Characters: Sam, Dean
Spoilers: Virtual Season story; VS 2, episode 6
Summary: Sam's painful, overpowering visions of a ritualistic murder send him into the arms of a fiesty witness, while Dean fights to determine if their foe is demon or human. The answer forces Sam to make an impossible choice.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
a/n: Thanks for coming back – hope you enjoy this last chapter!
“I thought you told Grace to stay at the hospital?” Dean said as Sam scrolled down his cell phone list for Grace’s number.
“I did,” Sam answered, finding the number and dialing.
“So what are you worried about?”
Sam shot his eyes over to Dean’s. “Why do you think I had to put the chair under her doorknob, man?”
Dean’s eyebrows went up, then he sat back, a hand pressed to the wound in his side. Sam scowled when he got Grace’s voicemail.
“Grace, this is Sam. Listen to me. Don’t go home, okay? It’s Lucien, Grace. He’s the killer.”
“The guy’s name is Lucien?” Dean muttered, closing his eyes and leaning his head back to rest against the wall behind him. “This just gets better and better.”
Sam started to pace, dialing another number.
“Now who are you calling?” Dean asked, opening one eye.
“Nick,” Sam answered tersely. He stopped when Nick picked up on the second ring. “Nick, it’s Sam Win-uh, Beckett. I’m a friend of Grace’s… no, no I don’t know where she is, that’s why I’m calling you… Listen, man, she could be in trouble, okay? Yeah, yeah, just don’t let her go to her house alone… I think, uh… I think her roommate might be, um, dangerous… I’m heading there now, but… yeah, okay, great. Thanks.”
Sam closed his phone and looked over at Dean. “You gonna be okay?”
Dean opened his eyes, pulling his head away from the wall. “Okay doing what?”
“Just want to make sure you’re not gonna bleed to death while I’m gone.”
Dean leaned forward, his hands on his knees. “I’m not gonna bleed to death, period. And no way you’re going anywhere without me, Sam.”
Sam’s eyebrows shot up. He opened his mouth to argue with Dean, seeing how pale his brother was, how his hands still trembled. The look in Dean’s eyes stopped him. Dean wasn’t ready to be left behind now anymore than Sam had been earlier. His own words echoed back to him we’re better when we’re together, man, you know that…
“Fine,” Sam huffed, picking up Dean’s jacket and handing it to him.
Dean blinked, obviously surprised that Sam had given in so easily. He pushed himself to his feet and reached out for his jacket. Sam watched him look at the left side of the jacket and snarl.
“Man, I got blood on it,” he grumbled.
“Hate to tell you this, but you got blood on your car, too,” Sam said, one eyebrow raised.
Dean’s head shot up. “Are you serious?”
Sam nodded, biting the inside of his cheek.
“Son of a bitch,” Dean muttered, then pulled his jacket on.
They left the motel room and Dean gravitated toward the driver’s side. Sam put a gentle hand on his shoulder and steered him to the passenger side. Dean frowned, but didn’t put up a fight. Sam got in the car, avoiding the blood drying on the side of the bench seat, and Dean leaned his head back with a sigh.
“We’re lucky she wasn’t stolen,” he said in a low voice.
Sam realized then that the keys had been left in the ignition. “Guess someone’s watching out for us.”
Dean huffed. “Too bad they're usually looking the other way.”
Grace’s house, just before dawn
When Sam pulled the Impala to a stop, Dean lifted his head. He felt a strange weightlessness – as if he were an observer of his body, and not the controller of it. He watched his hand lift the door handle, watched his arm push the door open, watched his legs rotate out of the car, but he wasn’t really able to feel any sensation beyond hot pain in his side.
He stood and shut the door, closing his eyes and leaning back against the car for a moment. He felt her solid form behind him, reassuring in its familiarity. He couldn’t clearly remember a time when the Impala hadn’t been a part of his life. This car was as much his family as Sam. As John. And it was the one part of his life that had yet to leave him.
Maybe it’s because I take care of her… maybe if I took better care of the other two…
There was a buzzing in his ears, constant and low-pitched. He tilted his head to the side, trying to listen. Sounded almost like words… something about… his gun… need to make sure to get that, no matter what… it can tie you to too many things… are you listening to…
“… me Dean?”
Dean opened his eyes, realizing that it was Sam he was hearing. He blinked, pushed away from the car’s support, and breathed through his nose to still the spinning of his head and keep from keeling over.
“’Course I’m listening,” he muttered.
“You okay?” Sam was peering at him. He started to reach out to Dean.
