Disclaimer: Ownership is a fantasy we have about the corners of our lives that sustain us. The muse belongs to no one but its creator. Which is certainly not me. More's the pity.
Spoilers: Season 2, set after 2.15, Tall Tales and before 2.16, Roadkill. Anything prior to the first appearance of that darn Trickster is fair game.
Summary: The trickster left the brothers in need of a clean hunt. An explosion turns a routine spirit hunt into anything but clean. Dean must deal with the ramifications, while Sam tries to finish the job and help his brother pick up the pieces.
At first, he wasn't sure if he was awake.
The pain convinced him. It was the kind of pain that had gotten comfortable in his bones, letting him know it planned on being around for awhile, so he should just get used to slices of heat and shivers of cold and an ache that made him want to scream from his gut.
Slowly raising his head, the cuts on his neck crying out from being stretched and abused, his head pounding at the motion, Dean opened his eyes to survey his surroundings. Everything was dark. Not simply dark. But black. No light. No relief. There were no ends, no corners of light, no grays to break up the pitch.
He had to blink several times to convince himself that he hadn't been blindfolded.
It was as if he'd been struck blind. The darkness was as complete as the silence. Even his heartbeat had quieted. He heard a rushing pump of air as his panic took hold and he wanted to lick his dry lips—until he realized that his mouth had been sealed by a piece of tape.
Easy, Dean, you can do this… he told himself. You've been through worse. You've gotten out of worse…
As awareness sharpened, Dean tried to reach up and pull the tape away. His hands caught and held fast behind him. The rasp of his breath picked up speed as he twisted his nimble fingers along the chains that were wrapped several times around his wrists, holding his hands behind him, trapping him against something solid.
He was on the ground, chains wrapped tight, securing him to a post or pole or a wall. Tight. So tight that he couldn't pull more than a few inches away without feeling the dig of chains against his skin.
Oh, fuck me… He couldn't do this. He couldn't see, he couldn't hear, he couldn't even call out. His hands were trapped and he was helpless. Fuckin' helpless.
A wordless scream drew up from his belly, climbed with volcanic intensity through his tight chest, and tore the lining of his throat only to beat itself to death against the tape sealing his mouth shut. He thrashed against the chains, feeling his skin pull and coil, twisting against the restraints and tearing itself as panic ate through him, tipping his world sideways, his breath slamming through him.
He froze. That voice… he knew that voice. How had he heard…
Don't be scared, Dean.
He worked to calm his breathing, trying to slow the panicked crawl of skittering oxygen through his body and bring it back to where it belonged.
I am so proudof you.
Dean swallowed, stifling the insane urge to claw at his face until the adhesion of the tape was well away from his skin. He turned to roll the tape free on his shoulder, but the motion tugged painfully at the wounds on his neck and he bit back what felt like a whimper.
Okay, okay, he chanted silently. You can do this, Dean. Think, dammit, just think…
He turned his head, straining to see something, but the darkness seemed to eat itself around him, devouring even the hope of light. Feeling his breath begin to quicken once more, he shifted against the solid object he was chained to, and suddenly registered that he could move his legs.
They weren't tied or restrained. Eyes closing with a breath of relief, he pulled his knees close, easing the pressure on his lower back. As he moved, he could tell that his boots had shifted something with their movement. Something soft…
Breathing slowly, he focused on the scents around him. It smelled like dirt and metal, salt and rot. Like old tree roots and rain. Like worms and mold. It smelled… like a grave.
Dean groaned. No, no… you have not been buried alive. NO.
He shuddered remembering the cavalier way he'd dismissed Camilla's prone body, joked about the horror it would be to be trapped in a coffin.
You're sitting up, idiot. You're not in a coffin. You're chained to a freakin' wall. You're not buried. If you were buried, they wouldn't have to chain you…
Then where the hell was he? Unable to resist the instinct to see, he continued to blink, widening his eyes each time in hopes that they would adjust enough to give him something. He stretched out his fingers as far as he could, feeling along the post that his chains were fastened to. It felt like old wood, soft and worn. He wondered how hard it would be to yank the hook free.
Grunting, sweating, feeling the metal pull against his bruised wrists, Dean twisted slowly until he was able to position his legs beneath him. The strain on his shoulders as his arms pulled taut behind him tore at the stitches on his shoulder and Dean felt the warm blossom of blood seep through his Henley, the salty scent hit his nostrils, combating with the aroma of dirt and decay.
Okay, okay… focus Dean. Sam is with a siren. Your brother needs you. You can't be trapped in some…dirt box.
A dirt box… He turned his head, breathing deeply. It wasn't a box. Faintly, very faintly, he felt a stir of air. It was a… tunnel.
