Title: From Yesterday, Chapter 14
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.
Author's Note: Apologies!This particular chapter also survived a total PC melt-down of epic proportions. Believe me when I say, I hope you enjoy it! *smiles* I will work to post Chapter 15 early since I don't have an episode Ramble to write for two weeks.
Thanks for reading and letting me know through your reviews what you're enjoying! I know I lost a couple of readers with the reveal in the previous chapter, and I totally get it. The great thing about fiction is that there's room for all of us to like what we like. I considered putting a 'warning' up front, but decided instead to allow the story to evolve organically for you, knowing you could choose to continue to read or walk away at any time, for any reason, not just a munchkin belonging to Dean.
Speaking of our green-eyed hero, this chapter isn't too kind to him. In fact, he's going to have a bit of a rough time of it for the next several chapters.Part 1: Prologue - Chapter 9, Part 2: Chapter 10, Part 2: Chapter 11, Part 2: Chapter 12, Part 2: Chapter 13
art by thruterryseyes
Dean knew the odds of Maddox approving a civilian and a paramedic searching the houses of the victims were not in their favor, but he also knew he didn't really care. He played the part well; he could color within the lines with the best of them. But when it came down to it, Dean knew what needed to be done and he knew how to work around red tape…and if necessary, cut straight through it.
He stood next to Virgil as the man removed his hat, the last rays of the setting sun dancing over his bald head like stroking fingers. He watched silently as the answer to Virgil's polite request surfaced in the Sheriff's eyes even before the man spat tobacco juice to the side and shook his head.
"Can't just have you two traipsin' around a crime scene while there's an open investigation still going on," Maddox grumbled.
"Not really a crime scene," Dean pointed out quietly.
Maddox fixed his eyes somewhere just to Dean's left, as if purposely avoiding looking directly at him.
"What was that?"
Dean glanced askance at Virgil, lifting a shoulder as he casually continued, "None of the bodies were found in their homes, were they?"
Reynolds sighed, rolling his neck and shifting his stance as they all waited Maddox out. Dean got the impression that the Fire Chief was equally as frustrated with the legal proceedings and wanted to cut some corners to get some answers, but was too much of a professional to say so.
"Kid," Maddox said, finally letting his eyes meet Dean's. "I got five dead people in a town with a population that wouldn't fill a good-sized room. That means everyone's a suspect and everyone's a potential victim. Now, are you trying to tell me that my guys aren't bustin' ass trying to figure this thing out?"
"No, sir," Virgil spoke up, taking a step forward to draw Maddox's attention. "We're just saying that maybe you could use a hand or two to cover more ground. And we're volunteering."
Maddox looked over at Reynolds, a silent conversation exchanged in a glance.
"You did say you were about to call in the Staties," Reynolds pointed out. "State Police'll probably call in the Feds and soon as they get here…." Reynolds shrugged his shoulders as if to say, I don't have to tell you what happens.
Maddox looked away, over the crest of the mountain peak that dominated the town. Hands resting on his gun belt, shoulders bowed, the Sheriff sighed, spitting another thin stream of tobacco before he looked over at Captain Reynolds, his small eyes wrinkled with tension and exhaustion.
"Five people," he said quietly.
"Gonna be more if you don't get it figured out quick," Dean said, ignoring the gentle restraining hand Virgil rested on his shoulder. "We can help you, Sheriff. Let us take a look around those houses."
Maddox didn't look at Dean, choosing instead to stare with hot eyes at the tufts of grass between his and Reynolds' boots. Then, he straightened his shoulders and looked up, coming to a decision.
"No," he said. "We do this by the books. Lennox!" He yelled over his shoulder, waiting until the sound of the deputy's boots could be heard crunching across the gravel-scattered road. "You see them anywhere near the houses of the vics, you lock 'em up, y'hear me?"
"Loud and clear," Lennox replied, looking Dean and Virgil up and down.
Maddox pointed at Reynolds, then jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "Meet me at the station in an hour. I'm calling Lorne and we're going over that report again."
Reynolds nodded once, then looked over at Virgil, waiting until Maddox and Lennox headed back to the squad cars where the disturbers of the peace were waiting processing.
"Denver wants you back," he said to Virgil as the paramedic pulled his red baseball hat back down over his head, tugging the brim low to shield his blue eyes. "Your tour here is up in a day and they need you back on station."
Virgil nodded. "Yeah."
"I asked them for more time," Reynolds informed him, tilting his head slightly as he weighed Virgil's response. To his credit, Virgil barely reacted, simply nodding another time and waiting the Fire Chief out. "Until we get this son of a bitch – or Maddox cowboys up and calls for some goddamn back-up – I need every man I can get."
"You got it," Virgil replied with a nod.
"Good," Reynolds shifted his glance to Dean. "You have any training?"
Dean shook his head. "Always wanted to be a fireman…never got around to it, though."
"Too bad." Reynolds sucked on his teeth. "Well, we could still use you around here if you want to pitch in. Just let Virge know what you can do."
Dean shared a glance with Virgil. "Yeah, I'll do that."
