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
Chapter 4, A and B
It was the only word that floated clearly to the surface, shining in large black letters on the white movie screen in his mind. He wondered how he could be so cold and so hot at the same time. His body shivered mercilessly, giving his tired, aching muscles little relief; the air around him, however, felt as if the universe had opened Hell, baking his overtaxed lungs and searing his dry throat.
He felt hands on him, tugging him, lifting him. He knew that he should climb out of the hollow he hid inside, step away from the comfort of the gray, offer help to whoever was trying so hard to relocate him, but he could do no more than breathe. And even that was becoming a chore.
“…have to walk…get some help…”
He heard his brother’s voice coming from very far away, drifting and rolling as if they bobbed together on water, cast away by fate, left alone together to survive the sacrifice of another life. He wanted to reach out, to grab hold of Sam. But he could only breathe.
Sam was calling him.
The voice was young, fearful, needy. He should reassure him that it would be okay, that everything was going to be fine, that he wasn’t going anywhere, that they would find a way out of this. But he couldn’t stop shaking, he couldn’t turn away from the gray, and the black was whispering to him with seductive promises of peace, safety, solace.
“…right back…be long…”
Once more he felt himself shifted, moved, his head falling back and being caught in the grip of his brother’s large hands, the coarse material of a blanket wrapped tightly around him, helping to soothe the shaking despite the intense heat. He felt fingers flit across his forehead, pressure on his shoulder as words were whispered from familiar lips, but then lost in a miasma of nausea, pain, and weakness.
He was aware of the stirring of air, the feel of it slipping over his exposed skin and dry lips. He was aware of the rattle of metal on metal. He was aware of the absence of all other sound. He was aware that he was alone.
He wanted to wake up, to open his eyes, to look around and to head down the same road as Sam, fighting the good fight, staying the course. He pushed through the cloudy thickness of the gray that boxed him in, pressing around him with such weight that it was nearly impossible to pull in air. He was breathing in the gray.
His thoughts started to snap, spark, jumping from the logical need to climb back to awareness then slipping back to memory and making recollection tangible and real. He was sitting on the floor of the hidden room in the storage unit, his mother’s tiny ring on his finger, his hands full of a lost childhood. He was confessing his fear of Hell to the one person who should never see him afraid.
He was yelling at a mirrored image of himself, spitting venom and pain in his own face. He was losing himself in the tender flesh of a stranger while Sam waited for him. He was standing on a gravel road, tasting the cold lips of a demon. He was yelling at Bobby, wanting him gone. He was kneeling in the mud, the weight of his dead brother in his arms. He was gripping his head with pain from a vision. He was catching Sam as he was overwhelmed by a vision.
He was sitting on the hood of his car, baring his soul to satiate the demands of his brother. He was hitting Sam. He was hitting the Impala. He was watching his father burn. He was listening to the tone of a still heart monitor. He was lying shocked and shaken in a hospital bed, looking into the liquid eyes of the one person he needed most in the world, listening to a vow of sacrifice, and feeling his world shatter.
“No,” Dean gasped, jerking harshly, his eyes snapping open.
His lungs searched vainly for breath and he looked around, panicked to realize that he was lying outside of the elevator shaft of the abandoned mine. Alone.
“Sam?” he called, his voice so ravaged by the night that it came out as a breathy gasp. “Sammy?”
His vision doubled, then swam and he dropped his head back fighting back the nausea that threatened to rid him of any liquid left in his body.
He didn’t leave you, Dean. He’ll be back. He didn’t leave. His inner voice reprimanded the fear his weakened system taunted him with.
You took care of me, you took care of Sammy…
Dean brought his head up, looking around once more, his father’s voice so clear his addled brain expected him to be standing in front of him, glowing with tears of relief and sorrow tracking his rugged cheeks.
“Get a grip, Dean.” He coughed, rolling with effort to his knees, reaching up with a staggered grip to the side of the elevator shaft and using it to pull himself to his feet.
The blanket slipped, and he almost let it fall, until another shudder coursed through him and he instead drew it tighter around his sweaty body. Swallowing, he looked around again, the morning sun already giving the air a shimmering, metallic quality. He saw a dusty, gravel-strewn road stretching out before him, and clear indentations of Sam’s footprints.
“On my way, Sammy.”
As he staggered forward, resolutely planting one foot before the other, he thought of his father’s sacrifice. He thought of his own. How there had never been a choice in his mind once the idea occurred to him. Then he thought of Sam, and he stumbled.
Sam shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything and yet… yet he might be the one to sacrifice the most. If they couldn’t find a way out of this deal — a way that didn’t result in Sam’s demise — Dean was suddenly afraid he’d be damning his brother to a fate worse than death. A fate he, himself hadn’t been able to handle. Life without his brother.
Dean’s stomach rolled sickeningly in his stomach as he thought about the what if. What if they failed, if they didn’t keep him from the pit? He was going to have to convince Sam that he could stand on his own.
