Characters/Pairings: Dean, Sam, OCs
Rating: PG-13, but note: there are some mature themes/scenes
Spoilers: set directly after 3.10, Dream a Little Dream of Me. Includes references to characters and situations from previous stories.
Summary: An unreal heat, an unusual enemy, and an unresolved relationship buffet the brothers through the storm of Dean's deal. No wound is healed without leaving a scar.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
Chapter 1, A and B
Chapter 2, A and B
Chapter 3, A and B
Dean followed, ignoring the protests of his back with each purposeful step. The beginning of a headache teased his temples as he clenched his teeth against the discomfort of his body. The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention as the milky light of the waxing moon tossed shadows across their path leaving him to wonder what awaited them in the darkness of the mine. “Wait,” he reached out for Griffin’s shoulder.
“Anyone got a light?”
“Scared of the dark, Winchester?” Griffin mocked.
“No, just what it’s hiding,” Dean returned.
“I have matches,” Virgil offered.
“You have your lighter?” Dean asked Griffin.
“How did you know I—“
“Dude, you smoke like a chimney, hand it over.”
He pulled his knife from his boot, cutting off the edge of his too-big shirt so that the ragged edges barely touched the top of his waist band. As he slid his knife home, he saw Virgil casting about on the ground, coming up with a piece of lead pipe.
“Will this work?”
“Sure, all we need now is the rope and the candlestick,” Griffin cracked.
Dean ignored him, nodding at Virgil. “Better than nothing, man.” He tied his shirt around the top of the pipe, wadding it at the top like an over-sized Q-tip. “We’ll wait until there’s no moonlight left.”
Virgil took the make-shift torch from Dean as Griffin pulled the rust-weakened chain link fence away from the wooden door. As the burly hunter moved for the barricade, something clicked in the back of Dean’s memory.
“Dean… there’s a door back here…”
“Chill out, Winchester,” Griffin barked, “you want to get to your brother or not?”
As the big hunter shoved the wooden barricade roughly to his right, the bone-chilling sound of a spring-released trigger slid across the silence. Moving without thought, without preamble, and on pure instinct, Dean reached out and pushed Griffin away from the entrance just as a strategically placed cross-bow released its arrow.
Dean twisted as he moved, feeling the tug of the arrow at his torn shirt, landing on his knees in the dirt and gravel.
“Holy…” Virgil breathed. “You okay?”
“Yeah…” Dean replied hesitantly, looking down at his side. The arrow had turned his shirt into little more than a pair of sleeves, but it hadn’t creased his skin. He stood, then looked over at Griffin. “You?”
The swarthy hunter sat where he’d landed in the dirt looking at Dean with disbelief. Blinking, he simply nodded before pushing himself to his feet.
“How… how’d you know?”
Dean lifted an eyebrow, clapping Griffin on the shoulder. “Turns out, I’m more than just a pretty face.”
“You two ready to go, or what?” Virgil asked nervously, eyeing the darkened entrance.
“Just be careful,” Dean cautioned. “This guy does not want anyone in here.”
“And here I thought he’d welcome us with open arms,” Griffin grumbled, stepping into the dark, Dean and Virgil close behind.
“Release me!” Adoamros demanded, his body shaking as Brenna cried out at the images assaulting her.
“Let go of her!” Sam yelled. “Just let her go and it’ll stop!”
Surprisingly, Adoamros complied, crab-crawling away from Brenna as in the background Eddie Vedder’s growl proclaimed, ironically, that he was still alive. The wizard looked visibly shaken, backing away from them as Sam twisted to face Brenna as best he could.
“Brenna, hey,” he tried, licking his lips.
She sat slumped against the beam, her shoulders appearing as though they were straining to their very limit as her body sagged against the metal shackles. He could tell she was crying, though she didn’t make a sound. The tremble of her body gave her away.
“Brenna, c’mon, look at me.”
“Sam,” she whimpered. “It’s back.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that,” Sam said, darting his eyes at the retreating wizard. The small man was muttering to himself, wringing his hands and moving carefully from candle to candle, lighting them one by one. “Tell me what you saw.”
Brenna lifted her head, her eyes red-rimmed, her face tear-streaked. He saw that she was no longer crying, but the stark despair in her expression made him feel like begging her to begin again, just to wash that look away.
“He had a brother,” she choked out. “A long time ago.”
Sam looked back at the wizard, frowning as he seemed to be arguing with someone out of sight. “What happened?”
“They were… they…” Brenna licked her lips nervously, wincing as she shifted against her restraints. “He… really loved his brother, Sam.”
Sam looked back at her, for a moment not comprehending. She stared at him, silently, waiting while realization crept in.
“You mean… oh. Oh! Eww.” Sam folded his lips down in disgust.
“I saw him—the brother—dead. Bloody. I saw him,” she nodded toward Adoamros, “digging a grave. I saw…” she swallowed hard, “him… inhale the souls. I saw him kill, Sam. Over and over. I felt it. He… it’s like a drug to him.”
