Title: From Yesterday
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title is from a 30 Seconds to Mars song of the same name. Rated very much PG-13 for language (mostly Dean) and a couple of mature scenes
Summary: See Prologue.Part 2: Chapter 12-A
"You knew Virgil was going to call us, didn't you?" He asked suddenly, Brenna's words about evil penetrating his murk of sad musings.
Brenna lifted an eyebrow. "I knew he was going to call you. I didn't know there was an us."
"Right," Sam nodded. "But you knew this was bigger than you could deal with on your own. What did you see, Brenna?"
Her brows pulled close. "I just saw the pattern—"
"Bullshit," he challenged. "You went straight to this…draíocht thing. After only two deaths, you told me. You knew it was this witch. How?"
Brenna swallowed, her jaw tightening, but to her credit didn't back away and didn't turn away. "You're going to think I'm crazy."
Sam tilted his head.
"Okay, more than you already do."
"Did you have a vision? Did you touch someone—" He stopped when he saw her eyes flinch slightly, her pupils going wide and feral for a brief moment. "That's it isn't it? You touched one of the victims, didn't you?"
Brenna's shoulders sagged and she covered her face, speaking through her fingers. "You can't tell Virge. He'll be so mad that I didn't say anything before."
Sam didn't reply, and Brenna seemed to take his silence as acquiescence. She dropped her hands and lifted her face, though her eyes were closed. He watched her speak, wondering what she was seeing on the other side of her lids.
"It was Frazier. I'd gone to the store. Linny was with Virge at the station – it was his last night on rotation and I wanted to give them some time before he headed back down to Denver. I was walking passed the entrance to the mine and I saw this…lump. It took me a moment to realize it was a person."
Sam watched as her brow folded, lines drawing her mouth into a frown as she spoke.
"I didn't think, I just…I dropped my bags and ran over to him. He was…I didn't even recognize him. His face was destroyed, his clothes all torn and there was blood, just…everywhere. I could see that he'd been beaten; I didn't know about the stoning until later. I couldn't tell if he was alive and I reached out to touch his face, but I was so rattled that I didn't block myself."
"You saw inside him."
Brenna opened her eyes at his whispered words, the tears swimming there slipping past her lashes and making wet tracks down her face, though her expression didn't change.
"I watched him die from the inside out," she said. "I knew it was Frazier the moment I touched him and I saw…I saw it. It looked like a Wicker Man, but alive, not burning. It wasn't the sacrifice; it was causing the sacrifice. No face, no…no features, just this image of evil and fear and…and then everything stopped. Black. Emptiness."
"Hey, easy," Sam put careful hands on her shoulders, not wanting to inadvertently expose her to anything if she were open, but needing to comfort, needing to ease the pain from her expression. "It's okay."
She closed her eyes again and took a shuddering breath. "I grabbed my bags and ran to the station, calling out to the paramedics and they raced out of there – all of them except Virge. He stayed with me, until they came back and confirmed what I already knew."
Sam waited a moment until she was able to take another steady breath, then wiped the tears from her face, offering him a tremulous smile.
"You can let go now," she said softly.
"Oh, sorry," Sam released her shoulders and stepped away.
"Thanks, Sam," she said sincerely.
He nodded, carding his hair as he turned away to catch his breath. "Virge said you called him about the draíocht."
"I did," she confirmed. "I couldn't tell him right away. I wasn't sure what I'd seen in that moment. But I went home and looked up in my books and when I discovered the draíocht, I packed up Aislinn's stuff and anything that I wanted to protect for her, and I called him up to see if I could take her to his Aunt's in Boulder."
"And then after Abby died, he called us. Well, me."
She nodded. "Because, I think, mainly of what happened out at my place. I don't know if he would have bothered otherwise."
"You guys have anything weird happen since we last saw you?" Sam asked. "Before this I mean."
"No," she replied. "No more bean-sidhe, no wraith, not so much as one floating sheet." She grinned cheekily at him. "Other than having Aislinn, life's been really dull."
"And you've not come across any other hunters?" Sam asked, thinking about Brenna working with Griffin and not realizing that some hunters were dangerous people, regardless of what they knew how to kill.
"Not a one," she shook her head once. "You were the only one Virgil knew to call."
"Good," Sam replied. "That's something at least." He took a breath, his mind churning through next steps. "So I guess what we need to do is head up to your place, look in those books of yours to see what we do to kill a draíocht. Dean got some stuff from another hunter friend of ours – binding rituals that we might be able to modify—"
He turned at the sound of her voice, suddenly realizing he'd been pacing, his spinning mind unable to work through the necessary next steps without motion.
"What happened to you two?"
Sam forced himself to stop moving, feeling his whole body twist with the question. He caught his bottom lip between his teeth. "Brenna, there's so much…."
