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.
A/N: You are all wonderful people. My thanks to you for reading and for commenting. My thanks to The Powers That Be for a fifth season. My thanks to Kelly for her shrewd eye. And to the hands at my back that alternately push me forward and keep me from the edge. You know who you are.
Chapter 1, A and B
Chapter 2, A and B
Chapter 3, A and B
Chapter 4, A and B
Chapter 5, A and B
He could feel his heartbeat in his throat.
The strength that had carried him from waking in the hotel room to standing in the nightshade of the crypt seemed to flood out of his pores with sweat from the insane heat. Sam’s words of warning back in the rail car echoed loudly in his ears as he watched Brenna’s small hand close over the hilt of the dagger. He stepped forward, the can of salt slipping from his fingers, the fine hairs on his arms and the back of his neck standing as his skin tightened with the horror of the moment.
“Brenna, don’t move,” Dean said, his voice rough with honest fear.
The six people in the room seemed to collectively hold their breath as Brenna’s wild eyes slid to meet Dean’s and the wizard froze in his frantic effort to grab her waist.
“You need to let go. Now.” Dean’s order was soft, but his words strong and clear. He barely noticed the tremble of his limbs as he took another step forward.
As if compelled to obey despite the look of determination on her face, Brenna’s fingers stiffly released the knife and she lifted a shaking hand away from the danger.
“No! No, you can’t be here,” Adoamros hissed. He lay stretched forward, a hand hovering over the small of Brenna’s back, his eyes pinned to Dean as if seeing an apparition.
“Stow it, Gandalf,” Dean snapped, his eyes on Brenna’s cowering form. “Brenna, come here.”
Brenna blinked, as if she, too, were working to believe Dean was truly standing in the crypt with her. She didn’t move. Dean took another step toward her, aware of Griffin and Sam moving to either side of his periphery, aware of Virgil at his back, aware of the almost palpable tension in the room. The air was electric; it was the moment before a lightning strike.
“STOP!” Adoamros roared, rolling away from Brenna and hopping lithely to his feet. “She’s mine.”
Dean spared the wizard a malicious glance. “You didn’t get me, you didn’t get my brother, and you’re not getting her.”
“She is mine! He led me to her!” The wizard took a step to the side, putting himself between Dean and Brenna.
Dean’s jaw was so tight he thought he felt his teeth crack. His stomach muscles coiled, his fingers curled against his palms. Sweat ran unchecked down the sides of his face as the night air reached a peak that made the heat seem almost visible.
“We’re done here, man,” Dean said.
“No,” the wizard shook his head, sliding toward Brenna once again. He spread his hands at his sides and Dean felt the pressure in the room increase. “No, this is not the way it happens. This is not the way!”
Adoamros began to mutter, a low hum of words that sounded like bees trapped against glass and made no sense. He stood between Brenna and her saviors, pinning her with position against the opened coffin of Lane Carter. Dean willed Brenna to move, screaming silently with every cell in his body.
Move, baby, get away from him, GO!
She seemed frozen to the spot, broken somehow. She simply stared at him, her eyes wide and predatory, though no one touched her. Blood and bruising marred her fine-boned features, her shirt was torn, her wrists and knuckles scuffed. Rage rolled inside of Dean, making him tremble.
“Sam,” Dean said, his voice low.
“I got it,” Sam replied, confidence etching the dimly lit room with certainty. Dean saw him reach to his back pocket and remove papers that he’d stuffed there back in the rail car.
The wizard’s voice sped up as he slowly raised his arms away from his body. The room began to hum, pressure rattling the stained glass windows, wind emanating from an unseen source swirling around them, slapping the vines that grew in the corners of the stone room against the walls and sending thick cobwebs skittering across their faces. The candles flamed higher, illuminating the room and defying the power of the wind.
Sam began reading, hesitantly at first, his voice stuttering and stalling as the unnatural wind pushed at them from all sides. Dean took advantage as his brother pulled the wizard’s attention and stepped toward Brenna. Just as he did, Griffin moved toward the knife.
“No!” Dean spat as Griffin reached out.
Griffin shot him a black look. “Stay out of this!”
Sam’s voice rose in tempo with the wizard’s, whatever he was reading managing to hold the wind at bay for a moment. Dean had lost track of Virgil in his efforts to get to Brenna and keep Griffin away from the Kestrel Dagger.
“It’ll kill you!” Dean grabbed Griffin’s sleeve
“Bull shit,” Griffin snarled, shoving Dean backwards. “You think this pig sticker’s gonna keep you from Hell?”
Sam’s voice filled Dean’s ears, desperation beginning to edge out composure.
“If Hell wants you, ain’t nothing gonna save you, boy.” Griffin reached for the knife once more.
All sound, all sensation, all fear, all worry, all regret, all hope slipped beyond his control and he attacked. He slammed into the older hunter, feeling the jarring impact echo through his weakened body as he bore them to the floor, Griffin’s back taking the brunt.
Not allowing Griffin a moment to recover, Dean reared up and slammed his fist against the hunter’s jaw, his silver ring opening up the man’s cheek and splashing crimson across the stone floor. Dean hit him again, his throat beginning to vibrate from the low scream of anger and pain that shook loose from his gut.
He heard his name, but it wasn’t Sam’s voice. He ignored it, hitting Griffin again, feeling the man go slack in his grip.
A hand touched his shoulder and he turned, fist drawn back, blood in his eyes, ready to lash out. Two seconds before he struck, blue eyes registered in his vision and he pulled up short.
“Virge?” he croaked, awareness returning. He released Griffin, turning and searching the room for his brother. Virgil kept a loose grip on his bicep as they faced the battle of wills across the room.