Holy shit. The realization burst upon him so swiftly, he was dizzy. He was under the Cooper house. In the Underground Railroad tunnel that Sam had told him about. He tried to take a deep breath, tried to calm his racing heart, but the tape made that nearly impossible.
Easy, Dean, just breathe. Just breathe. You can do this. You have to do this. There is no one else.
The fluid that had been shifting in his ears rolled again and then suddenly the sound of his breathing was painful. He closed his eyes tightly, curling in on himself as the pain crescendoed with the slam of his heart beat. He felt himself groan and the sound of it shook him, hard, causing him to pull at his chains, trying to get his hands over his ears.
The rattle of the chains was like a cacophony of noise and Dean felt himself falling inside the black, tipping over, twisting his arms painfully, tearing at his shoulder until his face hit the dirt floor of the tunnel and awareness made its escape.
Starlight illuminated the land in silver edging.
In an eerie rerun of the first night of the hunt, Mike parked his truck across the street from the Cooper's destroyed house. Sam looked at the destroyed structure in the wan starlight and suppressed a shiver. It looked like the house was grinning at him. Pieces of wood and furniture was still strewn across the front lawn, and one of the side walls had started to buckle.
"We're just gonna… talk to them, right?" Mike asked. "Not go in… guns blazing?"
"This isn't some western, dude," Sam grumbled, opening his door.
"With a name like Winchester, I just had to be sure," Mike retorted, sliding out of the truck and joining Sam by the side of the road. "We don't even know if anyone is here."
A beam of a flashlight shone in the detached garage.
"We do now," Sam moved forward.
"Think that's your brother?"
"What would he be looking for in the garage?"
A muzzle… Sam suppressed the insane urge to reach out and belt Mike, recognizing the irritation as one he often felt around his brother. The thought was suddenly comforting. As they approached the house, Sam saw the beam start to bounce forward as its owner walked toward the garage entrance.
Instinct had him clapping Mike on the chest, pushing the big man behind the remnant of wall by the house, hiding them from sight. Mike opened his mouth in protest and Sam slapped his hand across it, silencing him.
"Come on, honey," George was saying. "We have what we need… we can go now."
"You're not listening," Wren's soft voice washed over the two listeners. Sam heard the tears heavy in the words. "I do not want to go. I've always been here."
"No, honey, no, you only think you have. We need to go before that boy's brother comes looking for him."
Sam removed his hand from Mike's mouth, sending him an I told you so glance before looking back toward the garage. Wren was walking toward the house, her sightless, hesitant gait replaced by a focused, confident stride.
"Let him come," she said. "He's what I need."
"Wren, honey," George hurried after her, his flashlight bouncing along the ground. "You don't need anyone but me. You said so."
"I was wrong."
"I can take care of you," George caught up to her, grabbing her arms, turning her around. "I can watch out for you. Please, Camy—"
"George," Wren's voice chilled as it departed her lips, leaving an almost visible vapor trail in the wan starlight. "Camilla is dead. You made sure of that."
Mike gasped involuntarily, and Sam stiffened when Wren turned toward the sound.
"Go, go," Sam whispered, pushing Mike along the damaged wall, through the cluster of oleander, toward the back of the house.
In the shadow of the building, they pressed against the wall, catching their breath.
"What did I just hear?" Mike gasped, licking his lips nervously and looking over at Sam. "I did not just hear that."
"Yeah, you did." Sam leaned his head back against the wall. "Dean's here. He's here."
Sam craned his neck around the edge of the house. "Shit!" He turned, pushing at Mike with anxious hands, "Go, move, move."
Mike heeded Sam's frantic whisper, turning and sprinting around the edge of the house, skidding to a halt just before leaping over some debris from the blast. Sam saw what was about to happen even before Mike landed.
The pop of his right knee was audible in the quiet of the night; Mike's semi-stifled cry of pain ended when the big man came down on the rough tufts of grass, grabbing for his wounded appendage.
Sam sprinted close, trying to pull him up, trying to wrap an arm over his shoulder, trying to get away. He felt Mike tremble, felt the pain from his weakened leg shake through him. Sam couldn't lift Mike and hold the guns. He opted for Mike, leaving the shotgun in the dirt by the debris of the house.
"C'mon, man," Sam encouraged.
"M'bad leg, Sam…" Mike gasped, trying to push up on his left leg. "Oh, God, my leg."
"Sam?" Wren's voice drifted toward them in the dark and Sam looked up, seeing her pale skin reflect the starlight.
"Wren," he replied, wishing desperately that his voice didn't shake on her name.
"What… where are you going?"
Sam froze, holding the shaking PA close to him, realizing with sudden clarity that Wren was looking at him. Looking right at him.
"I see you've gotten your sight back."
Mike's head bounced up and he looked toward Wren, incredulous.