"'kay. You're off until the morning, Virge," Reynolds said, rolling his neck once more. "And get that eye looked at." Reynolds turned and motioned to the quiet, young girl who had been taking notes of the conversation between the Fire Chief and the Sheriff. She followed him as he headed back to the station, leaving Dean and Virgil standing alone in the gathering dusk.
"So now what?" Virgil sighed.
Dean frowned. "What do you mean?"
"What's Plan B?"
Dean lifted a brow, pulling a folded paper from his back pocket. "No Plan B," he said, handing the paper to Virgil. "We search the houses."
Virgil took the paper, staring confusedly at Dean. "You heard Maddox—"
"What I heard was a bunch of posturing and a Sheriff in over his head and scared out of his freakin' mind," Dean replied. "I played nice; I asked permission. Now I have a job to do. You comin' or not?"
Virgil unfolded the paper, his eyes skimming the contents in the half-light of the canyon, the streetlights kicking on systematically as the darkness grew thicker around them.
"These are addresses…," Virgil said in wonder. "Of each victim." He looked up at Dean. "How the hell did you get this?"
Dean turned his hands up at his sides. "Lifted it off of Rebecca's desk," he said. "There was a folder open, I saw it and grabbed it while everyone was untangling from the rumble."
Virgil tilted his head, peering at Dean, the bruise on the side of his face making his eyes stand out even in the dark. He looked as if he couldn't decide if he was appalled or impressed.
"You boys came to play, that's for sure," he finally stated.
"Listen," Dean said, taking the paper from Virgil's hand. "You got a life here. A job. I get that. I don't want to screw that up for you, so if you want to go back to the station—"
Virgil lifted a hand. "Stop, okay? Just…stop." He shook his head, looking off into the darkness. "One thing I learned quick in this job is that loyalty is sometimes the only thing that keeps you alive."
He looked back at Dean with a weight in his eyes that Dean felt in his chest. He found himself suddenly wishing he'd met this man under different circumstances when the shadow of Brenna wasn't standing squarely between them. He could see Virgil being more than a trusted ally; he could see him being a good friend. One who would never have a reason to look at him with the layer of resentment Dean saw in Virgil's eyes right now.
"You fight for the guy fighting next to you," Virgil continued. "It's as simple as that."
"Even if the guy next to you is me?" Dean asked quietly.
Virgil looked down, smiling a bit sadly. "I don't hate you, Dean," he said. "I may be jealous as hell of you," he glanced up, "and I may resent the fact that I could never be you. But that ain't your fault."
"It's not really hers either," Dean offered.
"Hell, I know." Virgil rubbed the back of his head and when he looked at Dean this time, Dean swore the man was about to tell him something – the words were practically hanging suspended between them, solid enough he could reach out and grab them. But something changed his mind and Virgil looked away once more. "It is what it is. We're grownups and this ain't a soap opera. So let's get on with it."
Dean waited another moment, but when Virgil said nothing, he peered closely at the piece of paper. "Okay, I say we just do a loop – geographical order."
"Makes sense," Virgil stepped close to Dean. "That would make the first house…Elliott's. Want to drive or take my truck?"
Dean hesitated. Having the cache of weapons in the Impala if they came across anything would be helpful, but it was already hard for him to see just standing on the sidewalk. Working around his blind side meant giving up the reigns once in a while.
"Take your truck," he replied. "But let me get a few things from my car first."
They headed to the Chevy and Dean caught himself sighing heavily as he popped the trunk open, propping up the false floor covering the weapons cache. It had already been a long day; his body was aching, his breath catching along his ribs in a way it hadn't since he started regularly working out with Mason.
"Hey, man," Virgil put out a hand. "You okay?"
"Fine," Dean replied automatically. Sure, he was worn out, but they had a job to do. He could rest later. "Grab that sawed-off there."
"We're going armed?" Virgil protested, but picked up the shotgun Dean had indicated.
"It's filled with rock salt," Dean told him, grabbing his silver Bowie knife and sliding it into a holster sewn inside his jacket. "If we're wrong, and this isn't just a serial killer, we don't want to be facing a witch with just our smiles."
He stepped back and closed the trunk, handing Virgil a charm on a leather strap. "Put this on."
"Brenna already gave me—"
"So you won't mind one more," Dean interrupted, willing to bet Virgil wasn't wearing a single one of the charms Brenna had given him.
"What about you?"
Dean pulled at the collar of his T-shirt, exposing the edge of his tattoo. "I'm good."
Virgil huffed and dropped the charm over his head, letting it settle around his neck. "Ready?"
Dean waved a hand forward, indicating Virgil should lead the way to his truck. Climbing in, he looked out through the side window as Virgil headed to Elliott's house, unable to shake the heavy feeling in his gut that something was wrong. Pulling out his cell phone, he scrolled down to Sam's name and was about to hit send, when the thing rang in his hand, startling him.
"Uh-oh," he muttered upon seeing the name.
"Nothing, hang on," Dean replied, hitting 'accept' and putting the phone to his ear. "Mason? What's up?"