“Fantastic,” Sam sagged against the beam.
“I was wrong, Sam,” Brenna whispered under the rhythm of the music. “I was wrong.”
“Wrong about what?”
“I don’t want this—I was wrong to want this,” Brenna sobbed dryly. “I was so wrong… look what I’ve done.”
Sam frowned, leaning toward her. “You haven’t done anything, Brenna.”
Brenna brought her head up, devastation clear in her eyes.
“What you don’t know won’t kill you… what you don’t know won’t kill you…”
The music chanted with emotion around them, seeming to cloak them from the wizard’s aggravated argument with his invisible counterpart.
“I brought this on us, Sam,” she whispered, her voice so vacant he had to watch her lips to understand her words. “I dreamt it, I knew. And I didn’t stop it. I didn’t…”
“And now,” Adoamros turned toward them with a flourish, the showman once more, half of the candles in the cavern lit, casting shadows on his pallid countenance and illuminating the insanity in his eyes. “We choose. Who will be my final weapon?”
“Dude, this guy has taken a walk right off the map,” Dean muttered as Virgil lit the make-shift torch.
Blinking in the wake of the smoke from his shirt, Dean peered at the etchings marked on the mine walls: sigils and signs, half-completed spells and incantations, writing that grew less controlled as they pressed on. A brilliant mind gone mad with time.
“He mainlines human souls in exchange for immortality,” Griffin pointed out dryly. “You thought he’d, what, listen to reason?”
“Man, you look like Bruce Banner after he comes down from the Hulk,” Virgil remarked, glancing at Dean.
Dean smirked, glancing sideways at the red-capped man. “You know your comics?”
Virgil lifted a shoulder. “Gotta do something to pass the time.”
“Marvel or DC?”
“Marvel all the way, man,” Virgil grinned.
Dean returned the grin, raising his hand for a high-five. “All right!”
“You two kids ready to keep moving? ‘Cause I—“
“Stop! Don’t move,” Dean suddenly called out.
Griffin froze mid-step. “What?”
“Look down,” Virgil choked out. Grimacing, Griffin obeyed.
“Where the hell did he get a land mine?”
Dean thought of his father’s storage unit and licked his lips, moving carefully past Griffin’s frozen form. “Not that hard if you know where to look. I’ll lead the way. Walk in my footsteps.”
At first Sam didn’t recognize the muttering as Latin. The wizard spoke so rapidly it sounded as if he were muttering in German. But as he approached, a word surfaced, then another, and Sam felt his stomach muscles tense as he recognized the rhythm of a spell.
“Stop!” Brenna cried as Adoamros approached Sam, the diamond blade of the Kestrel dagger gleaming in the candle light. “You chose wrong, I’m telling you.”
“If I chose wrong,” Adoamros purred, eyes on Sam’s bare chest, “why do you protest so vehemently?”
“I’m telling you, he’s not the one! He’s not your weapon!”
“Brenna, shut up!”
“No, Sam, I—“
Adoamros’ first slice was quick, across Sam’s upper arm, below the shoulder, above the bicep. Sam jerked in surprise at the movement, feeling nothing at first, then exhaled in pained surprise as the burn of separated skin and nerves singed his system, causing him to look down.
No blood. A slice in his shirt sleeve, a long, thin wound. No blood. Panicked, Sam looked over at Brenna, aware in his periphery that the wizard was doing the same. She hung from her bonds, sweaty, angry, arms stained with dried blood from her earlier efforts, but nothing new.
“No…” Adoamros frowned. “No, I can’t have been wrong.”
“Ah! Shit!” Dean jerked, nearly dropping the torch.
“What?” Virgil stepped up, grabbing the lead pipe from him.
Dean reached for his upper arm, pulling his hand back bloody. “Son of a bitch. I think I… brushed against another booby trap or something.”
“You okay?” Virgil asked, concerned. “Should I take a look?”
“Nah,” Dean shook his head, gripping his arm in confusion and a fair amount of discomfort. “It’s just a scratch. Just… watch the walls, okay?”
“Keep moving,” Griffin commanded. “We gotta be getting close. I can smell the bastard.”
“You guessed wrong, pal,” Sam said. “Looks like you’ve lost your touch. No one’s bleeding tonight—ah!”
Adoamros sliced again, along the lower part of Sam’s abdomen, just under his ribs. The pain was enough to suck the air from his lungs, then slam it back full-force with a choked cough. The wizard’s Latin ritual increased in volume, but Sam was beyond caring what the words meant. The music beat a harsh taboo against his skull as he shot a desperate look at Brenna, who stared back, face distraught, eyes destroyed, lips trembling.
“Oh, God,” Sam whispered as the wound in his side remained bloodless, and Brenna’s T-shirt stayed stain-free. “Oh, God, no…”
Dean’s cry of pain caught all three by surprise. Without warning, he stumbled, falling to his knees, one hand shooting to the ground to balance him, the other gripping his side as fire shot across his belly.
