Characters: Dean, Sam
Rating: PG-13 for language and themes
Spoilers: This story is set in Season 1 after 1.16, Shadow
Summary: In an attempt to save a disillusioned hunter from himself, Dean and Sam are caught in a spell that sends them to 1870 Texas. Surviving the old west is hard enough. Escaping it could prove to be
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
Outside Maera, TX 2005
It always managed to surprise him, the amount of blood in a human body.
Even a body that used to be human could dispense an impressive arterial spray. He could smell it, feel it, practically taste it in the air, on his skin, seeping into his soul. This one he'd done on his own; he'd left the other two behind, starting the ritual on his own, knowing that exsanguination was the only guarantee that the essence would be captured.
He disposed of the body, not bothering to clean himself up before he returned to find Leo and Max. They'd built a campfire in the center of the Devil's Trap they'd burned into the earth the previous night for the purpose of torturing the ritual out of their captive before exorcising it. He could still smell the remnants of burned fuel and flesh from where they'd gotten rid of the host body the night before, burying the ashes with rock salt.
Jake stopped just outside of the protective symbol looking at his friends. Max poked a stick into the glowing coals absentmindedly; Leo ran his Bowie across a whetstone with practiced rhythm. Both looked up when they heard him approach and drew back with twin expressions of horror at the sight of him.
"It's done," Jake informed them.
Max was the first to mask his revulsion. He dropped his eyes to the line of the Devil's Trap just beyond the toes of Jake's boots. His meaning was clear: come to our side, come back to us. Jake stepped over the barrier and dropped the Mason jar on the padding of his bedroll, the contents sloshing drunkenly within. He'd step inside the protective circle, but he knew he'd never really come back.
"You really did it." Leo's words were a simple confirmation, his eyes on the jar and the small piece of gray matter floating within.
Jake didn't reply. He was through convincing them of his intent. They were in it now; he had only to wait until they accepted that fact. Each one of them had learned in over nearly fifty years in this world that a person could be conditioned to accept anything as normal.
"Now what?" Max asked, his eyes having returned to their stare-down with the dying fire. Jake recognized that look. It was the same expression that had made itself home on Max's face the last eight months they spent surviving in the jungle when they were twenty years old. It was resignation blended with disbelief and cut by heartache.
And this time he was responsible for it.
Dragging a hand down the length of his face and scratching at the whiskers that had grown slightly thicker since Sean's death, Jake sighed. Max knew what was next. He was just asking the question to delay the inevitable.
"Now, we find a calf."
The ritual had been specific. They had to drain the blood of an immortal then remove the creature's suprachiasmatic nucleas, the tiny part of the hypothalamus located directly above the point in the human brain where the optic nerves from the two eyes cross. This part of the brain, he learned, contained the body's central biological clock.
A vampire—the only immortal any of them could think of—had been harder to trap than they'd anticipated, given that Max was convinced they were extinct and Leo was morally averse to procuring a vial of dead man's blood to sedate their catch. Jake had found the nest, tricked the youngest, smallest female away from the rest, and, using the vial Max retrieved in Leo's stead, tied the girl to a tree and sent the other two away.
It had taken her a long time to bleed out.
It had taken him even longer to stop heaving once he'd cut apart her brain.
"A calf." Leo repeated in a dull voice. "I can't fucking believe we're doing this."
The suprachaismatic nucleas was the key ingredient in the ritual. Everything else just helped to ensure their success. But they had to be gathered in a particular order, during specific times of the day. He didn't want to understand why. He didn't care. All he needed to do was follow the instructions.
"Believe it, brother," Max droned. "'Cause we're over the wall now."
He looked up at Jake with empty eyes. Jake nodded back at him, feeling confidence build inside him. This was going to work; he would sacrifice himself if necessary, but it was going to work.
He just didn't anticipate how many failed attempts there would be before they achieved success.
Gary, IN 2005
When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was Sam.
His brother lay sprawled on his back on the opposite bed, mouth open as breath sawed in and out in a familiar, rhythmic snore pattern. His feet hung over the end of the small bed, kicked free of the blankets, and his left arm dangled in the open space between beds. His bed was so close that Dean stretched his hand out across the opening and pushed Sam's arm up to rest on his chest. Sam snorted softly, smacked his lips, and rolled to his side, his back to Dean.
