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.
Author's Note: Just a couple of quick thoughts from me and I'll leave you to the action and mystery (and hurt).
For me, the stories I write are always about the brothers, regardless of who else might be featured (canon or otherwise). When thinking about a "what if" scenario for the guys, I freed myself from canon and my typical storytelling convention for SPN – meaning, in my mind, for this story, it was no longer 'taboo' for the guys to have love interests beyond a one-night-stand. I completely appreciate that sentiment is not shared by all who read fic in this fandom, which is why I put the warning right up front that I would be returning Brenna to the story.
I don't know if I could articulate what I define a "Mary Sue" character to be, but for me, it's not Brenna. I'm sure all who write OFCs would probably say the same thing, though. *laugh* In any case, I appreciate that those who have departed this story because of Brenna or her child have been sure to let me know that was the reason, and not because the story wasn't intriguing or compelling. There's room for all preferences in fiction; that's the beauty of it. For those of you still here, I am grateful for your time, your reviews (should you choose to leave them) and I hope you continue to be entertained by this story I've been wanting to bring to life for, oh, about five years now. *smile*Part 1: Prologue - Chapter 9, Part 2: Chapter 10, Part 2: Chapter 11, Part 2: Chapter 12, Part 2: Chapter 13 Part 2: Chapter 14
art by thruterryseyes
Sam was smart.
He could break apart a situation and put it back together again in a way that was logical, sensible, and most importantly, actionable. He didn't just like having a plan, he required it. Even if the plan eventually changed, he had to start from somewhere. He'd always been analytical, seeking out the logic and reason within each situation, despite the fact that he lived in an illogical world.
He'd never been one to go with his gut. That had been Dean's territory.
His brother had a memory Sam used to envy, until he witnessed how remembering everything ate away at his brother's heart like acid. Dean used his memory to accommodate for rarely, if ever, having a plan. Sam had seen Dean walk into a room and instinctively determine who was going to give them trouble; he'd seen his brother defeat a spirit based on the memory of a random fact of a swatch of hair being kept in a picture album. And he'd seen Dean read a stranger's reactions and know in minutes if they were going to be ally or enemy.
It was that sense Sam needed now because logic was defeating him.
The complete blackness of the tunnel seemed to close in on him, pressing the air into a tight, almost impenetrable cocoon. He'd seen the two hooded figures come from one direction; logic told him that would be his way out. But after freeing himself of the ancient manacles – slicing his ankle up in the process – he'd walked for what felt like hours, still trapped in the black.
The throwing knife had been too small, the angle too difficult, for him to blindly pick the locks of the manacles linking his hands. He put the knife back in his boot before finding the rock wall on his right – deciding he had to pick a direction and stick with it – and moving forward, feeling sure he would come to an entrance or an elevator or something that would take him to the surface.
His ankle was stinging from where he'd cut it; he could feel blood soaking his sock and pant leg, squishing noisily in his boot as he stepped. It wasn't enough blood loss for him to feel woozy, but it was enough to be concerned. Sliding down the wall, Sam tugged at a sleeve, trying to pull the seams apart. After a moment, he reached for his throwing knife once more, carefully cutting through the fabric, allowing the rest to tear loose.
By the time he'd pulled the sleeve free, he was sweating and shivering, the effort costing him precious energy he was going to need to find his way out of this maze – for it truly felt like a maze. He wouldn't be surprised if he was walking in a circle. If he stumbled across that skeleton again, he was going to scream.
Pulling up his pant leg, Sam tentatively felt around his ankle for the cuts, his fingers slipping in his blood. He hissed as he brushed one of the deeper ones. It wasn't long, but it could use a few stitches.
"Assuming I get out of here," he muttered quietly, his voice dry from thirst. The smell of rot and decay that had been pervasive in the tunnel had him breathing shallowly, though he'd almost stop noticing it. Given time, Sam knew, the human body could get used to just about anything.
Using his sleeve as a bandage, he flexed his scarred left hand, remembering how he'd felt the burn as cleanly as if the wound were new. The pain that shot through him, bringing to life the image of Dean calling to him, had reminded him of the death visions he'd once been plagued with: it had shaken him, reality folding and collapsing around him. It was disorienting and reassuring at the same time. He only hoped Dean knew it was happening and was using it to find him.
The sleeve now acting like a make-shift bandage and tourniquet, Sam pulled himself to his feet, testing the strength of his ankle. It was sore, but it held him. Taking a shaky breath, Sam continued forward, forcing himself to blank his mind from the thoughts that seeped in from the pitch that surrounded him.
Thoughts like how if he was going to be stuck somewhere dark, it could be the warmth of Stella's hidden loft above the bar in downtown Lawrence. Or like the fact that he had barely started to figure out how to make a normal life for himself before getting stuck here. Thoughts like how he was the idiot who'd pushed the issue of coming on this hunt just when Dean had started to see things his way.
Thoughts like how he might never see his brother again.
Limping forward, Sam felt his breath speed up in panic as he slipped back to that moment – the last time he felt the imminent loss of his brother, his one constant in a world of change. Anyone who knew their history would probably laugh at him if he confessed to when he last truly felt that fear.
Then again, anyone who knew their history was dead, so he had little to worry about in that respect.
It hadn't been when he'd said yes to Lucifer or before Dean grabbed his hand back at Stull, stopping him from tumbling into the Cage and trapping himself with the Devil in Hell. It hadn't been the moment in an Indiana suburb when Dean had looked at him, pride, fear, and pain at war for dominance in his eyes, and told him to remember what he'd taught him, just before the Hellhounds had ripped his brother from his life and this world.