“Dean?” Virgil turned to him, embers from the slowly dying torch falling on the ground around him.
“Son of a bitch!” Dean muttered, lifting his hand to see it painted red with his own blood.
“Lemme see,” Virgil handed Griffin the torch, kneeling in front of Dean.
Griffin moved the amber light along the walls where Dean had been walking. “I can’t see anything sticking out…”
“That was no booby trap,” Virgil muttered, lifting Dean’s tattered shirt.
Dean tightened his stomach muscles against the sharp jabs of pain that radiated through him as Virgil probed his wounded side.
“Uh… I can’t…”
“What?” Dean breathed, blinking rapidly to ward off the blackness that had threatened to swamp him after the unexpected stab of pain cut him down.
“There’s no… cut. No wound.” Virgil looked up. “There’s nothing there.”
Dean looked down at his side. “What do you mean, nothing? I’m bleeding like a—“
“I know you’re bleeding,” Virgil said, digging in his thigh pocket for a bandage. “But I can’t tell from where.”
Realization dawned hot and fast, bringing Dean’s eyes up to meet Griffin’s in an instinct of hunter seeking out hunter. “Aw, fuck,” he breathed. “FUCK!”
Virgil pressed the bandage against Dean’s side, grimacing as the white started to flood pink almost immediately. “What?”
“It’s Sam,” Griffin said.
“What?” Virgil looked over his shoulder at the other hunter.
“The wizard. He’s working over Sam,” Griffin elaborated.
Dean pushed to his feet, shoving away from Virgil with strength born of desperation, moving down the ever-narrowing passageway.
“Wait!” Griffin turned, hurrying after him.
“He’s got my brother,” Dean tossed back, heat from his wounds fueling his progress.
Dean flinched at the barked order, turning around and advancing on Griffin until he was able to shove him backwards with the flat of his hand. “I’m not losing him, you understand? Do I make myself clear?!”
“You go in there half cocked and you’ll just end up losing everybody,” Griffin yelled back, an unexpected voice of reason.
“I know what I’m doing,” Dean started to turn again, and Griffin grabbed his wounded arm, causing him to cry out.
“You’re walking wounded, man. We’ll get him out, but—“
Dean shoved Griffin away roughly, barely registering the light dying around them. “You expect me to believe you actually give a damn about my brother’s life? After all the shit you’ve pulled? You’re just in this for your own revenge!”
“Because I had a brother, too!” Griffin grabbed the collar of Dean’s shirt, pulling him up close until their faces were inches apart. “I had one and I screwed up and I lost him. You don’t know what that feels like, so don’t—“
“The hell I don’t!” Dean shrugged loose. “He’s already died on me once, man. I’ve only got one soul to give, I can’t lose him again.”
They stood in silence for several heartbeats as Dean’s words penetrated the rapidly growing darkness and the material on the lead pipe burned down to embers. Dean and Griffin stood facing off, panting from anger born of pain.
“Are you saying… you’re a dead man walking?” Griffin said in a low, forced-calm voice.
Dean licked his lips. “Yes.”
“Holy shit,” Virgil breathed. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
“What you don’t know could choke a—“
“Stop it,” Dean interrupted Griffin’s insult. “Just… just stop it.”
Something shifted in Griffin’s eyes, a softening that Dean might’ve missed if the shadows of the torch had slid left instead of right. In that moment, Dean knew he’d gained an ally. He turned, moving back down the darkening tunnel, hoping the other two would follow, hearing the clink-shft of the crossbow two seconds too late.
Griffin’s meaty hand slammed Dean’s upper arm, shoving him to the side and into the crumbling dirt wall. He heard the big hunter cry out and just before the torch burned out completely, he saw an arrow protruding from Griffin’s upper thigh.
“Dean, get over here. Now.” The former paramedic’s voice left no room for argument and offered Dean a path through the darkness.
Dean grunted as his side burned with the motion of crawling across the dank tunnel floor. He felt along the ground in the pitch dark, finding a boot, then a leg, feeling his way up Griffin’s body until his fingers tripped over the arrow. Griffin cried out and swore.
“Easy,” Virgil soothed. “Take it easy, man. We’ll get you fixed up, okay?”
The stream of curses Griffin sewed together in reply would have made a sailor blush. Dean reached into the dark, swimming his hand around until he felt Virgil’s shoulder.
“I need light,” Virgil replied, finding Dean’s hands with his, unfolding Dean’s fingers and slapping both his book of matches and Griffin’s lighter into his palm.
Dean flicked the Zippo on first, the flame shooting up and illuminating a small circle of black with its amber glow. Dean held the lighter over Griffin’s leg, swallowing as he registered the deeply-embedded shaft.
“Had to go and be a hero, huh?” He joked.
“Well…” Griffin gasped. “I figured you… usually have… that ginormatron watching your back…”
“Okay, Griffin, hold still,” Virgil ordered.