"It's amazing what remembering who you are will do for you," Wren said, stretching her arms to her sides as if embracing the chill of the night.
"You mean what you are," Sam snapped, trying to pull Mike back with him, conscious of the other man's haggard breathing.
Wren continued to move closer, her steps light, as if she were dancing in the dark. "Whatever helps you sleep at night, handsome. And you are, you know. So, so handsome. Everything about you is… desirable."
"Where is my brother?" Sam demanded, stumbling over a charcoal-covered piece of wood. Mike groaned as he put weight on his leg to help catch them.
"Around," Wren shrugged, lacing her fingers delicately in front of her body. "Remember that kiss, Sam? Remember how… amazing that was? How much you wanted to… climb inside of me?"
"Shut up," Sam snarled.
"You just wanted to wrap around me and keep me safe. Protect me."
"But I don't want to," Wren laughed. "That's just the thing. I forgot for awhile… forgot who I was and why I was here. Why I loved the sea. Why I needed George… but, Camilla, the darling, she helped me remember. For just a little bit, but then you, Sam… you brought it back. All in a… a rush." She wrapped her arms around herself, shimming her hands up her body to her face and tossing her head back in a thrilled tremor.
"Wh-where's George?" Mike gasped.
Wren's electric eyes snapped over Sam's shoulder at the same time that he heard the unmistakable click of a gun being cocked. He stopped his retreat, felt sweat break out on his upper lip and under his eyes.
"I'm right here, Mike," George's soft, mellow voice said from behind them.
Mike gripped Sam's arm, forcing them around, both staring agape at the old man holding a gun on them. Sam shook his head. How had he been so wrong about someone.
"I really thought you loved her," Sam said softly, feeling his sadness for Camilla's fate thick in his chest.
"I do love her."
"He's talking about Camilla, you bastard," Mike spat.
"I do love her," George repeated, stepping forward.
Sam held firm, the possibility of getting shot by a sixty-year-old man less of a threat to him than being seduced by a siren.
"Then why the hell'd you poison her?" Mike yelled. "You killed her, George. Killed Camy."
"No," George shook his head, looking confused, holding the gun steady. "No, I… the flowers were…"
"Deadly," Mike said, straightening up against Sam. "They were deadly, George. Camy knew about Wren, didn't she? She told you before the picnic. You didn't believe her, but Wren couldn't risk losing your trust. So she had you poison your wife."
"No…" the gun wavered in George's grip.
"George," Wren warned from behind them.
"No, I… she wanted to talk to me, she…" George brought his head up. "You hear that?"
Mike looked at Sam, who shook his head once.
"You hear that? Our song. I hear her. I can hear her!" George started forward, heading toward the house, cocked gun forgotten. He moved past Sam and Mike, who rotated to follow, and charged Wren, intent on getting back into his destroyed house.
"George!" Wren yelled. "You promised me! You said you would take care of me."
George faltered, listening to the honey sound of her voice, stumbling in his flight.
"George," Mike said. "Camy's calling you!"
"You shut up!" Wren rasped at Mike.
Sam winced. Her voice, when she hissed at Mike, felt like the tips of sharpened nails scraping along his spine. Mike started to pull away from him, limping heavily on his left leg, intent on getting through to his friend.
"George, go to her, don't listen to this bitch. Go to Camy."
"George, don't you dare!" Wren whipped around, her hand reaching out, nails growing into impossibly long, impossibly sharp talons, grabbing George's arm.
Sam took one step sideways, thinking only that he had to find his brother, when the shot rang out. He jerked violently at the unexpected sound, blinking through the sulfuric haze of gun smoke at George's shocked face. It wasn't until Mike slipped completely from his grasp that Sam realized the older man had been hit.
"Oh, God," Sam uttered, dropping to the ground with Mike. "Mike, no, don't you do this."
Mike gasped, his hand on his side, looking almost gray in the faint light. He tipped his hand up and they both stared in horror at the stain of blood, black in the starlight, on his side.
"Mike…" Sam breathed. "You listen to me. Listen!" Mike blinked at him, his eyes wide. "You're getting out of this, you hear me? You're going home."
"Get your brother," Mike rasped. "Go find him."
Sam looked up at George. "Help me get him in the house," he ordered. George stared at the talon-slices in his arm, the gun hanging limply from his age-spotted hand. "George!" Sam snapped. "Get over here. Help me."
Wren took a step back, looking as torn and shaken as the rest of them over what had just transpired. Sam had to take a moment to remember that she had been living as a human—that she knew these people. She reached for her throat, delicate—human—fingers searching for her locket.
George obeyed Sam, helping to lift a groaning Mike to his feet, as Sam watched Wren flounder.
"You're not gonna find it," he grunted. "Whoever that charm belonged to, whatever they meant to you, it's as gone as they are."