It had been in a parking lot in Broward County, Florida, on a Wednesday morning.
A moment when everything was supposed to have been normal again, when he'd stopped the time loop and the endless ways he'd witness his brother's death. A moment when logic told Sam he'd won, he'd defeated the evil that had caused their mutual destruction. A moment when logic betrayed him with a bullet and a man named Cal.
Sam could remember the paralyzing fear and nauseating loss that shot through his system as he sat on that cold, unforgiving asphalt, Dean bleeding out in his arms, unable to stop it, unable to change it, at the mercy of a being he hadn't even considered as an option in his personal Hell.
Somehow, everything in Sam's life from that moment forward had been an effort in avoiding feeling that helpless loss ever again.
The inevitability of Dean's going to Hell was traumatic, but even before Lilith banished Ruby, Sam had been working through the possible ways he could bring his brother back. His mind had churned through plans as he'd collected Dean's shredded body against him.
Even his own sacrifice at Stull hadn't been without logic. He'd not felt the breath-stealing terror at that choice because he was in control of it. He'd been the one to decide how it was going to go down and who he was going to take with him. Dean had never been part of that equation – which, of course, was exactly why his brother had found his way inside Sam's plan, Dean's gut instinct taking over where logic departed.
Now, lost in the dark with no clear direction, and worse still, no plan, Sam felt fear climbing his spine, wrapping cold fingers around his throat as surely as if it were a spirit. He'd never had a true panic attack before, but this felt damn close. Sweat ran into his eyes, his shirt clung to his back and his skin shivered, the Earth practically wrapping its arms around him.
His breath began to tremble, quaking as the grip around his throat seemed to tighten and Sam stumbled, trying to gain control of the fear, trying to push it back before it incapacitated him and left him trembling and suffocating in the dark. He stopped moving for a moment, trying to swallow, his mouth so, so dry.
One more step and suddenly his right hand – his guiding hand – slipped into air, no rock wall beneath it. He nearly fell as his left was pulled along its manacles. Slumping a shoulder against the rock wall he'd just slipped off of, Sam tried to catch his breath.
Did it lead out or further in? Should he follow it or try to keep moving forward? He could hear nothing, not even the stir of air across the sensitive hairs on his ears. He could see nothing, not a single shape differentiating wall from ground, the outline of his hands in front of his face. And the only thing he could smell was dirt, sweat and that unescapable rotting scent that seemed to follow him throughout his whole trek.
Sam lacked even a single clue as to which was the right direction to follow, and the wrong choice could easily seal his fate. Breathing hard from anxiety rather than exertion, Sam rolled his shoulder along the rock wall until his back was pressed close, bracing him as he covered his face with his hands, feeling the cool weight of the metal chain dangling between his wrists.
What if he just sat here? Just stopped moving, stopped seeking escape? What if he just let whatever was supposed to happen to him just…happen?
"What would you do, Dean?" he whispered into the dark.
He knew that answer: fight. With everything in him until his last breath. Even if his path wasn't clear or his enemy known. Fight on and never stop until all choices were taken from him.
And then swing one last time.
On that thought, Sam made a choice. He turned the corner, using his shoulder as a rotation point and stumbled down the new tunnel, eyes straining to seek light, ears alert for the slightest shift in the oppressive silence. Every molecule in his body strained for some clue that he was on the right path, that he was not alone.
It was that hyper-vigilance that alerted him two heartbeats before the air around him stirred and a blow came at him from the dark. Instinct alone had Sam bringing his hands up, the manacles catching the brunt of a weapon aimed for his head. With a growl of feral determination, Sam fought back.
His mind tripped forward, trying to determine how his attacker had seen him when he could still see nothing. He blocked another blow, this time with his forearm, the pain reverberating through his bones and making his ribs rattle. He was surprised it hadn't shattered his arm. Launching forward, hands clawed, Sam managed to tackle his attacker and was surprised to find the body beneath his slighter and smaller than he'd first imagined.
Swinging wildly, his hands nearly joined, Sam managed to land a few blows of his own, crying out triumphantly when his nearly-silent attacker grunted in pain. Finding the figure's mid-section, Sam planted his knee and tried another punch, misaiming and cracking his knuckles on rock hard enough to draw blood. He absorbed a blow to his stomach and grabbed the attacker's arm, using it as a clumsy guide to find the person's face.
Gasping, Sam felt a mask – a mask with some sort of goggles. He ripped them off, keeping his fingers tight around the head strap, and felt the person's face.
Smooth skin. He couldn't tell anything beyond that. He moved his hands down to the person's throat and grabbed the collar, pulling the person's face close to his.
"Who are you?" he demanded. "What do you want from me?"
"You…you were our insurance," the person – male, Sam realized, the young male voice he'd heard earlier – gasped. Sam moved his knee slightly to allow the man more air.
"Insurance against what?"
"Against being defeated before the Rising," the person replied. "Two hunters come to town…timeline speeds up."
"What's the Rising?"
"The return of Druid rule." He coughed again and Sam moved his knee off completely. "The Wicker Man will ensure our way of life."
"You got no idea what you're messing with, do you?" Sam snarled, disgusted, shoving the man down, hard, and feeling his lip curl with satisfaction when he heard a grunt of pain.
"Doesn't matter now," came a resigned reply. "The mission is tainted."
Narrowly avoiding bloodying his own lip with the chains that bound his hands, Sam slid the goggles over his head, positioning them easily over his eyes. Night vision. Everything appeared green, but he could finally see around him: the narrow curve of the tunnel he was in, the figure huddled beneath him, the scuff marks on his knuckles.