The heat in the crypt was almost unbearable. Dean gasped as the breath was sucked from his lungs by the increasing wind. He searched frantically for Sam, seeing him across the room, papers before him flipping and folding in the gale, the tendons in his neck taut and straining, his face red from screaming Latin phrases back at the wizard.
In contrast, Adoamros looked eerily calm, showing for the first time since the brothers had encountered him a union with the magic that had elongated his life and stolen his humanity. His words were whispered, their volume stolen by the wind, his face pale and serene, his hands spread, one toward Sam, the other, Dean realized with horror, reaching back to Brenna, knowing instinctively that touching her could spell their doom.
“No,” Dean whispered, looking at her.
She was pinned against the crypt, head back, lips trembling. Dean started to push to his feet, but stumbled, his body giving in to weakness. His head spun, his breath caught, and he felt the sensation of movement at his back, realizing belatedly that Virgil had grabbed his gun from his waist and was pointing it at the wizard.
“Stop it!” Virgil demanded.
As if batting a fly, Adoamros blinked in the blue-eyed man’s direction and sent him flying. Dean’s head whipped to the side as he watched Virgil hit the wall of the crypt, the gun slipping from his fingers. Dean reached back and grabbed his Bowie from its sheath tucked into his waistband. He stood and raised the knife in one motion.
“Wait,” Griffin spoke up from his crumpled position at Dean’s feet.
Dean didn’t bother looking at him. He heard his brother’s voice wavering, felt the heat of the room, the pressure of the power, saw the fear in Brenna’s tight face and threw the knife at the wizard. As if bouncing off of an invisible shield, the Bowie ricocheted, flying back at Dean and causing him to drop to the floor to avoid being skewered. Virgil dodged, rolling away, arms covering his astonished features as he stared at what until now had been impossible.
Dean looked up, his eyes locking for one moment with Sam’s. This is it, isn’t it? Sam’s eyes seemed to be asking.
“No!” Dean shook his head. “No way, Sammy.” He looked at the wizard, seeing him reach back for Brenna, realizing what he was going to do a heartbeat before his fingers closed around Brenna’s wrist. Son of a bi—
He wasn’t able to complete the curse. As power connected with power, the room seemed to implode. He heard the start of Brenna’s scream, the beginning of glass shattering, the first syllable of his name captured in his brother’s rough voice.
Then all was silent and white.
He was drifting, floating.
He saw sparks, like fireworks in his mind.
His face was wet.
And his body hurt.
The sharp burst of pain in his chest when he finally drew a breath again brought him from the nothing of white space to the harsh, smoky reality of darkness. He coughed, pressing the flat of his hand against his chest, rolling to his side.
“Sam?” he tried. His voice was gone, stolen by heat and rage. He coughed again. “Sam?”
Only the sound of crumbling stone and falling glass met his ears. He blinked, his eyes watering as he peered around the darkened room, the candles having finally succumbed to the power of the wizard’s wind. Virgil lay near him, eyes closed, chest moving in slow, even breaths. Griffin had rolled to a slumped, seated position, holding his head in his hands.
The wizard was standing across the room, staring straight ahead, his mouth agape, face pale, fingers still on Brenna’s wrist. It was almost as if connecting with Brenna’s natural-born power had shorted him out, sending the wizard’s sense spinning. Dean shot his gaze to Brenna, feeling the slow thrum of his heart slam hard against the prison of his ribs.
She was standing behind the wizard, her battered form appearing smaller somehow, her eyes too large for her face, and, Dean saw with true fear, completely black. No gold edged the enlarged pupils as before. It was as if her power had taken over and there was nothing of Brenna left.
Their stance felt unreal, their stillness unnatural. Dean rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands, blinking through the starlit room, trying to make sense of what was before his eyes. Coughing again, he pushed carefully to his knees, feeling oddly detached from his own body, his stomach dropping when he realized the one form he didn’t see inside the ruined crypt was Sam.
“Sam!” He called, his voice sounding to his own ears like sandpaper on glass.
Something dripped into his left eye and he blinked it away, frowning as it stuck to his lashes. He swiped at it with the back of his hand and was slightly surprised to see his hand come back red.
“Answer me!” he called.
Virgil groaned beside him, stirring. Griffin still held his head, not moving. Dean used the wall to pull himself to his feet, hating the weakened tremble of his legs as they held his weight. He looked at the oddly frozen figures of the wizard and Brenna, aching to go to her, but anxious to see his brother in one piece.
“Sam, goddammit! You answer me right now!” He yelled, desperation lending strength to both his voice and his body. He took a step forward, glancing through the broken stained-glass window. One glance told him why Sam wasn’t answering.
His brother lay outside the crypt in the rubble of the glass, unconscious.
“Oh, Jesus, Sammy,” Dean breathed.
He stumbled forward, hauling himself through the broken door, falling to his knees, and crawling to his brother’s side, clumsy fingers searching desperately for the beat of Sam’s heart.
He felt dizzy with relief when the steady cadence met his search.
“Sammy?” Dean whispered, cupping his brother’s slack face with a bruised, dirty hand. “Open your eyes, little brother.”
When Sam didn’t comply, Dean carefully reached for his brother’s shoulder, rolling Sam to his side, and slid his hands down Sam’s back, searching. His fingers felt the wetness of his brother’s blood, but not as much as he feared, and caught on several shards of glass. Wincing, Dean pulled Sam’s limp body up into a semi-seated position, wrapping an arm around his brother’s back, resting his head on his shoulder as he probed the back of Sam’s head.
He felt a good-sized knot that was going to give Sam a headache for awhile, but no gaping wounds. The edges of his vision swirled in as he started to breathe again. He clutched at Sam a moment more, cold memory threatening to swamp him as he relived another moment where Sam’s weight bowed his back and filled his arms.