Wren looked over at Sam and her eyes seemed to grow, widening, hardening until they seemed to take up half of her face, turning from the luminescent blue he'd become accustomed to, to a hard, cold yellow. He drew back with an involuntary gasp, tightening his grip on Mike's sagging form. With a shriek that shook all three of them to their core, Wren spread her arms wide.
The darkness blurred and when Sam blinked again, the three men were alone in the yard.
"Guys," Mike whispered. "A little help…"
"Right," Sam shook himself. "C'mon, man, into the house."
"She's in there," George almost wept. "She's going to take her from me again."
Sam was dizzy trying to figure out who George was referring to being taken: Camy or Wren? His pity only went so far.
"You two took something from me," he growled as they moved Mike across the rubble-strewn yard. "And I want him back."
"He's in the tunnels," George gasped as Mike slumped, forcing them to bear his weight. "She left him in the tunnels."
"Underground," George said as they stepped over what was left of the threshold.
They eased Mike to the ground and Sam scampered to the back of the dark house, pulling down curtains and bringing them back. He pressed them against the hole on Mike's side, causing the healer to cry out.
"Sorry," Sam said sincerely. "I'm so sorry, man."
"S'okay," Mike gasped, putting his blood-soaked, shaking hand over the make-shift bandage. "Go—"
The figure dropped among them without warning. Sam felt the reverberations slide through the air a few seconds before her scream pierced his skull.
"Shit! Mike, cover your ears!"
Sam did the same, curling over himself and trying with his whole being to block out the sound of death.
Hotel, Nebraska, 1994
It took me a minute to realize that it was Sam's scream that jolted me out of a sound sleep. One minute, I'm dreaming about Ellie Walker and her sweet-tasting lips, the next I feel as though I've just fallen on top of my bed from a great height, landing hard enough to jostle my lungs free of air.
I pant for a moment, unsure why I'm conscious until I hear him whimper, his voice rough from the ragged edge of a scream I realize I missed.
I sit up, looking over at the bed next to the wall, thankful that he's still lying there and not moving toward the door. Dad must be out, or he would be standing at the foot of Sam's bed, the worry drawing lines on his face that I would want to erase.
I toss the heavy covers free and swing my legs over the edge of the bed, watching my brother thrash in the throes of a nightmare. His hair is sweaty, plastered to his face, his mouth turned down in a frown, his lower lip protruding and giving him an air of one years younger.
"Sam," I whisper, but am answered only by another whimper. I stand, move across the narrow space that separates us, then sit on the edge of his bed. "Sam."
He jerks roughly, pulling away from my comforting hand.
"Gotta get out, Dean, gotta get out… it's gonna get us… don't let it get us, Dean, don't let it get you… please, Dean, don't leave me alone…"
"Sam!" I shake him, forcing him free of terror's grip.
He opens his eyes on a gasp, pushing up in the bed on sweaty hands.
"I'm here, man. I'm right here."
"Where are we?"
I shrug. "Motel somewhere. Nebraska, I think."
"Not right now," I say, watching fear turn his face ghost-white. "But he'll be back."
He wipes the sweat from his face with trembling hands and my heart quakes. He's just a kid. His hands should not tremble in the dead of night. Not from fear.
"You thirsty?" I ask.
I stand and fill a small plastic cup with water from the bathroom faucet, then turn to my duffel, digging out the newspaper-wrapped dream catcher. I return to him, handing him the water first. He finishes it in one breath.
"I got something for you," I say, sitting once more on the edge of his bed.
"Yeah?" He looks at the package warily. "Did I forget a birthday?"
I grin. "No, dumbass. I made it for you."
"'Cause I'm an awesome big brother," I say. "You want it or not?"
"Yeah, I want it," Sam snaps.
"You gotta do something for me, though."
He lifts an eyebrow. I know he's picked this up from me, but the baby face that still rounds his face makes him look comical, not threatening.
"Oh yeah?" He says.
"You have to forget about that night."
I expect him to question which of the many nights of terror we've experienced I could possibly be referring to, but he doesn't. Instead, he drops his eyes, and I see his chin tremble.
"I was so scared, Dean. I've never been scared like that before."
My chest tightens when a tear falls.
"I know, man," I say softly.
"I thought… I thought it was going to get you 'cause you wouldn't leave me."
I blinked. He'd been afraid for me?
"It didn't get me, Sam. Dad got it first."
"Listen to me," I say, rough enough to draw his eyes. "They can't get us, okay? We're the good guys."
"The good guys," he repeats, sniffing.
"Let that bastard go, Sam," I order. "It's gone, and it's never coming back."
"Gone," he nods, doing his best to reign in the tears.
"Forget it ever happened, okay?"
"Okay," he agrees. "Can I have my present now?"