He reached for the man again and pulled him up, momentarily gaping when he saw the face under the hood.
"Holy shit," Sam breathed. "You're just a kid!"
"Age was never important," the kid replied. "All the mattered was the sacrifice."
"What are you sacrificing, huh?" Sam shook him. "All these people are dying for your precious Wicker Man…what are you sacrificing?"
The kid looked at him, his eyes black, like a demon's, through the odd green glass of the goggles. "My future," he replied.
Before Sam could do anything to stop him, the kid shifted out of Sam's grasp, then bit at something on his shoulder and in seconds began convulsing beneath Sam's hands, a frothy substance lining his mouth.
"What the hell," Sam moved his chained hands to the kid's face, then to his neck and at last leaned his head toward the kid's chest. "No…c'mon, no, no no!"
The kid stopped moving. Sam felt along his shoulder and found a small Velcro pocket, pulled open by the kid's teeth. He'd ingested something small enough to fit into that pocket….cyanide?
All that mattered was the sacrifice.
"Damn kid," Sam shook the kid's body, letting it drop back against the rocks. "What a freakin' waste."
He would never understand such obsessive belief in a cause. Nothing was worth this. Nothing was worth giving or taking a life needlessly.
Sam slumped down, wiping his face with the back of his hand. The kid had come from somewhere – and had done so virtually silently. All he had to do was find out where. He glanced back at the kid's body, noting the way one of his legs was bent at a slightly odd angle, making it look shorter than the other.
He couldn't just leave him here. But there was no way he was hauling him out when the exit wasn't clear. Sam reached over and patted the body, searching for anything he could use as a weapon or a way to mark the body's location. The only thing the kid had on him was a folded piece of paper that Sam first mistook for a map.
Upon closer scrutiny, however, he realized it wasn't a map in the geographical sense. It was a timeline. A series of milestones leading to a moment marked on the end of the spectrum with a symbol that looked like a Rune of some kind.
"I'm guessing that's the Rising," Sam muttered.
He couldn't read any of the writing; it appeared to be Gaelic or something close to it. The language of the Druids. Symbols and interwoven knots marked the four corners of the paper and the ink grew darker the closer to the end.
"That doesn't look good," he sighed, folding the paper up and slipping it into his pocket. Looking back at the body, he said into the quiet, "I'm gonna have to leave you here. I'm sorry."
Pulling himself to his feet, he continued forward, limping slightly at his ankle flashed heat up his leg with each step. That wasn't good. Neither was the stretched feeling of his skin when he rotated his ankle. But there wasn't much he was going to be able to do about it until he got outside.
"Where's a magic door when you need one?" he wondered aloud.
The night vision goggles changed his world, however. Now, he could see the support beams he'd previously stumbled around, the rock walls, and dirt floor, the jagged ceiling. He could see everything but an exit. As he continued to slowly follow the tunnel, Sam's mind chewed on the chart he'd found in the kid's pocket and the sarcastic words about the timeline speeding up.
The first few murders had been at least a week apart, maybe more. Then he and Dean had showed up and at least two happened in two days. His mind sped up, clicking through the pieces of the case, pulling together possibilities and facts like the database he'd designed to help them.
"The Rising," Sam breathed. "The Wicker Man returns to lead the Druids…."
The cold feeling returned to his spine, traveling upwards and circling his neck once more like fingers. He'd seen the Wicker Man, he remembered. Earlier, in the adjacent tunnel. He'd seen it as if it were a specter, a wraith, there but not at the same time.
He thought about the ink growing darker the closer it got to the end of the timeline.
"It's already here," he murmured, stopping dead still with the realization. "It's already been summoned. Now, it's just getting stronger."
Sam put his back to the wall, looking slowly around the tunnel, the choking cold growing tighter around his throat until it was hard for him to pull in a breath at all. The smell of rot that followed him spiking to an almost overwhelming stench as he looked behind him. When he saw the image of the Wicker Man standing parallel to him in the tunnel, Sam felt a burst of panicked, hysterical laughter in his chest.
It had been with him the whole time.
"Do you have your phone?"
He couldn't stop staring at the holes. Perfectly centered in the middle of their foreheads. Rush still had his eyes open.
"Brenna!" He snapped, shooting her an irritated glance. "Do you have your phone?"
She was white, her lips bloodless, Virgil's hat clutched in her hand. Her eyes were pinned to Reynolds with the kind of paralyzing horror he didn't associate with someone of her strength. It suddenly hit him how fragile she really was; despite her powers, despite her resilience, she was breakable and she just might've reached that point.
Stepping toward her with three purposeful strides, Dean planted himself directly in Brenna's line of sight, blocking her view of the service entrance and the bodies inside. He grabbed her shoulders, squeezing until his fingers found bone and forcing her to look up at him.
"Do you have your phone?" he repeated a third time, this time softly.
She blinked. "Yes."
"Call the police," he instructed. "Tell them where we are. Go down to the base of the hill and wait for them."
That got her attention.
"What? I'm not staying here."
"I am going after Sam," he told her. "And I can't be worrying about you in there."
"I'm not staying here," she repeated, her jaw tightening, color returning to her cheeks. "Virgil's in there."
"We need help," Dean told her, knowing it was painfully true. "We need to report this," he jerked his head back toward the opening, still not moving away.
"To who?" She cried. "Reynolds was the only one who believed us and he's—" Her breath caught in her throat.
"To Maddox," Dean told her.
