Characters: Dean, Sam
Spoilers: Set in Season 1. Timeline is one week after the events that take place in Shadow.
Summary: Sometimes it's not the leaving that's hard.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
a/n:Part 2 of the story previously released in the Rooftop Confessions 3 zine, by GriffinSong Press.
He led them down through the shadows toward the elevator, his back, neck and shoulders tense as he waited for the glimmer of cold, the stench of death that warned of the spirit’s return.
They reached the opened shaft door, and Dean released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding at the sight of the elevator car.
“Oh, thank God,” he breathed. “It’s still here.”
“Where else would it be,” Jen whispered in question.
“You don’t want to know,” Dean grumbled, shoving the screwdriver into the crack of the door and jimmying the doors apart. “Keep a look out,” he tossed over his shoulder, listening as Jen pushed Carina behind her and backed them both up to the wall next to Dean, the shotgun pointed out and ready. Dean shoved the doors wide enough apart that he could peek in.
“Dean?!” Sam’s voice was weak and rough, as if he’d been screaming and holding his breath at the same time. “You okay?”
“Helluva lot better now,” came Sam’s relieved response. Dean heard the smile in his brother’s voice.
“Okay, man,” Dean grunted, shoving the door further open, maneuvering his shoulder between them and using a combination of his shoulder and his knee to push the doors completely apart. “You ready to get out of there?”
He could see Sam now, thanks to the graying light from the outside. His brother's bandaged arm was nearly black from seeping blood and his boyish face was pale and drawn. There were smears of blood on the walls where Sam had apparently tried to follow Dean's lead out of the top of the elevator, and Dean could see smeared fingerprints in blood, black in the muted light, around the metal gate that lined the doorway.
Keeping his wounded arm against his belly, Sam worked his way over to the doorway. “How you gonna get that open?” Sam asked as Dean shoved the screwdriver into the bottom of the elevator doors, holding them apart.
Dean took a breath, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, ignoring the tremble even Sam could see. “Got an idea,” he said, reaching into his waistband. “Cover your face.”
Putting his back to Jen and Carina and waiting until Sam had rolled himself away, Dean aimed at the latch on the metal gate and fired. It broke away clean and the outraged screech of supernatural pain that followed the last echoes of the shot sent shivers of dread down Dean’s spine.
“Oh, shit,” Jen breathed.
“You pissed her off now, man,” Sam grunted, scrambling as quickly as his weakened body would allow toward the slim opening between the gate and the elevator door.
Dean reached for Sam’s arm, the dread at the base of his spine finding a home in his belly as the elevator car shook.
“Grab my hand,” Dean barked when Sam hesitated.
“Sam, reach out and grab my hand. Now!”
Dean’s vehement words sparked obedience and Sam did as he was told, grasping Dean’s wrist with his good arm, pushing off of the floor and launching himself toward his brother. With a heave, Dean hauled roughly on Sam’s arm, falling back on his haunches, then tumbling onto his back as he pulled Sam free of the elevator car and on top of him just as the spirit bungeed the car back down toward the basement.
Knowing the spirit wasn’t done toying with the two-ton elevator car, Dean frantically pushed Sam off of him, rolling him away from the door.
“Go go go!” he yelled toward Jen and Carina as the cacophonous rattle of the empty car and broken gate roared back up toward them. The women scrambled to the side, ducking and wrapping their arms over their heads. Dean scuttled across Sam's prone body, blocking it from the open elevator shaft.
As the careening car passed the opening, the gate broke loose and shot out like an eight-foot by four-foot bullet, lurching across the hall and smashing into the opposite wall in a clash of metal. Carina screamed. Jen gasped. Sam groaned from the pain that rolling across his wounded arm had created. Dean swore.
“Son of a freakin’ bitch!”
He pushed himself roughly to his feet as the elevator shot past the opening once more, plummeting toward the bottom floor, then slowly crept back up to the fourth floor like a tease.
“I’ve had enough of this shit, Sam.”
When Sam didn’t reply, Dean bent and turned to him, rolling Sam from his wounded side to his back. There was a swath of blood left from where the flannel-wrapped cut made contact with the floor. Dean gripped the front of his brother’s shirt, cupping his hand behind Sam’s neck, raising his head from the floor.
Sam blinked up at him through the dusty murk left behind in the wake of the gate-bullet.
“Dude,” Sam coughed, “you look like crap.”
“Yeah, well...” Dean winced as his eyes roamed Sam’s arm. “It’s been a helluva day.”
“What happened to your shirt?”
“Spirit tried for a heart-to-heart,” Dean quipped, easing Sam up to a sitting position.
“Lemme guess,” Sam hissed, gripping Dean’s forearm as they worked together to stand. “You weren’t in the caring and sharing mood?”
“Not so much,” Dean replied, holding tight to Sam as his brother wavered against him.
Dean could feel Sam tremble as the shiver of pain shook from Sam’s wounded arm through his chest. Sam was just shy of limp in his grip; even the fist knotted in Dean’s ripped T-shirt was weak. Dean knew his brother. The only way he was going to keep Sam upright and conscious was to give him something to do. Something to focus on.
“Sammy, you gotta get these two outta here, okay?”