"You two still kickin'?" Mason's deep timber was clearly worried, but Dean knew it wasn't an emergency the minute he heard his friend's voice.
"We're hanging in there," Dean replied, equally as mild. "You keepin' Tommy out of trouble?"
Mason huffed out a quick laugh. "That's a full-time job. I got a business to run." He paused. "You find the bones yet?"
Dean frowned, wondering exactly what bush Mason was beating around. "Not yet," he rested his elbow on the window sill and propped his head up with his scarred hand, holding the phone to his left ear. "It's gotten…complicated."
"You sound tired, kid," Mason said quietly, pretense of bravado gone. "Tell me the truth…you doing okay?"
Dean knew what his friend was asking.
"It's been…a little rough."
"Haven't lost my shit, though." Not completely anyway, he reasoned.
"It's gonna take a lot for that to happen," Mason reassured him. "You know what you need to do, Dean. You just keep your eyes on that, you'll get through this thing."
"Everything okay there?" Dean asked, needing to deflect the concern from him to whatever had Mason calling in the first place.
"Well, felt like I should keep you posted on Sorenson," Mason replied. "He's been…busy."
Dean sat up a little straighter. "Busy…how?"
"Jackson got a call from a Detective Ballard in Baltimore," Mason told him. "Seems Sorenson paid her a visit."
"Wait," Dean leaned forward, conscious of Virgil's listening ears. "He went all the way to Baltimore?"
"Guess he's from that area or something. Was back that way visiting family, thought he'd look into a few things in your case files."
"And the hits just keep on comin'," Dean sighed. "So what did Ballard have to say?"
"She was worried for you two. Second cop inside a year who looked her up about the Winchester brothers. Jackson let her know that you three had come to an…understanding. She suggested that she might've put up a few roadblocks to keep Sorenson circling for a while."
"Atta girl," Dean said, unable to stop himself from grinning. He'd always liked Diana Ballard. Even if her partner had been a dick.
"I think you're going to have to figure out something to tell this Sorenson fellow," Mason replied. "If you ever want to be able to," he paused for a moment, as if weighing his words, "come home again."
"I hear you," Dean said. "I'll figure out something."
"You take care of yourself, Dean," Mason replied. "I'm not above coming out there to kick some ass if I need to."
"Roger that," Dean replied, then hung up after Mason said goodbye.
He closed the phone and shoved it into his pocket, staring out at the pitch that surrounded them.
"You okay?" Virgil asked, making Dean wonder how thin he'd allowed his walls to get.
Chewing on his bottom lip, Dean thought for a moment, then said, "You ever think about…not being a fireman?"
"You mean, like, retiring?"
Dean looked over at him. "Yeah, like retiring. Doing something else. Something where you're not running into burning buildings or climbing through car accidents."
Virgil adjusted the grip on the steering wheel. "A couple of times," he confessed. "When Brenna and I couldn't find work in Boston…and when Aislinn was born."
"Why'd you go back?" Dean asked, honestly curious and needing to know the answer for more than one reason.
Virgil pulled into the gravel drive of a darkened house, his headlights reflecting off of the windows that flanked the front door. "I guess because…it's who I am. Nothing else I did mattered if I wasn't…doing this."
"You think you'll be doing this when you're sixty?"
Virgil half-grinned. "I keep hanging around with you guys, I'll be lucky to hit forty."
"Pretend I'm still dead," Dean offered. "You ever think you could walk away from the job?"
"Honestly…?" Virgil looked over at him. "No. I kinda think it's something I'll always be doing one way or another."
"What if someone…asked you to quit?" Dean pressed. "Someone you cared about – someone you'd do almost anything for? Like…Aislinn?"
Something shifted in Virgil's eyes and Dean immediately wished he could pull his words back, just suck them out of the air and erase them from Virgil's memory.
"She would never ask me that, even if she did talk," Virgil said. "I'm…not that person to her." He shifted slightly in his seat, slinging his arm over the steering wheel as he faced Dean. "But we're not talking about me anyway, are we?"
Dean pressed his lips together, then reached across his body to open the truck door with his left hand, sliding out. "We've got work to do."
He heard Virgil grumble as he shut off the truck, "Figured you'd say that."
They headed toward the house, Virgil holding a powerful Maglite flashlight and sweeping the beam across the front of the house.
"Not sure how you were planning on getting inside," Virgil said. "Unless you were just going to kick every door in."
"C'mon, man," Dean pulled out his lock pick kit from the pocket of his jacket. "You gotta have a little faith."
Shaking his head, Virgil pointed the flashlight at the door and Dean approached, pausing as something caught his eye.
"Hey, shine it over here."
Virgil complied and both paused, then leaned forward. Dean swiped at the charred words that seemed to be branded into the wood along the inside of the doorframe. Small letters, almost unnoticeable, except to those who were peering close enough to pick a lock.
"What's it say?" Virgil asked.
"It's Latin," Dean said. "Mors tua vita mea."
"Thanks," Virgil replied dryly. "Now, what's it mean?"