"You gotta promise first."
He sighs, and I smile inside as I'm rewarded with the eye roll I'd been waiting for.
I watch nervously as he opens the dream catcher. It's not as nice as the one Pastor Jim made me, and even I can see the clumsy knots in the resin-covered thread. But Sam's eyes light up and his remaining tears slip down his face to disappear in the corners of his smile, filling his dimples with gossamer.
"Wherever we go, you keep this with you, and you won't have any more bad dreams, okay?"
"I promise," I say with the conviction bred of those who know that lies have to be told to preserve the innocent. "And if any ever slip through, I'll be here to fight 'em back."
"I know you will," Sam says shyly. "Good guys, right?"
"All the way, man."
There was dirt in his mouth.
He spat, irritated, before he opened his eyes, knowing instinctively that the darkness would be waiting for him.
Son of a bitch, he thought as the tape denied his lips movement.
His fingertips tingled from the tension his position put on his chained hands. Using his forehead as leverage, he pushed himself up.
Enough of this shit, Dean growled silently. He was done with being in pain, being freakin' helpless. He was getting out of this hell. Pushing himself to his knees he puffed air through his nose, trying to wiggle feeling back into his fingers. He could feel some play in the bolt that held him against the post.
Swaying back and forth, he ignored the now-dried blood on his shoulder as the cuts pulled with motion and worked his chain against the bolt. To distract himself from the pain, Dean reverted to the only thing that had saved him in the past.
"Prison gates won't open up for me. On these hands and knees I'm crawling… I reach for you. I'm terrified of these four walls, these iron bars can't hold my soul in…"
His lips stuck tight to the tape, his breath puffing out in what was most likely a tuneless hum, the lyrics and melody memories only, trapped in his muted head. He felt the bolt give slightly and pulled his feet beneath him, sweat beading on his face and rolling in rivers down his already-slicked back. He panted as he hummed, the words thumping inside of him like a heartbeat.
"Show me what it's like… to be the last one standing…teach me wrong from right… and I'll show you what I can be…"
The bolt gave with a suddenness that felt like a physical pop, dropping Dean unceremoniously on his face. He spat dirt, sniffing the wet spring of blood back as he turned his face in the dust, laughing in pained triumph.
Take that you feathered FREAK!
Panting slightly, he caught his breath and on an elongated groan of pain, pulled his hands as far apart as the chains allowed. Taking another deep breath through his nose, he pulled his legs as close to his chest as he could, stretching his sore arms long and pulled the chains over his feet, falling on his back with his chained hands on his chest the moment he was able to de-pretzel himself.
The second he caught his breath, Dean reached up and pulled the tape from his mouth, calling out into the darkness with a guttural cry, "FREEDOM!"
For a moment, he lay panting, pulling stale air into his mouth, rolling it around, licking his lips, laughing maniacally.
"That was for you, Sammy," he rasped, thinking of the song he'd chosen to encourage himself. "Damn emo rock."
Rolling to his side, he pushed himself to a trembling stance on his hands and knees, head hanging low. He concentrated on the sensations left to him: touch, feel, taste.
His mouth was dry, the copper taste of blood at the back of his throat. His fingers were buried in centuries-old dirt, and he wouldn't be surprised if he encountered a bone or two if he continued to explore. He could smell dirt, metal, and the stir of stale air.
"You can't beat me, you bitch," he muttered toward the ground, panting through a dizzying wave of heat. "I won't let you."
Don't be scared, Dean.
His hands tethered to the heavy metal of the chain, Dean inched back to where he remembered the post to be. Feeling along in the dirt, the tips of his fingers hit the worn wood. Nodding simply to feel himself respond, he felt along the post until he encountered what felt like a wall.
Pausing, he listened to his heart. Literally. The steady beat shushed through the hollow of his wounded ears, pushing pain against his temples, heat behind his eyes, and reassuring him with the sound of his life. Taking a breath, he put his bloody shoulder against the wall, keeping his fingers against the rock and dirt littered ground, then moved forward.
"Please don't let there be anything down here but me," he whispered to the silence wrapping around him as thick as the dark.
Don't be scared, Dean.
His swore hi ears were bleeding.
He could almost feel it seeping like sap from a cut oak, running down the sides of his neck, trickling along the insides of his wrists as he pressed his hands harder against his ears.
And suddenly, there was silence.
Tentatively, Sam removed his hands, blinking, looking around in a daze.
"Wren?" he called, just to reassure himself that he could still hear his own voice.
"Think… think she's gone," Mike gasped.
Sam looked down at the medic, pressing the cloth curtain over his wound once more.
"Hold that there, man," he said, wincing as his jaw popped with his words. "You're going to be okay."
"Who… who you trying to convince?"
Sam turned from Mike's gray face to look for George.