It was refreshing to see Sam sleep, peaceful, dreamless. Too often Dean had woken up in time to bear witness to the lines of pain and panic that outlined Sam's boyish face, erasing youth and sketching a dismal future that Dean could only blame himself for.
The motel room was stuffy; his skin was covered in an uncomfortable, sticky layer of sweat under even the thin blanket and sheet from the bed. Gingerly, Dean rolled from his side to his back, feeling the motion pull the tender, sutured skin along his ribs. With an eyebrow raised in curiosity, he lifted the sheet and looked down the length of his body. Thankfully, he still had his jeans on; Sam had just done away with the bloody shirt.
Automatically, Dean reached up to rub at his gritty eyes, pulling up short as he realized the skin across his forehead felt almost…crunchy.
Groaning, Dean realized that the cuts on his face courtesy of the Daeva hadn't been bandaged last night. Last night? This morning? He blinked, looking around the room. It was light outside; he could see that much from the sunlight slipping through the cracks in the heavy curtains. But it had been light outside the last time he'd been awake, too.
Chewing on a distinctly uncomfortable feeling of missing time, Dean pushed away from the bed, letting the rough, bleach-washed sheets slip from his bare shoulders and puddle at his waist. He felt hollow; a strangely weightless sensation floated through his head and for a moment he was sure if he lifted his hand mid-air it would hover there of its own accord. Nausea that always accompanied extended hours of not eating shook through him, and Dean tossed back the covers, standing slowly and biting back a groan.
He wanted coffee more than he wanted to take another breath.
He hated the shaky, unsettled feeling of weakness that followed him from the dark. Moving toward the bathroom, quick eyes catching sight of food wrappers in the small trashcan, six empty Pepsi cans lined up along the dresser, and a pile of dirty clothes on the floor next to Sam's duffel, he hazarded a guess that he'd been asleep at least twenty-four hours, if not more.
So…blood loss. Not a good thing.
He closed the bathroom door behind him. He winced when he caught his reflection in the mirror: he looked rough. Two days beard crawled across his cheeks and jaw, dried blood matted his eyebrows, and one eye looked bruised.
Taking a deep breath, Dean turned the water in the sink to as hot as he could stand it and splashed his face, cleaning the blood away. He patted it dry with a semi-clean towel he found on the floor, then looked at the first aid kit Sam had left on the counter.
"Almost out of holy water," he muttered, picking up the lighter of the two bottles of antiseptic.
For a brief moment he wondered if Sam had remembered to clean his side with the holy water before stitching it up, but then he recalled the burn that had jerked him roughly from the comfort of oblivion. He looked at his face. Now free from blood, he could clearly see the reddening of the edges of his cuts; they'd gone a little while without being properly cleansed, so this was going to sting.
Folding over the towel he'd used to dry his face, he covered his eyes, and then poured the rest of the holy water down his forehead. It was like bathing in liquid fire. He actually heard the snap and sizzle as the blessed liquid removed the Daeva poison.
"Son. Of. A. Bitch. That hurts," he hissed through clenched teeth. "Mother fu—"
"In here," he called back immediately. The worry in Sam's voice had his stomach jumping in reaction.
"You okay?" Sam's voice was close now, just on the other side of the door.
"Yeah, I'm good. Just taking care of business, Sammy," he replied, turning off the water in the sink and carefully shucking his jeans. His body thrummed with a beat unique to old pain. His bones hurt; he knew this was going to be hanging around for awhile. He'd just have to learn to work around it until he healed. "Be out in a minute."
"Are you kidding?" Dean called back as he turned on the water in the shower stall. "Right now I could eat you and not feel bad about it."
"I'll go get us some break—er, lunch," Sam replied.
Stepping under the spray and feeling his mouth relax into a smile as his body soaked up the delicious sensation of the water, Dean shouted, "What time—hell, day is it?"
"It's like one in the afternoon," Sam yelled through the door. "Saturday."
"What day did we get here?" Dean asked, frowning as he slicked up his body with the bar of soap Sam had left in the dish. He was careful to rotate his left side away from the direct spray of the water.
He heard the smile in Sam's voice. "Friday morning."
That explains a lot.
"Four cheeseburgers," Dean called back. "Fries—make that two orders of fries."