“What? Wait.” Sam’s hazel eyes sought Dean’s in the dim light of the hallway. “What about you?”
“Job’s not done, man.” Dean lifted a shoulder.
“Then I’m staying,” Sam asserted.
“What about that Allan guy, huh? Let him get them out.”
“Your brother knocked him out,” Carina said in a small voice.
Sam shot surprised eyes in her direction, then looked back at Dean, eyebrow raised. Dean shrugged.
“Dude, the guy was being an ass. Trust me, you would have done the same thing.”
The chill that surrounded them was sudden and severe. Dean reacted instinctively, releasing Sam and turning to face the direction of the elevator. Without Dean’s sturdy grip, however, Sam’s legs betrayed him and he started to sink to the ground. Dean rotated back to grab him but was knocked off his feet by a harsh, invisible blast of frigid air.
He was pushed past Sam’s crumpling form, Carina’s cowering figure, but as he slid to a rough stop against the wall, he saw through dizzy eyes that Jen had brought his shotgun up and fired both barrels directly toward the blast of cold, past the sprawling bodies in the hallway, causing the spirit to screech once, loudly, then go silent.
Lowering the shotgun, Jen looked over her shoulder toward Dean with wide, scared eyes.
“Y-you said don’t hesitate,” she offered.
Dean shook his head, pushing himself slowly away from the wall. His chest ached, his head pounded fiercely, and he tasted blood in his mouth from where his teeth bounced through his bottom lip upon impact with the wall.
“I sure as hell did.”
He crawled over to Sam, gripping his brother’s shirt and pulling him up and toward him. Sam’s head hung back, his eyes closed. Dean gripped the back of Sam’s neck, pulling his face up.
Sam pried heavy eyes open, his gaze hazy and unfocused.
“Sammy, you with me?” Dean shook Sam gently, his brother’s head bobbing loosely on his neck. When Sam didn’t reply, Dean felt the dread that had settled in his belly tighten into a hard knot of fear. “Sam. Sam!”
Sam blinked, his wide pupils beginning to narrow and focus until Dean found himself able to breathe again.
“Don... don’t feel so... hot, Dean,” Sam slurred.
“I know... I know, man,” Dean said, allowing Sam’s head to fall forward onto his shoulder, patting the back of Sam’s neck. “We’re gonna get you out of here, okay? You just gotta hang in there a little longer.”
Dean looked up at Jen. “I need to trust you,” he confessed. The words felt like razorblades in his mouth. “I need to trust you with my brother.”
Jen nodded. Carina stood, huddling close to the older woman who until five hours ago had been a perfect stranger. Dean shifted his eyes to her, folding them both in with a look that said do not let me down.
He returned his eyes to Sam, pulling his brother’s head away from his shoulder. Sam blinked, but Dean could see that he wasn’t focused. Dean licked his bottom lip, momentarily surprised by the taste of blood there. Ducking his face against his shoulder, he wiped the blood away on the material.
“Sam?” Dean dipped his chin, working to catch Sam’s eyes. “We’re gonna stand up. Together, all right? You ready?”
Sam nodded. Dean shifted, slinging Sam’s good arm across his shoulders and with a low growl, leveraged them to their feet. Dean shot a look over to Carina who stepped close to Sam, taking on his weight from Dean. Sam seemed to come to himself when Carina’s smaller frame melded against him and he blinked, straightening.
“I'll be right behind you, Sam," Dean promised. "Well... not too far behind you anyway.”
He shifted his eyes to Jen, then nodded toward the door. Jen nodded quickly and turned toward the door, gun out.
“No, wait!” Sam tried to turn away, back to Dean, thwarted by Carina's small body.
Dean ran his tongue across his bottom lip, his chest tightening as he watched Sam struggle. "Go!" He ordered, waving a hand toward the trio.
Sam grunted with effort as he tried once more to pull away from Carina, tipping dangerously to the side before Jen grabbed his belt loops and shoved her shoulder against the stairwell door. She shot a look at Dean, then hauled Sam and Carina through the doorway.
Dean held himself as still as possible, watching as Sam disappeared into the darkness.
Sam was wrapped in fog. Sounds held an unreal, tinny, quality. He was floating. He couldn’t feel his legs moving forward, though he knew they were. He couldn’t feel the body against him that he knew held him up. He knew he was breathing, but he couldn’t feel the air pass his lips or the motion of his lungs as they filled.
The dark that pressed around them had almost a physical quality, lobbing surreal, nightmarish images toward him like confusing excerpts from his father’s journal. He stumbled and the sharp heat that shot through him brought a wicked clarity to his surroundings.
For one brief moment, Sam felt real fear.
The woman against him wasn’t Jess; the person leading the way wasn’t Dean. What the hell? He tried to pull up, to stop, but the small hand clutching his wrist, bracing his arm, resisted, pulling him forward.
“Where’s Dean?” he croaked.
The woman in front of him looked back over her shoulder. “We’re almost out, Sam.”
“Where’s my brother?” Sam asked, trying again to pull up, surprised when he was once again denied.
“We left him,” said the girl positioned under his arm.
“What?” This time Sam was able to stop moving. And suddenly he remembered. The coordinates, the old building, the dead contractors, the people inside when no one should have been there, the spirit, the pain in his arm, the elevator, Dean ...