“You’re gonna be okay, Sammy,” Dean whispered against Sam’s hair. “You did real good in there.”
The heat of the night seemed to surge around them and Dean gasped with the shock of it. Sam stirred slightly in his arms and Dean held on tighter, craning his neck to see around his brother’s broad shoulders. He could barely make out the figures inside the crypt as the wan starlight filtered through the broken windows. He saw the starlight reflect off of Virgil’s pale arm as he reached for Brenna.
“Brenna, honey,” Virgil whispered. “Bren, look at me.”
Dean felt his muscle tighten as Virgil’s fingers found Brenna’s skin. Her scream sliced Dean’s heart. It was rage and denial and fear and need wrapped up in a hawk-like cry that tore through the graveyard, startling birds from trees and shaking Sam into awareness.
“Dean?” Sam mumbled, his mouth pressed to Dean’s shoulder.
Dean didn’t reply. He simply held his brother close, staring with confusion and awe as Brenna finally pulled free of the wizard’s grip. She backed away until she was in shadow from the starlight, until he couldn’t see her any more.
But he could hear her.
“Don’t touch me,” she rasped. “Stay away.”
“Brenna, honey, it’s me. It’s Virge.”
“Stay back!” Her voice broke on the final word and Dean felt Sam stiffen in his arms.
“Dean?” Sam said, his voice clearing as he pulled away from Dean’s shoulder. “Ah!” he cried as the glass shards in his back made themselves known.
With burning eyes, Dean watched Virgil whirl and face the statue-like wizard, rage triggering nerve that had been dormant until this moment.“You did this,” Dean heard Virgil growl at the smaller man. “You did this to her.”
Dean eased Sam away from his body, holding his brother’s face between his hands, their eyes meeting.
“Dean,” Sam breathed, his eyes closing in pain. “Go.” He pulled further away from Dean, and slumped against the side of the crypt as Dean struggled to his knees.
“I’ll be right back,” Dean promised, pushing himself upright and stumbling back into the crypt in time to see Virgil lunge for the wizard.
Adoamros took the hit, his face impassive, his body collapsing like a house of cards against the force of Virgil’s fury. Dean’s eyes darted around the floor of the crypt, searching for a weapon—his gun, knife, anything. His eyes caught on the Kestral Dagger.
And Griffin’s hand closing over the amethyst hilt.
In that moment, Dean’s world began to rotate in a miasmic kaleidoscope of colors and time, leaving him at the core, unable to affect even one of the events spiraling them all toward a tragic end. Adoamros came to life as Griffin grabbed the knife. The wizard struck back as Virgil advanced, sending the blue-eyed man to the floor in a gasping heap.
Adoamros rose with unnatural swiftness, moving with a hovering grace past the tilted coffin that cradled his brother’s wasted body. Faded bits of a conversation saturated in pain and blood swam back to Dean as he bent quickly to feel around on the ground for the can of salt.
I think he was talking to him…
Maybe he was…
Adoamros’ power had a source greater than spells. Something was enabling him to keep control of the dagger for all these years. Something was leading him to his victims. And Dean was betting all their lives that he knew what that something was.
As the wizard focused on Griffin, Dean skirted the edge of the room, not daring to look at Brenna, unscrewing the cap on the salt can as he went. He stayed in the shadows, slipping between the coffin and the stone wall, keeping the body between himself and the others in the room.
“You’re done, freak,” Griffin smirked, standing, the dagger balanced expertly in his grip.
Adoamros didn’t reply, he simply stood before Griffin, looking up at the hunter with a mild expression. Dean slipped a box of matches from his pocket, hoping the mummified strips of cloth would be enough to catch fire without the aid of accelerant.
“What are you grinning at?” Griffin scoffed, his voice edging on nervous. “You got nothing left.”
“I have you,” Adoamros purred. “And your greed.”
As Dean started to dump the salt on the caved in chest of Lane Carter, he felt pressure against his belly, like a large hand shoving him back, pinning him to the wall. He groaned, fighting against the power, the can of salt falling from his numb fingers as he struggled. Through blurred eyes he watch Griffin raise the dagger, advancing on the wizard. He wanted to tell Griffin to drop the knife, to try one more time, but the fight to pull away from the wall overpowered his capacity to speak.
Pinned to the wall, the opened coffin between him and the older hunter, Dean watched helplessly as the candles once again sprang to life, burning blue, then surging up to a white-orange flame. He stared as Griffin and the wizard seemed to dance in the light of the flames, a slowly choreographed struggle for power and dominance over the diamond-studded blade. He clenched his teeth, straining against the frustrating immobility, working to reach the salt can once again. And then Griffin lunged.
Though pointed toward Adoamros, when Griffin thrust the knife forward, the blade shimmered, shifting in his grip, blade and handle swapping positions so that the knife now pointed at Griffin. Unable to stop his forward momentum, Griffin walked into the blade. It buried itself to the hilt in his body with a smooth, silent motion.
Dean flinched, narrowing his eyes to block both the heat and the sight of Griffin’s shock as he fell to one knee. Dean felt the invisible grip at his middle go slack as Adoamros jerked the knife free, blood spilling across the blade and onto the wizard’s hands. He began to chant, Latin slipping over his lips like syrup. Dean slipped down the wall, landing in a heap.
Griffin gasped, a strangled, desperate sound, and locked eyes with Dean. He fell forward, catching himself on one hand, then falling to his elbow and finally his back. Dean pulled further back into the shadow from the fire while Griffin’s body shook, arched, then finally collapsed as his breath escaped one last time. It was over so quickly; one minute Griffin was fighting, the next, he lay still. Dean felt cold creep through him despite the heat.