Dean watched as the paramedic braced the arrow shaft and broke it off near Griffin’s thigh. He winced in sympathy as Griffin bit his lip to keep from crying out.
“Why didn’t you pull it out?” Dean asked.
The lighter sputtered. Dean flicked it back on, adjusting his grip as the flame heated the pad of his thumb.
“It hit the femoral artery,” Virgil said. “He’s bleeding bad. Too bad. If I pulled it out, he wouldn’t make it out of this tunnel.”
“Still here,” Griffin grunted.
Virgil pulled a packet of what looked like instant oatmeal from his cargo pants pocket, ripping it open with his teeth and shaking the powdered substance over Griffin’s wounded leg.
“Ah! Son of a BITCH!” Griffin cried out, his back arching up as he clenched his fists against the obvious pain.
The familiar, nauseating smell of sulfur twisted Dean’s stomach just as the lighter went out once more. Dean flicked it once, twice, then shook it.
“Empty,” he announced, lighting one of Virgil’s matches with his thumbnail. The light was smaller, but it was better than nothing. “What do you want to do?”
Virgil sat back on his heels, pulling in a breath. “Everything is screaming at me to get him the hell out of here or he’s a dead man. But… you’re wounded, too, and Brenna… and Sam…”
Dean sucked in his bottom lip, rolling it against his teeth with the tip of his tongue.
The match burned down to Dean’s fingertips, but before he could light another, Griffin’s grip found his hand in the dark.
“You have to finish this, man.”
Dean exhaled, then pulled a slow breath into his lungs, searching for energy in that motion.
“You did it once before,” Griffin said, his voice tight with pain. “You came through, you and Sam. I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want you to have been right, but you were.”
“Dude, don’t go all final words on me, here.”
“Shut up a minute. I ain’t dying. Not here in this tunnel. Not now.”
“Well, that’s certainly a relief,” Dean said dryly. He felt something gathering at the base of his throat, something tight and tense.
“You do this thing. Do it, ‘cause… ‘cause I need to give something back to my brother.”
“There was never a choice, man,” Dean said, reaching across in the dark to find Virgil’s shoulder once more. “Here,” he said, feeling down Virgil’s arm for his hand. “Take these.” He pushed the matches back in Virgil’s grip.
“How are you going to—“
“Hey, I’m making this up as I go along,” Dean said. “Besides, if there are more booby traps out there, those matches aren’t going to save me. Just… watch out for the land mines.”
“Land mines. Right.” Virgil nodded.
Between them, they were able to get Griffin on his feet.
“Dean,” Virgil said.
“I’ll bring her back,” Dean promised.
“I know you will,” Virgil said. “I just…” he took a breath. “It’s always been her choice.”
Dean was silent a moment. “Let’s worry about that later.”
“Later,” Virgil agreed as he steered Griffin back the way they came.
Dean watched as a match was lit, the light fading rapidly as the duo moved in halting, lumbering steps back down the mine tunnel.
“Well,” Dean whispered to himself as darkness settled around him like a cloak. “This was a great idea.”
He reached out for the dirt wall, pressing his arm tight against his burning side and made his way further down the black passageway. He shuffled his feet, searching for the edges of land mines, crawled his fingers through the dirt and along the rock of the wall. The darkness felt palpable, as if it had greedy fingers reaching out to pluck at his hair, stroke his cheek, whisper in his ear.
He’d never truly been afraid of the dark, just all the things the dark kept hidden. And he’d seen enough of those things to know that there was a purpose for hiding. He tried to take a deep breath, finding some solace in the fact that no new wounds had appeared since the last one.
“Maybe he’s not hurting you anymore, Sammy,” he said into the nothing. “Maybe you got loose. Got Brenna out of there. Saved the day. Big damn hero.”
The air was starting to feel thicker, as if the blackness gave it texture and weight, making it harder to pull into his body, filter through his over-worked lungs, fuel his oxygen-starved body. Panting, he resumed his conversation with Sam.
“You… uh, you probably told him he was full of shit, didn’t you, Sammy? Called him out for the… the freak he is. Not a freak like us, though, right? More of a bites-heads-off-bats and eats-live-chickens freak. We’re the good kind of freaks, Sammy…”
Pausing in his ramble, Dean suddenly realized he could hear music. He moved further down the tunnel, straining to hear. Music. Someone was playing loud music.
Loud emo music.
“What is with this town and its weird music fetish…” his voice faded as the pieces of the puzzle clicked together in his brain. “Wait… no way… “
He continued forward, squinting his eyes as he realized he could almost see the ground in front of him. A soft glow of amber light drew him onward.
“You okay?” Brenna whispered as the wizard stumbled away, pressing the heels of his hands to his temples and mumbling to himself in a tangled mixture of Latin and English.
“No,” Sam shook his head, feeling his body tremble with a bone-deep cold, his skin hot as though he were feverish. “No, Brenna, it’s Dean.”
“You don’t know that,” Brenna shook her head roughly, her features pale with denial.