“Enough with the worried eyes, Sam,” Dean said, pushing Sam’s hand away. “Let’s go.”
Sam checked the clip in the Glock, then stuffed it into the back of his jeans. Dean let Sam lead the way, knowing that his bravado would only carry him so far. It wasn’t until they reached the porch that he realized his only weapon was a small throwing knife attached to his ankle. He cursed himself silently; he didn’t think he could even reach his ankle at this point.
“Careful, Sam,” he whispered as his brother pushed open the broken door.
As they stepped through the doorway, Dean knew immediately that if Grace were here, she was in trouble. The living room looked like a war zone. The TV was tipped over, broken, pictures from the mantel on the floor, shattered, the coffee table was divided in two.
“Grace!” Sam bellowed, pulling out his gun and flicking off the safety. “Gracie?”
Dean followed Sam through the living room, watching as he swung the gun around the corner into the kitchen, which was basically intact. They made their way to the hall, and Dean's eyes lit on a hand print smeared in blood on the wall. Dean felt his whole body tense.
“Grace!” Sam yelled again, and Dean’s stomach jumped at the angry desperation rolling off of Sam with that one word.
Instinctively, Dean tried to move in front of Sam as they made their way down the hall toward Grace’s room, but Sam was too fast. Dean held his breath as Sam pulled the bedroom door toward him and swung around the corner, gun first. Sam’s expression told Dean all he needed to know.
He stepped past Sam, his throat constricting painfully. Nick Brookes lay on the floor of Grace’s bedroom, a small silver dagger sticking out of the side of his neck, blood pooling on the floor beneath him. Grace was nowhere to be seen, but her bed was stripped, and her room was in shambles. Dean carefully knelt next to Grace’s brother, knowing he wouldn't find one, but reaching out and checking for a pulse anyway.
“He’s dead, Sam,” Dean said softly. Sam didn’t reply.
Dean tried to turn and look over his shoulder at his brother, but his side kicked him viciously and he gasped, pressing his hand to his wound. He felt wetness there. As he looked down at the slight smear of red on the palm of his hand, he heard a strangled cry from Sam. Dean shifted painfully back to balance on his heels, turning from the body to his brother.
Sam had reached up to clutch at his head, wavering a bit on his feet. He dropped to his knees and Dean reached out to catch him. As his hands closed over the tops of Sam’s shoulders, trying to grip him, trying to offer support, Sam’s head suddenly snapped back and the Glock clattered to the ground. Sam cried out in pain, fisting his hands over his eyes and leaning forward.
“Easy, Sammy,” Dean tried, his voice trembling. “I got you, man.”
But he didn’t have him. He couldn’t hold on. Sam fell forward and Dean couldn’t stop him. With one last cry of pain, Sam sprawled on the floor next to Nick’s body, unconscious. Dean rocked forward to his knees, reaching for Sam’s shoulder, trying to roll him over.
“Jesus, don’t do this to me, Sam,” Dean whispered.
His vision wavered and he felt the hot-cold flash of pain from his side slice through him. He ignored it, shifted to sit against the wall, pulling Sam’s limp form awkwardly with him. Breathing heavily, he rolled Sam over, then dropped his head back against the wall. Sam’s head ended up on his right thigh, his right arm draped across his chest. His brows were furrowed in pain or concentration, and his eyes were rolling rapidly beneath his closed lids.
“C’mon, Sammy,” Dean said, fisting his hand in the loose material of Sam’s shirt. “Wake up, okay?”
Dean’s vision swam again and he knew he wasn’t going to be able to fight off the darkness much longer.
“You, uh,” Dean licked his lips, closing his eyes as the room tilted. “You gotta open your eyes, Sam.” He shook Sam once more, working to make his voice steady. "Sam. Open your eyes. Right now, man."
Sam's head shifted slightly, his hands twitching, but he didn't wake. Dean gritted his teeth as numbing cold and electric heat clashed violently in his side.
"Dammit," he growled, pulling in a breath.
He opened his eyes a crack and saw Nick's body sprawled just beyond Sam. He knew they needed to move. They needed to call someone about Nick. They needed to get out of there before that someone came. They needed to find Grace… they needed to stop this killer… they needed to rest…
Holding tightly to Sam’s shirt so that when he fell off the edge of the earth he would be able to find his way back, Dean gave in to the darkness.
“He’s not pleased. He wants you to pay.”
“No one’s even here, man. You’re talking to the wall.”