He grimaced as the wizard faced him, voice rising, the blood slicked knife glistening in the light from the dancing flames. Shocked, Dean saw the blood being absorbed into the dagger’s blade. A glow began to suffuse the weapon, traveling up Adoamros’ arm to his body, his face reflecting spasms of pleasure.
In the next moment the candles died and the wizard was standing in front of Dean.
“Now,” he whispered, his fetid breath skimming Dean’s face, “I only need one more.”
Dean snarled, lunged, but was slammed forcefully against the wall, the back of his head cracking painfully against the stone, the eerie feeling of fingers at his throat.
“Not gonna find his soulmate anytime soon,” Dean rasped, straining away from the wall.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Adoamros said, his eyes flicking toward where Brenna hid in the shadows. “With her power… I no longer need the soul’s mate… I simply need the soul.”
“Son of a bitch,” Dean growled through teeth clenched in fury. His gut twisted as the implications of what the wizard had done to Brenna shook him with brutal force. He needed to get to her. Now.
The smell of death permeated the room, drifting in the heat-saturated air from the wasted, rotted body of Lane Carter.
“Gonna be hard to find the soul without your guide,” Dean said, his lip curling in hatred and disgust, his body thrumming from abuse. Sweat rolled down the sides of his face mixing with the blood congealing there. “I’m gonna toast his ass.”
Adoamros spared his brother’s ashes a glance. “It won’t matter,” the wizard crooned, “he’s a part of me.”
Dean’s eyebrows met over the bridge of his nose. “Dude, you’re crazy on toast.”
Adoamros stood, looking down at Virgil, then back at Brenna.
“Hey,” Dean barked. “You want a soul?” He pulled his shoulders free from the grip of power, leaning forward.
“Don’t bother,” the wizard said, dully. “Yours was wasted in a desperate act. Hers,” he tilted his head as he gazed at Brenna, “is of no more use to me. But… his…”
The wizard turned to Virgil, stepping forward gracefully.
“N-no, stop…” Dean heard Brenna breathe, her voice so broken that his heart skipped at the sound.
“Some wizard!” Dean taunted, straining against the invisible hold, feeling it weaken as the wizard focused on Virgil, who was slowly pushing himself away from the threat. He fumbled clumsy fingers into the pocket of his jeans, searching for the matches he’d stashed there. “You stirred up a little windstorm. Somebody call Guinness.”
Adoamros glanced over his shoulder at Dean. “I can silence you.”
“Give it your best shot, Sparky,” Dean snarled, working to ignore the tightening sensation at the base of his throat.
“You may not be able to feed me,” Adoamros said, turning his back on Virgil and advancing on Dean, “but I’m tired of your… antics.”
“Cry me a river,” Dean strained, his throat working against the invisible grip. As he choked out words, the hold tightened, bruising skin and collapsing his airway. “The on-only reason you’re st-still alive is… because… we…”
He was fading, the world graying, his breath all but stilled as his throat closed, choking him. The sound of the gunshot echoed in the hollow behind his ears and he felt all bonds released. He sagged to the floor, gasping, choking for breath, his world spinning.
“We thought you were human,” Virgil said, darkly. “Turns out, we were wrong.”
Dean lifted blurry eyes to see the faded image of the wizard holding his wounded arm, the knife blade glinting from the ground where it had fallen. Virgil sat against the wall, Dean’s .45 clutched in his grip, its barrel shaking as he pointed it at the wizard.
“Sh-shoot him…” Dean said, his voice barely audible. “Vir-Virge, shoot the bastard!”
Virgil took aim once more, but with a snarl of anger, the wizard bent, grabbed the knife, and before Dean could so much as take another breath, he turned, slipped through the crumbling doorway, and headed out into the night. The knife gripped firmly in his hands, death on his mind.
“I-I couldn’t… I couldn’t do it,” Virgil said, lowering the gun, obviously feeling the effects of the fight. “I’m sorry…”
Dean rolled his head weakly, turning to look at Brenna. He could see her hands clasped around her knees, her bare feet poking out, but the shadows hid her face, her eyes.
“What do we do now?” Virgil asked, his voice lost.
Dean swallowed, struggling to his knees and crawling the few spaces toward Griffin. The hunter was dead, his eyes barely parted, his lips white, flecks of blood drying at the corners of his mouth.
“I mean… we can’t just let him go.”
Virgil’s voice became a low hum in Dean’s background. He pulled himself painfully to his feet, gripping the edge of the coffin as he bent to retrieve the can of salt. Slowly unscrewing the lid, Dean covered the gaping maw of fractured teeth, the sunken chest, the fingers curled into claws, the crooked leg bones with the purifying mineral.
“He’s going to kill someone else!” Virgil yelled.
“Not if I can help it,” Dean said, his voice a soft shadow of Virgil’s frustration.
He flicked the head of a match with his thumbnail, lighting the edges of the rags hanging from Lane’s body. He did that in three more places, stepping back as the flames caught, burning the bones and filling the small area with an all-too-familiar stench. He backed away from the flames and trudged out into the dying night to check on Sam.
“You okay?” Dean said, crouching in front of Sam’s slumped form.
Sam simply looked at him.
“Can you move?”
“Probably,” Sam whispered. His fingers were blood-covered where he’d been working some of the glass shards from the backs of his arms. “Hurts like a bitch, though.”
“You’re going to be okay, Sammy.” Dean traced gentle fingers down the back of Sam’s torn shirt, counting the glass fragments still embedded in Sam’s skin.