"What I saw was Hell. Chains and hooks and Dean screaming," her face was knotted in remembrance. "And I saw an angel with shadow wings. And a man with rotting skin. And you hitting Dean. Over and over."
Sam dragged his hand down his face. Where the hell was Dean? This was his story to tell, not Sam's. She didn't need to know his role in this, not really. "I have no idea where to start. How to start."
"And then there's this." She crossed the room with unexpected swiftness, grace masking her determination, and grabbed Sam's hand, pressing her thumb into the knotted scar on his palm.
Sam knew at once she hadn't shielded herself. Her eyes went wide and wild, and he was once again left with the impression of a bird of prey. It had frightened him the first time he'd seen it, all those years ago. Now, though, there wasn't much that he felt could frighten him and if she wanted the truth, better she see it for herself than him figure out how to share.
Besides, Dean had been willing to show her.
She held onto his hand for a dozen heartbeats and then dropped it, stepping back on shaky legs.
"Oh, Sam," she said softly. "Oh, I'm so sorry."
"What?" he breathed. "What did you see?"
"You've been hurting so much, hiding so much." Her eyes filled with tears. "He dug in and found the cracks, filling them with lies and turning you inside out."
"Who? Dean?" Sam asked, confused, forgetting for a moment that Brenna would see his truth. His story. Not Dean's.
"He's very much a devil."
"Lucifer," Sam gulped. "You saw him?"
"You fought so hard," she continued. "You wouldn't let him win, but he was so strong. Scary strong."
Sam felt himself begin to shiver slightly, the shock of hearing someone else see his battle, see through his scars almost too much for him to hold onto.
"Dean saved me," he whispered.
Brenna nodded. "You found your way to him. He was there and you found him and you hung on."
"He wouldn't let me go," Sam choked out, his eyes burning.
She shook her head, wonder crawling across her expression. "The light…it was everywhere. It was so...it burned him out. He was… torn out of you, but you held on. And he didn't beat you."
Sam felt his chin tremble, a tear slipping down his cheek to tuck into the corner of his mouth. He darted out his tongue quickly to pull the salty liquid in. He felt his heart shaking, felt it rattle in his chest and spread liquid heat through his limbs until he wasn't sure his legs would hold him.
"You saw what I did? How I hurt Dean?"
Brenna shook her head, sniffing. "Not you. Him."
Sam looked down at the scar on his hand. "Something happened to Dean in that place," he said. "I can't really explain it to you without you knowing so much more, but…he's…."
Sam paused. How did he explain the edge that Dean rode right now? Did he tell her Dean was broken? Fragile? Those words described a man hiding from life, not the man who'd saved his life, who'd fought to put himself back together. Who was still fighting the good fight. Did he tell her about the amulet? About how it had fused with Dean? Did he tell her about the connection and the heat and how the light she'd seen had come from Dean?
"He's your brother, Sam," Brenna said quietly. "He's who he's always been."
"Yeah, but…he's more, now," Sam tried again. "Hell broke him up inside. His coming back…it messed both of us up."
"I can only imagine," Brenna said, empathy in her tone.
"And then all you saw with Lucifer, that's just…that's just the tip of the iceberg."
"If I need to know," she told him. "I'll know."
Sam scrubbed his face roughly. He was spent. He wanted to curl up in the corner of the room and go to sleep. He wanted to run – far and fast , away from her. Away from this. He wanted to go home. He wanted to see Dean.
"There any food in this place?"
"Are you kidding?" Brenna laughed lightly, the sound cleaning the air between them. "Five men live here. We could probably feed the town from what's in the fridge alone."
Sam smiled. "Think they'll miss any of it?"
"We'll replace it," Brenna lifted a shoulder. "Allow me."
They'd just finished cooking the noodles and sauce for spaghetti when Brenna heard someone call out from the reception area. She glanced at Sam with a shrug and an exaggerated frown, then, wiping her hands on a large white towel, led the way from the mess hall to the front room. Sam followed, eying the rotund man waiting near the door, capillaries dilated across his nose evidence of a pastime spent mainly in the company of alcohol.
"What are you doing here," the man growled. His small eyes, held in place by copious folds of skin, were pinned to Brenna's lithe frame. Sam noted that the man's gaze never traveled higher than her shoulders.
"I'm staying here, remember?" Brenna replied. "Filling in for Turner."
"Ah, yes," the man muttered, not bothering to glance at Sam. "Well, I have something for Captain Reynolds when they get back."
He held out a large yellow envelope, the top held shut by figured-eights of red string around two nickel-sized disks.
"I'll give it to him," Brenna told him, holding out her hand.
The man tipped up the envelope as if enticing Brenna to come closer if she wanted to grab it. Brenna sighed, staying where she was, and tilted her head.