“HE IS NOT PLEASED. I am not going down for this. You stopped the cycle. YOU STOPPED THE CYCLE. I am not going down for this."
“That’s what you think.”
The sound of Dean chambering a round in the shotgun made Sam jump.
He blinked, filling his aching lungs. Pressing his hand on his sternum, he realized that he was looking at the ceiling of Grace’s room. As he shifted slightly, he noticed two things: his head was propped up on something, and it didn’t hurt. His other visions had left him with a wicked psychic hangover. But his head was blissfully pain-free. Rolling his head slightly to the right, he saw Dean’s hand loosely fisted in his shirt. He looked up to see that he was lying on Dean’s right leg. Dean’s head was back against the wall and his eyes were closed.
“Dean?” Sam croaked out. He cleared his throat and tried again.
Dean didn’t move. Sam shifted to his side, using his elbow to push himself to a sitting position, and gently detached his brother’s hand from his shirt. He reached forward and took Dean’s chin in his fingers, tilting his brother’s face to him.
“Dean, hey,” he said, tapping Dean’s cheek. “Hey, man, open your eyes.”
He saw Dean pull his eyebrows together in a frown, saw his lashes flutter slightly.
“There you go,” Sam encouraged. “Come on, Dean.”
“M'okay,” Dean slurred, his eyes still closed.
“Yeah, I know… you’re always okay,” Sam muttered, releasing Dean’s face and watching him closely as he fought to get his eyes open.
When he could see the green of Dean’s irises, he leaned over and pulled the edge of Dean’s jacket away to look at his left side.
“You’re bleeding again,” Sam said softly.
“It’s not bad,” Dean blinked at him. “You okay?”
“Head doesn’t hurt this time,” Sam said, meeting his eyes.
“You passed out, Sam,” Dean reminded him.
“Yeah, well,” Sam looked down. “It doesn’t hurt now. Not like before.”
“What did you see?”
“He’s got Grace,” Sam looked over his shoulder at Nick. “At the motel. And he’s waiting for us.”
“Swell,” Dean took a shaky breath.
“I don’t think he plans on killing her. Not like the other girls,” Sam said, looking back at Dean. “I think he wants me.”
“Well, that just makes it all better then.”
Sam nodded back toward Nick. "We gotta call someone."
"I know," Dean said, his voice rough.
Sam pushed himself to his feet and pulled out his cell phone. He called 911 and reported an officer down, giving them the address of Grace's house. He flipped the phone closed, then turned and looked at Dean. Dean was still staring at Nick.
"You know she had to have seen that, Sam," Dean said, his eyes hollow.
Sam swallowed. "Yeah," he said.
He watched Dean blink, then saw his lips move as he whispered something.
"What was that?" Sam ducked his head, trying to catch Dean's eyes.
Dean shook his head once, then looked up at Sam. "Nothing."
Sam cocked his head to the side, knowing it was more than nothing, much more, but Dean's eyes were carefully blank. He reached up his right hand and Sam clasped it at the wrist, hauling him carefully to his feet. Sam noticed his quick intake of breath, his automatic gesture to cover his wounded side. He released Dean's arm, but reached out again quickly when Dean swayed.
"Let's go get this bastard," Dean said, his voice like sandpaper on rock.
Dean's hazel eyes met his, the deadly determination reflecting there shooting straight through Sam. "Try to stop me."
Motel, early morning
Sam pulled to a stop in a parking spot across the lot from their room, close enough for a quick getaway, far enough away to arm up out of sight. He was out of the car and heading to the trunk before Dean had lifted his head from the back of the seat. Dean held his left arm tight against his side. He knew the stitches were solid, but the wound had been deep and he could feel the blood seeping through the bandage. He opened the passenger door, stepped out as quickly as his wound would allow, and made his way to Sam. Sam had the trunk open and was propping up the false bottom with a shotgun.
"Use the ramrod," Dean said. "I'm taking that."
"You're taking what?" Sam didn't look at him as he checked the clip in his Glock.
"The shotgun," Dean answered, reaching into the back for his Bowie knife.
"The hell for?"
Dean tipped his chin, giving Sam an incredulous look. "What, did you miss the first half of the show, Sam?" He pulled his eyebrows together, stuffing the sheathed knife in the waistband of his jeans. "We've discussed this."
Sam flicked the safety on the Glock and tucked it into the back of his jeans. "We need to switch you from Oprah to Dr. Phil, Dean. That wasn't a discussion. It was an argument."
"You watch Dr. Phil?" Dean's eyebrows quirked up in the middle.