“What about,” Sam swallowed, blinking heavy-lidded eyes as he lifted weak fingers to touch the new cut on Dean’s forehead, then dropping to the bruises rising on Dean’s neck. “What about you?”
“I’m okay,” Dean said, rolling Sam toward him and grimacing at the sound of Sam’s barely-suppressed whimper. “I burned the brother.”
“Could slow him down.” Dean winced as he pulled a shallow piece of glass free, feeling Sam shudder against him.
“Virge’s right, Dean.”
Dean sank slowly to his knees, Sam shifting with the motion to lie awkwardly against him. The night was ebbing, the sun working once more to take over the sky. The world began to slowly wake around them. What should have been a cool, dew-filled dawn, however, was simply a shift toward the impossible: more heat. It shimmered in the air around them, making movements sluggish, making breathing laborious.
In the distance, a train whistle cut through the hot silence, shaking Dean from a stupor of exhaustion. Sam’s head was on his shoulder, hip against his thigh, breath hot on his neck.
“What?” Dean asked, trying to pull his scattered thoughts together. He felt like something inside of him had been dropped, cracking with tiny fissures, weakening to the point of shattering. “What did you say?”
“Virge is right,” Sam repeated. “We can’t just let him go. We have to finish this.”
Dean looked over Sam’s tangled hair to see Virgil crouching in front of where he knew Brenna was sitting, the fading fire throwing odd shadows across his back.
“Sam… Griffin’s dead,” Dean said, feeling as if the only thing keeping him together in that moment was the barrier of his skin. “Brenna’s…” Gone? Broken? Empty? “Hurt. You’re a pincushion. Virge isn’t thinking straight.”
“We gotta do this, Dean,” Sam said.
“She’s not coming out,” Virgil said suddenly behind him. “She won’t even say anything. Whatever that bastard did, she’s buried so far down inside herself…”
“Virge—“ Dean started.
“You do what you have to,” Virgil said, looking once at Sam’s back, his blue eyes electric in the morning like, off-set by dirt and bruises. “But I’m going after him. “
“What!” Dean started to push Sam away, started to get to his feet, unable to untangle himself quickly enough as Virgil stalked past them, Dean’s .45 in his grip. “Virgil! Wait!”
“Go, Dean,” Sam pushed him away weakly, “I’ll be okay here.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Dean proclaimed. “I can’t… I can’t leave you two here.”
“I’ll be okay,” Sam breathed. “I’ll watch her until you come back.” He started to push himself to his feet.
“Like hell!” Dean exclaimed. “You’re cut-up pretty bad, Sammy.”
“It’s not as bad as—“ Sam hissed as he stood, gripping the side of the crypt for balance. Dean stood with him, tucking his shoulder into Sam’s chest, supporting him.
“Here,” Dean said, “let’s get you inside.”
Sam didn’t argue, his face pale in the early morning light. Dean eased him down inside the crypt near Brenna’s hiding place, then, with a promise to be right back turned and headed out of the crypt toward the Impala. He felt the weight of his borrowed clothes on his skin as he moved, felt the air cling to his exposed skin like a blanket.
There was a hollow in his chest, and it echoed with each step, shaking through his pounding head and shimmering through his heavy limbs. As he reached the Impala, he saw Virgil rifling through the back of Griffin’s black truck. He knew the paramedic was looking for more weapons, but was too weary to make something of it.
He opened the trunk, the train whistle sounding once more in the distance, the sound carried by the heat toward them. Shoving aside bags of clothes and weapons, he grabbed the med kit they were rarely without and closed the trunk.
“You go alone, you’re going to get yourself killed,” Dean pointed out, not looking directly at Virgil.
“Maybe,” Virgil replied.
“What’s she going to do without you, man?” Dean looked at him askance, surprising himself with the question.
Virgil lifted wounded eyes, his heart held there for Dean to see. “She never really needed me anyway.”
Dean swallowed, looking down. “I think she needs you more than you know.”
Virgil hopped down from the truck, a Sig in his one hand, ammo in the other, Dean’s gun tucked into the front of his jeans. “If taking out this… this wizard guy brings her back… then nothing else matters.”
Dean felt his heart stop, then sluggishly beat once more. Memories of Brenna hit him with force, staggering him slightly and causing Virgil to reach out instinctively.
“Hey, man, you okay?”
The flash of her eyes when she caught him in the garage at her grandfather’s Inn, the hum of his skin as they touched, the taste of her mouth the first time, the taste of her body the last, the sound of her laughing, the sound of her yelling, the sound of her screaming, the soft whisper of truth as she saw more deeply into him than anyone had bothered to look…
“Do you love her, man… it’s okay if you do…”
He vaguely recalled answering his brother, saying words he’d never thought he’d say aloud. He’d never said it to her, never trusted himself to really know if the emotions he felt around her were driven by honesty or need.
“’M okay,” Dean muttered shrugging of Virgil’s arm. “Don’t go anywhere.”
“Dude, just,” Dean pinned him with fierce eyes. “Just wait for me.”
Not giving Virgil a chance to reply, Dean headed back to the crypt and to Sam. His brother hadn’t moved and looked as if he might’ve passed out once more. Dean knelt in front of Sam, positioned between his brother and Brenna’s hidden form. He opened the med kit, removing the scissors and touching Sam’s arm carefully to warn him.
“I’m back, man,” Dean said softly.
Sam frowned, but didn’t open his eyes. He shifted slightly and Dean began to cut the T-shirt off of Sam’s body. “At least the magic cuts are still stitched. Virge did a good job with that.”
He wet a thick gauze pad with antiseptic and cleaned the cuts he could see along Sam’s exposed arm. The bleeding had stopped.