"What?" Lorne bluffed innocently. He let the envelope fall into Brenna's outstretched hand. "Tell Reynolds that Maddox has already reviewed and wants his input."
"And this is to go directly to Reynolds," the large man stressed. "Sealed, you hear me?"
"Comin' through loud and clear," Brenna said with a tight smile.
"Want me to write it down?" Lorne asked and Sam bit the inside of his cheek to stop from commenting as the man sneered at Brenna.
"I think I've got it," she replied smoothly.
"I imagine you do," Lorne replied huskily, and then with his first, and only, glance at Sam, turned and exited the station.
Brenna rolled her shoulders in an over-exaggerated shudder. "I think I need to go bleach myself."
"He wasn't creepy or anything."
Brenna moved over to the door and peered out the window as if making sure he was gone. "Careful," she remarked, turning around to face Sam with a smirk. "You're gonna use up your sarcasm allotment."
"Who was that guy?"
Sam blinked. "You guys have a coroner?"
"Not exactly," Brenna replied, moving over to a short return that seemed to double as a front desk. She bent over and pulled out a small throwing knife from her boot. Sam's eyebrows bounced up, impressed. "He's on loan from Littleton. Or Loveland. One of those places. Maddox – he's the Sheriff – wanted someone to look into the bodies and called in a few favors."
Sam tilted his head at her as she unwound the red string and then expertly slid the knife along the lip of the envelope.
"You're pretty good at that," Sam remarked.
"Years of not being able to mind my own business," Brenna replied, replacing her knife and then shifting the papers out of the envelope. She peered at them, frowning. "Why the hell would Reynolds want these?"
"What are they?" Sam asked. "And who is Reynolds?"
She lifted the papers one-by-one, eyes scanning the contents. "He's the fire chief. And this," she handed them to Sam, "is an autopsy report."
Sam looked at her in surprise, then took the papers. "It's for Elliott. Isn't he the first one who died?"
"He drowned, yeah," Brenna nodded. "But look at the details there on the third page."
Sam scanned through until he found what she indicated. "Signs of electrocution?"
"Burn marks, too," Brenna said.
Sam skimmed the rest of the information, frowning. "Sounds like a stun baton or a cattle prod." He looked up at Brenna. "Would a draíocht need to subdue its sacrifice?"
Brenna arched an eyebrow at him. "Speaking from my years of experience with human sacrifices, you mean?"
Sam held up a hand. "Sorry I asked," he mumbled, handing the papers back to her and watching her re-insert them into the envelope and twist the string closed. "Just gotta wonder how powerful this druid of yours is if it has to shock victims into submission before killing them."
"Maybe it had to for the first until it gained enough power."
"Or maybe," Sam frowned, "we're dealing with something a little less supernatural than we thought."
Brenna shot him a look, one that he wasn't sure he wanted to define. Then she moved passed him, heading out of the reception area.
"Still not sure why the fire chief needs to provide input on an autopsy report," she muttered, carrying the envelope back toward the mess hall with her. "C'mon, Sam," she beckoned. "We've got spaghetti to finish."
What should have been chaos was instead a tightly controlled orchestration of activity.
Heading outside of town toward the noise he'd heard, Dean approached what appeared to be a landslide on the edge of the residential section of Argo. He moved carefully around the ambulance and between the two fire trucks until he reached the epicenter of the activity. Uniformed paramedics, firemen, several police and a scattering of civilians were all positioned in various points around the front of a collapsed structure, systematically moving debris away while also creating a human chain for fire hose support.
Dean took it in with a glance, then shrugged out of his jacket and stepped in next to one of the men helping to remove debris. The man barely glanced at him as he handed Dean what looked like a broken piece of concrete and nodded that Dean should toss it aside. He had to use his left hand and his right forearm, unable to grip the larger, heavy objects sent his way, but his body was strong and soon he'd found the rhythm.
"What happened?" he yelled over the noise of shouted instructions, whirring saws cutting into the rock, and roaring water of the fire hose.
"Landslide," the man next to him yelled back. "Crushed Jurgen's place – him and his misses were inside."
Dean looked up over the demolished site and saw that here, nature had clearly won the battle for territory. The landslide may have started with a boulder or two, but the ensuing destruction as they picked up speed had turned the wooden house to ash and rubble.
"What started the fire?" Dean asked.
"Gas line," the man replied, starting to reach for more debris, then pulling up short.
Inarticulate calls and warnings echoed from closer toward what was left of the building and people began to stagger back and away. The man Dean had been talking to flung out an arm, crossing Dean's chest with the appendage and pushing him away as a burst of flame and smoke plumped up from the depths of the house, shaking the ground at his feet with its ferocity.