"Hell, Maddox is probably part of this," she scoffed.
Dean dropped his hands, reassured that if she was swearing, she was starting to get back to her normal self.
"I don't think so," he shook his head. "I think he's just in over his head." He glanced around, worrying his lower lip. "Like just about every other cop who isn't dealing with their regular kind of crazy."
Bending to retrieve the helmet Virgil had insisted he bring from the spot where he'd dropped it to pull his weapon on Brenna, Dean turned it around in his hand, noting the light fixed to the front. It wasn't large, but he was glad for it: he wasn't going to be able to carry a flashlight and stay armed at the same time. Not with two working hands.
"I'm going down there," he told Brenna. "I'm getting my brother out. Then I'll look for Virgil."
"Virge is probably looking for Sam!" Brenna protested.
Dean shook his head. "Virge is looking for whoever killed his friends."
"What are you talking about?" Brenna pushed past him, pointing at the opened doorway. "It's the same people who took Sam – who attacked me!"
"Maybe," Dean conceded, "but it wasn't for the same reason."
"Think about it," Dean pulled the helmet on, adjusting the light so that it would shine directly in front of wherever his head was pointed. "Every other death has been sacrificial. This," he nodded toward the doorway, "was an execution. These two saw something or someone they shouldn't have."
"Doesn't mean it's not the same people," Brenna pointed out.
Dean pulled out his pistol and checked the clip, then holstered it before patting down his jacket to reassure himself that his knife and holy water were still intact. "No, but it does mean it's people."
"What's your point?" Brenna frowned at him, her brows pulled close.
Dean stepped toward the doorway, bracing himself to step over Reynolds' legs.
"My point is," he said, glancing back at Brenna, "that I don't hunt people. Call Maddox."
"I'm coming after you," she replied, pulling out her phone. "Virgil's in there somewhere."
"So are three homicidal maniacs," Dean shot back. "And my little brother," he added softly.
"You think I'm just going to leave—"
Dean turned to face her once more, catching her off-guard with the intensity of his stare.
"I think you gotta be smart, Brenna," he said, his voice hard. "I think you've got a kid out there who needs you. I think Virgil knows what he's doing and you going in there blind won't do anything but put more people in danger."
A muscle in Brenna's jaw bounced as she stared at him, sorting through the reality of his words to find a place where she could fit. "You better come back," she said finally. "All of you."
Dean's face felt tight. "I plan on it."
Brenna put her phone to her ear, keeping her eyes on Dean until it connected. As she turned away, demanding that Rebecca connect her to Maddox right the hell now, Dean headed into the service entrance, refusing to look down at the bodies he stepped over and made his way to what appeared to be a platform elevator.
As he got closer, he realized the actual platform had descended without having returned, backing up his half-assed theory that Virgil had gone into the mine looking for or following whoever had killed Reynolds and Rush. Leaning over the darkened hole, Dean shoved up the breaker attached to the side of the shaft, listening as gears began to grind, pulling the platform to the surface.
He was honestly surprised that the electricity worked in this service entrance, but if whoever had been wreaking havoc on this town was using the mine as their base of operation, it stood to reason they would have a way in and out. As the platform drew level, Dean cast one last look over his shoulder at Brenna, meeting her eyes on the other side of the doorway, her bottom lip caught between her teeth as she stared at him with large eyes, and wondered exactly how long she would stay topside before heading down into the dark to look for them.
For her daughter's sake, he hoped she didn't follow them. But he knew this woman. As he stepped onto the rickety platform and threw the switch once more, her image slowly sinking from his sight, he knew odds weren't great that she'd stay safely above ground.
The light retreated quickly as he descended. He forced himself to breathe slowly, not allowing thoughts of a grave and earthen walls trapping him to take over his conscious thought. When he was completely surrounded in darkness, Dean turned on the head lamp, the cone-like beam cutting through the darkness like a laser.
Recalling the map on the wall of the ready-room, Dean knew there were three levels. The connection he'd made with his brother through Brenna revealed that Sam was somewhere in the lowest level, near a caved-in tunnel entrance, but that was as close to his brother's location as he'd been able to ascertain. Still, it was more than he'd had before and by the map legend, it wasn't as if there were miles of tunnel blocked off by the cave-in twenty years ago.
The platform jolted and Dean reached out to the wall to balance himself as the decent completed. The moment the gears ceased turning, the silence was so complete it beat against Dean's ears. It was the kind of quiet that clawed at him; left too long alone in this, he could go crazy.
Forcing himself to step off the platform into what appeared to be a sea of black, Dean looked to his right and saw that the tunnel ended just a few feet away.
"Left it is, then," he muttered, turning his body fully to face that direction, his blind spot enhanced by the shadows around him.
Instinctively, he tilted his head to the left, trying to see as much around him as he could.
Part of him wanted to call out to Sam, to Virgil, to vocally seek either of the two souls he knew were wandering in this pitch with him. But his gut said to move quietly, to not announce himself more than he was by the light. Something about the quiet encouraged silence, so Dean put his left hand against the rock wall and began to move forward, focusing on finding Sam.
He tried to keep track of how far walked – counting steps and support beams – but soon the darkness became distracting, even with the lamp. He could only see as far as the beam; the air seemed to push the shadows close and soon he felt he was breathing the quiet. He could hear his own breath, hear his heartbeat, feel his clothes stick to him with nervous sweat even though it was cold enough to raise goose bumps.