“This might hurt a bit, brother,” Dean said, keeping his voice low and calm.
He moved to Sam’s back, biting his lip at the site of the three hunks of glass sticking into the muscles there. Using the over-sized tweezers Sam had purchased awhile back, after they’d finished the job at Roosevelt Asylum and Dean had half a dozen chunks of rocksalt embedded in his chest, Dean gripped the largest of the shards and pulled it cleanly from Sam’s skin.
“Ah!” Sam woke with a cry. “Holy shit!”
“Easy, man,” Dean crooned, resting his hand on Sam’s bare shoulder, knowing from practice that touch was one of the only things to calm Sam down when he was hurt. “It’s okay, Sam. It’ll be over soon.”
“What the hell, Dean…”
“Just hang in there… one minute… longer…” Dean pulled the second shard out as Sam bit his lip to quiet the scream building in his throat. “Almost… done… there.”
Sam sagged against the wall, panting and trembling. Dean continued to talk calmly, keeping one hand on the back of Sam’s neck as he cleaned the larger of the lacerations, removing the comforting touch only when he had to tape gauze patches over the wounds.
“You need to shift a little, Sammy,” Dean instructed. “Gotta get to that other arm.”
“Where is everybody?” Sam asked weakly. “Are they gone?”
“No,” Dean said, glancing over his shoulder at Brenna. He wanted to see her face, but kept cleaning Sam’s cuts. “They’re still here. ‘Cept Mr. Soul Eater. He ran off. There, you’re all set.”
Sam rotated until he could rest his back gingerly against the wall. “Feels better.”
Dean grinned slightly. “Always were a lousy liar, Sam.”
“The train,” Sam said suddenly.
“Yeah, I heard it,” Dean nodded, cleaning up the med kit.
“No, I mean, that’s where he’s going. Adoamros.”
Dean frowned. “The train?”
“He’s gonna ride the rails. Hard to track, get him to another town…”
“Wouldn’t he want to bring the last one back to his brother? Or the cave?”
Sam shrugged slightly, wrapping his arms across his bare chest as if he were cold, though Dean could see sweat beading on the scabbed-over tattoo and gathering in the hollow of Sam’s throat.
“If I were him,” Sam said softly, “I’d jump on the train.”
“Where’s Virge?” came a soft voice from the shadows.
Sam jumped slightly and Dean looked over toward Brenna. “He’s waiting for me outside.”
“You’re leaving?” Brenna asked.
“We’re gonna… uh, we’re gonna try to stop him,” Dean said, shifting closer to the shadows, pausing only when he saw her pull her bare toes from the beam of light and closer towards her.
“Kill him,” she said.
Dean looked down, feeling the fissures inside of him crack a little deeper at the venom in her voice.
“He isn’t human anymore,” Sam said softly, giving Dean an out.
His head down, Dean raised his eyes to Sam. “Watch her.”
“I will,” Sam promised.
“Brenna…” Dean tried, unsure how to say goodbye.
He didn’t know how this was going to play out, but chances were high that one of them wouldn’t return to the two that stayed behind. Unable to find the words, Dean stood, looked back once, then headed out to the heat of the day and Virgil.
Sam stared at Griffin’s body.
They’d warned him. They’d tried to save him. And there he lay. Moving stiffly, Sam pulled his legs underneath him, rising to his knees and peering closer at Griffin’s face. In his life, dead didn’t always stay dead. And he’d never trusted Griffin.
“He’s gone, Sam,” Brenna whispered.
Sam jerked back as if she’d caught him in a lewd act.
“I know,” he said defensively, “I just wanted to—“
“Will he be back?” She asked, her voice wounded and young.
It took Sam a moment to realize that Brenna wasn’t talking about Griffin.
“He’ll be back,” Sam promised. He scooted closer to her, sitting at the edge of her shadow of protection. His back throbbed and he felt cold without his shirt on, despite the oppressive heat.
“Dean or Virge?” She asked.
Dean, Sam thought. “They both will.”
“That wizard said my soul… he said it was… that it didn’t have a mate,” Brenna whispered, her voice catching on the confession.
“He’s crazy, Brenna,” Sam said, matching her volume. “Everyone has a match out there somewhere.”
He’d never really thought about his match being his brother, but it made sense to him with all they’d been through in their lives. All they’d fought for and against. All they’d sacrificed for just one more day. One more chance. He looked closer into the shadow, able to see Brenna’s drawn face in the dim light.
The broken expression, the bowed mouth, the haunted eyes stabbed deep into him, showing him a future he shrank from. A future without his brother, a future wandering lost, fighting evil for the sake of fighting, saving nothing, including himself. He saw himself bereft and alone, a useless husk of humanity trapped in a world without purpose or light.
He would save Dean, or die trying. And if the worst happened, if he lost Dean to the pit, if he lost Dean at all, he had the perfect example to follow in the wake of tragedy: his father.
John had returned to the only structure that hadn’t abandoned him when Mary died. Being a soldier saved John’s life, kept them all alive. Sam knew how to live like a soldier. He knew how to survive like one. He knew how to fight like one. He knew that he’d be able to save himself, and perhaps one day, save Dean.
“What’s it like, Sam?” Brenna asked.
He scooted even closer, his wounded arm slipping under her shadow—not touching, but close enough that he could feel the heat from her body.
“What’s what like?”
“Having that… having him. Having someone… sacrifice for you. Because of you.”
Sam looked down, his eyes burning. “It’s… hell.”
Brenna sniffed. Sam didn’t look up.
“It’s everything you wanted and nothing you’d ask for,” Sam continued. “I love my brother. But I hate him, too. And I… sometimes I can’t find that line, y’know?”
