Title: From Yesterday, Chapter 15
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 15-A
They assumed the position – Dean just behind Sam, right hand on his shoulder, left hand out with gun at the ready – and began to move down the dark, silent tunnel. Sam hated to admit it, but he could see the footprints in the dirt indicating Dean's gut hadn't let them down. Sam gripped the knife, trying to jump ahead to what they'd find, if they found it, and what they were going to do about it.
"I figured at least one of them is still human," Dean said, his voice a bit breathy, a tightness to it that betrayed the pain he was in. "Susan. The kid's aunt."
"Yeah," Sam replied, ignoring the uncanny way his brother had of knowing the path his mind was heading down.
"You gonna be able to do what we have to?"
"Stop them? Yes."
"That kid down there ate a cyanide pill rather than be exposed, Sam," Dean snapped, his hand growing heavier. "We're not going to be able to just take their toys away and tell them to stop."
"We're not going to kill them, either," Sam argued. "Dammit, Dean! This is why I wanted out. Shit like this! Life and death and decisions we should never have to make!"
"We were out," Dean said through gritted teeth. Sam heard him growl a bit and felt him a push against his shoulder as if Dean was forcing himself to keep moving forward. "We didn't have to come here."
"We didn't have to stay, either!" Sam shot back, defensively.
"Yeah," Dean said quietly. "We did."
And with that, Sam thought of Brenna, and her daughter – Dean's daughter. He didn't think his brother knew by the way he was talking, and by the fact that he hadn't once mentioned Brenna.
"Surprised Brenna didn't come down here with you, if Virgil's down here somewhere," he said, testing the waters.
"Don't think she didn't want to," Dean grumbled. "Damn woman has more guts than sense."
"Huh," Sam muttered. "Reminds me of someone else I know."
"I've got plenty of sense."
Sam's smirk was cloaked by the dark. "We're coming to a cross tunnel," he told Dean. "Feeling any tremors in the Force?"
Dean didn't reply right away. Sam slowed down, feeling the weight of his brother's hand increase. He could hear Dean's slightly raspy breath beat against the cloaked quiet of the tunnel.
"Go right," Dean replied.
Everything about his voice sounded wrong. Sam turned slightly so that he could see his brother's dark-eyed image. Dean's head was hanging low, his shoulders curled in, his arm pressed tight to his side.
"You need to take a break."
"No, I'm good."
"Dean, just sit—"
"Sam," Dean snapped, bringing his head up, his brows puckering, "I stop now, I won't start back up."
Sam blinked at that. It was serious. More than he'd realized.
"We should go…find help…something."
"We go now, we lose this fight," Dean panted, his voice strained. "Last sacrifice…stick man comes to life."
"Wicker Man," Sam corrected automatically.
"But…I don't…." Sam stopped, hearing the plaintive tone in his voice and hating it. I don't want to lose you.
"Keep going, Sammy," Dean ordered. "We got this. You lead the way, I'll be on your six…just like Beggar's Canyon back home."
They started forward again, slower this time.
"I knew this would happen," Sam whispered.
Sam shook his head. Of course, that Dean heard.
"You'd get hurt and I wouldn't be able to help…to touch you."
"I'm okay," Dean replied. "I'm on my feet; we're moving. Until that's different, don't worry."
Sam clenched his jaw against his automatic retort. They'd only gone a few more feet when Sam started to detect a difference to the green-hued glow around the edge of his goggles.
"You see that?" he asked, stopping.
Dean nearly ran into him and Sam shifted his stance so that Dean could slide an arm his shoulders, holding himself up. It was awkward, with Sam's hands still bound, but he could tell Dean needed the crutch. He could feel the subtle tremors running through Dean's body; it made his eyes burn with angry tears.
"'s light," Dean said. "Think that's it?"
"First light I've seen down here," Sam replied, moving them forward, though every instinct in him screamed to find a way out, get Dean topside. "You still with me?"
Dean lifted his gun. "All the way, man."
Knowing that was true, Sam pushed on, getting closer to the light, the luminosity of it filling the tunnel around them with a gray, ambient glow. He pulled the goggles down so that they hung around his neck, peering toward the curve of the tunnel, wanting to be ready before they announced their presence. He pulled out the knife from his belt, then hefted Dean slightly before moving forward. He could practically feel his brother gathering his strength, using Sam to rest for now so that he could be ready later.
They came to the curve of rock just before the lit area of the tunnel and paused, exchanging a look. In that glance of his brother's eyes, Sam saw what he needed. This was it, this was all it was: the job. The fight. The reason.
They were hunters. It wasn't about if they should be or wanted to be. They simply were.
They had been entrusted with a truth that only a handful of people in the world knew; they were obligated to protecting others from the consequences of that truth. They stood in front of the darkness and stopped it from become more powerful than the light. They had to make this world safer for those who came after them.
For people like Stella and Brenna.
"You ready?" Sam whispered.
"Right with you, brother," Dean replied.
They turned the corner and moved toward the entrance of what looked like a stone ante-room. Sam winced against this light, his eyes so long in the dark seeming to absorb the light on a time delay, slowly registering what he saw.
The room was big enough to hold a desk, chair and cot across the way, light coming from several lamps positioned at various points around the curved space. Several boxes filled with random bits of mining tools were stacked near the entrance and across the room, and in the center was a rough-hewn table that appeared to have been made out of some kind of tree stump, decorated with candles, parchment, and altar bowls.
And inside the light they could see four people caught in a strange kind of stand-off. Sam squared his shoulders as Dean pulled away, stepping forward and raising his weapon.