“We gotta go back,” Sam said, trying to pull away. The world tilted under him causing Carina to gasp and clutch at his chest to keep them both upright.
“I promised your brother we would get you out of here, Sam,” Jen said, reaching back and gripping his belt loops, propelling her young charges forward and to the emergency exit.
“I can’t leave him—“
“You already did,” Carina panted.
“Carina, stop,” Jen snapped. “Sam, you’re barely on your feet. You need help. Now.”
“Told me to get you out,” Jen finished. “And I don’t intend to let him down.”
As she barreled through the door, a shrill alarm vibrated the air around the exit. Sam blinked against the soft light of the early morning; the sun hadn’t quite taken the edge of the horizon, but its tendrils of light crept across the brightening sky with hungry fingers. Carina breathed a sigh of relief and Sam felt her release him.
Determined to stay upright, Sam pulled the brisk morning air into his body, feeling it stir through his tired lungs, drive his blood throughout his body. He clutched his wounded arm across his chest and stumbled forward, away from the building, toward the curb across the street... and the Impala. The large black Chevy sat where Dean had left it last night, its gleaming metal body dewy in the morning light, waiting for them to return from battle.
Sam leaned up against the hood of the car, sinking slowly to his knees, and then rocked back to sit with his head resting against the front quarter panel. He just needed a minute... just a minute and he would go back, get Dean, get rid of this spirit. Then they could get in the Impala and get out of there. Just like they always did. Just like they were supposed to.
Dimly, Sam could see Carina pacing directly in front of the building door. Jen stayed near her, holding Dean’s shotgun in one hand and a cell phone she seemingly produced from thin air in the other. Sam blinked. He breathed in. He breathed out. He blinked again. The buzzing in his ears increased and spread to his lips, making them feel numb.
We left him... He left me to hunt this demon… I just want us to be a family again... It’s my fault... We left him... He has to want to stay... We’re better off without him... I'll be right behind you... We left him...
“—bulance is on its way, Sam, okay?”
“What?” Sam swallowed, tearing his eyes from the exit and rolling them up to peer at the wild, graying hair framing the gentle, motherly face and brown eyes that were peering down at him in frank concern.
“The ambulance is on its way,” Jen repeated.
“I gotta get my brother out of there,” Sam said, ineffectually trying to regain his footing.
Jen stopped him with a hand to his shoulder. “I think Dean can take care of himself.”
Sam lifted shattered eyes to hers. I know... that’s the problem. “That’s not the point,” he argued.
Sirens silenced further protest as a cadre of lights hit the far end of the street. Jen seemed to suddenly realize that she held a sawed-off shotgun in her hand.
“Oh, no,” she breathed.
“Here.” Sam reached under the front wheel well, pulling out a magnetic key. “Put it in the truck.”
Jen hurried to do what she was told, returning the key to Sam with wide eyes.
“You guys were serious about doing this for a living,” she said, jetting her eyes back to the trunk.
“’Course we were serious,” Sam said tiredly. “But, uh... I wouldn’t mention that to the cops.”
“It would be bad.”
Sam looked over at Carina who had shoved an unlit cigarette in her mouth and stopped pacing long enough to stare at the flashing lights.
“Try to imagine life as you know it coming to a screeching halt and an endless stream of skeptics and believers replacing the friends you used to have.”
“Right. Bad. Got it.” Jen swallowed, looked from Sam to the approaching lights.
Sam closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the Impala. Dean… How the hell was Dean planning on destroying the spirit if it was tied to an elevator car? He had nothing that could destroy the spirit... no back up... nothing...
I should call Dad...
Sam felt himself falling inside, tumbling into the waiting arms of quiet dark, unaware of the approach of the medics, the shift of his pliant body from the street to a stretcher, the insertion of a saline IV to raise his dangerously low blood pressure. He just knew that at some point he felt better, the rotation of the earth slowed to a manageable spin, and he was able to finally open his eyes.
Sam was slightly shocked to find himself staring up at the inside of an ambulance. He started to push himself up—stopped by a large, black arm.
“Whoa, where do you think you’re going?” The voice was deep and the words rolled off the EMT’s tongue like warm molasses.
Sam shifted frantic eyes around his surroundings. Okay, doors are open, we’re not moving... I can still see the Impala...
“How long was I out?” Sam asked frantically, looking over at the muscular medic who was taking his pulse.
“Oh, I’d say about twenty minutes or so,” the medic replied, nodding with approval at Sam’s vitals. “You lost a bit of blood, son.”
Sam looked down at his arm. Dean’s shirt was gone and a large, white gauze bandage covered his arm from shoulder to elbow. He curled his hand into a fist.
“Hurt?” asked the medic.
“Not really.” Sam shook his head. The ache was still present, but the fiery pain had receded to almost nothing.
“Good—they’ll give you something more at the hospital. After they sew you up.”
“Where’s my brother?” Sam tried to shift off of the gurney.
“He one of the hostages?” the big medic queried.
Sam looked over at him. “Hostages?”
The medic nodded, writing something on a clipboard, then turning to slide the clipboard into a slot secured on the wall. “The lady with you and the other kid said that you were being held hostage and you three managed to escape. Seemed pretty shaken up about it—couldn’t even give a good description on the bad guy.”