"Oh, God," he whispered, finding the slumped form of the old man against what was left of a bookshelf. "George…"
Crawling across the broken pieces of the Coopers' life, Sam reached the elderly man, turning him over and drawing back in horror and sorrow. George's eyes were open, staring blankly up at Sam, doll-eyes that saw no more pain. Blood had streamed from the tear ducts, flooding his face, burying itself in the creases time had worn across his skin.
A dark trickle of blood seeped from the corner of his mouth, and as Sam rested his hand on the old man's chest, he felt the bones give as if George had been hollowed out.
"I'm sorry, man," he whispered. "I'm sorry we couldn't save you."
"He… okay?" Mike gasped from across the room.
"No," Sam replied, raising his voice so that Mike could hear.
"Dammit," Mike cursed, and Sam heard him drop his head back. "He loved her, man. He loved both of them."
"One tried to save him, the other destroyed him," Sam agreed, easing George down to lay among the broken pieces of his life with Camilla. Frowning, he ticked his head to the side, hearing what he thought was a radio. "You leave the radio on in your truck?"
"No," Mike shook his head. "I hear it, too."
"What is it?"
"Wind chimes?" Mike guessed, pushing himself up on a shaking elbow.
Sam stood, wiping the sweat from his upper lip with the back of his unbandaged hand. "No… it's… humming."
Sam looked sharply at Mike. "The tunnels."
"You know where the entrance is?"
Sam shook his head. "I never got that far."
The sound increased, seeming to fluctuate like the sound of waves hitting the shore.
"Holy shit," Mike breathed. "It's their song. We're hearing their song."
"Moonlight Serenade, man. You ever hear of Glenn Miller?"
"Sure, I've heard of him, but—" He stopped, listening hard. "I'll be damned."
"Follow it," Mike ordered.
"What about you?"
"Dammit, Sam," Mike groaned, pressing his hand tighter to his bleeding side. "Do you always have to argue? Just follow the damn music! Get your brother back."
Sam stared at him a moment longer. "You better be here when I get back."
"Hurry it up, then."
Sam turned, holding his breath, following the sound of the humming. As he moved through the house, he stepped over books, glass, pieces of chair and couch… and dozens of dead birds. It was as if they were drawn to this place, but slammed into a barrier of resistance the moment they encountered the power within.
As he listened, the humming led him to the back room, a mudroom it appeared, and an almost-hidden door in the wooden floor. The moment he wrapped his hand around the clasp, the humming ceased. Sam lifted his face to the empty room.
"Thanks, Camy," he said. Around him, he felt the house sigh.
Lifting the creaking door, he grunted, holding it up with his shoulder, and searched for a ladder. If there had been one, it was long gone. He had no idea how deep the hole was; the bottom was covered with the light-swallowing emptiness of black. But Dean was down there.
"Here goes nothin'," he muttered, tipping the door up all the way, grasping the edge of the floor, and swinging low. He dropped about four feet to the dirt floor below.
Even with the door above him open letting in the shimmer of the night, it was pitch dark around him. Sam swallowed, trying desperately not to think of his brother trapped in this darkness, silence his only companion. He wanted to call out, to search for Dean through the only means at his disposal—his voice.
But it was useless in the suffocating stillness of sound that encompassed Dean's reality. Crouching low, Sam began to crawl, feeling his way toward a wall, then putting his shoulder against the wall, and crawled through the darkness as fast as he dared.
"Please let Dean be the only other thing down here with me," he whispered to the darkness.
Pausing occasionally to hold his breath and listen, Sam made his way as quickly as he dared down the tunnel. When he heard the labored breathing ahead of him, he felt himself go dizzy with relief.
He'd found him.
Without thinking, he crawled faster, reaching out and grabbing Dean's ankle, feeling the predictable shape of the throwing knife in its sheath.
"Son of a bitch!" Dean bellowed, rolling quickly and thrusting his foot out in a desperate fight for freedom.
"Wait, Dean, don't! It's me—" Sam started before his brother's boot caught him in his mid-section and air vacated his lungs in a quick rush. Sam tumbled back, reaching up in automatic defense, knowing the next move would be Dean on top of him, hands at his throat.
He didn't anticipate the chains.
The heavy weight of metal at his throat, wrapped so tightly around his brother's wrists that Sam could feel the blood slicking the links, cut off his air, choking Sam with his own saliva.
"De—" he tried, digging his fingers into his brother's forearms above the bruising wrap of chain. The darkness was complete. He couldn't make Dean hear him; Dean couldn't see him. Desperate, Sam kicked his knee up, catching Dean between the legs and sending him to his side with a pained gasp.
"Dean," Sam rasped, holding his bruised throat and rolling toward his brother. "It's me, man."