Because the sacrifice was only as noble as the person saved.
“Sorry, Dad,” he whispered dryly, his thoughts bowing his shoulders.
Another trip and he went to his knees. Pushing himself awkwardly upward, he took two more steps and staggered once more, this time unable to catch himself. He was barely able to thrust out his hands to halt his falling body when he met the ground with the side of his face.
Coughing weakly, he blinked through dust covered lashes, seeing his father, crouched in the dust, as real as the heat around him, fingers laced and hanging loose between bent knees. Dean squinted, bringing his head up, the light of the dangerous sun shimmering the image of John before him.
I am so proud of you…
The roar of the truck erased the image of John and Dean blinked as Sam barreled from the still-moving vehicle to hit the ground in a sprint, closing the distance between them.
Dean rolled limply with the force of Sam’s hands. “Hey, Sammy.”
“What the hell were you… I left you back at the… I was only going for… I found Virgil and he—“
“Good to see you, man,” Dean interrupted, choking on the dust coating his face.
Sam sniffed and wiped some of the grime away. “Good to see you, too.”
“Jesus H. Christ,” Virgil whispered as he joined them. “What the hell happened to you, Dean?”
Dean didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He could only watch his brother. He could only breathe.
“He needs blood, Virge,” Sam answered, staring down at Dean.
“This is all his?” Virgil squeaked.
“Help me get him up,” Sam commanded.
Dean felt more hands on him, cradling him, lifting him, bearing him across the dirt road and into the back of Virgil’s pick-up.
“Took Griffin to the hospital,” Virgil was saying as he and Sam lay Dean down on a pallet that had obviously been used not too long before. “It’s small, but they have an ER and some blood.”
“We can’t—“ Sam started.
“Go to a hospital, yeah, I was afraid you were going to say that,” Virgil grabbed Dean’s wrist and Dean slid his eyes sluggishly to the medic’s face.
“Hey, yourself, you crazy bastard,” Virgil grumbled, laying Dean’s arm across his bare belly and lifting his eye lid. “Your pulse is racing, you’re dehydrated, you’ve got more blood outside than in… this is what you get for being a hero?”
“Can you help us?” Sam asked slumping down beside Dean, his knee at Dean’s shoulder, his back against the truck bed.
“Dean? You know your blood type?”
“A positive,” the brothers answered together.
“I can give him my blood,” Sam offered.
“You are out on your feet, Sam,” Virgil shook his head. “No. I think I can get some. Griffin has the same blood type.”
Dean frowned. “No… way you’re… gonna—“
“Don’t worry,” Virgil held up a hand. “It’s not Griffin’s blood. And quit trying to be a smart ass. You need to save your strength.”
Dean blinked his eyes, heavy with exhaustion, and pulled the corner of his mouth up in a weak smile of thanks.
“Where’s Brenna?” Virgil asked.
When neither brother responded, Dean heard the horror in Virgil’s voice as he said, “He didn’t…”
“She’s alive,” Sam said. “Or was the last time we saw her.”
“She’s… ‘live,” Dean slurred, unable to keep his eyes open. “Gonna… find ‘er.”
“Where?” Virgil asked, desperate.
“Virge, please, just… help us,” Sam replied, his voice losing strength almost as rapidly as Dean’s. “We’ll find Brenna. Dean promised. And he never goes back on his word.”
“Damn… straight,” Dean whispered. He worked to keep close, to stay aware, but the voices were tunneling into echoes, only those of his own memories staying audible.
I know how dead you are inside. How worthless you feel. I know how you look into a mirror and hate what you see…
You took care of Sammy, you took care of me, you did that…
My father was an obsessed bastard! All that crap he dumped on me about protecting Sam, that was his crap!
You have to save him, Dean. If you don’t save him, you’ll have to kill him.
You can’t escape me Dean. You’re gonna die. And this is what you’re gonna become.
I am so proud of you.
He felt his brother’s hand in his, gripping tightly, holding on.
“Look a little better.”
“Feel a little better.”
“Well, you got about four bags of blood in you now.”
“Wow. I have no idea what that means.”
“According to Sinatra, the fact that you were breathing at all was nothing short of a miracle.”
“Told you I was Batman.”
Sam shook his head at his brother’s tired grin, pulling the needle from Dean’s arm and pressing a cotton ball and band-aide over the puncture hole.
“You’re a mess, man,” he commented, looking at Dean’s blood-covered body. “You have like one tiny square of clean skin.”
Sam heard the worry and awareness filter through Dean’s voice.
“And where the hell are we?”
“It’s been almost twelve hours—“
“And we’re at Virgil and Brenna’s hotel.”
“Twelve hours!” Dean tried to sit up, collapsing back onto his elbow and closing his eyes. “Whoa…”
“Take it easy, man,” Sam admonished. “You may have blood in you now, but you need to—“
“What about you?” Dean suddenly looked over, reaching with a still-trembling hand to press his fingertips on Sam’s borrowed white T-shirt.