“It’s Dean,” Sam spat, turning fierce eyes on her. “He’s coming for us, you know he is.”
“The spell just isn’t working—“
“Yes. It. IS.” Sam growled, needing her to stop. Needing her to just stop. “He’s out there, and he’s bleeding for me.”
Brenna pressed her lips together, her eyes hot and helpless as the wizard’s music increased in volume. They looked across the cave to find the small man pacing up by his curtained area, arms out from his sides, hair wild from where he had been running his hands through it.
Sam heard him exclaiming, “I’ve never been wrong. Not once. And you led me to them. You. LED. ME. TO. THEM!”
“Who is he talking to?” Brenna stage-whispered to him over the music.
“Jacob Marley,” Sam retorted. “How the hell should I know?”
“Don't put your life in someone's hands, they're bound to steal it away. Don't hide your mistakes ‘cause they'll find you, burn you…”
“Can you reach your knife?” Brenna asked.
“He’s gonna come back,” Brenna said anxiously.
“Not helping,” Sam grunted.
“How did you get in here?!”
Sam and Brenna looked up simultaneously at the wizard’s exclamation. Sam felt his stomach plummet as his burning eyes lit on the bloody, swaying image of his brother pushing through the curtained opening just inside the wizard’s alcove about six feet above them.
“I don’t freakin’ believe it,” he heard Dean exclaim. “It’s the goddamn M. E.!”
“I did not give you permission to be here!” Adoamros yelled, raising the knife above his head and lunging for Dean.
“DEAN!” Sam yelled just as Dean thrust his arms up to ward off the crazed attack. Sam felt his body tighten, instinctively jerking and ducking as Dean struggled with the small, but powerful wizard.
Sam felt a dizzying effect of vertigo as Dean’s foot slipped on the crumbling ledge, his body obviously weakened by his journey to find them. He heard Brenna gasp as Dean fought for balance, then he cried out as his brother lost the fight, slipping from the edge and slamming against a smaller ledge positioned like a stair-step below the wizard’s alcove. Sam winced as Dean’s head cracked against the cave wall, then flinched as his brother hit the dirt floor and rolling to a rest near Sam’s feet, completely, unnaturally still.
“Dean?” Sam called, his voice weak, his body tense as he watched for the reassuring movement of his brother’s chest. Dean’ face was turned from Sam, but when he saw Dean breathe, Sam shuddered out a trembling breath.
“Now,” the wizard exclaimed, “at last I have them.”
He jumped down, his feline grace returning as he regained his balance. He pulled out his remote, returning the volume to its previous level as he approached Dean’s vulnerable form.
“If you want to get out alive, run for your life. If you want to get out alive run for...”
“Stay away from him,” Sam bellowed, straining against the metal restraints.
Adoamros laughed softly. “My boy, all I will do is position him. It is you that will end up taking his life.”
“Stop!” Brenna begged. “Please, don’t… you don’t have to do this.”
Adoamros gripped Dean’s shoulders, lifting him with strength masquerading beneath a façade of fragility. Sam felt a muscle in his jaw tighten as Dean’s head dropped back, limp, lifeless. The wizard propped Dean against another support beam, then frowned.
“Seems I may have run out of shackles,” he said as if they were short a napkin at a tea party. “No matter,” he shrugged, turning from them. “Rope will suffice at this juncture.”
“Sam,” Brenna whispered. “No matter what happens, get Dean out of here.”
Sam tore his eyes from Dean’s bloody, sagging form to look at her. “What?!”
“Just… please, trust me, okay?”
“Whatever you’re thinking, stop.”
Brenna looked over at Dean and Sam watched her lips tremble, her mouth parting as if she was going to say something, but the wizard returned, crouching in front of Dean and binding his hands tightly. Sam felt his heart skip painfully as Dean slid to the side.
“Now then,” the wizard said, almost brightly, standing and turning to Sam. “Where were we?”
It was interesting the clarity that came with complete pain. The fog that had cloaked his immediate perception lifted as his brain fought to remember where he was, how he’d gotten there, and why his body was on fire.
At first, he thought he’d choke on the dry insides of his throat, his cough a weak rattle of air, but then he tried to open his eyes and realized they were suddenly too big for his head.
“Stay away from him!”
Her voice compelled him to pry his heavy lids up, fighting the urge to gag as his side stabbed him with a lingering pain intent on keeping him company for awhile. Blinking burning eyes, Dean saw a man, diminutive in stature, but powerful in position, approaching his brother, the diamond-edge blade of a knife poised and ready to slice.
Why the hell didn’t I take one of Griffin’s knives…
“Silence, woman,” the man muttered. “You are no longer necessary. Remember that.”
“The goddamn M.E.,” Dean coughed out, diverting the wizard’s attention. “Carter, you sly sonuvabitch.”
“Dean,” Sam said, relief and worry warring for dominance in his voice.
“So, you decided to join us after all,” Adoamros smiled. “How nice.”
