat. “All I wanted to do is get you away from them.”
“They are still dead,” Adoamros smiled wickedly. “You efforts didn’t save them.”
Brenna swallowed the sudden rush of bile and clenched her teeth as she said, “If they died, then they did so with their souls intact. You didn’t win.”
Adoamros looked out through the open rail car, the hot wind buffeting his hair and mustache, pressing his clothes tight against his skin. Brenna looked away, not wanting the image of the mousey wizard to replace her memory of Dean.
“If you don’t release your power, the town will burn.”
“Oh, please,” Brenna used the wall of the rail car to pull herself to her feet. “We’ve gone from killing soul mates to burning down a town? A little big for your britches, aren’t you?”
“You feel that heat? You feel it out there?”
Brenna swallowed, keeping her face carefully blank.
“It will only increase until a sacrifice is made.”
“Or you die.”
Adoamros stepped up to her, his fisted fingers exposing how badly he wanted to touch her, the fear at the back of his eyes exposing his respect for her power. Brenna stared back at him, feeling her strength start to return. She didn’t even see him pull the knife.
The sudden, unexpected slice on her shoulder caused her to cry out, then grip the wound, warm blood spilling over her fingers and dripping to the floor. Her surprise and pain shifted quickly to triumph and satisfaction as she watched the wizard’s face crumple with disbelief.
“Looks like Lane isn’t such a great divining rod these days,” she gasped.
“You were there; you absorbed the spell.”
“Why do you bleed?!”
She watched as the wizard’s sanity slipped off the precipice she herself had been perching on moments ago.
“Because,” she stepped forward, “not everyone has a soul mate.”
“No… no it’s not possible.”
“Maybe…” she swallowed, hating herself for even thinking these words, “maybe you killed mine… too quickly.”
“I will fix this… I will fix this…”
The wild look in the wizard’s eyes sent a shiver of worried apprehension down Brenna’s spine. She darted a look out of the train car as she felt the motion below her feet begin to slow. Taking a breath, she tried to calculate how quickly she would have to move to get past the wizard and out through the door without breaking her neck.
“I will fix this,” Adoamros continued to repeat, then to her surprise reached out, grabbed her wrist, spun her around and pressed her forcefully against the wall.
“No,” she whispered, closing her eyes tight, working to block the images that swamped her brain from his touch. “No no no no no…”
She pictured Declan, she pictured their home, the bar and the garage. She thought of the cars Declan had stored there so long ago. She pictured Dean rebuilding the Grand National for her as he healed from the banshee’s attack. She felt Adoamros tying her wrists together, tightly. She felt a gag pressed into her mouth and tied behind her head. She felt his hand on her arm, pulling her from the wall, thrusting her to the open door of the rail car.
Mentally tracing the line of the Grand National, picturing dirty, jean-clad legs sticking out from under the belly of the beast, she was able to keep the horror of his touch at bay.
When he pushed her from the moving train, her mind was reaching down to pull Dean out from beneath the car. When her body crashed with bone-snapping impact against the unforgiving ground, she was grinning back into Dean’s grease-smeared face, pulling a socket wrench from his hand in exchange for a shop towel.
When darkness took her mercifully into its embrace, she was falling gratefully into Dean’s waiting arms.
Part 5B can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/37883.html>