“Virge stitched me up,” Sam informed him. “Seem to be doing okay. Still hurts, but… not bleeding.”
“He took care of me, Dean.”
Dean fell back onto his pillow. “Twelve hours, Sam.”
“It’s still hot as hell out there.”
Dean frowned at him. “So?”
“So,” Sam stood up from his perch at the edge of the bed, wrapped the tubing from the blood bag and throwing it into the plastic biohazard container that Virgil had provided. “He still has her, and she’s still alive. Otherwise… it would be cooling down by now.”
“Oh,” Dean nodded.
“Hey there,” Virgil said from the doorway to the adjoining room. “You look better.”
Dean tried to roll to his side, and Sam reached out gripping his shoulder and helping him swing his legs over the side of the bed to sit in a semi-slumped position.
“Thanks to you,” Dean finally replied.
His color had drained with the change in position and his breathing was shallow. Sam watched him closely, not wanting a repeat of the limp, almost lifeless form he and Virgil had carried into the room this morning.
“Gotta tell you,” Virgil said, clearing his throat nervously, “I wasn’t sure if fluid and blood would do the trick. Blood loss can mess you up in ways… well, we have no idea what else is going wrong inside of you.”
Sam frowned as Dean dropped his head, his knuckles turning white as he gripped the edge of the bed.
“Organ failure, heart damage,” Virgil continued. “I mean, we basically put a piece of gum in the hole on a dam, here, buddy.”
“I’m okay,” Dean said, his voice low, thready.
“Dean,” Sam hedged, knowing his brother’s resistance to even the insinuation of weakness.
“Sam, I said I’m okay,” Dean brought his head up, his eyes hot and aware.
Sam swallowed, looking away, frustration building low in his gut.
“So,” Dean said, looking over at Virgil. “Do I want to know how you got all this?”
Virgil looked down, pulling his red baseball hat from his head and scratching his forehead. He shoved the hat back on and looked up. “Your friend in the sheriff’s department had something to do with it.”
“My friend in the—“
“Calhoun,” Sam supplied. “When we told him that it was Carter, the M.E., that was killing everyone and that you were hurt, he said you were the coolest FBI Agent he’d ever met and he practically fell all over himself helping Virge get what he needed.”
“Coolest Agent, huh?” Dean grinned.
“Don’t let it go to your head, brother,” Sam stood.
“Well, he got you the blood and the fluid and the antibiotics and stuff for Sam…” Virgil said. “He wasn’t really hip to the idea that Carter was immortal, though.”
“Thanks, man,” Dean said softly. “This is the second time we’d have been dead without you.”
“Don’t think I’m forgetting that, either,” Virgil said.
“How’s Griffin?” Dean asked.
“A stubborn ass,” Virgil replied grimly. “Bled nearly dry, but it’s going to take some kind of supernatural force of nature to take that guy out.”
Sam exchanged a look with his brother. In their lives, such a statement wasn’t taken lightly.
“We need to get you cleaned up,” Sam said.
“Hate to say it, but,” Dean ran his hand across his bare belly. “I’m kinda outta clothes.”
“I got some you can borrow,” Virgil offered. “Got some food, too.” He turned and headed back into the other hotel room.
Sam stepped over to Dean, holding out a hand. “C’mon, Batman.”
“I can shower by myself, man.”
Dean frowned. “Hell, yeah.”
“Okay then.” Sam stepped back, watching as Dean pushed himself to a trembling stance, carefully straightening his shoulders, then offering his brother a sunny grin.
Two steps from the bed, Dean’s knees buckled.
Sam caught him, one hand on Dean’s bent elbow, the other around his brother’s waist.
“Okay, the room tilted,” Dean said quietly. “That was not my fault.”
Getting Dean into the bathroom, Sam helped him rest on the closed toilet lid and turned on the hot water. Dean stripped out of his bloody jeans, setting the contents of his pockets on the counter, including, Sam saw, a small silver necklace. Dean threw the ruined clothes into a pile in the corner. Sam grabbed a trash can from the bedroom and flipped it upside down on the shower floor, laying a thick towel across it to make a bench for Dean.
“Where’s my gun?”
“Did you know it was empty?”
“Yes. Where is it?”
“Under your pillow.”
Dean tossed a grateful look at Sam, then reached out to grab his brother’s arm, needing the balance. “This sucks—“
“—out loud, yeah, believe me. No picnic here.”
Dean stepped into the shower and Sam helped him sit. The water beat down on the crown of Dean’s head, sluicing his beard-stubbled cheeks and slipping the dried, crusted blood from his skin, turning the shower floor pink.
“Your back hurt?”
“Not so much.”
“These sores are healing up.”
Dean’s voice faded and Sam scrambled to find something safe to stand on with his next topic.
“So where are the bullets?” Sam asked, turning to rest his back against the cool tile of the bathroom wall, staring straight ahead to offer Dean some privacy, while staying close.
“Virge has them — no wait, Griffin has them.”
“Do I even want to know?”