"Your death my life," Dean said, frowning, his thoughts tumbling over each other like the beginnings of a rockslide.
"Well, that's cheery," Virgil said, straightening up. "Doesn't really sound like the Elliott I knew, but…okay."
Dean ignored him, picking the lock and slipping inside, Virgil on his heels. He told the paramedic where to search and what to look for, pulling a small flashlight from his own pocket to tackle the kitchen. After about fifteen minutes, they met back at the front door, empty-handed. His sense of foreboding increasing, Dean headed back to the truck, telling Virgil to press on to the next house on the list: Abby Riker.
Nervously rubbing his thumb along the edge of his phone, Dean contemplated once more calling and checking on Sam, stopped only by their arrival at Abby's house. The last thing he wanted was to trigger Sam's worry – or worse, his irritation at being checked on. Sam knew what he was doing; if he needed help or found something, Dean knew his brother would call.
They exited the truck and headed up to the door. Dean had his lock pick in his hand, but paused, tilting his head to look at the doorframe.
Virgil swept his flashlight toward where Dean was pointing. "No way."
"It's here, too." Dean nodded and took a step back as Virgil ran his fingers over the blackened letters. He rolled his lips against his teeth in thought. "We aren't going to find anything inside," he predicted.
"You don't even want to check?" Virgil asked, standing up.
Dean was scanning the front door, looking for anything that he might've also seen at Elliott's house, but not realized was significant. "We ever tell you what we were hunting when we met Brenna?"
"Yeah…a banshee, right?" Virgil stepped back to stand next to Dean, shining the beam of light along the door, following the direction of Dean's eyes.
"Wait…are you saying this is connected to Bren—"
"The banshee is a death omen," Dean interrupted before Virgil could head too far down the wrong path. "A harbinger or a warning."
"Yeah, okay," Virgil said slowly. "Not following."
Dean pointed at the doorframe. "I think this is the same thing."
Virgil pointed the flashlight beam on the branded words. "What, like…anti-Passover? The words on the door means you're gonna die?"
"Yeah, something like that," Dean nodded, stepping back away from the house. "Let's go check out the next one and test my theory."
"Next one is…Frazier," Virgil said, climbing into the truck and looking at the list Dean had left on the dash. He pulled the gear down to reverse, then glanced at Dean. "Hey, you sure you're okay?"
Dean had been rubbing at his forehead, trying ineffectually to stave off the beginnings of a headache that was currently working to stab through the veil over his left eye.
"Yes," he snapped. "Stop asking me that."
Virgil lifted a hand in surrender, saying nothing else and Dean made a concentrated effort to remove his hand from his forehead and not squint, though right about now he'd happily give his left arm for a few ibuprofen. Or some caffeine. Working his jaw loose to try to alleviate the pressure, he stared resolutely out through the front window and hoped that Sam was having some luck with Brenna's books.
The bad feeling that had climbed up his spine and sat like a block of ice behind his heart was only growing in intensity as the hours rolled on.
Virgil pulled up to Frazier's house and turned off the truck. Before they got out, however, he reached across Dean – ignoring the way Dean jerked up and out of reach – and opened the glove box. Grabbing out a rattling bottle of pain relievers, he tossed them at Dean.
"I got water, too, unless you're too much of a man to need it." He kicked at a small red cooler sitting on the floor hump between them.
Chagrined, Dean gave him a half-smile, glancing at him out of the sides of his eyes. "Sorry, man."
"S'okay," Virgil said, looking resolutely ahead through the front windshield.
Dean grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler and downed three ibuprofen, letting the water cool his misplaced ire. He knew it wasn't Virgil's fault they were tangled up in this, not really. Yes, the man had called them, but they could have stuck to Sam's plan, stayed out of it, sent someone else.
The only reason they were here, starting to run on empty and feeling the effects of a fruitless hunt was because of Dean. Because he had to know about Brenna. Because he couldn't just walk away. Not again. Not this time.
After consuming half the bottle of water, Dean capped it and set it back in the cooler, nodding once at Virgil. They started to get out of the truck when something cold crawled up Dean's spine, drawing the hairs on the back of his neck to attention. Without really registering it, he reached back into the cab of the truck and grabbed the sawed-off shotgun he'd given Virgil, holding it against his body with his right arm, he chambered a bullet with his left, drawing a sharp glance from Virgil.
"Hit the lights," Dean said, tipping his chin up in the direction of Frazier's house.
Virgil narrowed his eyes, but complied. "Your Spidey Sense tingling or something?"
"Something," Dean muttered, starting toward the front of the house, now bathed in the bright beams of the truck's headlights.
Virgil followed closely. As they drew closer, the cold feeling inside of Dean intensified to an almost distracting pang. He'd felt foreboding before, but this was almost physical. He wanted to rub at his chest, dismiss the tension, but he didn't dare shift his grip on the gun.
"The door is open," Virgil said suddenly just as Dean noticed the same thing.
"Stay there," Dean ordered, moving forward, momentarily surprised that Virgil complied.