“Because he…” Sam swallowed, his weary body weeping for him when his eyes lost the essence of tears. “Because he gives everything but never asks me what I want.”
“You’d rather be dead?”
Sam looked over at her. “Rather than watch him die? Hell, yeah.”
Brenna swallowed. “I’d rather be dead.”
“I don’t want to see what I see. I don’t want to see… anything.”
Sam felt his inside tighten with her pain. He instinctively reached for her, needing to offer comfort through touch. Brenna sensed him and drew back.
“God, Sam, please…” she begged, her voice cracking. “Don’t touch me! It’s… there’s too much… too many voices…” She shuddered and Sam saw her press the palms of her hands to her temples. “The light is too bright.”
With that whispered confession, she broke, tears wracking from her on broken-hearted sobs. Sam bit his lip, curling his hands into his fists. He didn’t reach to touch her again. He simply sat against the wall as she cried, protecting her from the harsh light of day.
He knew there was only one thing that would heal her—he just didn’t know if she’d ever allow it.
“This is an amazing car, but,” Virgil said tightly, gripping the doorframe of the Impala’s passenger window, “I don’t think it can outrun a train.”
“Don’t need to out run it,” Dean said briskly, his body rebelling with barely-suppressed whimpers as they bounced over the ruts in the field along the train tracks. “Just need to catch it.”
“You’re gonna tear up your suspension, man!”
“She’ll hold together,” Dean snapped, then winced as the Impala shuddered over a particularly deep rut. “Hear me, baby? Hold together,” he murmured.
“There it is,” Virgil called out. “I think it’s stopped at the water tower.”
“Fantastic,” Dean slowed the Impala, pulling to a stop near a small clump of trees. He climbed out, wavering a bit as the heat wrapped around him, and closed the door. He looked around. “I better be able to find her again.”
“You will,” Virgil said, shoving a clip into the Sig he borrowed from Griffin’s truck. “Here.” He handed Dean the .45. “You might need this.”
Virgil swallowed, tucking the Sig into his waistband. “Hell no,” he said. “I’m trained to save lives, not take ‘em.”
“Why are you here, then?” Dean asked, walking toward the caboose of the train as the squeal of metal on metal met his ears. The train was starting to move.
“’Cause I…” Virgil stopped talking as he jogged up to match Dean’s strides. “I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
Dean nodded once. “I hear that.”
The train began to pull away and the duo broke into a lope, grasping the metal ladder at the back of the caboose and pulling themselves up. Dean began to climb, making room for Virgil on the ladder.
“Now what?” Dean called down to him over the clacking of the wheels as the train picked up speed.
“Hell if I know!” Virgil called back.
Dean shook his head. Way to think ahead, Winchester… He climbed up to the top of the caboose, crawling up and bracing himself on all fours as the train rocked. The roof was metal like the sides of the car, slightly sloped, with ridges every four feet running horizontally across the space and a vertical stretch of boards about three feet wide running the length of the car.
“He’s on the train,” Dean whined to himself, balancing on the flat of the board walk-way, “just go get him, get the knife, come on back. No problem.”
“Who are you talking to?” Virgil called, crawling up beside him. The wind from the train’s motion lifted his hat from his head, blowing it away before Virgil could catch it.
“My pain in the ass little brother,” Dean grumbled, glancing over at Virgil, trying to get used to the sight of the man without the red baseball cap. “How are we going to figure out what car this guy’s in?”
“Uhh…” Virgil looked around. “I’m gonna say… that one.” He nodded forward as the train curved around a bend.
Four cars up, Adoamros stood in the opened door of a seemingly empty rail car, staring back at them.
“Huh,” Dean folded his lips down. “Gotta say I did not see that coming.”
“Let’s go,” Virgil started forward.
“Hold up,” Dean grabbed his arm. “Listen, uh, if this thing goes south… I need you to promise me something.”
Virgil frowned. “What?”
“Promise me that you’ll… watch out for my brother. Keep an eye on Sammy.”
Virgil swallowed and looked down. “I don’t know what it is about you, man.”
“What do you mean?” Dean released Virgil’s arm.
“Last time you left, you asked me to look out for Brenna,” Virgil pinned Dean with his bright blue eyes. “Keeping that promise changed my life.”
Dean nodded. “Yeah, I know.”
“I don’t think you do,” Virgil replied. “See, you can go. Anytime. You love her, maybe, but you have this… this life that pulls you away. Like some kind of… superhero.”
Dean simply watched him, his body aching from balancing on the top of the rail car, hot wind stealing the moisture from his eyes.
“And there’s no competing with that. ‘Cause whatever you feel about her… Brenna loves you, man.”
Dean looked down.
“And Sam… I come back without you and Sam’s not gonna make it.”
Dean’s eyes snapped up. “Yes. He is.”
“I know you want to believe that, but—“
“I don’t want to, I have to.” Dean started forward, the rest of his words tossed over his shoulder. “That knife might save me. Maybe. But no matter what, Sam is gonna make it.”
“Hey, Dean,” Virgil called, stopping Dean once more. “I promise.”
Dean met Virgil’s eyes, nodding. “Good. Now let’s get this bastard.”
He moved forward again until he reached the end of the caboose and looked down. The tracks swam dizzily beneath him, blurred with speed. The wind from the motion of the train pulled at his short hair and buffeted his shoulders.
“Jesus Christ,” Virgil exclaimed, peering over the edge. “No way we’d survive a fall from here. Those wheels would chop us into dog chow.”
Dean frowned at him. “Okay then, no falling.”
“Right,” Virgil nodded, still staring down.