“Hey, he started it,” Dean said squirting shampoo on his head and slowly rubbing away the sweat, dirt, and blood. “I was just looking for information.”
“Yeah, I can guess how you asked questions,” Sam shook his head. “Who broke it up?”
Sam stared at his own reflection in the mirror across from him, seeing angles and shadows that hadn’t been there two days ago, seeing knowledge and regret in eyes too old for his face.
“Virge,” Dean said, lifting his face to the stream of water and letting it beat on his closed eyes. “Y’know, I’m starting to really like that guy.”
“You do know when this is over… someone’s gonna have to walk away.”
“Yeah, I know,” Dean said, softly rubbing the soap on his belly and legs, trying to free himself of the remnants of blood. “Sam, those cuts… they left scars.”
“I know,” Sam said, dropping his eyes.
“Scars from a knife that never even touched me… We have weird lives, man.”
“You remember what happened to cause all your scars?” Dean asked, the childlike curiosity in his voice giving it back some of the strength the wounds had sapped.
“Yeah, you?” Sam handed Dean a towel when he heard the water shut off.
Sam shook his head as Dean wrapped the towel around his waist. “Think all those scars count for something?”
“Hell, yeah, they do.” Dean shot him an unreadable look.
Sam nodded as Dean moved slowly past him, catching his brother’s mumbled, “They’d better…”
They headed out to the outer room and Dean started to change into the clothes Virgil left on the foot of the bed. They were about one size too large, but with some creative rolling he was able to make them fit. He sat heavily on the bed and Sam handed him his empty 1911, then a sandwich.
“God, I’m starving,” Dean said around a mouthful of food.
“Dean, I’ve been thinking,” Sam started, handing Dean another sandwich as Virgil entered the room, leaning against the opened doorway that separated the spaces.
“Well, that’s never a good thing,” Dean commented, the food and shower having aided what the blood and fluids started. Sam saw color returning to his brother’s pale face, the tremble of his hands beginning to steady.
“I think Virge and I should go after Brenna.”
Dean stopped chewing, looked at Virgil, who looked back. When he slid his gaze back to Sam, he’d started chewing again, and his eyes had gone dead, empty of anything save purpose.
“With me, you mean.”
“Instead of you.”
“No fuckin’ way, Sam.” Dean’s voice was flat, allowing no room for argument.
“Dean, c’mon, man, you can barely walk, and—“
“I promised her.” Dean set the end of the sandwich down, then stood.
Sam saw that he looked solid, steady; part of him hoped for the best, but logic told him that it was just for show. The Dean Winchester Superhero show. Epic hero overcomes odds to save girl… “I know, Dean. I know you did, but maybe this is one promise you don’t keep.”
Dean shook his head, picking up his gun as if he needed to have it for balance. “You’re unbelievable.”
“What?” Sam frowned, not liking the closed look on his brother’s drawn face.
“I heard you, Sam. In that truck. I heard you say that I never go back on my word, and now you’re saying I do just that.”
“Gimme a break, man,” Sam stepped forward. “We’re not talking about honor or duty here. We’re talking about you not being able to deal with losing someone you love.”
Dean frowned, squaring off with his brother, all semblance of weakness gone as he pointed the empty gun at the floor. “And your point is what? I need to just… let it go?”
“Yes!” Sam bellowed. “Yes, Goddammit! You let it go! You don’t give everything and get nothing back!”
“What the hell are you talking about, Sam?”
“I’m talking about this fuckin’ family’s need to sacrifice themselves!” Sam bellowed, feeling his control slip, his eyes hot and his fists coiled. His pulse, so sluggish hours ago, pounded in his temple as he stared at his brother, barely aware of Virgil’s presence in the room with them. “Mom, Dad, you… it’s enough, man!”
“He’s gonna kill her, Sam.”
“She made that choice, Dean.”
Dean’s chin shook, his eyes leaden with helpless rage. “I’m not letting her pay for it.”
“Just like you didn’t let me, that it?”
“This has nothing to do with you!” Dean took a step forward, throwing his empty gun on the bed.
Sam saw Virgil flinch, but ignored him. “It has everything to do with me. I’m the reason we’re here, remember? I’m the reason we even needed to be here!”
“Sam, I told you—“
Sam pushed Dean’s shoulder, testing him, wanting to see him fall, wanting to be able to say See? You can’t do it all. Dean took a step back, but stayed firm.
“I don’t give a damn what you told me, Dean. You never gave me a choice. You never let me sacrifice for you. You take it all, you take it in, and you’re going to go to Hell protecting me.” Sam blinked, his jaw flexing, his eyes filling as his voice rasped, “And I hate you for that.”
Dean swallowed, pulling in a breath. Sam worked to still his angry tears, unable to take his eyes from his brother’s face as Dean looked down, then wiped a trembling hand across his mouth.
“How did we get here?” Dean asked softly. His eyes bore in to the floor, his body looking spare, yet powerful, in the borrowed clothes. “Why is it that everything comes back to this?”