He approached the door cautiously, noting the words burned into the door frame as before, and opened the door wider with the toe of his boot, cringing at the creaking sound the seemed to echo across the darkness. Weapon at the ready, he eased inside, the headlights seeping in around the darkened corners of the entrance, throwing an elongated shadow of his body across a wood floor.
The smell hit him first. Blood. Tangy, metallic, it caused a surge of bile to burn the back of his throat and had him instinctively breathing shallow.
"You see anything?" Virgil called.
Dean shook his head once, not really caring if Virgil saw him or not. He made his way deeper into the house, losing the light from the truck, but following the scent, knowing that he didn't want to see where it led him, but having to just the same.
"Hello?" He called, hearing his voice crack across the sound. "Anyone here?"
The floor creaked behind him and the shadows move out of the corner of his eye, but didn't turn, knowing it was Virgil following him inside. Letting Virgil find his own way, Dean turned a corner from the main room into what looked like a screened-in porch. His boot slipped slightly and he glanced down, knowing before he did so that he'd stepped in blood. Licking his lips nervously, Dean stepped further in, shotgun up, barrel down.
Eyes scanning the darkness of the room, he rotated slowly. As he turned to his right, he stumbled backwards in shock, slipping a little in the blood, and found himself face-to-face with Bruce Frazier – the son of the man whose body Brenna had found days ago – pinned to the wall of the room with what looked to be an andiron through his chest.
The man's hands had been pinned by crossbow bolts, spread out from his body like wings. Blood painted the wall behind and beneath him, the river of it collecting in a pool beneath Dean's feet.
"Oh, fuck me," Virgil breathed, suddenly behind him, the beam of his flashlight clearly marking the horror.
Dean felt the shotgun start to tremble in his hands, the weight of it too much to support. He headed for the doorway, slipping again in the blood and crashing against Virgil, knocking the beam of the flashlight sideways so that they both saw the burn marks on the threshold between the main room and the porch: mors tua vita mea.
He began to shake – not a slow building quake, but tremors so violent he almost lost his grip on the shotgun. Ignoring Virgil's voice calling after him, Dean made his way out of the house, leaving bloody boot prints in his wake. He needed air; he was suffocating, a weight he couldn't begin to describe pressing against his chest with enough force he was sure his ribs were near the breaking point.
Letting the shotgun slip to the ground from his loose grip, Dean stumbled forward, past the truck and the safety of the lights, to the cover of darkness provided by the ready trees. He could feel blood on his hand, slipping between his fingers, smearing on his jeans as he furiously tried to wipe it clean. Small explosions seemed to fire off in his chest, the resulting burn filtering upward to the backs of his eyes and he couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't breathe.
Do not lose your shit. Do not lose your shit.
He didn't fully register finding his way into the trees that surrounded Frazier's house; all he saw was the rack. The rack and the bodies and the knives, cutting, blood splashing his face and coating his hands, screams echoing in his ears. Over and over he saw them until their faces blurred, until they were anyone, everyone. Until he wanted to cut out his own heart, just to make it end…only they wouldn't let him.
He had to make it stop. He wasn't there. He wasn't there, it wasn't real. It wasn't real, and he had a job to do. He had a job to do, and he was here with Sam.
He was here with Sam.
Hands gripped his shoulders, fingers digging in, finding bone, squeezing. Dean looked up, into the dark, seeking something real, something he could latch onto and find his way back.
"Sam?" His voice sounded wrong in his ears, rough and weak like he'd been screaming.
"Hey, hey, there you are," replied the voice as the fingers loosened a bit.
Dean swallowed, disoriented. "I go someplace?"
"Yeah, man. You kinda did."
Virgil. It was Virgil hanging on to him as if afraid Dean might blow away, lost in the darkness like so much ash.
His surroundings started to come back into focus, his brain tightening like the lens of a camera. He was sitting at the base of a tree, his legs tangled under him, sweat running down the sides of his face and causing his T-shirt to stick to his chest and back. Virgil's flashlight was off to the side, the beam shooting off into the trees.
He was crouched in front of Dean, holding him by the shoulders, his blue eyes well-past worried and right into scared. Blinking, feeling the burning in his eyes leak down his cheeks, Dean looked around, seeing off in the distance Virgil's truck and the house illuminated by headlights, remembering.
"The guy…the one from the museum…," Dean rasped.
"Yeah," Virgil nodded. "Just keep breathing, man, okay? I'm gonna let go now."
Dean frowned at Virgil, but complied, working to get his breathing steady, only just recognizing it was hammering out of him like a runaway train. He looked down at his shaking hands, the appendages feeling disconnected from his body, numb and foreign as if they belonged to someone else.
Blood still covered his right one and he tried to wipe it off on his jeans, needing it to be clean. Needing to not see the evidence of his sins. Needing to be someone other than that broken person who'd climbed out of his own grave.
"Hey, hey, easy now," Virgil gently grasped his hand at the wrist, his fingers pressing against Dean's pulse point. "There's nothing there."
"Gotta clean it off," Dean muttered, trying to pull free of Virgil's grasp.