"Lemme guess," Dean said, shifting so that his stance was loose, his weapon held comfortably in his left hand, barely a trace of pain exposed. "Alias Smith and Jones. Or…is it Smith and Smith?"
"Took you long enough," came a welcome voice and Sam darted his eyes over to where Virgil stood, a sawed-off shotgun pointed at the heart of a tall, lanky man.
Shooting his gaze around the room, he saw another figure, sprawled on the ground, dazed and the preacher from Argo lying unconscious nearby.
"The preacher still alive?" Dean asked, as if he'd had all of this figured out before they'd rounded the corner.
"Just unconscious," Virgil replied, not taking his eyes off the man in front of him. "Taser."
Sam winced in sympathy, moving into the room and toward where the smaller figure lay, trying to get up.
"Sam," Dean called, and Sam turned, catching a length of rope with his bound hands.
As he rolled the person over, the hood fell away and Sam saw that it was a woman.
"So if that kid back there was David Smith," Sam said, pulling the ropes tight around the woman's wrists, "and this is his aunt Susan," he looked over at Virgil, "who's that?"
"The ringleader of this operation," Dean said, leveling his gun on the figure across from Virgil. "August Smith."
Virgil shook his head. "August Smith died twenty years ago."
"All kinds of things you can do when you sell your soul," Dean muttered darkly. "Isn't that right, Auggie?"
The figure across from Virgil reached up and carefully peeled back his hood. The man was bald, his scalp dry with patches of darker skin peppering the otherwise pale flesh. His features seemed to be stretched – almost as if there wasn't enough skin to cover his skull – and whisper-thin, like parchment. His eyes were blood-shot and wild and the weak strands of a beard straggled from his jawline.
"You're too late, hunter."
Dean casually shook his head. "Yeah, I don't think so. You have one last sacrifice," he tipped his head toward the preacher's prone body, "and we plan on taking him with us."
"You're the draiocht," Sam said in surprise. "You've been controlling the Wicker Man."
"You butcher our language," August Smith snarled toward Sam. "You have no concept of the power of the Druids, how vast we once were."
Dean tilted his head, mock-grimacing. "You need to work on your James Earl Jones impression, Chief." He leveled his eyes. "We're taking the preacher. And we're leaving."
"I want some answers," Virgil protested. "Like how this guy is still freaking alive after twenty years."
"It's a family-oriented town, man," Dean said, nodding toward where Susan Smith sat cowered near Sam's feet. "He survived the explosion – that I'm betting he set, by the way," Dean waved his hand around at the boxes of mining equipment around them, "and his family took care of him until—"
"The Rising," Sam supplied.
Smith shot an enraged look over at Sam once more. "You shouldn't speak of things you know nothing about!"
"You need to shut the hell up," Dean growled, moving with almost purposeful casualness until he stood between Smith and Sam.
Sam eyed Susan where she sat silently watching the exchange, her expression impassive.
"Where are the keys?" He asked, knowing she had been the one to bring him water, and feeling momentarily sympathetic toward her.
Susan simply started at him.
"Give him the keys," Dean ordered, turning his gun on Susan. "Now!"
Sam thought he was the only one who could hear the current of pain that shimmered beneath the anger in Dean's tone, but as Susan indicated a pocket in her black robe, Sam heard Virgil check on Dean.
"Eh, fuckin' Wicker Man got me."
"You are marked!" August Smith all-but cackled with triumph. "You have been marked as a sacrifice!"
"Shut the hell up!" Dean and Virgil snapped at the man together.
Sam found the keys and unlocked his manacles with shaking hands. Sacrifice? They'd had enough sacrifice; he couldn't survive more. He stood, dropping his manacles and stared at Dean, needing to really see him in the light.
"See, that's where you're screwed, pal," Dean told Smith, turning the gun back on him when he saw that Sam was free. "You marked the one person who is protected against sacrifice." He held up his scarred right hand.
Sam frowned as he watched Dean's jacket shift with the motion. Blood stained Dean's entire right side and Sam could see where the back of his brother's jacket was shredded. He might be protected against sacrifice, but he wasn't protected against bleeding out.
"Dean," he called. "Let's wrap this up."
"I'm good," Dean replied. "Grab the preacher man and we can go."
"I got this one," Virgil all-but snarled. "He killed my friends; I'm ready to see him burn for that."
"They were chosen!" Smith bellowed, backing away from Virgil, toward the table that looked like an altar.
Sam moved away from Susan, closer to his brother, not liking the direction this was taking.
"Reynolds wasn't!" Virgil shot back. "Or Rush! They weren't part of you fuckin' death plan. Don't pretend you killed them for any purpose." He spat the word.
For one unexpected moment, Smith looked genuinely confused. And then Sam heard a horrific hissing sound behind him, his gut going cold as realization sank in. He half-turned to see Susan Smith standing, a gun pulled from her robes, the ropes smoldering as they burned away from her wrists.
"He didn't kill them," she rasped, her eyes shifting to a strange, almost dead-looking yellow. "I did."
"Sam!" Dean shouted and suddenly his brother was motion.
As Susan pulled the trigger, Sam felt himself hauled to the side and heard the sound of crashing as the altar table was kicked over. He was shoved behind it and bullets ricocheted off the old, thick wood. He darted a hurried glance toward Dean and saw that Virgil was huddled next to him, his brother now on his knees and firing back toward the Druids.
"Gimme the shotgun," Sam demanded.
"Just stay down," Virgil returned, poking his head up and firing a round of rock salt toward Smith.
Sam grabbed Virgil by the jacket sleeve and yanked him down. "Dammit, give me the shotgun!"