“Because you didn’t walk away, Dean,” Sam replied in a choked voice. “Because you couldn’t let me die.”
Dean looked up. “No.” He shook his head and the tears in his eyes clawed at Sam’s heart. “No, I couldn’t, Sammy. Y’know, it didn’t even matter why… some demon’s plan, some dude you couldn’t kill. We all made our choices,” Dean looked at Virgil, then back at Sam, “but it doesn’t mean we have to die because of them.”
Sam sniffed, looking down. He didn’t want Brenna to die. But he didn’t want to lose Dean, either.
“Promise me something,” Sam said softly. When Dean didn’t answer, he looked up. Dean watched him, his eyes liquid. “Promise me that you won’t save her at the cost of your own life.”
Dean blinked. “I’m not going to let her die, Sam.”
“Promise me, Dean.”
They stood, quietly regarding each other, accusations and requests hanging between them like cobwebs. When the sound of heartbeats became the only thing filling the silence of the room, Virgil cleared his throat.
“Turns out, I’m pretty good in a fight,” he said, drawing the brother’s eyes. “And if it helps, I been watching out for Brenna awhile now. I don’t intend on letting that wizard cut her up like he done you two.”
Sam looked down, taking a steadying breath. “So, we’re all going?”
“We’re all going,” Dean replied, sitting down to tug on his dirty, blood-splattered boots.
Sam nodded, feeling the unresolved issues settle in between them. He ran a hand through his hair and picked up Dean’s gun. “We don’t know where to go.”
“I know someone who does,” Dean replied, holding out his hand for his gun. “And he’s got something of mine.”
It was a ten minute ride in Virgil’s truck to pick up the Impala. Sam thought his brother actually looked relaxed as he slid behind the wheel, the leather of the seats and the steering wheel too hot for comfort, even at night. They followed Virgil to the hospital and waited in the shadows as the former paramedic slipped in to check on Griffin.
“Son. Of. A. Bitch.” Dean bit the words off at the edges when Virgil returned, reporting what Sam had feared. Griffin was gone. “They say where he went?”
“They didn’t even know he’d left.”
“He was okay to walk?” Dean asked, incredulous.
“Told you he was a stubborn bastard,” Virgil shrugged.
“We got a few of those around here,” Sam muttered.
Dean shot him a look. “Don’t need any comments from the peanut gallery.”
“Now what?” Virgil grumbled, pulling off his hat in the familiar nervous gesture Sam had grown accustomed to.
“I got an idea,” Sam revealed.
It wasn’t so much the pain as it was the disorienting darkness, the smell of decay, the shifting colors as what looked like stained glass reflected candlelight. Brenna rolled to her side, unable to stifle the whimper of pain as her bruised body protested. She couldn’t tell if anything was broken; she just knew she hurt from the inside out, and that her mind was crumpling inward like the edges of waxed paper in an oven.
Hands stroked her cheek, running down the length of her throat, over her breast and flattened on her bare belly. She tried to pull away, but she was blocked by something hard and cold. She wanted to look around, to discern where Adoamros had taken her, but his touch sent her reeling into darkness and she lost control.
“Here I am,” he whispered, “the mate for your wayward soul.”
“No,” Brenna whimpered. She wanted light. She wanted air. She wanted to feel Dean’s strong arms. She wanted to hear Virgil’s smoky voice.
“Oh, yes,” the wizard crooned. “I see it clearly now. All the souls before, all the years of searching, have led me to you, the soul with no match, the one with power to complete my journey.”
Brenna pulled as far away from his hand as she could, shuddering with revulsion as she felt him stroke the inside of her thigh, tug on the button of her jeans. Her eyes were so wide they ached, the visions his touch assaulted her with left her shaking, but it was all a repeat of the same story of incest, blood, death.
“When they find me, you’re gonna wish you died with your brother, you freak.”
“No one is going to find you,” the wizard murmured, changing his mind and stroking the skin along her ribs. “You have no match; no one is going to care.”
Brenna felt the sob at the back of her throat, choking on it as she swallowed. “That’s… not true.”
The wizard ran his index finger across her jaw line. “Isn’t it?”
She felt his fingers in her hair, roughly pulling her head up. His lips pressed close to her ear. “Mother, father, dead. Poor little girl had to see, had to watch.”
Brenna gritted her teeth, sickened that he had seen into her as she had seen into him. She closed her eyes as his thumb traced her full lips, trying to keep safe the most precious of her memories.
“Grandad slain by a wraith, tsk tsk,” Adoamros flattened his hand on her throat and Brenna turned her head away, rolling her skull against the hard surface she’d pressed herself back against. “And now, you have a love that you deny, and a love that you are kept from.”
Brenna groaned as his fingers dug into the flesh of her shoulder. Without warning, the stroking ended and he jerked her forward, face to face, eye to eye. The candles around them shot flames higher as her panic soared and she saw that she was in what looked like a crypt, stained glass windows flanking a small metal door, cobwebs and vines filling the corners of the room. The darkness beyond the windows revealed only the dead of night.