Dean felt the heat from the explosion and let himself be manhandled off to the side with the rest of the works as the firemen moved in closer with the hoses.
"They didn't get out," Dean said aloud, oddly wishing he could have done more.
"LeAnna did," the man near him said, pointing a dirt-covered finger toward a woman sitting on a log outside the danger zone, wrapped in a gray blanket and breathing from an oxygen mask. "Think that last blast there pretty much sealed ol' Oscar's fate, though."
Dean wiped sweat from his gritty forehead. "This kinda think happen a lot around here?"
The man shook his head, squinting as he looked around. "Nah. Hardly ever. But," he paused, looking down his head swinging low and slow as if on a pendulum of regret. "Town's been cursed or something."
"Cursed?" Dean asked, peering at the man's face.
He looked at Dean, then, and his eyes were scared. "Something's real dark here."
At the unexpected sound of his name, Dean looked to his right, closer toward the burning house, and saw Virgil heading toward him.
"Hey," Dean greeted as Virge approached. He turned to say something to the man he'd been speaking to, but he was already walking away, talking to some of the other civilians who'd been trying to help. Dean looked back at Virge. "You okay?"
"What are you doing here?" Virgil asked, rather than answering. He was, for once, hatless and covered in soot and dirt and Dean could see several scratches on his cheekbone and one arm. His blue eyes stood out in his smudged face, bright against the mess, white creases around them like a cartoon character's drawn emotion.
"Wanted to see if I could help," Dean said, casting his eyes around for where he'd dropped his jacket.
"Thought you were back at the station with Brenna," Virgil said, clapping a hand on Dean's shoulder and moving him away from a group of people toward what looked to be a less-busy area, toward the shell of the demolished house.
"Yeah, well…Sam is," Dean offered. "Thought I'd start digging into the case." He gave Virgil a tight smile. "Sooner we get it solved, sooner we're outta your hair, right?" He glanced up at Virgil's head. "Figuratively speaking."
"Well, thanks but this place isn't—"
Dean felt it before he heard the warning cries. It was like a pressure against his ears, a heat pressing on him like that odd magnetic force he felt when he'd been backed into a corner. He didn't have time to take a breath, barely time to register a heavy, hard thud of his heart before he grabbed Virgil, instinctively pulling the blue-eyed man against him and turning him away from the house as the ground shook once more and another mushroom cloud of fire and smoke ballooned up from the basement.
Momentum and a hard slam of air shoved Dean to the ground, Virgil beneath him as heat from the blast rolled over them like a wave; Dean felt it ruffle his hair, felt it caress the back of his neck, felt it lick at his back before it was suddenly gone, silence falling into the space the heat had vacated.
For a moment nothing happened. Dean wasn't sure he could even take a breath, let alone move. His ears were ringing and his right hand burned and tingled like he'd just touched the sun. Then reality saturated his perception once more and he rolled away from Virgil, lying on his back and sucking in great gulps of air.
"What the fuck?" Virgil groaned, and Dean felt rather than saw him sit up. With Virgil on his left, he wasn't able to see the man was okay without moving – and he didn't think he was going to be rushing to do that anytime soon.
"You okay? Virge?" A new voice greeted Dean's ears, coming in from his blinded left.
"Yeah, think so," Virgil muttered.
Someone was touching him now, Dean realized and he instinctively batted at the hands, pushing them away.
"Easy, man," a different voice soothed. "Just making sure you're alive is all."
"'m alive," Dean muttered, rolling to his right to prop himself up on his elbow. His head pounding, he looked toward the house. "What happened to the fire?" he asked no one in particular.
"That last blast blew the rest out," came a reply.
"Huh. I didn't know they could do that," Dean bobbed his head once, looking over his shoulder at Virge. "Did you know they could do that?"
Virge squinted at him, a half-grin folding one side of his face. "Sure. I've seen Backdraft."
"Ha," Dean echoed Virgil's grin. "You're a funny guy, Sinatra."
One of the men who'd rushed over to check on them offered Virgil a hand. "Sinatra?"
"Long story," Virgil groaned, reaching down for Dean.
Dean gave the man his left hand, his right one shaking a bit too much at the moment to be used as leverage, and climbed to his feet. Virgil turned him around, checking the back of his head and shoulders with quick hands.
"It's a miracle you weren't burned, man," Virgil said.
Dean lifted a shoulder. "I was born under a lucky star," he said.
"What was that light?" asked Virgil's friend.
Dean went still.
"The blast?" Virgil asked.
The man shook his head, looking puzzled. "Naw, it was right before. Coulda sworn it came from over here. Damn bright and then blammo. House goes up."
Dean saw Virgil thinking and decided to distract both men. "Anyone else get hurt?"