Dean ducked back when Susan fired again, glancing over at the other two, his eyes glowing with that soul-light that was both mesmerizing and unnerving.
"This table ain't big enough for the three of us," he gasped. "I'll go right, Virge you go left. We'll flank them."
"No!" Sam tried, but Virgil nodded, and they were on the move.
Desperate, Sam stood once more, reaching for Dean and Susan fired. Time seemed to slow; he could almost watch the bullet's trajectory toward him. And then it ricocheted harmlessly off the wood of the table, as if an invisible shield had been erected in front of him. He looked at his brother who was looking back with shining, wild eyes set in a face of fierce determination.
"Stop, you fool!" Smith growled at his sister, roughly slamming his hand down on her arm. "Or you'll kill us. That table is made of rowan wood."
"It's for protection," Sam breathed, frowning at the two Druids. "Against evil."
As if on cue, Dean and Virgil stepped back, keeping the table between them and the Druids.
"I love irony when it works in my favor," Dean said dryly. He glanced at Sam. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"
"This time? Yes." He grabbed the edge of the table with the intent of using it to shield their exit.
"Let's go, old man," Dean ordered Smith.
"You won't take me," Smith replied.
Sam frowned as Dean's arm wavered.
"Maybe not," Dean said, his voice going breathless and thin once more as it had in the tunnel, "but we're not letting you kill anyone else."
"You will not take me!" Smith suddenly bellowed, sweeping out his hand as the air around him shimmered.
Sam gasped as Virgil flew back and away, rock salt shells scattering from his grip to roll across the floor. He hit the wall, hard, sliding into a heap near the preacher, the shotgun falling from his loose fingers. Sam dove for it, mindful of the muttering he now heard from Susan, echoed by her brother as he swept his arm out again. Dean ducked behind the table, and the power blast crushed several of the lamps on the far wall, sending the alcove into shadow.
Sam crawled back to Dean, the shotgun in his hand, grabbing two shot gun shells on the way.
"What is that? That's not Latin," Sam exclaimed in a harsh whisper, trying to determine what spell was being cast as he reloaded the weapon.
"What do I look like, the Rosetta Stone?" Dean snapped. "Probably Gaelic. First time I wished Brenna was down here with us."
The incantation went on, the sound undulating against what otherwise had been utterly silent. Dean arched his back a bit, peering down at his side, then pressing his arm tight against it once more.
"I friggin' hate witches."
"So you've said," Sam muttered, carefully peering over the edge of the table, blinking sweat from his eyes.
"Yeah, well, it's totally going to be my next tattoo." Dean's voice tightened with pain and he moved to get a better look.
The table shifted as the incantation undulated around them. Sam grabbed Dean's shirt to pull him along with the moving table and was dismayed to feel it wet with blood. More lamps shattered and the darkness grew.
"We live quite comfortably in the dark, hunters," Smith informed them. "The Rising will happen; it cannot be stopped now."
Sam suddenly gagged on an overwhelming stench of rot.
"You smell that?" Dean coughed.
"It's back," Sam whispered.
He looked over his shoulder to find Virgil in the lingering light. Their friend was rousing, pushing up the wall and reacting to the smell as well. The return of the Wicker Man gave the Druids renewed strength and they resumed their chant with fervor.
"Virge!" Sam called over the spell. "Grab the preacher and get the hell out!"
"Not without you guys," Virgil exclaimed, rolling to his knees.
"We'll be right behind you!" Dean replied. "Go!"
"I've heard that one before," Virgil grunted and he crawled up next to them. "Last time you almost bled out in a cave."
"Déjà vu," Sam muttered as more lamps shattered, this time the fuel spilling down the wall and the flame following.
"Sam," Dean called in a loud whisper, his eyes on the fire. "I got an idea."
Sam frowned. He knew that tone. "Does it involve explosives?"
"I was afraid of that."
"Can you reach that stick of dynamite in the box over th—"
Dean never got to finish his sentence. The incantation suddenly hit a crescendo and table protecting them was throw back and away as the Wicker Man stood before them. Sam saw Smith wave his arm and the arm of the Wicker Man swept to the side, Virgil once more flying with it, this time landing on the preacher, who was at last coming around.
Sam scrambled to his feet, his knife out, thankful that this time his hands were free, when Smith moved again and the Wicker Man reached for him.
It wasn't just a cry of denial; it was a roar of rage.
Sam blinked in astonishment as Dean stood, the shotgun in his left hand, body trembling. He fired both barrels and the blast shattered through the center of the specter, staggering Smith and sending one of the three remaining lamps to the ground. The two remaining flanked the entrance near where Virgil was now trying to get the preacher outside into the tunnel.
As the shadows grew, Sam realized he could see Dean's eyes – alight and alive and fierce with power.
"You're not touching him."
It was a statement of fact, pulled from Dean's gut and slapped against the air for all to hear.
Smith shifted the Wicker Man's attention from Sam to Dean, catching him with the unexpected movement and using the stick-like arms to lift him to the ceiling as it had Sam earlier, the shotgun falling from Dean's grip. Logic and months of experience abandoned him as Sam reached for his brother, Dean instinctively reaching back to get free.
Their hands met – left to right, scar against scar, just as they had in Stull – and the ensuing shockwave not only shoved the Wicker Man back, it sent the Druids off their feet and extinguished the fire that had been growing from the broken lamp.
Sam was aware of Dean falling from the Wicker Man's grip, of both of them hitting the dirt, and then nothing for one heartbeat of time.
And then time seemed to stop. And the world lit up.