"There's nothing there," Virgil repeated, gripping Dean's hand tighter. "Dean! Hey, look at me, man. Look at me!"
Virgil tugged on Dean's hand, hard enough that Dean looked up at him in surprise. He met the man's eyes squarely, finally finding his balance, coming back to now. It had happened again. He'd faded, fallen into the dark, the Pit and all its demons waiting for him.
"There's nothing there."
"Say it," Virgil demanded, holding Dean's blood-covered hand up to him.
"There's nothing there," Dean repeated.
It was a lie, though. He knew it as well as he knew no one would ever see it: there would always be blood on his hands. He would never be free of it.
"Your pulse is freaking out," Virgil muttered. "When's the last time you ate anything?"
Dean frowned, dragging his hand down his face. "Breakfast?"
Virgil sighed. "I bet you didn't sleep for shit last night," he said, dropping Dean's hand. "Did you?"
"I don't sleep anymore."
Virgil pushed to his feet. "That much is obvious." He reached out a hand. "Feel like you could stand up?"
Dean nodded, at first avoiding reaching back for Virgil's hand, then grasping it when the world tilted crazily around him. Saying nothing, Virgil stood and made sure he was steady once more before letting go. Dean nodded again, this time in thanks, and let Virgil lead them back to the truck.
"What…happened?" Dean asked, hesitantly. He wasn't sure he really wanted to know, but felt somehow he needed to.
Virgil was pulling out his red cooler of water. "You remember the body?"
"Yeah," Dean nodded, frowning toward his scarred palm.
"You just started walking away. By the time I caught up to you," Virgil looked over his shoulder toward where they'd emerged from the tree line, "you were on your knees, looked like you were trying to squeeze your skull, and you were making this God-awful noise…." Virgil looked back at Dean, handing him a bottle of water. "I don't know what you went through, man, but…I'm damn glad you're not there anymore."
Dean blinked, surprised. "What?"
"I'm saying I'm glad you're back."
"Well, sure, you being here showed me just how screwed up my life really is," Virgil offered him a white flag in the shape of a smile, "but you've always been a good guy, Dean. You saved my life, and you've done a helluva lot of good in this world. No one deserves to go through Hell. Especially not someone like you."
Dean gaped at him, unable to think of something to say in reply. Taking the bottle of water away from Dean, Virgil opened the lid, then handed it back, telling him to sit down by the wheel and drink it.
"I'm fine, man," Dean protested.
"Dude, you're so far outside of fine you don't know what the word means," Virgil scoffed. "You crossed that line long before you got here."
"Yeah, okay, I got it," Dean muttered, holding up a hand in surrender and slouching down by the wheel as Virgil pulled out his phone. "Who are you calling?"
"Maddox," Virgil replied. "He's gonna love finding out that not only did we decide to look at the houses anyway, we found another victim."
Dean closed his eyes rubbing at his forehead and drank the tepid water as he listened to Virgil on the phone with Maddox, trying to explain what they'd found. He finished the water – wishing immediately for more…and for something more potent.
"Maddox is heading up this way," Virgil informed him, closing his phone. "Probably bringing the goddamned Argo Army with them."
Dean glanced up when Virgil paused and saw that the man was frowning down at him. Matching his expression, Dean watched as Virgil grabbed another bottle of water and opened the cap, thrusting it at him. Dean took it, muttering that the man was trying to drown him.
"Just sit there until your color comes back," Virgil told him. "You're still pretty pale. How's your throat?"
Dean looked up in surprise. "It's fi—" he started, but then sighed, resigned. "Sore."
"Yeah, I'll bet," Virgil pulled off his hat and rubbed at his head in a familiar, nervous gesture, tugging the brim down to shadow his bruised face.
"Was I screaming?" Dean asked, not looking at the man, not really wanting to look at anything, his eyes resting on the edge of darkness at the end of the headlight beams.
"No…more like…," Virgil shook his head. "I don't know what it was. I think you were trying to keep yourself from screaming."
Do not lose your shit.
"Pathetic," Dean muttered.
Dean looked up at the paramedic. "I'm a hunter, man. I've dug up bodies and flamed out spirits and staked zombies in their graves. Now…I see a little blood and I go all…." He waved a hand in the air around the side of his head.
Virgil tilted his head to the side. "I don't think it's the blood," he said, his brows pulled close.
Leaning against the truck, Virgil crossed his arms over his chest. "It's not the blood. It's the bodies."
Dean swallowed, closing his eyes, flashes of the rack sending shivers through him.
"And…unless I miss my guess," Virgil continued, "the whole point of your job is to prevent this shit from happening. So it's not like you can't still do your job, y'know?"
Dean bobbed his head in tentative concession. "Thing is…all the stuff I see," he glanced quickly up at Virgil, then away again, "when I blank out. It's all Hell. And that was years ago."
"So," Dean lifted a shoulder. "So much crap has happened since then…."
"You told me you never talked to anyone about it."
Dean looked away, remembering one cold afternoon, sitting on the hood of the Impala, his back to Sam, confessing to his little brother that he'd been broken, that he'd ripped souls apart, that he wished he didn't feel a thing. "Yeah. Not really."