Dean was groaning, but his fight wasn't out. Sam could feel his anger, his frustration for being cloaked in darkness in more ways than one. He heard the jangle of chains as Dean swept his hand out, and ducked one second too late, the swinging end of chains, and Dean's tethered hand catching him in a glancing blow across the cheek bone and opening his skin.
"Dammit, Dean!" Sam cried out, grabbing his face, feeling the wet slick of blood.
He swung his leg astride his brother's torso, putting his knees in Dean's shoulders, knowing he was causing his brother pain, but desperate to get his attention. In what he knew would be a familiar gesture, he pressed his knees down hard, then fumbled his touch down Dean's features until he reached his brother's nose, squeezing it lightly.
"Sam?" Dean squeaked, stilling.
Sam relaxed, collapsing forward, and rolled off of Dean, his back hitting the dirt wall.
Sam's throat closed at the name, the sound of youth and hope in Dean's voice. He reached out clumsily to grasp Dean's chain-linked hands, pressing his brother's fingers to his cheek. And smiled. Dean's fingers dipped once into his dimples and he felt his brother's whole being relax.
"You okay?" Dean asked as Sam felt him scoot closer in the darkness.
Keeping Dean's hand on his face, Sam nodded. They were completely cut off from each other, no hope of hearing, no way to read lips, no way to connect. Except, there was. Carefully, Sam felt along Dean's hands, his fingers tripping along the wrapped chains on Dean's wrists, hissing as he felt the grooved wounds in his brother's skin.
"Hang on, Dean," Sam whispered his chant aloud. "Hang in there, man."
Sam felt his brother go still, holding his hands steady so that Sam could unwrap the bindings. It took longer than Sam wanted, the knowledge that Mike lay bleeding somewhere above him heavy on his mind. But, his brother was bleeding in front of him. He'd felt the slick slide of sticky blood from the gouges the chains had created. He'd felt the wounds on Dean's neck and shoulder give as they wrestled.
"You believe me now?" Dean asked softly as the chain finally fell away, freeing his hands completely.
Sam put Dean's hand on the side of his face, nodding again.
"About freakin' time," Dean sighed. "You ready to get out of here?"
Sam nodded again, then froze.
"What?" Dean asked, as though he actually expected an answer he could understand.
Sam had been so focused on Dean not strangling him, he lost track in the dark of which way was out. He felt his breath begin to pick up speed as he turned one way, then the other, encountering pitch blackness from both angles.
"Sammy… hey. Hey! Sam." Dean demanded his attention, somehow sensing his panic in the darkness and silence around him. Sam put his brother's hand on his face again to show that he had it. "I know which way to go, okay?"
Sam tilted his head, asking Dean how? with the motion.
"I can smell the air," Dean said, and Sam heard the smile in his voice.
"Son of a bitch," Sam breathed.
Dean twisted his hand in Sam's grip, putting Sam's hand at the end tail of his shirt, then started to crawl forward. "Don't you lose me, man," Dean muttered as he pushed his shoulder against the wall, crawling forward.
Dean didn't like to be alone, that much Sam knew. Alone in the quiet in a crowd of people. Alone in the quiet, surrounded by darkness… it would be a version of hell for his brother that Sam didn't want to contemplate. He held tightly to Dean's shirt, shifting forward as Dean did, following in his brother's strides, as he'd always done.
After several minutes of measured breaths, pauses to gasp, inadvertent groans of pain and frustration, Sam realized that the air around him had turned gray. Dean had led them not back to the house, but to the exit of the tunnel. Sam could smell the sea. He could hear the rush of the water as it raced itself for shore.
It has no memory.
"You see that?" Dean asked, not expecting an answer. "We're almost out, Sammy. You just stay with me, okay?"
Sam looked at his brother's back, catching his breath at the gore there. Dirt and blood mingled to a paste and sweat plastered the whole mess to the shape of muscle along Dean's spine. As the gray continued to lighten, they pushed their way to their feet, stumbling along the cobwebby, cloistered space until the pre-dawn light greeted them.
They exited what looked like a moss-coved cave entrance, hidden from sight for all intents and purposes. Dean leaned on the entry way, his face drawn, his breath coming in stuttered gasps, blood from his wrists dripping from the tips of his fingers. But he was there. He was alive.
"We made it," Sam said weakly, smiling at his brother, for one brief moment, believing in miracles.
Until she hit him from above, her song folding his heart, her cry tearing at his eyes.
"Sam!" Dean cried as the figure slammed his brother to the ground. "Sam, don't listen to her! Cover your ears, man!"
But she'd struck too fast, Dean could see. Sam's mouth opened in a scream as Dean watched the siren's song sliced into his brother's heart, bleeding his will from his eyes. She wanted him, but Sam was denying her. And he was paying the price with his blood.