The moment past, Virgil's friend handed Dean and Virgil each a bottle of water, shaking his head. "No one but poor old Oscar."
"They find him yet?" Virgil asked.
The man nodded, looking over at a cluster of people around a figure covered in a white sheet. Virgil sighed, his shoulders sagging a bit. Dean frowned, then rested his hand briefly on Virgil's shoulder.
"I'm sorry, man."
"I didn't know him," Virgil replied, though his voice betrayed the effect the death had on him.
"Yeah, well," Dean dropped his hand and took a long drink of the water. It felt like silk rolling down his hot throat. "That didn't stop you from trying to save him."
Virgil glanced at Dean with a soft smile of gratitude.
"I'm gonna head back," Dean said, rolling his neck. His head was still pounding. "Sam's probably solved the whole case by now."
"I'll walk with you," Virgil offered.
"Don't you have to…I don't know…wrap up here or something?" Dean frowned, looking around once more for where he left his jacket.
"They've got enough hands," Virgil said. "I'm extra personnel. Besides," he said, turning and leading Dean from the site. "You look like you could use a friend."
"Is that some kind of EMT code?"
Dean spied his jacket and bent to pick it up, jerking his hand back in horror when he saw that it was once more smeared with blood. He looked quickly back at Virgil who was staring at him with open curiosity, but not bleeding from anywhere Dean could see. Taking a breath, Dean reached down with his left hand and grabbed his coat, transferring it to his right to hide the blood.
"You good?" Virgil asked.
"Lead the way," Dean waved his left hand forward, then followed close behind.
As they walked, Dean paid little attention to his surroundings, listening with half an ear to Virgil and simply tried to get the blood from his hand. He could never seem to keep it clean; there was always that sticky, wet stain.
"Gotta tell ya," Virgil was saying. "You kinda screwed with my head, man."
"How'd I do that?"
"Well, first, you're like this big damn hero," Virgil glanced back at him, and Dean caught his frown. He sped up slightly to stay abreast of the longer-legged man. "Getting the bad guy, saving the girl, all that."
"Don't forget," Dean commented, veering to the left along with Virgil as he wound behind some of the buildings to avoid getting in the way of the rest of the rescue personnel, "that's usually when it all goes tits up for us."
"Still, how's someone like me gonna compete with that?" Virgil huffed out a laugh. "Then you leave her and I think maybe I got a chance. But then you come back and you're going to die and I'm screwed all over again because it's all last night on earth time."
Virgil stopped and rotated, facing Dean. He put a hand out to stop Dean, forcing him to look him in the eye.
"But then you give her to me," he said, his voice low and serious. "You ask me to take care of her. And I did, man. I loved that girl…and I still love her. Even after…everything."
Dean looked away, noting that they were on a different road from the main thoroughfare through town. To their left was a sort of park, trees tossing pleasant shadows around iron benches and bark-covered walk ways. It was quiet here, the ringing in his ears more noticeable.
"Sam told me you guys have a kid."
He saw Virgil drop his chin, shadows hiding a rueful smile. "She's very much her mother's daughter," he replied. "Individually, they confuse the hell out of me. Together, they defeat me."
Dean smiled, lifting a shoulder. "They're female," he offered, as if that explained everything.
"Ain't that right." Virgil sighed. "But…now you're back. Again. And you're not dead anymore. And I don't know what the hell that means."
Dean frowned. "Nothing," he said. "Nothing's changed."
Virgil almost laughed. "That's where you're wrong," he said. "Everything changed the moment you walked through that door—"
He broke off so suddenly Dean looked up, puzzled. Noting that Virgil was staring at something off to Dean's left, well inside his blind spot, Dean turned around, peering into the shadows of the park. At the foot of one of the benches sat what looked like a large laundry bag.
He peered closer, his shoulder jostled slightly as Virgil moved past him for a closer look. He blinked in surprise when Virgil suddenly straightened up, tension radiating from his body.
"Dean," he barked. "Call the police."
Dean looked at the back of Virgil's head like he had suddenly started to speak Swahili. "What?"
Virgil glanced at him over his shoulder. "I think there's been another murder."
The look on Virgil's face told Dean what he needed to know, but he couldn't help himself. He had to move closer, had to see. The moment he moved around Virgil to get a closer look, however, he realized he shouldn't have.
The laundry bag was a body…a body so badly beaten it might not have even passed for human were it not for the Converse sneakers peeking out from beneath a tangle of what once had been legs. Dean took a step back, bouncing against Virgil, rotating, then stumbled away. He didn't know where he was going except away.
Away because it was all going to happen again. He was going to do it again and again, twist the knife until their blood spilled over his hands and splashed his face. He was going to let them scream until they were nothing but a mess of flesh and bone – only not really because Alistair would just put them back together again so that he could keep cutting. Keep cutting until he got it right.