Sam gasped as his reality twisted nauseatingly around him. He saw Dean laying face-down in the dirt of the alcove, right hand gripped in Sam's left, but super-imposed over that were images of a crib and a baby, a box of Lucky Charms next to a shotgun, a narrow bed with two small bodies side-by-side, an arm across a chest in divergence, hands grabbing, pulling, turning – moment after moment of protection, of guarding….
This time Sam felt no pain, no sorrow, none of the misery he'd grown accustomed to feeling when they connected. It was simple, pure determination. And through all the images of Dean's subconscious, Sam could still see his brother in the now, lying prone on the floor of a mining alcove.
The intensity of the heat in his hand spiked to an almost painful level and he heard Dean cry out, shifting as if aware. That had never happened before. Dean had always been plunged into oblivious darkness when they'd connected. But this time, Sam saw him pull his legs up and bracing his left hand until he was tri-podded, his right hand keeping a tight hold on Sam.
Use it. Sam heard the words in his head as clearly as if someone had whispered in his ear. Use it.
As he had back in Mason's garage, Sam focused on the light that seemed to be emanating from Dean's pores. He focused on the heat in their connected hands, centering it on their scars, and…pushed. It wasn't a physical, conscious action.
It was instinct alone, a gut feeling.
But it worked. Dean felt the push; Sam sensed that immediately. Dean brought his head up and Sam gasped as the images from his brother's mind were erased from his sight. All he saw now were Dean's eyes on fire, his body a beacon, their hands shaking as they seemed to meld and fuse together.
With an awkward, jerky motion as if he were unsure of what he was doing, Dean looked over at the Wicker Man where it stood silent and still after Smith was knocked down. In an instant, specter was consumed by heatless flame, becoming the sacrifice for which it had been constructed. A rush of air and power filling the void it left.
Sam heard Smith scream in pain and rage. Then Dean let go. The room was plunged into near total darkness.
And the world went silent.
Sam felt more than saw Dean collapse next to him, panting for air, his body shaking uncontrollably. He looked down at his own hand, expecting to once more see an open wound, but saw only his scar in the wan lamplight. His hand was cool to the touch, not branding-iron hot as it had felt just moments ago.
"Dean?" he called softly, his voice thin and cracked.
Dean just shook his head against the ground, his eyes closed tight, tears of reaction making tracks down his dirty face. Whatever they had done, whatever force they'd used to destroy the Wicker Man, had completely sapped Dean's energy reserves.
"What power is this?" Smith gasped from his huddle across the room. "Hunters with such power…I've…never seen…."
"Mess with the bull, you get the horns."
Sam shot a look over his shoulder to see Virgil standing in the archway, their discarded shotgun in his hand and apparently reloaded. He heard the paramedic chamber a round, then whipped his head back to see Smith standing like a skeletal wraith just above Dean. Virgil wasted no time pulling the trigger and hitting the man with a barrel of rock salt, turning the gun on Susan as she rushed forward with an inhuman screech, hands curved into claws.
She took the other barrel, collapsing to the ground.
"C'mon, Dean," Sam grabbed his brother's bare forearm, and was shocked when the wave of pain slammed through him at the touch.
No images, just sensation, but it was enough to shock Sam back on his heels. He'd thought it was over; they'd burned it out. But apparently, they'd only used it.
Dean was staring up at him from the ground. He'd felt it, too. Probably as the shock he usually felt, but it was enough to rouse him from his exhausted slump. He climbed to all fours and used the wall to gain his feet.
"The preacher?" He rasped.
Virgil was giving him a critical eye. "He's outside. Not doing great, but alive."
"Get him topside," Dean said. "We'll take care of these two."
Sam looked over at the Druids, amazed that they were starting to climb to their feet. Susan was making a low growling sound in the back of her throat and he could hear Smith muttering something once more. Bending to grab the stick of dynamite from the box Dean had indicated earlier, Sam looked over at his brother.
Tiredly, Dean simply nodded, not glancing back at the two on the other side of the shadowed alcove. The brothers each grabbed a leg of the rowan wood table, pulling it toward the archway to protect their exit. Dean glanced at Virgil.
"Go get that preacher out of here," he said to Virgil, then looked at Sam. "We can save one at least."
Sam nodded as Virgil started to move away.
"Smith survived one cave-in," Sam reminded Dean.
Dean lifted a shoulder. "We'll tell the authorities where this place is." He glanced back at the Druids, trapped on the other side of the table. "Eventually."
"There are too many of us," Smith growled at him. "Stopping us won't stop the Rising."
"Maybe not," Dean told him. "But you're the only ones killing people. You sold your soul, Smith. You went to the dark side."
"I'm a Druid!" Smith yelled raising a shaking fist to punctuate his declaration.
Dean shook his head. "No. You're a draiocht." Sam blinked at his brother's near-perfect pronunciation of the word. "A witch. You're no Druid."
He turned from the entrance and left Sam to light the fuse. Not looking at the interior of the alcove, Sam grabbed the remaining lamp by the wire handle, stuck the fuse into the flame, then shoved the dynamite into a crack in one of the stones creating the entrance. Without a backward glance he hurried to Dean, grabbed his brother against him to speed up their retreat.
Using the lamp, Sam followed the footprints the that led in the opposite direction of where they'd emerged from the ladder, speeding up as he felt time ticking away, unsure if the Druids would find a way past the dynamite, unsure if the explosion would bring the tunnels crashing down around them, unsure if Dean would be able to stay on his feet much longer.