"Well, there you go."
Dean shook his head, swallowing a gulp of water. "Hell of it is…we were out of it."
"What do you mean?"
"First time this happened," Dean said, capping the water bottle and staring at his scarred hand, "we'd been…retired…for months. No demons, no angels, barely a spirit."
"So maybe that's it," Virgil said, moving away from Dean and bending down to pick up the shotgun where it had been dropped earlier. "You got out of your own way long enough to let your mind try to cope with all you'd been through."
"Huh." Dean frowned, thinking.
Then shook his head, glancing over at Virgil, ruefully realizing he'd talked more to the paramedic about his…spells…than he had his own brother. As Virgil made sure the door to Frazier's home was shut and returned to the truck to wait, Dean dug out his own cell phone checking the time. It had been two hours since he heard from Sam.
Regardless if his brother was finding something or not, two hours was a good check in point. He frowned when he reached Sam's voicemail, barking a quick order for Sam to call him the hell back.
"Hey, you got Brenna's phone number?" Dean asked, climbing to his feet and leaning against the bed of the truck, the cold feeling returning to the base of his spine.
"Yeah," Virgil glanced across the dark truck bed at him. "You didn't get Sam?"
Dean shook his head, rolling his bottom lip against his teeth. "I got a bad feeling."
"You're crashing from the adrenalin, that's all," Virgil told him, calling Brenna. "Your body isn't designed to—" He broke off, his face going pale when the call connected. "Bren?"
Dean was moving for the cab of the truck, everything inside of him going tense at the change in Virgil's tone.
"No, no, just stay put. We'll be right there."
"Where's Sam?" Dean demanded.
Virgil hung up and grabbed the steering wheel, hauling himself inside. Dean followed without question, slamming his door shut as Virgil turned over the engine.
"Virge! Where's Sam?"
"I don't know," Virgil replied, tersely. "Brenna was groggy, disoriented. Said someone attacked them."
"Punch it, man," Dean growled, the cold feeling beginning to heat up, low in his gut, spreading through his limbs.
The first thing he was aware of was the smell: musty, earthy, and rotten.
As he slowly climbed the ladder of awareness, Sam couldn't help but groan, the sound pulled from him by demanding fingers of pain. His entire body felt like one big bruise; even his hair hurt. It took him several minutes of breathing with his eyes closed against the throb of pain filling his brain to realize that his hands were bound.
Running his tongue over his dry, cracked lips, Sam cracked open his eyes, trying to convince himself not to be afraid of what he'd see. It only took a few disoriented blinks for him to realize that he needn't have worried. He may as well have been inside his own grave. The darkness that surrounded him was the inside of night. The only reason he knew his eyes were open was because he felt himself blinking.
"-lo?" He croaked, his voice breaking. He cleared his throat and tried again, clearer this time. "Hello? Anyone there?"
The silence was almost more frightening than the dark.
He knew he wasn't actually in a grave, despite the smell of earth, because he was sitting up, and could stretch his legs out in front of him. He decided he needed to see the limits of his surroundings. His feet weren't tied, but he felt a weight at one ankle. His hands were bound in front of him with what felt like manacles – not as easily picked as handcuffs, but still not completely impossible.
With the right tools. Which he was pretty sure he didn't have.
Feeling down his leg, he felt a similar binding around his ankle and followed a heavy chain several feet to what felt like a cannon ball. He hefted it, estimating it to be around ten pounds – not enough to keep him stationary, but certainly enough to hamper any escape attempts. The rattle of the chain on his leg and the few links between his hands was muted, as if he were wrapped in cotton.
Clearing his throat again and wishing desperately for some water, Sam pulled his legs under him and began to feel around his space while mentally taking stock of his body. His muscles ached, most likely, he reasoned, from the stun baton or taser they'd hit him with. He'd never been shocked before – having only seen the effect on the super-charged volts hitting Dean's body – but he knew what the effects were. He was just glad that whatever reason they'd had to shock him, they hadn't wanted to kill him with the voltage.
His head ached, again from the after effects of the shock. He didn't feel a knot or any blood to indicate he'd been dealt a blow. He carefully lifted his T-shirt where he remembered the baton hitting him and felt tender skin – as if sunburned, but no open wounds, for which he was immensely relieved. Open wounds would hamper any kind of escape. His jacket had been removed – which was not only a minor inconvenience as far as the chill of his surroundings, but held all of his knives or weapons.
"Wait," he whispered to himself, mostly to be able to hear something.
Feeling down the leg opposite the manacled ankle, he slipped his fingers inside his boot, feeling carefully around until – yes! One of Dean's small throwing knives was still tucked into the slot his brother had made him create inside the lining of his boot.
There's naked and there's naked, Dean had smirked.
Feeling a bit better about having some kind of weapon on him, Sam began to feel along the packed dirt floor, fingers curving around worn surfaces of rocks, then up along the rock and dirt wall he'd been leaning against. He crawled along the wall as far as his tether would allow, then dragging the cannon ball further until he tired out.