It didn't take him long to reach another tunnel. It stretched out beyond the beam of his light in both directions. Swallowing, Dean closed his eyes and focused every thought on Sam, trying to revive the heat or light or whatever it was the amulet had infused into him one more time to indicate which direction he should go. But all he was able to do was shiver in the chill of the tunnel.
"Seriously?" He opened his eyes and glanced to his left. "It comes out of nowhere when I'm in a crowd of people but when I'm alone…nada." He glanced down at his scarred hand. "Some help you are."
Licking his lips nervously, he turned left once more. The air was thicker in this part of the tunnel, almost stale, as if there'd been no one to disturb it in decades. Dean frowned, continuing forward, needing to be sure before he turned around and headed the other way based on a hunch. Something cold settled in his gut, heavy with dread and doubt. His steps faltered and slowed and suddenly he realized that the beam of light from his helmet was actually ending – on a stone wall.
"Dammit," he muttered, starting to turn, the light beam slipping down along the dirt floor and reflecting off of something metallic.
Dean paused, turning the light back, and stumbled back a step when the saw the bones. A hand, protruding from what appeared to be an old fireman's coat. Moving forward carefully, Dean saw that it was an entire skeleton, lying face-down in the dirt, completely intact as if it had reached the wall and simply given up, not knowing how closely it had passed to an escape.
"Poor bastard," Dean muttered, frowning at the body.
Dean lifted the flap of the coat, wondering if the man carried anything on him that might help in his search for Sam. He was just starting to turn the body over when his hand flared hot, pain shooting up his arm to his chest and driving him to his knees.
"Son of a bitch!"
He clutched his hand to his middle, looking around wildly, the pain so intense he expected to see Sam standing in front of him. There was nothing but darkness and the cone of light spilling into the seemingly endless tunnel. As the pain abated, Dean slumped down, dropping his head as he caught his breath, the head lamp shining toward the dirt, tossing shadows on the stones and highlighting his footprints.
There was only one set of footprints in the twenty years of accumulated dust and dirt heading toward the dead end and the body: his. He needed to focus, approach this not like some kind of divining rod or frantic brother.
He was a hunter, dammit, and it was time he started to act like one.
Climbing unsteadily to his feet, Dean kept his head lamp shining on the ground, following his own footprints back to the tunnel that led toward the elevator shaft, then moved beyond it, grinning as he saw others – several others, some bigger, some smaller, and one set deep into the dirt as if the person had been carrying a heavy load.
"Sam," he breathed, moving forward.
The tracks split at one point, two heading off down another tunnel while the heavier ones continued forward. At one point, the tracks were smeared, as if someone had tried to hide them, dragging branches over the dust, but Dean was able to pick them back up again. There were other footprints, heading to and from the direction he headed, but he continued to follow the primary ones. He was unsure how long he'd been walking when he found the chain.
Crouching down, Dean picked up the chain, following it to a cuff that had clearly been forced open. He could see scratch marks from a blade and ran his finger over blood that was tacky along the edges. Looking around, he realized he could see other blood drops in the dirt around the space where the chain lay.
Someone had chained his brother in this tunnel, in the dark.
Dean's jaw began to ache from his tightly clenched teeth. He stood and threw the cuff down the tunnel, huffing out quick breaths of rage as the metal landed in the dirt with a thunk at the end of the chain. The head lamp wavered a bit and Dean tapped the helmet, moving toward the end of where he'd thrown the chain.
Sam had been here. He'd been right here.
Dean could see the caved in wall at the end of the tunnel, could practically sense the spot where Sam had been sitting. His right hand was shaking, he realized, and he tucked it under his arm, hoping the compression would still the movement and stay the pain. He needed to be clear-headed right now, not clouded with confusing, mystical, random power he couldn't control or understand.
"He got himself free," Dean muttered, thinking about the blood.
It hadn't been enough for Sam to have been seriously hurt. More than likely it was as a result of picking the cuff in the dark. Somehow, Sam had gotten free and had made his way down the tunnel…but if that was the case, why hadn't Dean come across him? Had he gone down that other side tunnel Dean had passed?
He started to hurry forward when his light wavered once more. Pulling the helmet from his head, he tapped the light, twisting it slightly, and silently willing it to not burn out before he found Sam. As he started to put the helmet back on, though, Dean saw something in the beam. Moving the helmet forward, he nearly dropped it in shock when the light caught another body – a skeleton, skin mummified tight against bone, teeth protruding from the skull, one hand splayed.
"Holy shit." He pressed the back of his hand to his mouth and forced himself to take a breath. "'s like freakin' catacombs down here."
Dean crouched down beside the body. This one wasn't wearing a fireman's jacket. Grimacing, he dug into the pants pockets and removed the wallet. It was stuck together with something Dean didn't want to think about. He balanced the helmet on his knee and used his stiff right fingers to pry open the wallet, seeking the license.
"Hello, Fletcher Reese," he muttered. "Guess you didn't find One-Eyed Willie's treasure."
Folding the wallet, he looked over his shoulder into the dark, thinking of the other body he'd found, remembering what Bruce Frazier had told he and Brenna back at the mine museum:
"This one night, Smith said he was going to show Reese how real the secrets were and he told Reese to meet him at the mine in one of the little-used arms. No one really knows what happened next, but there was an explosion, the tunnel caved in, and both men – plus two rescue workers trying to get them out – died."
"So where's August Smith?" Dean asked the bones before him. "And why the hell didn't anyone in this damn down come in after you?"
Unless the service entrance had been blocked, a search and rescue could have been mounted from the opposite end of the mine shaft. Dean shook his head. He didn't think he'd ever understand people, and the population of this town had moved to the top of his what the fuck list.