His own ankle forgotten, his own aches and pains a memory, Sam started to run, gripping Dean tightly and forcing him to move, getting as much distance between them and that alcove as possible. When the dynamite blew, the mine shook around them and Sam staggered, dropping the lamp and shattering the glass, plunging them into darkness. For moment, they simply stood, choking on dust, but then everything went silent and still.
"Damn it's dark," Dean muttered, leaning weakly against him. "Too bad I can't turn into a human light house at will."
Sam grabbed the goggles from around his neck and tugged them back into place.
"I can still see," he reminded Dean.
"Right. Magic goggles."
"We're following Virgil's footprints," Sam told him.
"How do you know?"
"He wears Converse sneakers," Sam revealed. "I can see their logo on the left heel."
He felt Dean chuckle. "You're good," he said. "A total pain in the ass…but you're good."
Absorbing the compliment, Sam continued, "I figure he must have come in on a different level and found that alcove somehow. We never passed him, so…he had to come from another way."
"I trust you, Sammy," Dean replied, his voice ragged and weak.
They moved forward, quietly at first, but then Sam couldn't ignore what had transpired any longer.
"Did you know that would happen?" he asked.
"You mean the whole Wonder Twin Powers thing?"
"How'm I gonna know a thing like that?" Dean asked, his words starting to slur. "Rufus sure never said anything."
"Think maybe I'm your trigger?" Sam speculated.
"Maybe," Dean conceded. "Y'always gettin' me into trouble."
Sam felt Dean sag suddenly and he stumbled, trying to keep his grip without touching skin.
"Whoa, hey, where're you goin'?" Sam exclaimed.
"Tired," Dean exhaled, his voice barely audible.
Looking down at Dean, he saw that his brother's eyes were closed, his head lolling onto Sam's shoulder.
"Dammit, Dean." Sam moved them toward the nearest tunnel wall, and eased his brother down. He could see Dean's head cant back against the stone, his mouth falling lax, his breath rasping out through parted lips. "C'mon, man, don't do this. We're not out of this yet!"
Looking down the tunnel, he could see nothing but rock walls; no ladder, no service elevator, nothing to indicate that they were almost to safety. For all Sam knew, they had miles to walk in the dark. Turning back to Dean, he dragged his hand down his face, wiping the sweat away and crouched at his brother's wounded side.
Careful to avoid skin, Sam peeled away Dean's jacket and then shirt. It was difficult to see the extent of the damage through his night-vision goggles, but the amount of blood soaking through Dean's clothes was frightening. Reaching into his brother's interior jacket pocket, Sam pulled out the flask of holy water, uncapping it and pouring it over the wounds he saw on Dean's side and abdomen.
Dean rolled his head, making no other indication that the holy water made much of a difference in his awareness. However, it did clear away a substantial amount of blood and Sam could now see three tracks – like claw marks – tracking from Dean's back to his front before they stabbed into him.
"Goddammit, Dean. Why didn't you tell me?" Sam whispered, pressing the back of his hand against his mouth as he rested his arm on his bent knee, trying to think of what he should do.
The wounds were still bleeding sluggishly; he had nothing to use as a bandage except his other dirty sleeve. He couldn't even touch Dean to wrap the wound. Clenching his hands, he yelled in frustration.
Dean flinched at the sound, rousing slightly, blinking dark eyes at Sam but clearly seeing nothing. Before Sam could do anything but grip his brother's jacket sleeve, Dean's eyes slipped closed again and his breathing grew fainter.
"Okay, think, Sam, think."
There had to be a way to bandage Dean and get him out of there. Leaving him here to find help was not an option. And no one was going to hear him if he called out. He had to just…power through their connection, that was all there was to it. He'd done it before in the heat of the moment, he would just have to do it now.
Unbuttoning his ripped outer shirt, he pulled it off then removed his T-shirt, before putting his long-sleeved shirt back on, covering as much of his skin as he could. His T-shirt wasn't the cleanest thing, but it was better than Dean's dirt-covered, blood-soaked clothes. Bracing himself, Sam took a breath and pressed the folded shirt along the deepest of the cuts, carefully reaching behind Dean to wrap the shirt around his narrow middle.
As he pulled the cloth across Dean's lower back, Sam's fingers connected with skin and he was jolted with a searing pain. Dean jerked in response, not opening his eyes, but aware enough to feel the connection. Sam continued to pull the shirt around to Dean's front, tying the ends as best he could and watching in dismay as the white material darkened in the green glow of his night vision.
"C'mon, Dean, wake up," he sniffed, surprised to feel tears burn his eyes. "Don't do this to me."
He looked down the tunnel again, willing someone to come find them. His left hand flinched in the memory of feeling Dean look for him, knowing his brother wouldn't give up until he was found.
"Y'know, I was never afraid of the dark," he said, watching his brother. "Even though I knew what hid inside of it." He looked on either side of them, the filtered images of endless tunnels and rock walls seeming to almost close in around him. "I may change my mind about that, though."
"Why?" Dean whispered.
Sam jumped at the sound. "Dean?"
"Why weren't y'scared?" He hadn't opened his eyes, but Sam felt a weight lift at the sound of his brother's voice.
"Because you were there," Sam told him, secrets and subtleties of no use to him in the center of the earth. "You made me not be afraid."
"Y're the brave one, Sammy."
"Hardly," Sam sniffed again. "All I could think when I woke up down here was find me, Dean."
"I know you were," Sam reassured him. "You always do. You'll never stop watching out for me." He tentatively rested his hand on Dean's head, his fingers cushioned by his brother's thick hair. "Until it kills you."
"M'still here," Dean told him.