Dean simply stared at him. “Perfect plan, huh? Hide in plain sight, doctor the… autopsy reports…”
Adoamros turned back to Sam.
“How’d you keep fooling the cops?”
“People see who and what they want, when they want,” Adoamros replied.
Before Dean could distract him with another question, the wizard jerked his wrist, cutting Sam’s upper chest opposite the protective tattoo.
Dean and Sam shouted in simultaneous pain, Dean’s head dropping low as blood blossomed, Sam’s head falling back as the pain abated.
“No!” Brenna cried, horror plain in her voice. “You don’t have to do this! I can help you.”
Dean drew his head up, staring hard at her.
“Don’t,” he barked, his voice ragged.
She ignored him. “Listen to me!”
Adoamros tilted his head at Sam as though choosing a cut of beef.
“Here,” he said, slicing Sam’s forearm, “and here,” cutting a line across Sam’s ribs.
“Son of a bitch!” Dean gasped while Sam’s litany of curses dripped as crimson as the blood that saturated what was left of Dean’s shirt. The brothers panted, pain spinning Dean’s head, blood loss making him shiver.
“It won’t work!” Brenna yelled. “You can’t have his soul!”
Adoamros looked over at her. “What do you mean?”
“Brenna,” Dean gasped, barely able to raise his head. “Don’t… please…”
“His soul doesn’t belong to him anymore,” Brenna said, pulling her legs close, surreptitiously attempting to protect her exposed body as the wizard took a step away from Sam. “He gave it up. He gave it up to save his brother.”
Adoamros scowled fiercely at Sam. “Is this true?”
“Some wizard,” Sam panted weakly, his sweaty bangs clinging to his forehead as he looked up at the man’s wild eyes. “Can’t even pin us to the wall… have to use cuffs… I’ve beaten better witches than you.”
“Shut up, boy, or your tongue will be next.”
“Thought you wanted to have fun,” Sam taunted. Dean watched him, breathing shallowly to ward off the pain, silently willing him to continue as long as he could, to distract the wizard from Brenna and whatever her crazy plan was. “Thought you had all the answers.”
“Or maybe your throat,” Adoamros narrowed his eyes, angling the blade at Sam’s jugular.
“Doesn’t matter,” Sam said. “You’ll lose. You kill me, kill my brother, and you’ll still lose.”
“No,” Adoamros cried, lunging closer. “No, he wouldn’t have led me astray. You are the last. You must be the last.”
Sam licked his bottom lip, his eyes meeting Dean’s over the wizard’s shoulder. Dean saw in that harried, exhausted gaze a look of honest gratitude. It surged through him, offering him renewed strength that was steadily seeping from him as he bled out from the supernatural effects of the wizard’s spell.
“She was right,” Sam said, still looking at Dean. “He gave up his soul. For me.”
“No!” Adoamros raged, lunging forward with the knife.
Sam flinched away, drawing his legs up quickly to knock the wizard off balance, deflecting what would have been a deep stab into his belly to a slice across his thigh. Dean screamed in pain, hearing his brother’s own cry echoing his, drowning out the ever-present sound of the wizard’s music, drowning out the shout of denial from Brenna, drowning out the sound of his own heart.
“Stop!” Brenna cried. “No more!”
Dean felt the heat before he registered what had happened. Slumped to his side, his lower back pressed against the support beam, his wounded shoulder and damaged body spilling blood onto the dirt floor of the cave, Dean saw the darkness chased away by a surge of light. He blinked in surprise, not comprehending at first. He saw Sam duck instinctively. He saw the wizard stumble backwards, landing on his rear and catching himself with his hands, his mouth agape.
Then he saw Brenna.
Her eyes were predatory wide, her face pale, her shackled hands spread, fingers trembling. He realized then what she’d done; it had happened before, back at Declan’s bar before the IRA burned it to the ground. Glass had shattered as a surge of power shot from Brenna without control. This time, though, it appeared she’d focused the power surge, spreading the fire from the lit candles to catch the wicks on the dormant ones and surrounding them with heat and light.
“What… what…” the wizard sputtered.
“Take me,” Brenna said, her voice oddly calm. “Leave them, and take me. Together we will bring him back.”
“Brenna, no,” Dean pleaded. “No, don’t do this.”
“How is this possible?” Adoamros stood, clutching the dagger tightly. “How are you possible.”
“I was born this way,” Brenna replied.
“Brenna,” Dean whispered, unable to do more than lift his head. He was spinning, his body sinking, shaking, weakening.
She met his eyes, and he saw her. Just her, no powers, no sight, no druid history. For one heartbeat of time he once more felt her lips brush his skin, heard the promise in her sigh, lost himself inside of her.
“A chuisle mo chroí,” she whispered.
“Don’t you do that,” Dean growled. “Don’t you dare say goodbye to me.”
“No,” Sam cried, desperate, angry. “She’s crazy. She’s lying. She can’t help you.”