With a gulp, and trying not to notice that his hands were shaking, Sam reached across the black in front of him, searching for the other side of the dirt room. He had to scoot forward three times before his fingers touched stone. Doing some quick calculations he reasoned that he was in some kind of tunnel, roughly six feet across, his chain nearly that long, and who knew how deep it went into the earth.
He was enough underground that he heard no ambient noise – not even running water. Without a light, he was hesitant to explore one direction or the other, not knowing if he'd be leading himself further into the black or finding an escape route.
Slumping down, Sam closed his eyes, giving them a break from the tiring, instinctive search for light. Running the last few moments of consciousness over in his mind, he tried to search for some clue as to who grabbed him and why—
"Oh shit," he breathed. "Brenna."
Whipping his head around as if searching for her, Sam called her name out loud. Only the muted sound of his own voice hit his ears. If she had been shocked into unconsciousness as he had, she may still be in the tunnel with him, unable to hear. He began to feel around on the ground, searching in a grid choosing to go to his right first until he reached the end of his tether, then started searching the other direction.
When his fingers touched bone, Sam gasped, drawing back in shock.
Taking a moment to collect himself, he felt along the bone, fingers detecting worn, rotted clothing, tracing up a ribcage, to a neck, and finally, the hollows and grooves of a skull. Sam pulled his fingers against his palms in tight, trembling fists.
"What. The hell."
With another steadying breath, Sam felt down the skeletal remains, detecting a belt buckle, what felt like denim, and boots. Scrambling back a bit to sit on his haunches, Sam forced his racing mind to slow, to filter through facts, to find a clear path to reason. He wrapped his arms around himself, horrified to discover he was shaking.
"Stop it," he ordered himself out loud through clenched teeth. "You're a grown-assed man. You hunt werewolves and vampires for a living. You've dug up hundreds of bones and burned them. You are not spooked."
He was spooked, though. Because he was starting to put the pieces together. And he wasn't liking the picture he was starting to see.
"Dean," he whispered, once more closing his eyes, concentrating on his brother. "You gotta find me, man."
The ride from Frazier's house to Brenna's was only about fifteen minutes, but it felt like it took ten years. Virgil carefully navigated the dark mountain road with its sharp turns and switchbacks, fielding an enraged call from Maddox wanting to know where the hell he was and why the hell he didn't wait at the crime scene like he was goddamn told to do.
"Someone attacked Brenna Kavanagh and a friend of mine at her house," Virgil barked into the phone. "You want a statement, it's not like it's a big town."
Dean was glad when Virgil tossed the phone onto the seat, focusing on his break-neck speed in the dark. The truck had barely pulled to a stop behind Brenna's Charger when Dean was out of the cab, running up to the door, bellowing his brother's name.
He was first inside, Virgil not far behind, but knew at once Sam wasn't there. Brenna was sitting against the wall across from the opened front door, her lip and nose crusted with dried blood, a hand pressed to the side of her head. Dean skidded to a halt when she lifted her eyes to meet his, the devastated expression in them freezing his heart inside his chest.
Virgil pushed past him to reach her, crouching beside her in full paramedic mode, a small first aid kit next to him – magically produced from the depths of his truck. He was talking low and calm to Brenna, asking her questions and demanding she answer, but she never took her eyes from Dean.
"They took him," she said finally, as if she'd been searching for the words since the moment she'd answered her phone.
"It's okay, Brenna," Virgil soothed, dabbing at the cut on her lip and tilting the flashlight he'd brought with him to look at her pupils. "Just take it easy, let's get you fixed up."
Dean crouched at her feet, giving Virgil room to work, but not willing to let her take it easy. "Tell me exactly what happened. Where's Sam?"
Virgil shot him an angry look. "Give her a damn minute, man. She's in shock."
"Shock—" Brenna blinked, pushing forward against Virgil's restraining hand. "I remember. We…we got the books, but before we'd even opened them they broke in and used some kind of…shock baton on Sam. He went down hard."
"He was tased?" Dean frowned, thinking immediately of the electrocution marks on the bodies.
Brenna nodded, flinching as Virgil dabbed at the scuff mark near her temple. "One of them back-handed me and I," she lifted her hand, exposing bruised, swollen knuckles, "got a couple of swings in, but they punched me and I don't remember anything until your call."
Dean narrowed his eyes. "But they didn't take you."
Brenna shook her head. "It was like they wanted him. Just wanted me out of their way."
Her eyes darted to something on the floor behind him and Dean turned, seeing the books she'd grabbed and a few pictures scattered beneath a side board. He picked up one that was face-down and handed it to her without looking at it. She plucked it from his fingers and pressed it against her chest, closing her eyes, her chin trembling once as a single tear slipped out.
He figured he knew who that picture was of by her reaction. He and Virgil waited a moment while Brenna took a breath, pulling herself together and folded the picture, tucking it into her back pocket. She wiped her cheek with the back of her hand and when she looked back at Dean, her eyes were dry and steady.
Part Two: Chapter 14 continued here in Post 15-B.