Sam felt his face fold with emotion, the goggles pinching his skin. This was bad. He needed to find a way out of here. Find a reason to get Dean ready to move, needing to move.
"There's something you need to know, man," Sam said, his voice trembling. "Something big. But…I don't know how to tell you."
"'s just words, Sammy," Dean sighed, forcing his eyes open and blinking in the dark. He wasn't looking at Sam; he wasn't looking at anything, Sam knew. And the directionless stare was frightening. Dean exhaled a sad sort of sigh as he said, "I can never find the right ones."
"Words," Dean said. "Can never find the ones th'work. Make people understand. Always screw it up. 's like using a shotgun when a knife's better."
"What are you…," Sam frowned, watching as Dean's eyes closed again.
He knew how to find out what Dean was thinking without making his brother say it. Taking a breath, Sam reached out and rested his hand on the side of Dean's neck. He was ready for the onslaught of pain. He wasn't ready, though, for the images that came with it.
It was them, all of them: family. Overlapping, fading, growing brighter. It was Dean's strength, his purpose, shining through to Sam like the beacon Dean himself had been just moments before.
John and Mary, smiling and proud, moving about their lives unaware they were being observed by their watchful child. Sam as a boy, Sam now, head tossed back as he laughed with delight. Bobby frowning, though his eyes creased in a grudging smile. Castiel tilting his head curiously, innocence and knowledge at home in his gaze. Brenna smiling at him, frowning with a playful gleam in her eye, reaching for him.
And a baby, a blonde-headed girl with green eyes and Mary's smile…Dean's smile.
Sam leaned forward, pressing his forehead to his brother's as tears of exhaustion and pain slipped past his lashes. "You already know," he whispered through images still flickering behind his closed eyes. "But how?"
When he released Dean, though, he realized his brother wasn't aware of anything anymore. His eyes were closed and his breathing so shallow Sam could barely detect it.
"No, Dean. Don't…please." He moved closer to his brother, gripping both of Dean's arms. "Stay with me, man. Don't do this to me now!"
The moment he'd been running from for years was here. The helpless loss that he'd been working so hard to escape, to avoid. Surviving his ultimate sacrifice at Stull, six months of normal life, the nightmares and flashbacks…and Sam was still losing him.
Tears and sweat had cut tracks in the dirt on Dean's otherwise serene expression. Sam almost wanted to touch his brother and feel that slam of pain that had greeted him before. Pain was life. Pain meant that Dean was still here.
"I know I'm always the one walking away," Sam said, tears choking him, "but I can't do this without you, man. I don't want to."
Dean was the broken one. He was the one whose sleep was haunted, who couldn't get past the trauma of Hell. And yet it was Sam who needed to be saved. Sam who hadn't realized how much he needed the foundation his brother provided. Sam who was drowning in a sea of uncertainty when it came to what he had to do next.
Shocked, Sam looked over at the sound of his name, wincing back as the beam from a flashlight flared in his night vision goggles. He ripped them from his face, tossing them aside as the light grew closer, and larger, joined by a second and third beam.
"Virge?" he called, his voice weak.
The paramedic loped into view, a big black flashlight in one hand, a first aid box in the other. Behind him came Brenna and another man Sam had seen at the fire station. Sam couldn't tear his eyes from them.
Help. They actually had help. Sam wasn't sure what to think, how to process.
"Hey," Virgil said, sliding to a stop next to Sam, and crouching down. "Thank God you got out!"
The explosion, Sam remembered. "Never touched us," he said, still trying to comprehend that they weren't alone. They always had to find their way out of these things on their own. And he'd been at a complete loss as to how to get them out of this one.
Virgil rested a hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy, man. Here," he handed Sam a bottle of water. "Drink this until it's gone."
"I'm okay," Sam replied, though he took the bottle. "It's Dean—"
"I've got Dean, don't you worry," Virgil said, his voice steady and reassuring. "Need to keep you from going into shock. Luke?"
Sam blinked, momentarily disoriented as another set of hands pulled him gently back and away from Dean, propping him against the wall. He focused on the face before him: the other fireman, Luke. The man was saying something to him, checking his pulse, pressing the water bottle upwards and forcing him to drink as he checked his arms, torso and legs for other injuries.
He found the burns from the taser, but didn't touch them, for which Sam was grateful. His skin was still too sensitive in those areas. He reached Sam's hastily-bandaged ankle and unwrapped it, reaching into the kit for bandages.
Sam barely winced as Luke cleaned the swollen cuts; he'd already shifted his focus to Dean. Brenna crouched next to his brother, her hand on the back of Dean's neck, a frown lining her face and her eyes large with worry. She was focused on Virgil, listening for instructions.
"Dean," Virgil was saying, lightly tapping his brother's cheek, then rubbing his sternum to try to rouse him. Sam watched Virgil's actions speed up when Dean failed to respond. He checked his pulse, felt for breath, then reached into his kit for an IV bag.
"Need to get some fluids in him, now," Virgil said over his shoulder to Luke. "His pulse is weak and thready. Betting his BP is bottoming out."
"It cut him," Sam said. "On his side."
"It's okay, Sam," Virgil replied. "You just keep drinking that water."
"He's been bleeding for a while, Virge," Sam pressed.
"I know, man, I know," Virgil replied tightly, then told Brenna to hold the flashlight over the back of Dean's right hand.
Sam watched as Virgil inserted a needle, then pulled it out, leaving the catheter in and wrapping Dean's hand carefully to protect the insertion site. He attached the narrow tubing to a bag of saline and handed it to Brenna, telling her to gently press, forcing the fluids. Sam glanced down as Luke finished wrapping his ankle, then handed him another bottle of water.