“Where are we?”
“We are with him. With Lane.”
“Oh, God,” Brenna groaned. “You really are a sick bastard.”
“He’s shown me what you need to see,” Adoamros whispered, his stale breath ghosting her face and causing her to gag, “and how to show it to you.”
“What—“ Brenna said, but wasn’t able to finish her question as reality caved in and was replaced by images from her dreams.
People tied to posts, cut, bleeding, crying out for each other. She gasped as the images slid and shifted and she was seeing Sam stagger forward, falling to his knees as a knife was plunged into his back. Trying to recoil, she saw Dean sprawled on the floor, chest ripped and bloody, eyes destroyed. Crying out she saw Virgil fall to a crumpled heap, a slashed, bloody wound across his belly.
“NO!” Brenna screamed, the denial curling up from her gut, offering her strength from a source she had yet to tap.
She pushed violently away from Adoamros, kicking out viciously when he reached for her again. She saw the flash of the diamond-bladed knife and rolled away, coming face to face with the opened coffin and drawn, rotted skin framing the graying bones of what could only be Lane Carter. She screeched, pushing back, then turned around quickly, circling opposite Adoamros as he held the knife at the ready.
“All you have to do is release it, offer it up, and you will be spared the pain of the blade.”
“Go to Hell.”
Adoamros straightened, tilting his head slightly, then shrugged in a completely incongruous motion of acceptance. “You first,” he said, rushing Brenna.
She ducked her head, absorbing the impact, and rotated, barreling them both to the floor. The contact with the ground loosened the wizard’s grip and the knife tumbled free. In that instant, Brenna’s decision was made.
She scrambled forward, reaching for the knife.
“You guys sure like out-of-the-way places,” Virgil commented from the back seat of the Impala as they turned down the rutted road toward the rail car.
“Yeah, well, you guys took the last of the hotel rooms,” Sam said. “Didn’t leave us much choice.”
“Even if one of us is the coolest FBI Agent ever,” Dean remarked.
Virgil chuckled and Sam rolled his eyes.
“You see what I see?”
Sam leaned forward, peering through the starlit, moonless night at the large, black truck parked just to the side of the rail car. “Isn’t that—“
“Son of a bitch,” Dean growled.
“Yeah, that’s who I thought it was,” Sam nodded, sitting back.
Dean stopped the Impala and got out, forced to grab the door for a moment to steady himself before moving forward. He caught Sam’s worried eye and shook his head once. Let it go. They marched up to the door, Dean in the lead, and thrust open the cracked entrance.
“Well, hey, there!” Dean greeted loudly and way too cheerily.
Griffin turned, casually, having no doubt heard their approach, holding a knife in one hand, a stack of papers in the other. “Took you guys long enough.”
“Oh, so sorry,” Dean commented dryly, ignoring Griffin’s weapon and reaching out to grab the papers from his hands. He shoved them in Sam’s direction. “Would have been here sooner, but then I would have missed the Blood Loss and Freaky Wizard Show.”
“Glad to see you made it out,” Griffin said, spinning the knife and shoving it back into its sheath at his side. “Where’s the chick?”
Dean thrust out a hand, anticipating Virgil’s forward movement.
“He’s got her, no thanks to you!” Virgil spat.
Griffin lifted his hands, a placid expression on his swarthy face. “Hey, man, I got nothing to do with it.”
“Forget it,” Dean waved a hand at him. “You still want your revenge? Help us figure out where he is.”
“I know where he is,” Griffin revealed.
“What!” Virgil exclaimed. “How the hell—“
“How isn’t exactly important,” Griffin crossed his hands over his chest.
Dean lifted a brow. “Really?”
Griffin nodded. “I’d say what’s more important is that we talk about that knife.”
“What knife?” Virgil asked.
“The Kestrel,” Griffin pulled out his Silver Stag, turning in the weak lamplight of the room. “See, I had no idea what the knife was when I decided to go after this wizard. I just wanted him dead.” Griffin looked at Dean, flipping the knife around and casually taunting Dean with the hilt. “But now, after listening to that red-head, and hanging out with you guys, I think I’ve changed my mind.”
“You bastard,” Virgil growled as Dean deftly took the Stag from Griffin, automatically hefting it and finding the balance. “You know that knife may be the only thing that can save him.”
Dean spun the knife casually in his grip, eyes on Griffin. I know your game, and I can play it better.
Griffin shrugged. “Always good to have an ace in the hole,” he said. “You want to know where the wizard is… I want the knife.”
“Uh, guys?” Sam spoke up from where he’d been bent over the box of papers from John’s storage unit, the pages Dean had taken from Griffin spread out before him.
“What is it?” Dean asked.
“Well, remember how I said that you had to own the knife to harness its power?” Sam straightened, looking at his brother, papers clasped in both hands.
“Yeah,” Dean nodded, encouraging Sam to continue.