"Over my freakin' dead body," Dean growled low, charging the siren in an unsteady gait as his world swam around him. He body-slammed her away from Sam, landing hard on top of her slim, unnaturally strong body.
Wren's eyes were large, hard, her skin pulled taut against protruding cheekbones. Dean saw her mouth open in a cry, and smiled. "Won't work on me, sweetheart. You blew my ears to hell and back, remember?"
He grabbed at her neck, squeezing as her eyes widened, her talons reached for him.
"You want to be a fuckin' spirit clad in a veil?" He grunted, dodging her talons, rolling her further from Sam. "You want to hide in plain sight, pretending you're one of us? You want to forget what you are?"
Wren's eyes flashed and for one moment Dean was caught by her desperation, her desire to escape, her need for companionship, the eternal seeking for someone like her, someone to be with her, someone that wouldn't leave her lonely. That moment gutted him, turning him cold, left him hollow until the sound of his heart, the rasp of his breathing echoed through all of him, not just his ears.
"You want to be saved?" Dean whispered, knowing she heard him, knowing she took it in. Tightening his grip, he rolled again, feeling the rocks of the shoreline digging into his already bruised back.
Smelling the closeness of the sea, the salt and the brine and the freedom, Dean pulled Wren's delicate, human face close to his, his lips a breath away from hers.
"I'm two steps from being saved, sweetheart," he said, his mouth brushing her icy skin, her breath brushing against him as it stuttered from her captured throat. "But I'm only taking one."
Another roll and the salt water stung his back. Clasping her tightly against him, Dean watched as the siren cried, her song beating silent wings against his wounded ears, her fight one she wasn't going to win. Wren's skin folded away, shivering and shuddering and turning into slick, black feathers. Dean gripped harder, refusing to let go. Refusing to give in.
He felt her panic, felt her buck beneath him as the sea tugged them closer, felt the tide drag them together into the roll of the undertow. He caught his breath and held on as Wren's true form emerged, her talons, digging deep into his shoulders, her feathers slick against his skin, his face, her cold, yellow eyes staring into his as they were dragged under.
He held on, rolling with the sea as it caught her, seduced her, pulled her back into its embrace, drowning her scream, absorbing her into its history. As she was ripped from his embrace, arms reaching back toward him, Dean was amazed that the water buoyed him. He was suspended in the drift, lungs aching, eyes stinging, wounds burning, left to watch as the siren returned to the sea.
Dean kicked for the surface, thankful that it wasn't far, breaching the water with a gasping cough and a cry of, "Sam!"
He could barely move his arms. His chest ached to the point of tears. His cuts, old and new, were on fire. But still he pushed until he could touch, pushed until he crawled wet and shivering from the hold of the sea, pushed until the stones of the shore dug into his knees and his palms.
His back to the silent thunder of the most powerful force on earth, Dean crawled weakly toward the place he'd last seen his brother, nearly weeping when he saw Sam, face bloody, body trembling, crawling back toward him. The tears of blood Wren had drawn on Sam's face were now tracks of victory. When the brothers met on the rough, rock-strewn beach, they saw the badges of honor each had carried through the fight.
Sam reached up and gently clasped the back of Dean's neck, pressing his forehead against Dean's, closing his eyes. Dean kept his open, watching for some sign, some indication of Sam's words, not wanting to miss them. Not wanting to miss anything.
They won't get us, Sam said, his lips lazy with exhaustion, not completely closing around the words, parted with pain.
Dean nodded, his dirt and blood-smeared forehead rubbing against his brother's.
"They won't get us, Sammy," he panted. "We're the good guys."
Before Dean could protest, Sam grabbed him close, pulling him up hard against his shoulder, and clapped him once on the back. Dean was unable to bite back a quick bleat of pain, just as Sam dropped away, falling to his back, and closed his bloody eyes against the light of morning. Strength depleted, Dean collapsed gratefully to his side, his pounding head near Sam's hand, his burning gaze on the horizon.
Sam reached over blindly, grabbing Dean's hand in a thumb-to-thumb grip, and pressed the back of his hand against his chest. Dean smiled, feeling solace in the beat of his brother's heart.
It wasn't over, Dean knew. Not by a long shot. But they were alive.
Breathing in the sweaty, familiar scent of his brother, Dean watched the sun crest the eastern horizon, turning the sea into the coppery color of old blood and promises, as sound slammed through him, turning his gasps of recovered breath into cries for relief.
a/n: I hope this chapter was worth the wait—and I'm sorry that I haven't been able to keep as close to my two-week deadline as I'd hoped. One more chapter to go and this journey is complete. I hope you're enjoying the ride!
Savin' Me by Nickleback. T, that one's for you.
Part 6 (A and B) can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/20717.html