He hadn't realized he'd finished the first one, but took the second greedily. He was wrung out, exhausted and completely dry. It was as if he'd gone years without water; he could feel it filling him up from his toes as he watched Luke move over to help Virgil shift Dean from where he was propped against the wall to lay flat on the tunnel floor. Sam took Luke's flashlight and he and Brenna held them over the paramedics, while Brenna kept the IV bag elevated.
"Jesus," Luke muttered as Virgil pulled Sam's T-shirt away from the wound on Dean's side. "This kid's a mess."
"Yeah, he usually is," Virgil replied.
"I take it you've put him back together before?"
"As much as I could," Virgil muttered, reaching into his kit for something. "We need to get him stable and get him topside."
"Not going to be able to get a stretcher down here," Luke frowned.
"Gonna have to carry him between us," Virgil said, finding what he was looking for in his kit: a bottle of antiseptic and some pressure dressing.
"I'll be fine," Sam interrupted. "I can walk out."
"Brenna, grab his hand," Virgil instructed, nodding toward Dean. "This is gonna hurt like a bitch."
Sam set down the second water bottle – now empty – and took Brenna's flashlight. Luke picked up the saline bag, freeing Brenna's hands. She took Dean's left hand in her own, adjusting her grip so that she braced him rather than comforted, and put her other hand on Dean's neck. Without looking at Virgil, she nodded and Virgil proceeded to pour the antiseptic on the deepest wounds, trailing it so that the flow poured around Dean's side.
The effect was instantaneous. Dean surged upright, caught by Luke's gently restraining arm, his voice raw and awful as he growled out a scream of pain. Sam wanted to reach out, to reassure him, but he knew at this point any contact would simply make the situation worse. He kept the light on Dean's torso, watching as Brenna tightened her grip in direct reaction to Dean's tightly-flexed muscles, her other hand stroking a soothing path along the side of Dean's face, down his neck, as she whispered in his ear.
Sam didn't understand what Brenna was saying, her words were rapid and muffled, but the tone and the cadence seemed to calm Dean, reassuring him enough he was able to slowly relax his muscles.
Panting, Dean looked around wildly, clearly confused and more than a little afraid to see light and faces around him when before it had been complete darkness.
"Sam?" He rasped.
"I'm right here, man," Sam called from above him. "You're okay. We're okay."
Brenna whispered something else and Dean turned dazed eyes toward her. "Brenna?"
"Virge is here, too," Sam told him. "We're getting outta here."
Dean dropped his head back, swallowing and trying to catch his breath as Virgil tore open the pressure dressing and nodded at Luke.
"Ready the morphine and get some narcan on board," he instructed. "I don't like how he's breathing already."
"No," Dean shook his head. "No drugs."
"Hate to break it to you, Superman, but we gotta move you after all this fun," Virgil frowned at Dean.
"Please, Virge," Dean's voice broke and Sam felt his heart glitch as his brother reached for Virgil's wrist. "Don't want to go under like that."
Virgil's frowned smoothed out and Sam saw then that he knew why Dean was asking: no way to control the nightmares when he was drugged up.
"I won't give you enough to knock you out," he promised. "But I can't move you with no pain meds, Dean. Your body's in shock; overloading your system like that could kill you."
Dean exhaled shakily, releasing Virgil's arm and nodding his agreement. Sam darted his eyes toward Brenna, making sure she hadn't let go of Dean's hand. He needn't have worried. Her whole self was focused on Dean. Anyone who saw her in this moment would know that whatever claims she made to the contrary, she needed this man alive and in this world as much as Sam did.
Virgil looked over at Luke and instructed him to adjust the amount of pain medication, waiting until the other paramedic had slipped the needle into Dean's arm and removed it before pressing down with the bandage. Dean cried out at the pain brought on by the touch, then clenched his teeth puffing out breaths as Virgil and Luke turned him slightly to get the bandage around his back.
"Almost done," Virgil reassured him.
Once he was satisfied that the bandage was wrapped, Virgil started packing up his first aid kit, then began barking out instructions with the authority of a drill sergeant. Sam felt himself instinctively respond, Virgil's tone giving no quarter.
"Here's how it's going to go. The service elevator is 400 yards that way," he nodded in the direction they'd come from. "Luke and I will lift Dean. Brenna will help Sam – eh, stow it. You're hurt, you're exhausted. She's not. Let her help. Brenna and Sam will lead the way with the flashlights. We get to the service elevator and get topside. There's a bus waiting to take us to the clinic in Idaho Springs. We all go in the same ride. Got it?"
Virgil looked at each of them, waiting for them to nod. He looked down at Dean. "You got that, Dean? We're getting the hell outta this maze."
"Roger that," Dean replied, eyes closed, teeth clenched.
Brenna stood, taking one of the flashlights from Sam, then picked up Virgil's first aid kit and moved over to his side, out of the way of the paramedics. Luke and Virgil crouched on either side of Dean, grasping their hands behind his shoulders, then beneath his knees, lifting him easily and as smoothly as possible. It wasn't smooth enough; Dean's cry of pain ended abruptly and Sam's heart lurched as his brother's head lolled, rolling to rest on Virgil's forearm.
"The hell? Thought you said you weren't going to knock him out!"
"I didn't. This is all him." Virgil shifted his grip and shot a look over at Sam. "Let's get the hell outta here."