Sam rubbed his hand over his face. He had to get back in there.
“Police are probably going to want to talk with you,” the medic commented, reaching to pull the door closed.
“Wait!” Sam stopped him. “We can’t leave yet.”
The medic frowned. “Why’s that?”
“I can’t leave without my brother.”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine, kid.” The medic tried again to close the door.
Sam launched forward, tethered only by the IV in the back of his hand. He grabbed the medic’s shirt front. “I’m not leaving without my brother,” Sam stated, his voice flat, his tone leaving no room for argument. “We’re staying.”
The medic swallowed, his eyes on Sam’s, seeing something there that changed his mind. He swung the door back open and wordlessly helped Sam to the end of the ambulance, fixing the bag of saline on the edge of the door.
Just as Sam looked up at the building's emergency exit, an upper window shattered. He watched with silent dismay as the falling glass was followed by a plume of billowing smoke and the unmistakable sound of someone screaming in pain.
“God, I hope that’s not a hostage,” the medic whispered.
Dean...Sam reached for his IV.
The stairwell door closed quietly behind the retreating forms of Jen and Carina as they led Sam away from danger. Dean took a breath.
“Great, Dean ...just ...friggin’ great.” He turned from the stairwell and walked stiffly past the elevator opening, the twisted metal gate, the frosted windows that allowed pearly strands of dawn to seep into the dim corridor, back toward the room where he’d left Allan. “No, no, you go... I’ll stay behind and... what? Destroy a spirit with leftover rock salt and a screwdriver?”
He scratched at the blood drying on his cheek. Otis. Thanks a lot, Dad. Think this one falls under the ‘need to know a little more’ category...
Dean paused to lean against the doorway of the nearly-empty room, somewhat surprised that Allan was still unconscious. He didn’t think he’d hit him that hard. Pushing himself away from the doorway, Dean approached the big man’s still form. He tilted his head, peering at the man’s slack face. He shoved him slightly with the toe of his boot. Allan grunted.
“I knew it.” Dean shook his head. “Faker.”
“Hey, you guys left me,” Allan complained, peering up at Dean, salt particles sticking to the side of his fleshy face.
“Oh, so, what?” Dean asked, stepping back over to his duffel that rested on the pile of leftover lumber. “You thought you’d play dead? With a spirit? Think she’s got you beat in that game, pal.”
“Where are the women?”
“Out?!” Allan shot to his feet. Slightly surprised by how fast the big man could move, Dean tossed the empty gas can at him. Allan caught it against his chest.
“Yes. Out. Fill that back up with the salt from the circle.”
“You fill it up.” Allan started to throw the can back at Dean.
Dean turned on his heel, advancing on Allan so quickly that the big man tripped over his own feet trying to get away. Dean felt his jaw tighten as his fists clenched, the bruised tissue stretching tight over bone. He wanted to pound on this guy. He wanted to bruise his ego, break him.
“Listen to me very carefully,” Dean said through clenched teeth. “I can get out of here. At the moment I’m still willing to take you with me. You want to change that, just say the word.”
Allan swallowed loudly and Dean’s upper lip bounced in disgust.
“No, no, that’s okay. Fill the can, got it.” Allan edged along the wall past Dean, then bent down and started to scoop the salt from the ring and into the narrow opening of the can.
Dean could hear him muttering complaints and obscenities under his breath. He ignored him, turning back to face the empty room, resting the urge to lean against the wall. His head ached through his jaw down into his neck and he was bone tired. He hadn’t slept well since...
Allan’s terrified voice cut into his thoughts. “Oh, shit ...shit shit shit.”
Dean shot his eyes over to the opening. The spirit stood in the doorway, head tilted to the side, peering out at them through one yellowed eye. Dean swallowed, thinking furiously.
“Give me the salt,” he whispered harshly to Allan.
“...shit shit shit shit ...”
“Give. Me. The. Salt.”
Allan thrust out the barely-filled can with shaking hands to Dean. It fell between them as Dean reached for it. The spirit flashed further into the room. Keeping his eyes on her twisted, shuttering form, Dean bent, grabbed the can of rock salt, and with a heave shot a spray of salt toward the figure in a wide sweeping motion.
With a quick, ear-splitting screech that caused Dean to flinch, she dissipated. Dean turned back to Allan, tossing him the can.
“Finish it,” he said, heading for the door. “We’re running out of time.”
“What?! Where the hell are you going?!”
The spirit was venturing further from the elevator, jumping floors, finding them. Dean had to move fast. He had to figure out a way to burn the source of the spirit—the object that bound her here. But... how was he going to destroy two tons of metal? He shoved his hand into his jeans pocket, fingering the rectangle shape of his Zippo. Fire alone was not going to do the trick. He was going to have to amp it up... burn it brighter and hotter than any salt-and-burn they’d done before...
“I gotta make a bomb,” Dean grumbled over his shoulder.
He looked left: mangled elevator gate, elevator shaft, stairway exit, the way out. He looked right: doors. A seemingly endless hallway of doors.
“One of these has got to be a supply closet,” Dean muttered to himself.