“You realize they are already gone,” Adoamros said quietly, his eyes on Brenna, his back to Sam.
Dean could see the man’s profile, see him weighing his options, see that he was, in fact, completely sane in this moment.
“Gone?” Brenna choked out.
“The spell has already taken hold,” the wizard gestured to Dean. “He is bleeding out. He won’t last much longer. And then the other will no longer wish to live. Not after seeing his… brother… perish.”
“No,” Brenna sobbed. “Just… take me. Make it stop.”
Adoamros lifted a shoulder. “I will take you,” he nodded, “but I cannot stop it. The spell has been cast; their fates are sealed.”
“No!” Brenna bucked against her bonds as the wizard drew closer. “No, not again. Not again!”
“Brenna,” Dean called, drawing her eyes. “You fight!”
“You said it had already happened,” she cried, flinging herself away from Adoamros as he released her wrists from the shackles, her arms falling uselessly to her sides, her circulation cut off. “You said what I saw was the past.”
Dean’s heart caught at the base of his throat, and he struggled to push himself up on his elbow, his arm shaking, his vision swimming. “You fight!”
Brenna kicked out at the wizard, trying to crawl away. Dean saw her try without success to raise her arms in defense as the wizard reached for her. Cursing, bucking, biting, she fought, but he was stronger.
“Dean,” she sobbed as the wizard gathered her up, throwing her over his shoulder.
“I’m gonna find you,” Dean promised. “I’ll find you.”
Adoamros turned toward him, Brenna held tightly in his grip, and pulled the small remote from his pocket, silencing the relentless music. “Not in this lifetime you won’t.”
With that, he turned, stepped into a shadowed alcove and was gone.
For a moment, neither brother moved. Gravity exerted its will against Dean, pulling his rapidly weakening body to the ground with a stifled cry.
“Sam,” he mumbled as the candles burned around them.
“Yeah,” Sam replied, his voice ragged, his breathing shallow.
Dean tried to swallow, coughed instead, then groaned, “No matter what, you better not just give up and stop living.”
“No, man, no… you’re not… don’t you give in, Dean.”
Dean tried to find his brother in the soft light, tried to focus on the direction Sam’s voice was coming from, but the world was a blur of muted colors and dying light, the edges of his vision graying out and caving in like a collapsing tunnel.
“No regrets, Sammy,” he slurred. “I’d do it ‘gain, all ‘f it.”
“NO!” Sam cried, for one moment jarring his vision clear. “You do not decide to die, Dean. Don’t trust the pain, okay? Don’t you believe it. It isn’t real.”
Dean swallowed, licking his dry lips sluggishly, the coppery smell of his own blood strong in his nostrils. “Think ‘ts pretty damn real, Sammy…”
“Beat ‘em after all, bastr’ds,” he smiled weakly, closing his eyes. “Din’t get me, Sammy… Din’t get me.”
The last sound he registered before the edges around him closed in completely was the sound of his brother sobbing his name.
“Goddammit, Dean! Don’t you fuckin’ do this! You don’t!”
Sam had been scrambling to get the tip of his knife blade into position since Brenna started distracting the wizard.
“DEAN! Open your damn eyes right the hell now!”
He’d nicked the palm of his hand and the inside of his wrist so many times at this point, his arms were sliding inside the bindings on his own blood. He closed his eyes, unable to see the limp, blood-soaked form of his brother lying so near him, yet still too far away. He pictured the lock, positioning the point of the blade into the ancient hole better suited for a skeleton key than a Hibben throwing knife.
“It can’t be real, Dean,” he said, more to keep himself focused than with any real hope that his too-still brother could hear him. “It’s a spell. Spells can be broken. We can break them.” Twist, slip, turn, press. “Like the bruises, man. The bruises from the dream. Don’t believe it.”
He almost stopped breathing when he felt the lock give, the clasp on his right wrist falling away. His mantra of don’t believe it, don’t believe it slapped him in the face as he flipped around to unlock his left hand and felt the pull of his sliced skin stretch painfully with the movement. The benefit of sight sped up the process and in moments he was free and scrambling over to Dean on arms that trembled from strain and tingled from loss of circulation.
“Hey, man,” Sam sliced the bindings from Dean’s wrists, dropping the knife and the ropes in a pile next to them. “I’m here, okay, I’m here.”
He winced, hissing in pain as his own wounds protested harshly when he pulled Dean’s pliant form up, uselessly looking for something to press his hand against and stop the blood that still flowed freely from Dean’s limp body.
“Please, man, not yet, okay?” Sam felt the tears burn the back of his eyes as he helplessly cradled Dean’s head against the hollow of his shoulder, his brother’s blood quickly soaking his own torn shirt and dirty jeans. “We’ve got time. We still have time. I’m not ready, Dean.”
Sam found it impossible to swallow past the lump in his throat and curled around his brother as a sob tumbled loose. He tucked Dean’s head beneath his chin and began to rock slowly, fighting a useless battle against angry, helpless tears. His body thrummed with aches deeper than his bruised, bloody wrists, deeper than the bizarrely blood-free slices on his arms, leg, and torso. It was an ache that no balm could heal.