“I missed something,” Sam said, eyes darting between Dean, Virgil, and Griffin. “You, uh… you have to kill the previous owner. And if you try to use the knife without killing him… it’ll, uh… turn on you. It’ll kill you.”
Griffin guffawed. “Oh, this just gets better and better.”
“I’m not kidding, man,” Sam said holding out the paper for Griffin to see. “Look.”
“It’s in Latin,” Griffin pointed out.
“Seriously,” Virgil shook his head. “You all should take a crash course in dead languages.”
“It says only through blood will ownership bequeath, the bloodless hand a soul demands, from this life—“
“—to the next,” Dean finished.
“Yeah,” Sam looked at him. “How’d you know that?”
“It’s on the blade of the knife, right?” Dean continued.
“Saw it on the picture before,” Dean said, lifting his brow. “Can’t say I don’t do my homework.”
“So, wait, let me get this straight,” Virgil spoke up. “You have to kill the owner of the knife, but… you can’t use the knife to do that?”
Sam nodded. “Right. You use the knife at all while it belongs to someone else, it’ll turn on you.”
“Like… magically?” Virgil frowned. “Is that even possible?”
“You’re kidding, right?” Griffin scoffed. “You’re totally fine saving your girl from an immortal wizard, but the idea of a magical knife just doesn’t jive with you.”
“Ease up, Mr. Bad Ass.” Dean shifted so that he was slightly in front of Virgil, then stabbed the Silver Stag into the countertop.
“Hey! Watchit!” Griffin said, reaching for his knife.
“Just remember who hauled your sorry ass out of that mine,” Dean snapped, his eyes flinty. “You’d be dead if it weren’t for this guy.”
Dean turned, moving toward Sam. “You find something else?”
“What is it, man?”
Sam chewed his bottom lip, holding up a picture of Dean at about fifteen, leg in a cast, sitting on the trunk of the Impala, showing off the carved end of a crutch he’d fashioned into a wooden knife. “Remember this?”
“Heh,” Dean nodded. “Yeah. I fell down some stairs running out of a building. We went to Pastor Jim’s. I couldn’t watch you laid up, and Dad, well…”
“Yeah,” Sam nodded. “You remember what Dad went after?”
Dean frowned, searching his memory, feeling the same weight at the back of his head that had troubled him when he’d first seen the picture of the Kestrel Dagger. “No, but, y’know what I do remember is him coming back and he was talking to someone on the phone — another hunter — and he was trying to talk them out of looking for something. I remember he said something about killing a human.”
Sam nodded. “I remember that too, ‘cause we got a lecture from Pastor Jim.”
Dean’s smile caught on nostalgic, tipping into bitter. “Yeah. Jim and his lectures.”
“You think Dad was talking about this knife?” Sam asked.
“I never really gave it much thought before,” Dean looked back at the picture.
“You notice how there’s not much in here after that time? All the pictures, the notes, the spells… they’re all from when we were kids. His actual journal starts up in detail after this.”
Dean nodded. “I did notice that, actually.”
“So what are we saying here?” Griffin broke in, boredom clear in his voice. “Your daddy knew about the knife and didn’t tell you so we have to have a moment of silence?”
Sam shot a look at Dean and Dean felt his jaw harden in response to the anger in his little brother’s eyes.
“We’re talking about killing a human,” Dean said. “A batshit crazy human, but… a human. We could… bind his powers or--”
“A human who tried to kill you two and took your girl,” Griffin interrupted. “A human who has used magic to live longer than he should… not to mention at least twelve other victims, if not more.”
“Yeah, but,” Virgil cleared his throat, “isn’t that something we turn into the cops? I mean, is it really up to us to play God?”
Dean and Sam stared at each other, silent. Griffin turned on the former paramedic.
“Hell, yes it’s up to us!” His bellow shook the interior of the rail car. “When it comes to this shit, we’re judge and Goddamn jury! We say what’s right and wrong!”
“That so?” Virgil replied, refusing to give ground to Griffin’s tirade. “Doesn’t make you much different than him, then does it?”
“Sam…” Dean said in soft contrast to the argument behind them. “This knife… maybe it’s not the way.”
“Dean, no,” Sam backed up, shaking his head. “No, you can’t give up on me now.”
“I’m not giving up, man,” Dean dropped the picture back into the box. “I’m just saying… maybe we look for some other way to break the deal. We have some time.”
“What do you think I’ve been doing all this time, Dean?” Sam yelled, lifting his hands in a helpless gesture. “I have been looking for other ways. Any other way!”
“So we keep looking!”
“Meanwhile,” Griffin broke in, “clock’s ticking.”
“Shut up!” The brother’s yelled at him in unison.
“I hate to, but,” Virgil spoke up, “I gotta agree with Griffin.”
Sam turned to Virgil. “You want Brenna back. I get that. But I’m not going to back away from killing some wizard who used to be human or hand over the only lead I’ve found in months that might save my brother to some… some two-bit whore of a hunter.”