Dropping the wallet back on top of the body, Dean stood, pulling on his helmet and heading back in the direction he'd come. Sam was still in here somewhere, and by the amount of footprints – and those weird drag marks – so were several other people. Feeling his heart beat warningly against his ribs, Dean pulled out his weapon, peering into the dark.
About a hundred yards away from where he'd found Fletcher Reese's body, Dean saw the adjacent tunnel he'd passed before, having been so focused on the footprints. As he rounded the corner, a stench rolled over him like a wave. Rot, death, decay – it was so strong he had to turn away for a moment, drawing his arm across his nose and mouth in an effort not to gag.
Something was here. Something recently dead or needing to return that way. He knew that smell; it had him chambering a bullet in his gun in automatic response.
Turning back toward the new tunnel, Dean made his way down the path, the darkness seeming to grow as the light from his head lamp wavered and dimmed. He smacked it, the sound cushioned by the silence, but this time it didn't help. There were too many things that hid in the dark; Dean was intimately familiar with nearly all of them and that knowledge did nothing to slow his racing heart.
As he cautiously made his way forward, his good eye straining to capture every bit of light still available to him, Dean saw a shape – a form, like a body – a few yards away. Hurrying forward, panic sending his breath to lightning-speed, Dean slid to his knees beside the body, his shaking right hand pulling the dark hood back.
"David?" His voice broke both with surprise and relief.
His eyes scanned the body – all in black, a ski mask shoved up beneath a wide hood, shorter leg akimbo – disbelief slowly simmering to a blinding understanding.
"God damn," he breathed. "A family-oriented town, my ass."
The puzzle pieces began to fall into place, painting a twisted picture. Three people had attacked Brenna and Sam. One of them hit like a girl because it had been female: Susan Smith. Along with her nephew, and Dean was will to bet the Impala on the fact that her brother was the third man.
"Son of a bitch is still alive," Dean said, lifting his head to stare down the tunnel, trying to see past the edge of wavering light. His lamp sputtered, flickering in and out, but he didn't bother smacking it this time. He knew it wouldn't help.
Something stirred to his left, a shifting of air that he might not have noticed had the tunnel not been so completely still. He started to shift so that he could see around his blind spot when it felt like someone with razors for fingers put their hand on the small of his back, slicing cleanly through his jacket to reach skin. Gasping, Dean instinctively turned away and the fingers traced his movement, cutting along his flesh from his back around to his side and finding the muscle beneath his ribs.
"Arrggghhh!" Dean cried out in shock and pain, trying to struggle away, his movement only anchoring the grip.
Blinking rapidly to clear his suddenly wavering vision, Dean stared at the thing in front of him, illuminated perfectly by the head lamp. It was a there…but not there. A figure in the form of a man, with demon-black eyes and a gaping maw for a mouth. The rest of it, though, looked like a hodge-podge collection of sticks stacked to burn.
And the hands – Dean gasped again as the fingers slowly withdrew from his body – the hands seemed to hold razors.
"The Wicker Man," Dean breathed, instinct alone bringing his weapon up.
He squeezed the trigger.
And the light went out.
The noise of the gunshot caused Sam to jump, startled and nearly losing his grip on the ladder rung.
"Dean," he breathed, every cell in his body knowing that his brother was down here with him.
Only Dean would find something to shoot in the pitch-black, a hundred feet beneath the Earth's surface.
Sam began to carefully scramble backwards down the ladder, retracing his steps as quickly as he could, his chained hands making the decent sketchy. The moment he'd realized the Wicker Man was in the tunnel with him – and had been since he'd first glimpsed the figure – Sam had run. The night vision goggles kept him from tripping and falling in the dark of the tunnel, but it still hadn't been an easy trek with his hands chained and his ankle bleeding faster the harder he pushed it.
He didn't stop to analyze why the Wicker Man hadn't harmed him, yet. The probabilities were plentiful, but the obvious one had been that Sam was never an intended target; he was only their insurance policy. Apparently, the draiocht controlling the specter wasn't ready to release it.
It hadn't taken him long to find the ladder; the moment he'd seen it, he knew this had been how the kid had managed to sneak up on him so stealthily in the silence of the tunnel. He didn't know where it led, but it didn't matter – up was a huge improvement on his current location.
And then he heard the shot.
The moment his feet hit the dirt, Sam's ankle shot heat up his leg. He hissed in pain, turning to head back down the tunnel. As he drew closer to where he'd left the kid's body, the green-hued sight that met his eyes was almost inconceivable.
Dean was on fire.
He wasn't actually burning; it was more like silent, white flames licked up his body, wrapping around him like bands of silk. Sam stood, momentarily dumbfounded, realizing that he was truly seeing his brother – and the power of the amulet captured inside of him – for the first time since Stull.
Dean stood awkwardly, his right hand bracing him against the rock wall behind him, trying not to step on the body he clearly knew was behind him at his feet. His left arm was out, his gun gripped tightly, but the barrel sweeping the dark, unable to find a target. And in front of him, like something out of a dream, stood the Wicker Man.
"To your left!" Sam shouted, his voice immediately swallowed up by the silence.
Dean flinched violently in surprise, Sam's unexpected voice startling him into losing his balance and stepping backwards onto the body. As he looked in Sam's direction, Sam saw that Dean's eyes glowed like a cat's in the light of the night-vision goggles, totally opposite from what he'd seen when he'd looked at the dying kid.
"It's just standing there, Dean! To your left!"
"You can see it?"