Approaching the first, he tried the handle. Finding it locked, he reared back and kicked it open. Empty. Pulling his bottom lip into his mouth, letting his tongue worry the cuts there, he tried the next door. It opened, but was also empty. Three doors down he found what he was looking for.
Dean stepped into the maintenance room, running his fingertips and eyes across the jugs, spray cans, and jars on the shelves, reading the labels, searching his memory for formula’s or jerry-rigged solutions that he’d witnessed his dad figure out on a moment’s notice. He moved around the packing boxes and materials, trying to find something that might work to burn an elevator car.
“C’mon, Dean,” he chided himself. “What would MacGyver do? Gotta be a roll of duct tape and a Campbell’s soup can around here somewhere...”
When his eyes lit on an actual roll of duct tape, he laughed. Turning in a circle he saw ammonia and borax on the shelf of cleaning supplies, but no baking soda. Okay, so... no bomb that way...
Stepping over the packing material, he accidentally kicked a can of gasoline. Frowning, he looked down.
“Why the hell would they have gasoline in a supply closet?” he wondered aloud.
His memory shot back to the floor sander in the room where he’d left Allan. Maybe...Picking up the can, he remembered a hunt...several years ago... Sam had been staying with Pastor Jim recovering from a broken arm...John had used gasoline and... something else... created a fire hot enough to burn through the metal cage wrapped around a coffin secured in a mausoleum...
Dean frowned, rubbing at the blood drying and matting his eyebrow. As the memory continued to tickle the back of his mind, his eyes rested on a shelf of industrial-sized hand soap and large bottles of Draino. Dean narrowed his eyes.
What was it Dad had said about mixing homemade napalm...
“I got all I could.” Allan’s voice suddenly behind him caused Dean to jerk in startled surprise.
“Jesus Christ,” he whispered, pressing his hand against his sternum. For a big man, Allan was fairly stealthy.
“What are you gonna do with duct tape?” Allan snorted derisively.
Dean shot him a look, telegraphing his loathing. “I got a few ideas.”
Allan stared at him.
“Look,” Dean sighed. “Keep the salt, okay? Get out of here. If you see the spirit, use the salt to dissipate it.”
“What, that’s it? Salt? You’re sending me out there with just...salt?”
“Hey, I’m fresh out of proton packs here, Dude,” Dean said, grabbing a discarded Snapple bottle from the trash can without a lid, shook the remnants of the beverage onto the floor, then filled it part way with gasoline. “You want out? I’m not gonna stop you.”
Dean felt Allan’s eyes on him as he grabbed one of the pink shop rags from a pile and stuffed it deep into the bottle, then used the duct tape to seal off the top, leaving part of the rag hanging out like a fuse.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to firebomb the elevator.” Dean looked up at Allan, his quick grin not meeting his eyes. “Get rid of your little spirit problem.”
“You’re gonna do what?”
“Not like you can sell many apartments with the homicidal spirit of a mental patient haunting your elevator system.”
“We’ll just wall the elevator back up,” Allan said, stepping in front of Dean as he attempted to exit the room with his Molotov cocktail, soap, drain cleaner, and gas can.
“Oh, you mean like before? So the spirit can just wait until the next suit comes along and renovates?”
“Yeah.” Allan nodded.
“Dude, get the hell out of my way,” Dean growled, shoving his shoulder into Allan’s soft chest. He started down the hall toward the elevator shaft.
“Wait!”Allan called after him. “No, wait, you can’t do this.”
“Watch me,” Dean grumbled.
He reached the shaft and set the supplies down next to the twisted remains of the gate. Grabbing the drain cleaner, he started to turn toward the elevator when he felt the swish of a hand reaching for his back. Dropping the bottle, he turned, reaching behind him for his gun, but blamed exhaustion, headache, and that Allan was a friggin’ ninja, on the fact that he wasn’t fast enough. Allan stood in front of him, Dean’s .45 pointed at his face.
“Are you kidding me?” Dean snapped. “Put the gun down.”
“You’re not setting fire to my building,” Allan stated flatly, flicking the safety off of Dean’s gun.
Dean swallowed. “Allan, this spirit can and will kill us both if I don’t destroy this elevator car. Listen? You hear that? Sirens. We burn the elevator car, the fire department puts out the fire, few minor repairs, you’re gold.”
“You have any idea what fire damage costs?”
“You have any idea what it feels like to have your heart crushed inside of your chest?” Dean retorted. “’Cause that’s what this bitch will do to you. It’s what she did to your contractors. Hell, she tried to do it to me.”
“I’m spraining something trying to care,” Allan retorted.
“Aw, screw this,” Dean muttered, turning from the barrel of the gun and grabbing the drain cleaner and soap. He poured them on the floor of the elevator car, then turned back to the gas can, ignoring the gun Allan kept trained on him.
“Stop,” Allan commanded.
Dean didn’t spare him a glance. He started back toward the elevator car, unscrewing the cap of the gas can as he went.
“I said, stop!” Allan yelled, and Dean swore he heard the click of the trigger before the boom of his gun jerked his back tight in an automatic reaction and a hot bead tugged violently along the outer edge of his right shoulder.
“Son of a bitch,” Dean cursed, dropping the gas can and grabbing for his shoulder, stumbling against the wall next to the open elevator door.