Brenna nodded and wrapped an arm around Sam's side, pointing the beam of light in the direction they were headed. Sam let her lead the way, resisting the urge to slow their progress by looking back and checking on Dean. The quicker they got topside, the quicker he got help. He didn't notice he'd started to limp until Brenna slid her slim shoulder under his, quietly encouraging him to lean on her.
"What were you saying to him?" Sam asked, trying to distract himself from the ache in his ankle.
"As an t-airgead go e'er raibh mé, chaith mé sé i gcuideachta maith…," she paused, as if just realizing she'd been speaking in Gaelic. "It's Aislinn's favorite song. I sing it to her when she has a nightmare and it never fails to calm her down."
"What's it called?"
"Parting Glass," Brenna replied, readjusting the flashlight to point further down the tunnel.
"He knows," Sam said quietly. He felt her stiffen against him, but she said nothing. "Somehow. About Aislinn. I…saw it. When we were connected earlier."
"He didn't…say anything?"
Sam shook his head, then spoke up. "Don't think he knew how."
Brenna was quiet for several moments.
"You need to tell him, Brenna," Sam said, his tone firm, determined. "It needs to be you. He deserves to know."
"He won't want…won't want to expose her to his life," Brenna predicted, fear turning her voice liquid.
"He deserves to decide that on his own." Sam saw the service elevator and raised his voice to the men carrying his brother. "Almost there."
Once they were on the platform, pressed tightly together, it was simply a matter a minutes until the platform reached the surface. Sam and Brenna exited first, stepping through the opening in the side of the mountain. He pulled in his first breath of fresh, clean air in what felt like days, surprised to see the red hue of a sunset painting the sky behind the mountain range. He had no idea how long he'd been down in those tunnels.
Gathered in small groups around the opening to the service entrance were the Argo sheriff's department, the remaining firemen, and several people from the town that Sam vaguely recognized. Down the hill he could see the ambulance that Virgil had promised.
"Where is he?" Maddox demanded, striding forward.
Sam stared at him, confused. "Who?"
"That bastard Smi—"
Maddox broke off, though, as Virgil and Luke emerged, carrying Dean between them. Sam turned, blinking in astonishment at the site of his brother, torso soaked in blood, face pale, hanging between the two paramedics limply. He felt dizzy, his world shifting slightly around him.
"Sam?" Brenna called worriedly, her small hands gripping him tightly around the waist.
Sam swallowed, taking a breath. "'m okay," he said, though he felt far from it.
A fireman that Sam didn't recognize stepped up and pulled Sam's arm over his shoulder, taking his weight from Brenna. Two others hurried toward Virgil and Luke, carefully lifting Dean from the arm hammock they'd made. Sam watched Maddox's eyes trail Dean's limp form with horror and something twisted sideways inside of him. Anger pulled his lips into a snarl.
"You want someone to blame for that?" Sam asked, his voice hard. "Look around. You all let that happen. You had evil living next door and you were so fuckin' busy drawing lines in the sand around what you thought was right that you let this happen."
"C'mon, Sam," Virgil said quietly.
"Now wait just a goddamn minute," Maddox exclaimed, grabbing Virgil's arm. "I want an explanation for all of this. You said August Smith was the killer."
Virgil jerked his arm out of Maddox grasp and gave the man a hard glare. "He is. And if we're lucky, he's buried down in that damn mine with his crazy sister. You want to know anything else? You're gonna have to wait until I get these two to the clinic."
"No!" Virgil roared, turning to face the sheriff, the setting sun catching on his blue eyes and turning them bright. "Nine people are dead, Sheriff. Reynolds is dead. And Sam's right. It's our fault. We let them die." He looked around at the people on the hill. "Everyone in this town is to blame."
"Let's go," Brenna said quietly, taking lead as the fireman supporting Sam followed.
No one else said a word as they made their way to the waiting ambulance. Dean was lying strapped to a stretcher, the IV bag nearly empty and hanging from a silver bar above him. Brenna climbed in after Virgil, sitting up by Dean's head, and the fireman helped Sam in, closing the doors behind them.
Sam slid his eyes from Dean to Brenna, then over to Virgil, who was looking at the ground.
"He's going to be okay, Sam," Virgil said quietly as the ambulance started moving. "He's strong."
"I know," Sam agreed, exhaustion bleeding through his tone. "Just wish he didn't always have to be."
Brenna reached over and smoothed a line that had appeared between Dean's eyebrows, the nightmares starting once more to haunt him.
"He knows, Virge," she whispered. "No one told him."
"We didn't have to," Virge replied, still looking at the ground. "But he should to know the whole story."
Brenna nodded, swallowing hard. "I know."
"And he needs to hear it from you," Virgil continued, looking up, his blue eyes bright, this time with tears. "We owe him that."
Brenna nodded again, looking up at Sam, tears choking her reply. "I know."
Sam held her eyes for a moment, then sank back against the side of the ambulance, letting the rocking motion sooth him. He was spent. Exhausted. Done. He was dreading that conversation, dreading Dean having to know that truth. As much as he knew it was right, as much as he knew Dean deserved this, Sam wanted to just rewind time to the moment just before he'd checked his messages and heard Virgil's voice for the first time in years.
He knew they'd done the right thing, but now he wanted nothing more than to leave this mountain, this town, this world of Druids and draiochts and bastinite and secrets. He wanted to take his brother and get the hell out of there, leave these people to the mess they'd allowed to happen. He didn't care if Sorenson arrested them on sight or if Crowley was sitting on their front steps.
He wanted to go home…and this time, he realized, he knew exactly where that was.
Continued here in Part 2: Chapter 16
a/n: Four more parts to come – and their journey isn't over yet. Hope you're still enjoying! See you in a couple weeks.