"Yes! Shoot the bastard!"
Dean pulled the trigger and Sam saw the thing absorb the impact, wavering slightly.
It wasn't moving. It didn't appear to know how to move. It stood there and let the bullets hit it, phasing slightly out of visual range before appearing once more, whole. Sam was about to shout at Dean to shoot again when the figure was suddenly upon him and Sam felt himself lifted up, his back slammed against the low tunnel ceiling.
Air rushed from his lungs as the thing pinned him and he yelled for Dean.
"Where are you?" Dean's voice shook across the dark, anger and fear drawing Sam's eyes toward it. "I can't see anything, man!"
The Wicker Man held Sam against the ceiling as if it hadn't been told what to do next. Sam struggled, but the sharp-edge grip – while not yet cutting him – was tight. He strained to move his head and saw his brother throw something to the ground that looked like a helmet.
"I can see you," Sam managed, trying to get air out through his strained position. "M-move toward my voice. It's…it's pinning me."
Sam watched the glowing image of Dean advance, silent flames wavering in intensity.
"You're…almost…there," Sam grunted, getting dizzy from the pressure and lack of air. "Something's…controlling…it."
"Swell," Dean replied. "Remote-controlled killer sticks."
The glow around Dean was growing dimmer, but his eyes were still lit as he stumbled forward, blinded by his environment.
Sam felt himself fading, unable to pull in air. "Dean…." He practically pleaded.
"Hang in there, Sammy."
Sam could see him sweeping his hand out in the dark.
And then the barrel of Dean's gun connected with the Wicker Man. Sam saw Dean light up once more and felt the reverberations of the bullet cut through the form, shaking it from its mindless resolve. It wavered, shimmering in Sam's vision and then he was falling, instinctively tucking in just before he crashed against the dirt floor with a groan and gasp for air.
"Here," Sam coughed. He was pretty sure he was going to be on big bruise when this was all over, but the fall wasn't far enough to break anything. "I'm right here."
Dean dropped to his knees, his right hand reaching out into the dark, his face pointed up and away from Sam, instinctively seeking light in the absolute dark around them. It was surreal, watching his brother trying to see when he was surrounded by light.
Sam shifted upright so that Dean's searching hand connected with his covered arm and felt Dean flex his fingers around his limb as best he could. At the contact the light around Dean flared once and then vanished, leaving him as visible as the kid Sam had stolen the goggles from had been. Even his eyes were dark.
"It's gone," Sam gasped. "For now."
"You okay?" Dean asked.
"I'll live," Sam said, pulling himself upright and coughing once more as his lungs rapidly filled.
"I found blood," Dean pressed and Sam saw him frown. His brother's frown was fierce, even in night vision.
"Cut my leg," Sam explained. "Had to pick a lock with my throwing knife."
"My throwing knife," Dean corrected, flailing in the dark to find Sam's leg.
"It's okay, Dean," Sam pulled his leg close. "You couldn't touch it anyway," he pointed out, "and I used a sleeve to bandage it. I'll be okay until we get out of here."
"How the hell are you seeing anything, man?" Dean demanded.
"There was a kid," Sam told him. "Came down here twice. The second time he…didn't leave."
"David Smith," Dean informed him. "Found him back there a ways. When I had a head light."
"The kid from the library?" Sam asked.
"Well, he was wearing night vision goggles, so…after he chewed on a cyanide tablet, I took them."
"He what?" Dean exclaimed.
Sam saw him shift, planting his hands to help push himself to his knees, his face pulling into a tight grimace as he reached for his side in pain.
"What's the matter? Are you hurt?"
"Okay, that's just creepy," Dean frowned again, looking in the general direction of Sam's voice. "I don't like you seeing me and me not seeing you."
"Then find another one of these Druid freaks and take their goggles," Sam told him, watching as Dean managed to get to his feet, pulling his shirt away from his side.
The material was stuck against his body with a dark substance and this time there was no mistaking Dean's hiss of pain.
"Is that blood?"
"It's nothing. Just a scratch," Dean let his shirt fall and ejected the clip to his weapon, holding it out to Sam. "Check it."
"Eight rounds," Sam told him, watching with a little bit of awe as Dean slid the clip back into the gun and chambered a round as smoothly as if the place had been bathed in light. "You got anything else on you?"
He watched as Dean drew out his Bowie and a flask of holy water.
"You want silver or saint?"
"Gimme the knife," Sam asked taking it when Dean flipped it hilt-first in his hand. His wrist manacles rattled when he reached, causing Dean's head to jerk in his direction.
"What was that?"
"I couldn't get the angle to pick the cuffs on my wrists," Sam admitted, feeling inexplicably ashamed.
"They cuffed you?" Dean replied, looking ferocious.
"There's about ten lengths of chain between my hands," Sam told him. "Didn't want to cut my wrists up like I did my ankle."
"Good idea," Dean agreed, but Sam could see he was worried.
Not only where the trapped in the dark, but one of them was basically blind and the other hobbled.
"There's a ladder about forty yards behind me," Sam said. "I think it leads up to wherever they're working."
"There's an elevator to the top," Dean looked over his shoulder, "uh…well, it's back there and around a couple corners."
"We gotta choice to make," Sam said, knowing Dean would understand: end this, or get the hell out.
"There's some shit's gone done while you were playing earthworm."
"You mean you guys didn't just hang out and watch movies?"
"And Virgil's down here somewhere."
That brought Sam's eyes up. Dean's tone exposed something…he wasn't sure what, though. "He okay?"