Red fury blinded him. He didn't even recognize the roar that built low in his gut, erupting from his lips in an explosion of anger. He turned to Allan, striding up to him and splattering blood across the man's chest as he swung his wounded arm, knocking the gun out of the building owner’s hands.
Allan attempted to back up, to raise his hands in surrender, but Dean was too far gone. Grabbing the front of the big man’s sweaty shirt, Dean shoved him up against the far wall next to the window, and in the light of the dawning sun, proceeded to pummel him, words snapping in time to the blows of his fists.
"Fuckin' selfish bastard! We nearly get killed saving your worthless ass… thinking of your goddamn building when people are dying around you... dealt with people like you my whole life... sick of it..."
"Wait... wait... uh, please, okay, I'm sorry..."
Allan’s messy tears brought Dean back to reality and he stepped back, breathing heavy. His hands trembled, his knuckles raw and bruised. His right arm throbbed in time with his heartbeat, in time with his head. He couldn’t seem to catch his breath. He stepped back from Allan, trying to swallow, trying to steady his hands.
He could see his body shaking as if he were suddenly separate from himself, watching someone else drive their fists into this man's now-bloody face. As if it were a physical, visible act, Dean pulled his anger back to him, wrapped it into a ball, and shoved it down inside, behind impenetrable defenses he'd spend a lifetime creating. He rolled his shoulders back as he pulled in a breath.
"Stay," Dean panted, pointing to Allan.
He turned back to the elevator, picking up the gas can, and poured the contents over the sticky, gelling mess covering the floor of the elevator car, trying not to gag, watching as the chemicals twisted and flowed over each other like mercury, creating a bubbling, flammable liquid. He threw the can in once it was empty, stumbling back as the fumes threatened to overwhelm him. Digging his Zippo from his pocket, he grabbed the glass bottle and, with a glance over at Allan’s still-cowering form, lit the end of the rag. He stepped back near Allan, at an angle from the elevator entrance and out of the blast zone.
He threw the bottle toward the open elevator car, and several things happened at once. The bottle smashed against the far wall of the elevator, igniting the napalm-like concoction and shooting an intense heat out into the hallway that was followed quickly by a severe cold as the spirit railed against inevitable destruction.
Dean's only warning was Allan's gasp before the spirit slammed into him, knocking him away from Allan and propelling him to the floor. Smoke billowed and poured from the elevator entrance, filling the hallway and choking the men inside. Dean twisted away, but the spirit’s weight seemed to grow as her anger was fueled by the fire that was annihilating her.
Dean heard Allan break out the window behind him, heard the big man gasp and wheeze from the poisonous smoke, and then the spirit’s hand slammed into his chest. Just as before, Dean felt the constriction, the pressure, the intense pain as her nails dug in, reaching for his heart. He screamed, unable to dislodge the spirit, stop the pain.
His thoughts scattered, regrouped, then shook loose as he felt her nails find purchase, digging through his skin, digging to his bone. He wanted desperately to breathe, wanted to move, but he was frozen and burning, pressed flat into the floor, suffocating.
And then suddenly, she was gone.
Rolling slowly to his side, curling his arms against his chest, Dean whimpered. He couldn’t open his eyes, the smoke was too harsh. He couldn’t move, he was shaking too hard. He simply rolled his back away from the searing heat of the elevator car as the fire that saved his life ate through the metal of the elevator car and consumed the cables that had held it in place.
With a mighty groan of mangled metal, the car dropped—this time in a free-fall that wouldn’t be stopped by the whim of a spirit. Dean cringed, ducking his head toward his chest and curling into a ball as he heard it crash against the unyielding floor of the basement and then cried out as the answering sweep of heat shot up through the chimney-like elevator shaft.
Dean's mind fired commands in half-spoken sentences. Sparks of thought snapped and fizzled behind his eyes. On one level, he knew he had to get Allan out and away from the smoke. He knew he needed to crawl toward the stairwell. He knew he needed to return to Sam. But something was broken inside of him, denying him the ability to obey even his own commands.
Forcing himself to move, Dean crawled toward the window where he'd last seen Allan. The smoke was thick, oppressive, and Dean's coughs wheezed from him with bone-shaking ferocity. Tears of retaliation poured from the corners of his eyes and he felt blindly along the floor. No Allan. Just his .45. Dean turned, sliding the gun into his front waistband, and pulling himself forward by his left arm toward the stairwell, hoping that Allan had done the same.
Even assholes deserved a chance to live.
By the time he reached the stairwell door, Dean's coughs wracked through him so hard he wasn't able to do much more than press his face into the swiftly-warming floor. Sam ...He'd made Sam a promise, told him he'd be right behind him. He'd be damned if he was going to leave his brother now.
Reaching out with a shaking hand, Dean pushed weakly at the door, surprised as hell when it flew open to expose the sound of coughs and curses.
"I'm here, man."
Hands, Sam's hands, on his arm, his shoulder, the back of his head.
"W-what ...took you ...so long?"
"Stopped off for a saline cocktail."
Shaking, coughing, thirsty for air... he needed to move, to crawl to Sam. His brother's fingers flexed across the back of his neck, his shoulder.
"I... I c-can't..."
Help me, Sam.