Dean rotated on his belly, swinging his legs over the end and gripping the edge as he searched for purchase with his toes. Finding a lip on the side of the caboose, he balanced for a moment, taking a breath, then released his grip with one hand to reach across the opening between cars and grab the other ladder. He pulled himself across, then began to climb, willing Virgil to follow.
As he crested the top of the second, longer, rail car, the sun reflected brightly off a shiny surface above him, causing him to squint and duck. That last minute motion saved his life.
“Almost a century I’ve survived,” Adoamros railed.
Dean pulled his gun free. “You just hadn’t met the right hunter,” he grunted, blocking another swipe of the Kestrel’s blade with the barrel, knocking the wizard off balance.
Taking advantage of the space, Dean scrambled to the top of the car, standing on shaky legs, his gun up and ready.
“You think you can defeat me?!” Adoamros yelled, matching Dean’s balanced stance, his eyes cold and wild.
“I think I already have,” Dean shot back. He pulled the trigger, his shot going wide as the train rocked. He fired again, clicking on an empty chamber.
Cursing, he lunged at the wizard, dodging a slice of the Kestrel, going to one knee as the rocking of the train took his balance. He caught the image of Virgil moving past him, gun out, before he could regain his footing.
Virgil fired, his shot ricocheting as he staggered with the motion beneath his feet. Dean stood as Virgil fired again, this time catching the wizard on the cheek. Adoamros roared with pain and insult, flinging his arm viciously to the side as if banishing Virgil from his sight. When nothing immediately happened, the wizard blinked in astonishment, then physically crashed into Virgil’s outstretched hand, the Sig flying from Virgil’s grip and off the edge of the train.
Dean moved forward and the wizard rotated, turning his back on them and running. Dean blinked, confused.
“Dude’s got magic on his side and he’s running from two unarmed men? What the hell?”
“It didn’t work,” Virgil said, his legs loosely balanced with the rocking of the train. “He tried to throw me and it didn’t work! He couldn’t hurt me.”
Realization dawned bright. Dean took off, running drunkenly after the wizard, working to catch him before he reached the end of the rail car. When Adoamros leapt, clearing the space between cars and landing in a staggered roll on the top of the next car, Dean skidded to halt.
The wizard looked back, laughing.
“Son of a bitch,” Dean muttered. “I was right!” he yelled over the clacking of the train at the wizard. “Your brother was your source of power and I smoked him!”
“Perhaps!” Adoamros yelled back, holding up the knife. “But I still have this!”
With that he turned and began to walk away.
“Oh, you gotta be kidding me…” Dean took a breath, glancing over his shoulder at Virgil. Backing up several steps, he slipped the gun into his back waistband, then ran for the gap between the two cars.
The leap across the opening was done with his heart in his throat, his breath given to prayer, his eyes wide. He was so astonished that he cleared the distance he forgot to curl into himself and landed in a crashing heap, slipping toward the edge of the car roof, slapping the hot metal surface for purchase and finally stopping.
Catching his breath, he pulled himself to the boardwalk, checking quickly on Virgil, who had yet to make the jump, then turned to head after the escaping wizard.
“Hey!” Dean called, snarling in satisfaction when the wizard froze. “I’m not done with you.”
The air around him flared up with heat, as if the motion of the train and wind wrapping around him, slamming him with the speed of its ferocity, mattered not at all. The wizard turned and advanced; as he did Dean felt the remaining moisture in the air slip away. He opened his mouth in a desperate gasp for air, his eyes burning, blurring, disoriented.
The wizard’s first hit took him across the cheek, sending him stumbling back. He caught his balance and swung back, burying his fist into the soft flesh of the other man’s stomach, feeling a powerful rush when he was able to hurt him.
The wizard was just a man. Flesh, bone, and blood. And he should have been dead a long time ago.
Dean hit him again, driving the wizard backward, unprepared for the sweep to his legs that took him down, slamming his back roughly against the metal roof, the ridges bruising his ribs, the barely-healed sores screaming in pain. His air escaped in a rush and he raised his arms to block the swings as the wizard sat astride him.
Twisting his body, he unseated the smaller man, catching with that motion the sight of Virgil landing in a rolling heap on the roof near him. Nodding once as Virgil regained his balance, Dean flipped around, coming up in a cat-like crouch, facing the wizard once more.
“You’ve got one chance to make it out of this, Carter,” Dean said, purposely humanizing the little man. “I’ll buy that knife from you.”
Adoamros laughed bitterly. “You want to own it? You want to harness its power?”
Dean said nothing.
“You will have to kill me,” Adoamros hissed.
“Have it your way,” Dean shrugged, tightening his hands into fists. “You coulda made twenty bucks.”
Adoamros snarled, an animal sound of insult and rage, then lunged at Dean with the Kestrel dagger. The blade slipped across Dean’s forearm, opening his skin and spilling his blood before Dean could jerk back. The wizard laughed maniacally in triumph, but Dean simply stepped into the man’s space, cracking his elbow up and across the wizard’s face, then finishing the blow with a back-handed slap.
Adoamros staggered back and Dean pressed his advantage, shoving his thumb into the bullet wound on the wizard’s arm, digging deep. Adoamros screamed and jabbed at Dean again. Dean’s dodge to avoid the blade sent him off-balance and he staggered, slipping from the boardwalk and crashing to his knees on the ridges of the metal roof with a cry of pain.
Virgil appeared in that moment, running at the wizard, weaponless, apparently looking to knock the wizard from the train with the force of his body. He slammed into Adoamros, but was flung aside by the surprisingly strong smaller man, tumbling to his knees, but unable to catch himself. He slapped at the metal surface, his eyes shooting up once to catch Dean’s.
Dean watched in horror as Virgil tumbled over the side of the rail car.
Part 6B can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/39371.html>