"Yeah, yeah," Sam verbally waved him off. "Want a side of cholesterol and some hardened arteries to go with that?"
"Why not," Dean said. "Hurry up!"
"Be careful of your stit—"
"Just go get the food!" Dean interrupted him, lathering his hair.
In the time it took Dean to rinse, bandage one of the cuts on his forehead, and head out of the steam-filled bathroom to his duffel bag, Sam had returned with the food.
"There's a fast-food place in walking distance from the motel," Sam explained.
"Dude," Dean sighed, not bothering to dress as he reached for a wrapped cheeseburger with a hand shaking from hunger. "Let's never leave."
"Like hell," Sam replied around a mouthful of fries. "This is the smallest room we've ever had. Look." He stood and lifted his hand above his head. Dean watched as he pressed his palm flat on the ceiling, his arm still slightly bent at the elbow.
Dean shrugged, reaching for a second burger. "Guess they didn't have gigantors in mind when they built the place."
"You can say that again," Sam grumbled, dropping down to sit on the foot of Dean's bed. "I think I'm developing claustrophobia."
"I'll just add that to my list of Weird Facts About Sam."
"Shut up." Sam reached for more fries. "You try being trapped in the world's smallest motel room with a brother recovering from blood loss and two channels on the TV."
Dean cut his eyes over to Sam. "Two channels?"
"I know," Sam nodded. "It was more interesting watching you sleep."
Dean lifted an eyebrow. "Okay, that's just creepy."
"Like you haven't done it before."
"I can honestly say I've never watched myself sleep," Dean said, wadding up the paper from one cheeseburger and reaching for another.
"Well, trust me. It's boring," Sam sighed. "I'm just glad you finally decided to wake up. I started getting headaches from too much computer time."
"On the plus side, your cuts are healing fast," Dean remarked, looking at Sam's cheek. Two of the slices were barely noticeable.
Sam nodded. "Thanks to you."
Dean bounced his eyebrows. "What can I say…I've got the magic touch."
"You wish," Sam said, rolling his eyes.
He got up and crossed to the bathroom, pulling his T-shirt over his head and dropping it neatly into the pile of dirty clothes as he did so. It occurred to Dean that Sam had quite effectively taken care of both of them over the last day and a half and had done so with his own rhythm and sense of organization. It wasn't as if Sam hadn't been on his own before—a few times in fact. But on his own and responsible for Dean were two different matters.
The last time Sam had to do that, Dean had been sure he was on his way out. Until, of course, they took a road trip to Nebraska. Dean may be been physically present, but Sam had essentially been alone and had done just fine. Both times.
Frowning at what that thought implied, Dean looked at the scrawl of notes stacked on top of Sam's laptop as he continued to eat. He had to grin slightly as he noted that Sam had started using the blank pages from John's journal when he'd run out of motel stationary.
Flipping the papers around to face him, he scanned the writing.
"Yeah?" Sam called back over the sound of the shower.
"Why do we care about…villain hitting?"
He heard the water shut off and waited until Sam opened the door, letting a billow of steam escape into the already stuffy room. For a tiny motel, it had a damn good supply of hot water, Dean thought. Sam stepped out, a towel wrapped around his waist and knotted at his hip.
"It's this…ritual thing I found when I was looking up demons."
Dean pursed his lips. "Uh-huh. And, uh…why were you looking up demons?"
Sam shrugged, digging through his duffel bag. "Figure we should know as much about 'em as we can, right? I mean, if we're gonna go up against one…y'know, when Dad finds it, or whatever."
Dean sat back in the chair. "Why didn't you just look through Dad's journal?"
Sam pulled a pair of clean jeans up over his boxers. "I did," he replied, putting on a dark blue T-shirt with a wasted-looking greyhound on the front as he turned around. "I wanted to know more."
"Sam, Dad's got all we need to know—"
"It's not the Holy Grail, Dean," Sam snapped. "Dad learned this stuff as he went along; it's not like we never go to libraries or search online or whatever."
Dean felt his frown deepen, the line between his brow burrowing until a headache blossomed.
"He has protection symbols, and exorcism rites," Sam continued. "He has how to detect one with holy water and random notes on weather patterns and omens that don't make any sense. At least not to me."