"I'm trying, Dean."
"I got him, I got him, kid..."
The rich voice was foreign, unfamiliar, and welcome. New arms wrapped around Dean's back, pulling him swiftly through the door. He still couldn't open his eyes and his legs had apparently decided that now would be a good time to quit, thank you very much. The stairwell door cut off the majority of the smoke and Dean felt the rasping wheezes of breath rattling in his chest ease as he was half-carried, half-drug down the stairs.
"Holy shit, Dean, your chest is a friggin' mess and what happened to—did someone...did that bastard shoot you?"
Dean's eyes felt swollen from tears and smoke, but he pried them open. Peering through slits filtered by his lashes, he saw Sam in front of him, his arm wrapped in white. Rolling his head against his shoulder, Dean realized that his left arm was across the massive shoulders of a man that made Sam look small. Swallowing and trying to keep his legs moving forward, Dean managed to trip them both.
"Ease up, kid," the black man said, his voice rumbling against Dean through his chest. "I got this. You just work on staying with us, y'hear?"
Dean nodded and allowed himself to be maneuvered down the stairs, keeping his eyes on Sam.
"Allan," he croaked.
Sam didn't slow, tossing his words over his shoulder. "He'll be fine. Looks like someone broke his nose, though."
"Me," Dean wheezed.
"Good." Sam's reply was laced with wicked satisfaction. "Son of a bitch was outside screaming his freakin' head off about arresting you for setting fire to his building while I could still hear you screaming, man."
"Did he shoot you?" Sam repeated.
"Yeah." Dean coughed.
"I am going to kick his ass," Sam growled.
"Get in line," Dean retorted.
They pressed flat against the second floor stairwell as firemen in full gear passed by them, heading up toward the smoke and flames.
"There's a... body," Dean managed.
Sam picked up his effort. "There's a body of a contractor on the fourth floor—first room down from the elevator," he called to one of the firemen as they passed. He was given a nod of understanding, and they continued on.
"What about the... terrorist?" the medic asked as they reached the first floor and headed to the emergency exit.
"Huh?" Dean rolled his head on his neck, looking over at the medic with blurry eyes.
"You take care of... it?" Sam asked.
"Yeah... toast," Dean said, blinking in the harsh brightness of the morning light.
Sam looked over at the medic. "Bad guy is cooked, man."
Dean ignored the medic's grunted disbelief. He concentrated on breathing, on the fact that he was out of the building, he was alive, the others were alive, Sam was alive. Looking around with tired eyes, he saw flashing lights, sirens, heard voices, calls, engines, felt the mist of water from the massive fire hoses... and Sam.
Leading the way back to the ambulance, Sam cast several anxious glances over his shoulder at Dean. His brother looked beat to hell. Scary beat to hell. Sam wrenched the door of the ambulance open and teetered on his still-wobbly legs as the medic sat Dean on the bumper.
"You—in there," the medic said to Sam, pointing to the gurney. "My boss would have my ass if he found out what I just let you do, blood pressure like yours."
"What about Dean?" Sam asked, holding the door tightly. He was pretty sure he would be okay if he let go... but he wasn't anxious to test that theory.
"Joe!" the medic called to another EMT who was talking to Carina.
"Gimme a hand with this guy."
"Holy shit, Hughes!" Joe jogged over to the trio at the back of the ambulance, shooting worried eyes to the big medic. "You just pull him out of that fire?"
Hughes jerked his thumb over his shoulder at Sam. "This kid didn't give me much of a choice."
Sam watched as Dean sat, slumped and silent, his eyes closed, his shoulders shaking with exhaustion, pain, and the effort to breathe. Joe and Hughes climbed into the ambulance, creating a chair out of their linked arms behind Dean's shoulders and under his knees, lifting him up and setting him on the gurney cross-ways so that his feet rested on the floor and his back melted against the inside wall of the ambulance. Hughes turned to Sam.
"Need a hand?"
Sam nodded. In minutes, he was sitting on the gurney next to Dean. He felt his brother tilt sideways, resting his left shoulder against Sam's right one. Sam took a full breath for what seemed like the first time in twelve hours.
The two EMTs moved around them, fastening oxygen on Dean, re-hooking an IV up to Sam, taking vitals, cleaning and wrapping Dean's shoulder and head, checking the gouges on his chest, speaking to each other in the coded language of the medical profession. The brothers sat silent, responding only when questioned directly. Sam felt Dean grow heavier against him and pressed back, offering support.
"These the last two from the building?" a voice called from the entrance to the ambulance.
"You're gonna have to question them later, Chief," Hughes informed the new voice. "We gotta get this guy to a hospital pronto."
Sam watched Hughes jerk his head in Dean's direction and slid tired eyes to the back of the ambulance. He could see a blue uniform, but not much else. He looked back at Hughes, watching as he took Dean's pulse with a frown.
"What about the tall kid? Leave him behind, catch the next bus," the blue-uniformed man suggested.
"No," Sam and Dean replied in unison, though Dean's refusal was muffled by the plastic oxygen mask covering his nose and mouth. Sam felt him shift as he reached up a trembling hand and pulled it away from his mouth.
Hughes looked at the brothers.
"He's staying," Dean asserted.