“I can feel you breathing, Dean,” he said softly, his voice a weak plea. “If you’re breathing, you’re alive. Okay? You’re alive. You keep breathing. With me, okay? We’ll do it together. Dean?”
Dean’s breath continued to shudder shallowly against Sam’s bared chest, skimming the cuts and slices left behind by the diamond blade.
“I ever tell you how I used to do that when we were little?” Sam continued to rock, holding his brother’s too-pale face close to him, gripping his body tightly. “I’d wake up, and I wouldn’t know if Dad was there or not. And I couldn’t remember what town we were in, or what hotel. But you, man, you were always there. And I’d breathe with you. Slow and easy. Steady, like now. I’d match my breath to yours until I fell asleep.”
Sam moved his free hand to the slick, sticky mess that was Dean’s chest, resting it there and feeling the clammy texture of his brother’s skin beneath his hand.
“Slow and easy, man.”
Time slipped past, fluid, invisible, controlling everything with relentless patience, folding around Sam as he fought for purchase on the slippery slope of his emotions. He felt the weight of his brother in his arms, felt the cool of Dean’s skin, felt the subtle tremble that shook through Dean’s weakened body.
His voice was barely audible, but to Sam it was as if Dean had shouted in his ear.
“Hey,” Sam said, looking down as a renegade tear dripped from the tip of his nose and splashed against Dean’s cheek. “Hey, man.”
“’s it… raining?”
“No, we’re in the cave, Dean.”
“Remember? Freaky wizard? Spell? Knife?”
Dean’s eyelids fluttered as he fought to open them. “Brenna…”
“He took her, Dean.”
Dean groaned, pushing weakly against Sam. “’m bleedin’.”
“Yeah, I know, man.”
“Not real, ‘s it?”
Sam grabbed that statement like a lifeline, rubbing Dean’s blood-soaked chest with the flat of his hand, trying to restore warmth to the chilled skin beneath his.
“No, Dean, it’s not real. It’s the spell.”
Sam nodded, though Dean’s eyes weren’t yet opened. He hadn’t thought about that. If Dean stopped bleeding, would he start?
“I’ll be okay.”
Dean opened his eyes at that. “How do you know?” he asked, his voice steady, his eyes clearing as he pinned Sam with a no bullshit look.
“I… I don’t know for sure. But…” Sam shrugged with helpless hope, “if you believe you’ll stop bleeding, I’ll believe I won’t start.”
“That makes about as much sense as any of this.”
Sam pulled Dean’s tattered shirt open, swallowing at the slick sound the blood made as the material pulled away from his brother’s skin. Rolling Dean to him, he tugged the sleeve free, wiping a patch of skin clean, and breathing out with shuddering gratitude when it wasn’t immediately resurfaced with red.
“They hurt?” Dean asked. He still hadn’t moved away from Sam, content, it seemed, to lay in the safety of his brother’s grip.
“They sting, that’s for sure.”
“Feel like crap,” Dean whispered, his eyes sliding closed again.
“Don’t look much better,” Sam said, sniffing. “Even if we… somehow stop this bleeding, you lost a helluva lot of blood, Dean. We have to get you to a hospital.”
“We gotta find her first,” Dean protested, his eyes snapping open.
“Hey, man, you’re in no shape to—“
“Sam, please,” Dean said, pushing against his brother, trying to sit up on his own, and failing. “Please, help me find her. I can’t… I can’t lose someone else.” He closed his eyes, then after a breath, opened them, staring up at Sam. “I can’t,” he repeated.
Sam nodded, feeling his heart constrict at the need he saw in his brother’s eyes. He pressed the palm of his hand back onto Dean’s chest, covering his brother’s heart.
“We’ll get her, man,” he promised softly. “We’ll get her.”
It was a struggle, but Sam managed to climb to his feet, groaning as he hauled Dean up on legs as shaky as a newborn colt. Dean leaned heavily on him, swaying dangerously even with his support.
“You came alone?” Sam asked.
“No,” Dean shook his head. “No, I brought friends.”
“Where are they?” Sam grunted as he gripped Dean’s arm and held him tightly, propelling them both slowly forward.
“With any luck, waiting for us on the outside.”
Sam felt his stomach sink as his brother trembled against him. “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.”
a/n: Thanks to everyone who has followed me thus far. I have this story fairly mapped out now: seven chapters. The next two will be similar in length to this, with an epilogue to close it out. Tara, there’s a scene in here dedicated to you. I hope you recognize it. If not, then, um, pretend I didn’t say anything.
Touched by VAST
Alive by Pearl Jam
Fall of Man by Matthew Good Band
Get Out Alive by Three Days Grace (Phoenix, if you’re reading, you’d love this one)
A chuisle mo chroí. Pulse of my heart.
Part 5 (A and B)>>