Because if he didn't, they'd put him back on that rack and dammit he couldn't…he just couldn't. Not again. Not one more second. He been torn apart and put back together and if they did it again they really would break him. They'd get inside where he locked everything up and they'd find what really mattered and they'd destroy it. They'd eviscerate it, cutting its heart out and turning it into something twisted and evil and there was no fucking way he was letting that happen, so he did the cutting and he let them scream.
Only, wait, no, Castiel had stopped it. Castiel had grabbed him up and he'd burned from the light of it and he'd clawed through the Earth and he was back. He was safe only he wasn't because Castiel was gone. He was dead because Dean had let him die. He didn't protect his friend and they found him. The bastards climbed out of that Pit and they found him. They shouldn't have been able to; there should have been rules, but it didn't matter to them. They found him and they took his brother and they killed his friends and they left him bloody.
"Hey, you with me, man? C'mon, now."
Something sharp and pungent had Dean drawing his head back and away, still seeing the rough crabgrass of a cemetery in Kansas and the blood-drenched darkness of the room where the rack tore him apart.
"Easy, hey, just breathe a second."
Something about the voice compelled him to listen, to obey. He took a breath, feeling it shake a bit in his lungs, the sharp bite of that odor gone now. He blinked, seeing someone crouched in front of him and behind that person a hole opening in the earth. He drew back, looking to his right and saw a wall full of swinging knives, hooks, and sickles.
"C'mon, man, look at me now. At me. Hey, you with me?"
A hand gently patted his cheek and Dean looked at the man in front of him. A man with blue eyes, but not Castiel. Not his friend's eyes. God how he wished it were Castiel, pulling him out of this Hell as he'd saved him from the Pit.
"What…?" he couldn't find the words, couldn't pull enough of them together to make any semblance of a sentence.
"You're in Colorado, Dean," the man said. "No one is going to cut you up, I swear. I'm not going to let them."
Dean blinked, feeling the ground settle beneath him. He leaned forward, belatedly realizing that the man in front of him was holding his shoulders. He put his aching head in the palm of his hand and groaned slightly.
"Just take some easy breaths. We got all the time in the world."
Dean blinked again, looking up and around, light beginning to filter through the haze. He was sitting on the edge of a sidewalk, the man – Virgil, he remembered – crouched in front of him. A car was stopped in the street, a man he didn't know standing in front of the grill staring at them uncertainly.
Virgil glanced over his shoulder and said to the man, "I got this. He's okay. You can go."
"Who the hell is that?" Dean ground out.
"That?" Virgil looked back at him, moving a hand from Dean's shoulder to his wrist, taking his pulse. Dean let Virgil turn his head with gentle fingers and check his pupils as he concentrated on bringing himself back to now. "That's the guy who almost killed you when you ran out in front of his car."
That grabbed his attention. "I did what?"
Virgil released his wrist, then rotated to sit next to him on the sidewalk. Dean noticed he sat close, but not touching. The distance made him miss Sam. His brother would have been able to balance him with a touch of his shoulder.
"You…uh," Virgil glanced at him. "Well, you saw something and the next thing I knew you were taking off like the devil himself was after you. I caught you just after the guy almost hit you and you were, uh…," he cleared his throat. "You were saying some pretty scary shit."
Dean buried his face in his hands once more. "Fuck," he repeated softly.
"This happen before?"
Dean dropped his hands, letting them hang between his knees. "Once."
"You remember what happened?"
"Yeah," Dean said quietly. "But Sam was there. He…brought me back."
"You remember what triggered it this time?"
"A laundry bag that was actually a body," Dean replied, looking at his scarred hand. "Hey, Sinatra?"
"Is there blood on my hand?"
He felt Virgil shift slightly next to him, as if leaning close to get a good look. "No, man. It's clean."
Dean exhaled very slowly. "That's what I thought," he replied quietly, staring at the red stains on his fingers, and the blood seeping from his scar.
"Y'know, there are places you can go for this," Virgil told him. "People you can talk to."
"For seeing things that aren't there?" Dean scoffed. "Yeah, it's called the looney bin. No thanks."
Virgil shook his head. "You're not crazy, Dean. I think you're dealing with a very real condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder."
Dean was quiet a moment. He focused on breathing, on the sounds around him, on the feel of the hard cement beneath him, on the sun warming his face, on the breeze against his neck.
"I can't talk to anyone about this," he said finally."No one's gonna get it."
"No one's gonna get that you've survived some terrible things?" Virgil countered.
Dean shook his head. "No one's gonna get that I did terrible things."
"Yeah, well. No offense, man, but," Virgil pushed to his feet, "pretty sure every soldier who's been to war would say the same thing."