Sam nodded his agreement.
"Guess you got your answer, Chief," Hughes replied. Joe jumped from the end of the ambulance, shutting both doors with a solid slap of metal against metal.
"The car," Dean said, looking over at Sam.
Sam looked at Hughes. "Will our car be okay here?"
"Yeah." Hughes nodded. "One of you... well, you," he amended, nodding to Sam, and putting the oxygen mask back over Dean's face, "can catch a ride back for it later today after you get checked out."
He turned to the front and grabbed his CB, calling in orders as they pulled away. Finishing the orders, he hung the CB up, glanced at the brothers leaning against each other and back against the wall behind them, then climbed into the front seat, leaving them alone for the moment.
"Jen told the cops we were being held hostage," Sam said in a low voice meant only for Dean.
"She gonna convince Carina and Allan of that, too?" Dean rasped, his words rattling in his throat before filling his mouth and resting on Sam's ears. He pulled the mask away again and looked over at Sam.
Sam saw the green of his brother's irises shine out of his red-rimmed, soot-framed eyes like beacons of light. He nodded. "I think she'll either convince them of that, or convince the cops that Carina and Allan are nuts," he said with a chuckle.
Dean coughed into his fist, curling forward a bit, the corner of his mouth tipping up a bit in agreement.
"What did you use to torch the spirit?"
"Homemade napalm," Dean said, his grin widening.
"What?!" Sam's eyebrows shot up in shock.
"Saw Dad make it once..."
"That hunt we went on when you broke your arm," Dean said, gingerly touching his wounded shoulder.
"Broke my... Dude, that was like... ten years ago."
"You remembered something Dad jerry-rigged once on a hunt ten years ago?!"
Dean shrugged, tapping his temple. "Like a steel trap."
Sam leaned back, closing his eyes. He felt Dean rest against the wall beside him, their shoulders touching once more. In the dark of the elevator, Dean had revealed a truth that Sam knew he'd avoid in the glaring light of day. Working his tongue against his teeth, Sam tried to think how he could bring Dad up again, how he could try once more to reassure Dean that he didn't blame him for John's leaving them again. That it wasn't his fault.
"Don't worry so much."
Sam opened his eyes and looked over at Dean's sooty profile. Some people had hard-wired personalities, Sam knew. His brother was one of them. Protector to the end.
"I'm not... worried."
Sam sighed, looking down. "I'm not, I’m just... I just wish..."
Dean subtly pressed his shoulder harder against Sam's. "Sammy, listen. Job's done. Dad's... Dad. We take care of the things we can take care of." Dean opened one eye and looked over at Sam. "And we survive the rest."
They were silent for a moment.
Sam glanced over at Dean. "You manage to keep your phone with you in there, Fire Marshal Bill?"
Dean chuckled, pulling his phone from his back pocket and handing it to Sam. "We lost the extra duffel."
"You keep your gun, too?"
"What do you think I am, huh?"
"We're gonna have to figure out how to explain that when we get to the hospital," Sam said, staring at the cell phone screen and working to type a text message with one hand.
"Already there, Sammy," Dean said, sliding the gun from his front waistband into the slot on the wall behind the clipboard. "You'll just need to come back to ambulance number, uh... 53... to get your cell phone."
"But I didn't—oh." Sam nodded. "Good thinking."
"What are you doing?"
"Texting Dad," Sam said, rotating the screen to show Dean.
"6847... 47... 86278? What kind of a phone number is that?"
"It's not a phone number." Sam grinned.
"Well, they're not coordinates." Dean pulled his eyebrows together in confusion.
"Nope." Sam's grin grew wider.
"Sam, if you're pissing me off, then—"
"It's a message... " Sam said. "Thought maybe Dad could figure out the cryptic for a change."
Dean looked at the screen again. Sam watched his eyes shift to the letters painted above the numbers on the keypad of his phone.
"Otis is toast?"
Sam nodded, his grin folding his dimples deeper into his cheeks. Dean laughed softly, pressing his hand against the remnants of his T-shirt.
"I dare you to hit send." Dean coughed.
"Oh, no worries," Sam said, pressing the green 'send' button.
Dean laughed again. "Your ass is grass, man."
"Dude... it's your phone," Sam pointed out.
"Hell." Sam shrugged, closing his eyes. "If it gets him to call us again... I don't really care."
"Yeah," Dean agreed.
A comfortable quiet settled between them for another moment.
Sam felt the pause this time. He felt it as if silence held weight.
"Thanks for staying." Dean's voice was almost a whisper.
Sam waited for a moment before speaking, thinking about the one person who had never left, the one person who was the constant for the family, the one person who gave him, who gave their father, someone to come back to. He reached out and clapped a hand on Dean's leg, letting it rest there for a moment, letting Dean feel the reassurance of contact that Sam had felt inside the darkened elevator.
"Always," Sam replied.
a/n: It was nice to go back to Season 1 for a bit and remember when the boys were troubled, angsty, but without the world’s weight on their shoulders.
Starting next week, I’ll be posting my 3 Virtual Season stories. Each story is in four parts. After that, I’ll start with Desolation Angels, which is also set in Season 1. Other than the occasional tag and some zine stories… I might hang out in Season 1 for a bit.