Dean looked at the leather book sticking out of the top of his duffel bag. Sam sat down across from him.
"Yeah, well…," Dean conceded, not taking his eyes from the journal. "He does kinda write like—"
"Yoda," Sam finished, nodded. "So you've said. I mean, he gave us what he knew when he left," Sam continued as if sensing Dean was gearing up to go on the defensive, "but half of it's written like—"
"We've been inside his head," Dean completed, nodding.
Sam was quiet for a moment. "I just think that…since he's been out there, y'know, looking for this demon, he's learned a lot more than we're going to find in that book."
Dean reached up to rub at his now-aching head, remembering too late that his forehead had been split open by Daeva claws. He dropped his hand into his lap, the rough texture of the towel familiar beneath his fingertips, and rolled his neck. His skin felt tight, dry, like it was stretched too thin over the frame of his muscles and bones. He shifted in the chair, looking at the cuts on his side where they stood out against the smooth plane of his belly, the angry red a sharp contrast to the towel covering the rest of his body.
Dad knows something….
But there hadn't been time to find out more, and now they were on their own again. The idea of picking up where Dad had left off all those many months ago turned the food he'd just inhaled into a rock of dread in his stomach.
It all felt so much bigger now. More than just kicking over an altar table and vanquishing spirits. Something was after his dad. The same something that killed his mom. And that pissed him off.
"Dad said he was going to kill it," Sam reminded him, as if following the path of his thoughts.
"I know," Dean sighed, looking back up at his brother.
"Far as I can tell?" Sam grabbed the stack of papers from the laptop, then dropped them again. "You can't kill a demon. You can torture it, trap it, exorcise it…but you can't kill it."
"Well, Dad seemed to think there was a way."
Sam's steady eyes caught him. "And that's good enough for you, isn't it?"
His tone wasn't accusatory. Sam was, Dean realized, finding wonder in that fact. For a moment, Dean was ashamed to be perceived as such a simple being: a soldier following orders, a man with one job, one mission, and one way to get it done.
Tearing his eyes away from Sam's, Dean used the edge of the table to push himself to his feet, closing his eyes briefly as the rest of the world caught up with his change in altitude. He hated feeling weak; it was his own damn fault, though. He'd been so wrapped up in trying not to react to his dad's sudden arrival and just as sudden departure after all this time he hadn't paid attention to his body and the warning signs it had given him.
Sam had stood with him, he realized, and had a hand hovering near his elbow as if expecting him to topple over any moment.
"Fine," he snapped.
"You sure? 'Cause you just went white."
Not bothering to answer, Dean turned and made his way to his duffel bag. He dug out clothes and dropped his towel, dressing as quickly as his wounds would allow, unwilling to even let a small hiss of pain escape his tightly-closed lips. He sat on the edge of his messy bed to pull on his boots, glancing up briefly at Sam.
"Nothin'," Sam mumbled, turning away and opening the laptop. He muttered something else, too low for Dean to hear.
"Talkin' to yourself, Sammy?"
Sam's sigh was so burdened Dean almost laughed. His brother was unique: a man capable of dispatching a number of creatures multiple ways who was easily larger than most of the hunters they'd encountered and yet still fell victim to the younger-sibling mold of using passive-aggressive behavior until he felt he'd made his point.
"I just said," Sam spoke up, his head tilting slightly to the side as his tone grew sassy, "that it sucks being Superman's little brother."
"Superman was an only child. And an orphan," Dean pointed out, pulling on his boots. He stood, pulling in a steadying breath of stuffy air. "Maybe you're more like…Robin."
"Maybe you should bite me," Sam lifted an eyebrow in challenge, but Dean didn't miss the amused twinkle in his brother's eyes.
"I'll think about it," he joked, "right after coffee."
"Coffee?" Sam squeaked, pausing Dean's hand as he reached for the door. "You just had lunch!"
Dean shrugged. "And your point is…?"
Waving him off, Sam sighed again. "Go get your coffee. I'll just…look for our next hunt…or…something."
Dean opened the door. "Look down south. Someplace sunny." He stepped outside and closed the door on Sam's eye-roll.