Dean peered up at him, squinting his eyes against the glare of the sun. He was starting to feel balanced again – enough to hate that Virgil, of all people, had seen him crack.
"You're a mess," he said suddenly, unexpectedly.
Virgil grinned, the soot still smudging his face cracking at the corners of his lips. "Hey, I just narrowly avoided getting blown up. You should see yourself."
He stood, joints cracking, and reached down to help Dean to his feet.
"We still have to call the cops," Dean reminded him.
Virgil's brows went up. "Didn't think you'd remember that," he said. "In any case, I already did. Well, I had the dude that almost kill you do it. They're probably over at the park by now."
Dean nodded and grabbed his jacket from Virgil. "What was that smell?"
"That like…ammonia smell?"
"Oh," Virgil shrugged. "I used smelling salts to bring you out of it. Couldn't think of anything else. I keep a mini first-aid pack on me all the time."
"Handy," Dean said, clapping a hand on Virgil's shoulder as they made their way down the sidewalk.
"Least I could do," Virgil replied. "You did save my life today."
They walked a bit in silence; Dean felt his body aching from the treatment he'd given it today. He wondered if Virgil had seen the light his friend mentioned. He didn't know what he'd say if he mentioned it. Turns out I have the powers of a magic angel charm in me only I don't know how to use them?
As they walked, Virgil rotated his shoulder, pressing at the muscle as if it was hurting. Dean figured Virge had to be aching just as badly as he was. After all, he'd offered Dean a soft landing when the building blew.
"Hey, Virge," Dean said suddenly.
"It makes a difference…," he said, pausing and waiting until the paramedic turned to look at him. "I didn't think I was coming back."
Virgil looked away and Dean saw a muscle in his jaw bounce.
"And…for what it's worth, I did try to forget about her after you guys left that night."
Virgil looked back at him with a sad, soot-stained smile. "Anyone ever tell you that trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you've never met?" He turned away and started walking back toward the fire station once more. "Believe me. I should know."
When they walked through the doors of the fire station, Dean knew immediately that he was in trouble. He had no idea how many hours had passed since he'd left Sam and it wasn't until that moment that it occurred to him to check his cell phone. He felt Sam's anxiety and fury turn the corner before Sam himself.
"Dude, where they hell have you be—" Sam literally skidded to a halt when he saw them. "What the hell happened to you?!"
Dean wondered if he looked as bedraggled and dirty as Virgil. "We, uh," he glanced at Virgil. "Kinda got blown up."
Brenna rounded the corner behind Sam. Dean felt his mouth go dry.
"Blown up?!" She practically bellowed.
"Well, first I went to the library—" he started.
"And I responded to a call—" Virgil broke in.
"And I found some stuff about Argo, which is a total freak show of a town, by the way –"
"And it was a landslide on a house, with a gas line fire, but we had a lot of volunteers—"
"And I got a call from Sorenson, which I handled—"
"And we got the wife out—"
"But then I saw all the ruckus up the hill and thought I'd see if Sinatra needed some help—"
"And Dean shows up right before the main gas line blows and he somehow managed to like push or roll me out of the blast radius—"
"And we were heading back here, but that's when we found the body—"
"And this guy almost gets hit by a car, but I grabbed him back—"
"And now we're here." Dean finished with a wide grin.
Sam and Brenna had watched silently as they talked, eyes bouncing from one to the other as if spectators at a verbal tennis match.
"Sorenson called?" Sam finally asked.
"So the husband didn't get out?" Brenna commented at the same time.
Dean glanced at Virgil. "I think they're missing the bigger picture here," he concluded.
"Also, what body?" Sam asked. Dean could see his brother's evident relief at his return siphoning out the tension from his eyes, but he still held his posture stiff, his hands on his hips, a sure Sam-sign that he was Displeased.
"Now you're catching on," Dean said.
"I think we found another body in the park," Virgil explained.
"Was it...," Brenna tapered off, her voice thinning.
"I don't know who it was," Virgil replied. He glanced quickly at Dean. "We didn't get that close."
"Police are there now?" Sam asked.
Dean nodded, his jaw tight. "Virge made sure."
Virgil looked at Brenna. "Listen, the rest of the guys will be back in a bit. Let us get cleaned up and then we can all compare notes. Deal?"
"Oh, please tell me you have a shower," Dean almost moaned.
"Yeah," Brenna said, shifting her eyes in his direction. "A great big one. With ten faucets."
"Swell. Just what I wanted. A communal shower." Dean didn't look directly at her. He just needed a little more time to ease into this whole being in the same room with her situation.
Virgil rolled his eyes. "Get in, get out, you'll be done before they all get back."