“Hey!” Griffin protested.
“Sam,” Dean reached for Sam’s arm, but Sam jerked it away from his grasp.
“No! No, Dean. It’s not… it’s not fair,” he finished weakly. “It’s just not fucking fair.”
“You’re right,” Dean said softly. “And… I’m sorry, man, I am. But this time… we gotta do the right thing.”
“How do you even know what that is anymore?” Sam asked.
The three men regarded him silently. Dean looked away, unable to find the words Sam needed. With a defeated sigh of resignation, Sam headed for the boxes, grabbing up several papers and stuffing them in his jeans pocket.
“C’mon,” Sam said quietly.
“We in agreement? No knife?” Dean asked, a gentle hand on Sam’s arm. “Just get Brenna, bind the wizard’s powers, and go?”
Sam simply looked at him, a struggle for acceptance clear in his hazel eyes. “Let’s load this stuff into the car. We’re not coming back here again.”
Dean watched him carefully for a moment, then nodded, gathering up their clothes bag while Virgil took the weapons and Sam the grenade boxes. Griffin waggled his knife free, then headed out behind them.
“Hey, Winchester!” Griffin called.
Sam and Dean paused and turned in unison. Griffin held out the clip to Dean’s .45.
“Here,” he said, tossing it Dean’s way. Dean caught it against his chest. “I suppose I owe you.” He tapped his leg.
“Virgil’s the one that saved you, man,” Dean reminded him.
“Yeah, well,” Griffin shrugged, heading to his truck.
“Unfreakinbelievable,” Sam muttered. “You saved his life and he’s still gonna go for the knife. He doesn’t even want it for what it can do!”
“Let it go, Sam.” Dean said tiredly. “There’s no use throwing logic at a mercenary.”
Virgil, Sam, and Dean piled into the Impala, following Griffin’s black truck out of town and along a deserted highway illuminated only by starlight. Dean thought back to Sam’s observance of the contents in the boxes from the storage unit. Could Dad really have known about the Kestrel? He knew about Ruby’s knife… why did he keep that stuff from us?
A glance at his brother showed Dean that Sam was deep in troubled thoughts; his jaw was tight, the muscle working over time, and his hands were rubbing nervously along the seam of his jeans. Dean returned his attention to the taillights from Griffin’s truck, following him through the dark to an unknown destination. As Griffin slowed, Dean realized where they’d arrived.
“You gotta be kidding me,” he muttered.
“A cemetery?” Virgil wondered aloud. “Why would he—“
“His brother,” Sam and Dean replied together.
“I should’ve figured that one out,” Sam sighed.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Dean said, parking next to Griffin’s truck, “but I’m kinda glad you couldn’t anticipate the mind of a lunatic.”
Sam grinned slightly as Virgil got out of the car. Dean opened his door, but paused when he felt Sam’s hand on his arm. He looked down at the hand, then up at Sam, questions pulling his eyebrow up.
“You okay to do this, Dean? I mean really?”
“I’m fine, Sam.”
“You’re really sure? I mean, Sinatra seemed pretty worried, and it’s not like we’re doctors or anything...”
“Dude, I’m not going to keel over.”
“Okay.” Sam’s voice was hesitant and he didn’t let go of Dean’s arm.
“What is it?” Dean frowned.
Sam looked down, rubbing at the worn spot on the passenger door that he’d softened with years of worry. “I, uh…”
Sam looked up, and Dean saw the same conviction and promise in his brother’s eyes that had been shining there the night they opened — and closed — the Devil’s Gate. The night Sam had declared maybe it’s time I save your ass for a change.
“I don’t hate you, Dean.”
Dean grinned, feeling it meet and soften his eyes. “I know. Bitch.”
Sam grinned back. “Jerk.”
“You ladies gonna join us or what?” Griffin called softly.
The brother’s stepped out into the heat of the night, gathering salt, guns, lighter fluid, matches and Dean’s knife from the trunk. Virgil watched, silent questions in his eyes. Griffin impatiently spun his Silver Stag in his hand.
“Lost my thrower in the cave,” Dean confessed as they followed Griffin toward one of the two monolithic-looking crypts.
“Me too,” Sam said.
“I really liked that thrower,” Dean complained.
“Yeah,” Sam swallowed, his shoulder next to Dean’s as they watched Griffin ease the lock on the door under the large cement letters reading Carter. “Me too.”
Griffin opened the door and the previously-muted sounds of a fight for life rolled over the foursome. The hunters and Virgil ran through the door and skidded to a halt as the unbelievable sight of a bruised, bloody Brenna, shirt torn open, hair tangled, eyes wild, fighting off the small but unnaturally powerful wizard.
Dean gaped for a moment as Brenna used her body as a weapon, slammed the wizard to the floor. The Kestrel Dagger slid free of his grip and Brenna dove, her hand inches from the grip.
“Brenna, no!” Dean cried, just as her fingers closed around the hilt of the knife.
Part 6, A and B>