"Not sure," Dean replied. "Two more people were sacrificed and Reynolds and one of his firemen were killed."
Sam slouched back at that news. He'd liked Reynolds. "Killed?"
"Execution-style," Dean said, shifting his stance. Sam saw him press his arm against his side as if staving off a flash of pain. "I'm thinking we're one sacrifice short of a full-on Druid spirit show-down."
Their choice had already been made, it seemed. They had to end this.
"You sure you can do this?" Dean asked, this time his eyes found Sam's in the dark, and though Sam was sure his brother was just looking in the direction of Sam's voice, it was both eerie and comforting.
"I'm good. You?"
"I'm tired of finding bodies," Dean muttered, a dark tone in his voice. "Can you get up?"
"Yep," Sam grunted as he pushed himself to his feet, testing his ankle. "It's…sore, but I'm okay."
"Nice job getting free of the manacle, by the way."
Sam grinned, welcoming the compliment. "Thanks, man."
"Probably shouldn't have used your own blood for lubricant, though."
"And, there it is."
"Lead on, Riddick."
"You're the one with the glowing eyes," Sam groused, turning and tapping his shoulder until Dean was able to follow the sound and find him in the dark. He waited until he felt his brother's hand rest on his shoulder, then moved forward.
"Yeah, well…I'm blind as a bat down here."
Sam moved slowly, making sure that he didn't lose Dean in the darkness. He could feel a tremble through his brother's hand: Dean was hurt, but not bad enough to admit it quite yet.
"You've got this all worked out, don't you?" Sam asked to distract them both from the suffocating quiet around them. "I can practically hear the gears turning."
"Only one thing that doesn't make sense to me," Dean said from behind him.
"Where's August Smith been all this time?"
"Dude. I've been underground. Gonna need a recap," Sam demanded, locating the ladder. He turned and grabbed Dean's arm at the wrist, being sure to grasp him over top his jacket, and guided Dean's hand to the ladder. "I'll go up first," Sam said. "Stay close."
As they climbed, Dean caught him up on the facts gleaned topside, all leading him down to Sam. The last of the pieces had been who the three people were who'd attacked Sam and Brenna. And that answer, it seemed, had been lingering in the back of Dean's mind the entire time.
"Smith's story sounded hinky from the jump," Dean told him, panting as he pulled himself to the next level of the tunnel at the top of the ladder. "I actually thought it was Maddox for a while – he's Susan's uncle. And he's an ass."
"Oh, so we've moved on to the Monty Python method for identifying witches," Sam panted, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes and he caught his breath. It wasn't easy climbing with hands weighed down by heavy chains. "If they're an ass…then, they're a witch."
"Works for me," Dean muttered, his voice tight.
Sam looked down to where he brother was sitting, and grimaced as he saw Dean pull his shirt away from his side once more. The dark stain was spreading.
"I've had worse," Dean replied.
"You've also died," Sam reminded him. Again. "So…how bad?"
Dean took a breath, then dropped his shirt and pressed his arm to his side. "It's not good, but I'll live."
"You'd better," Sam muttered.
This time when it happened, it was purely accidental. Dean reached out – possibly for the wall, possibly for Sam's shoulder – trying to get to his feet, and his hand brushed Sam's bare arm. The effect was instantaneous: the world around Sam lit up and he saw Brenna's face, and blood covering a pair of hands that looked like Dean's, and something that looked like a devil's trap painted on a floor before Dean pulled his hand away.
Sam could hear his brother gasping in the darkness. He looked down and was shocked to see the silent fire wrapping around Dean once more.
"Yeah," Dean replied, sounding anything but. "Weird to go from dark to…darker."
"You're glowing," Sam told him.
"I can see…it's like flames only…not. And it's all around you."
"I look like I'm burning?" Dean replied, struggling to his feet. Sam reached out and steadied him, grabbing him by the elbow and saw the flames ones more disappear.
"No, it's more like they're…I don't know…projecting out of you or something."
Dean sighed. "Y'know…I miss the days when the most unusual thing about me was my car."
Sam swallowed any retort he could make to that, knowing it would just anger Dean, especially because every one of them would end in, you didn't have to save me. He'd figured out a long time ago that there'd been no other choice for Dean. Saving Sam – even when Sam didn't necessarily want saving – was Dean's primary directive.
"Which way?" Dean asked.
"I can't see anything either way," Sam admitted. "I mean…they both look like empty tunnels."
"Well, which way would you build a secret Druid lair?"
"How the hell should I know?" Sam snapped, tired, thirsty, frustrated.
Logic told him to smell for fresher air, look for foot prints in the dirt, worn surfaces on the wall. Something that would indicate human traffic through the tunnels.
"Let's go right," Dean said.
"What, you just flip a coin in your head?" Sam looked at his brother incredulously. Dean couldn't see his hand two inches in front of his face. How had he chosen their direction?
"One level down, I came from the right," Dean said. "And I found the caved-in entrance with the body of that Reese guy. And I figure, if there is some kind of…Druid lair down here, it's probably around that bastinite stuff. And I'm betting that stuff is around where Reese was killed, since that was the big secret Smith was trying to protect. Plus...mines usually have veins, or whatever, of what's being mined, which is why there are so many layers of tunnels."
For a moment, Sam just stared at his brother, silent. He took for granted that he knew Dean. He knew his brother liked his whiskey neat – and lots of it – his coffee black, and his Zeppelin loud. But there were times when Dean surprised him to such an extent, Sam wondered how many layers beneath the one he knew existed inside his brother.
"Right it is."
Chapter 15 continued here in Post 16-B.