The mid-afternoon air was crisp, the wind biting through the layers of shirts he'd chosen and crawling up his strangely over-sensitive skin in gooseflesh. He almost turned back for his jacket, but then registered that he suddenly felt better, more balanced. The fog that had forced its way into his consciousness from the moment he'd opened his eyes had lifted and he filled his lungs with fresh air.
As he crossed the lot to the fast-food restaurant Sam had referred to earlier, Dean allowed himself a moment to think about nothing. No absent father, no petulant brother, no missed opportunities, no bad guys, no car, no music…nothing. It was infrequently quiet inside his head and he mentally rolled in the peace as he walked up to the counter, smiled at the teenager who gaped openly at the wounds gracing his forehead, ordered a large coffee and walked slowly back across the lot.
He'd almost made it completely to the room wrapped in the bliss of silent thought when his cell phone rang. Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water bleated from the back pocket of his jeans and Dean sighed, practically feeling the scuttle of worried, tangled, necessary thoughts return.
The rush of air across the mouthpiece on the other end immediately told him the caller was in a moving vehicle. The pause before his name told him it was his father.
"Dad? You okay?"
"I'm fine. Listen, I need you boys to do something for me."
Ignoring the pinch in his heart shouting in frustration that his dad hadn't thought to ask after their well-being—considering the fact that they'd both been covered in blood when last he saw them—or if they got out of Chicago safely—considering the fact that the Daeva were merely distracted, not defeated—Dean drew his body to attention and turned his focus solely on the phone in his grip.
"I got a call from...an old friend. He didn't give me much detail, but he's in trouble or he wouldn't have called."
"Yes. He's down in a place called Maera, Texas."
Dean blinked. "You want us to go to Texas?"
"You got something else planned?"
"Good. His name is Leo Dent. He's a good guy, Dean."
"What kind of trouble is he in?"
"His message didn't say, but…."
Dean heard a slew of unspoken words smack against the silence as he waited out his father.
"Leo hunts with two other guys: Max Thomas and Jake Brand."
"Get down to Maera and figure out what's going on. See what you can do to help."
"Dad, where are you?" Dean frowned into the phone, hearing the static crackle back at him. "Why aren't you going?"
"I've got a…a lead on this demon."
"I told you…way…kill it…."
"Dad? You're breaking up."
"…call…again. Watch out for…other."
Dean hit the 'end' button as the line went down. Watch out for your brother. It was his dad's way of saying goodbye. Always had been.
"Texas, huh," he muttered as he shoved his phone back into his pocket. "Yee-freakin-haw."
When he stepped back into the motel room, he found Sam in the same position as when he left: shoulders bowed, head dipped, eyes on his screen. Without looking up, Sam called out, "Dude, I think I have something."
"Oh, yeah?" Dean asked casually, kicking the door shut behind him and crossing the short space to lean against the dresser.
"You know those omens I said Dad listed in the journal?"
"I've read the book, Sam."
Sam continued, oblivious to Dean's sarcasm. "Well, I think there may be something here," he pointed to the screen of his laptop.
Not yet ready to divulge the fact that Dad had called, Dean sipped his coffee. "You trying to tell me your computer's possessed?"
At that, Sam looked up. "What? No, I—what's the matter?"
Dean drew his head back, unnerved by the way his brother's eyes seemed to see through his walls as if they were made of glass. "Nothing."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Would you quit asking me that? Nothing's the matter. I'm fine. And turn off that damn worried face already."
Frowning, glancing between Dean and the information on his screen, Sam said, "I found some articles about…cattle mutilations, some random lightening storms, strange symbols burned into the earth, people going missing—"
"You found this in your demon research?"
Sam shrugged. "I branched out…thought I'd try to see if I could make Dad make sense."
Good luck with that. Dean bit the inside of his cheek to keep from saying it out loud.
"Anyway, the latest events were just a few days ago, man. I think we oughta check it out." Sam closed his laptop, then stood and stretched, his arms bent to keep from hitting the ceiling. "Besides," he said mid-stretch. "It fits your criteria, location-wise."
"Let me guess," Dean sighed, pressing his thumb against the bridge of his nose. "Texas. Some little Podunk down called Maera."
Sam dropped his arms and stared at Dean in naked surprise. "How the hell did you know that?"
Dean grinned around the edge of his coffee cup.
a/n: More to come in a week…. Hope you're enjoying thus far!
Part Two can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/82057.html