"I'll go find some towels," Brenna said, turning on her heel and heading through a supply room door with too great of speed to be anything but happy to get out of that room.
Virgil pointed toward the bunk area. "Showers are back that way," he told Dean.
Dean began to move away, rounding the corner but pausing, out of sight, when he realized Virgil had grabbed Sam's arm, stopping his brother from following.
"Sam. There's something you should know," Virgil said, his voice low and urgent, hurrying so as not to get caught.
"What?" Sam asked and Dean could tell by the strain in his brother's voice he'd already suspected something wasn't right.
"When we found that body it…triggered something with Dean."
Dean felt his brother tense up from across the room. "A flashback?"
"I'm no shrink, but it sure looked—and sounded—like it."
"Bad enough he didn't know where he was and almost ran out in front of a car."
"Shit," Sam growled. "How'd you…get him back?"
Dean could hear the wheels in Sam's head turning, remembering how Sam had used their connection to anchor him back in reality.
"Smelling salts," Virgil replied. "But he was pretty shaky for a little while after."
"Yeah," Sam sighed. "He's been through a lot."
"I told him that there are places that can help."
Dean shook his head and sensed Sam doing the same. "Not a lot of people who are going to understand Hell. And the stuff we've been through since he came back is just…you can't make that shit up." Sam sighed, then said softly, "If I thought it could bring him back from this, I'd push for it, but…."
"Some things you can't come back from, Sam," Virgil replied. "They become part of who you are. But you can heal. Just…think about it," Virgil concluded and Dean heard Brenna returning with towels. "You go," Virgil told him. "I have to log my time really quick."
Sam rounded the corner, towels in hand, and stopped when he saw Dean leaning against the wall in the shadows. Dean simply looked at him, challenging him to say something. Sam stared back, then took a breath.
"C'mon," he said. "You smell like smoke."
Dean pushed away from the wall and shoved Sam gently with his shoulder. They walked toward the bunk room and found the showers. There were chest-high tiled walls separating the stalls, but no doors or curtains. Glancing at each other, the brothers shrugged. Dean began toeing off his shoes, then glanced at Sam.
"You're not showering?"
"I didn't try to bar-b-que myself."
"You did sleep in a car, Sasquatch. I can smell you from here."
"That's my manly musk."
"Get in the damn shower."
Dean felt the aches in his shoulders and across his back begin to ease as soon as he stepped beneath the water. As they cleaned up, Dean caught Sam up on what he'd found out about the mine and the hinky vibe he'd gotten from the people in the diner. Drying off, Sam told his brother about the autopsy report including signs of electrical shock on Elliott's body, and Brenna's vision of the Wicker Man.
"Wasn't that a movie?" Dean asked, pulling on his jeans, but pausing as he sniffed his smoky T-shirt. He wadded it up, thinking he'd head to the car to get a fresh shirt when Virgil walked in and tossed him a gray T-shirt with the letters FDD on the front. "Thanks," Dean nodded.
He saw Virgil register their tattoos and the scars on their chests, but then the paramedic moved to the shower, stripping his sooty clothes as he went.
"Anyway," Sam said, rubbing his wet hair with his towel. "I'm wondering if this is a supernatural bad guy after all. This might not be our kind of thing," Sam concluded. "Argo doesn't need hunters, it needs more cops."
Dean looked at his wadded up T-shirt, nodded carefully as he processed Sam's words. "The body in the park is victim number five," he said. "And I'm no coroner, but…I'm pretty sure I can guess cause of death was stoning." He looked up at his brother. "So, someone shocked that poor son of a bitch into submission, then threw rocks at him until he was nothing more than a…a bag of bones."
Sam swallowed, his eyes pinned to Dean's face.
"And from what we can tell, whoever or whatever is doing this is doing it for power." He thought about the man at the landslide telling him there was darkness in the down. "People around here are scared, Sam."
Dean threw his T-shirt into the sink, leaning his hands on the porcelain edges and looked at his reflection in the mirror, shifting his gaze behind him.
"Supernatural or not," he said, looking at Sam in the mirror, "it's our kind of thing."
He saw Sam lift his chin, his eyes leveling out. "You sure?"
Dean knew what Sam was asking. You sure you want to stay? You sure you want to put yourself through this? You sure you want to risk it? He was giving Dean an out. One Dean was just not willing to take. Not this time.
"Hell yeah," Dean replied, meeting his own reflected eyes once more. "I'm sure."
Continued in Part 2: Chapter 13.
a/n: Thanks for reading! I hope you're enjoying the build-up of this hunt. I look forward to your thoughts and will post the next chapter as soon as I can.
Tá grá agam duit – I love you
mo chuisle – literally means 'my pulse' and is from a longer Gaelic phrase, a chuisle mo chroí, or pulse of my heart