Sam reached for the shotgun and started to shut the false bottom. "So not the point."
Dean shoved his right hand under the floor, preventing Sam from shutting it. "Gimme the gun, Sam."
"So you can kill someone with it?" Sam snapped at him, turning with the shotgun in his hand to face his brother. The floor dropped down when Dean pulled his hand free.
Dean spread his arms wide, palms out. "You act like I’m talking about killing an altar boy, Sam. This guy killed at least two people that we know of, and he has your girl in there right now."
"I know that, man. I saw it, remember?" Sam's lips twitched and he looked over the top of the opened trunk toward the motel room.
"Yeah, I do remember. Which is why I'm taking the gun." He reached for it, but Sam pulled the gun back.
"It's not worth it, Dean," Sam repeated, softly. "Nothing is worth that. We do that, we're no different from him."
"Is that right?" Dean said, his voice purposefully low and dangerous.
"If that's the case, leave the Glock."
"You heard me," Dean nodded to Sam's waistband and the hidden gun. "Drop it right back in the trunk."
"You want me to go in there unarmed?"
"No, Sam," Dean snapped. "I want you to give me the freakin' shotgun. But since you seem to think I'm gonna go all Boondock Saints on his ass, I think you should leave the gun."
Sam stared at him.
Dean pulled the Bowie knife from his waistband and waved it in Sam's face. "Better yet," he said, his voice rising slightly. "Let's leave all the weapons and just go talk to the guy."
"Enough, Dean," Sam said quietly.
"I mean, he's obviously a very level-headed killer," Dean continued, ignoring Sam's low voice. "We'll just, y'know, reason with—"
Sam grabbed the Bowie knife from him. "I get it, all right! Enough already."
Dean bounced his head back once, dropping his hands to his sides. His vision wavered a moment, but he refused to lean against the car, refused to allow the pain to grab hold, refused to give in. He watched Sam turn to face the trunk and lift the false bottom once more, revealing their arsenal. He broke the barrel of the shotgun, emptied the shells, and began to load rock salt into the chamber.
"What the hell, Sam?"
Sam remained silent.
"He's not a spirit," Dean said, completely confused. "That won't kill him."
"No," Sam snapped the shotgun closed and handed it to Dean. "But it will hurt like hell."
Dean grabbed the shotgun from Sam roughly, shaking his head. "I don't get you, man."
"So I don't want you to kill someone," Sam growled at him. "What's not to get?"
"We. Hunt. Evil." Dean fisted his hands and stepped forward, leaning close to Sam, his eyes angry and intense, his whole body rigid. "End of story. I thought by now you would have learned that evil comes in many forms. Even human."
“Yeah and sometimes what we think is evil is just… misunderstood,” Sam growled back, his lips thin.
“Oh, gimme a break, Sam…”
"I don't want to lose you, Dean," Sam interjected fiercely. "Not now. Not after I—"
"What?" Dean's eyebrows lifted in question, his voice low, confused. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"If you do this, if you go in there to kill this guy," Sam's finger jabbed in the direction of the motel, "it will be like that demon never left you."
Dean pulled back abruptly, feeling the blood drain from his face. He clenched his jaw. Sam was watching him, and he had to look away, toward the motel, unable to meet his brother's open, vulnerable eyes. Afraid of what Sam would see in his. It wasn't the same… feeling the demon inside of him hadn't been the same as this need to stop a killer that even the police weren't willing to face. This man was evil. And if there was one thing that Dean knew, it was how to stop evil.
"I'm sorry, man," Sam whispered. "I didn't mean—"
"We're wasting time," Dean interrupted, turning from the trunk and walking to the hood of the car. He paused, waiting for Sam. He heard the trunk close, heard his brother's footsteps, and when Sam was next to him, he began walking in beat with him toward the motel.
They reached the door of their room and Dean noticed that it wasn't latched. He looked sideways at Sam, who looked back at him, his jaw muscle twitching. Sam still held the sheathed Bowie knife in his grip and used the leather tip to push the door open. Dean brought the shotgun up, ready to point it over Sam's shoulder.
They saw Grace immediately. She stood on a chair, her hands bound behind her, a towel in her mouth, tied behind her head, sheets from her bed twisted in a noose around her neck and tied off at the ceiling fan. A rope was tied to the base of the chair and strung across the room, disappearing behind the wall into the bathroom.
Blood matted one side of her blonde hair, but her eyes were more angry then scared. They shot over to the door the minute it creaked open and when they hit Sam, Dean was struck by the utter relief he saw there. In that one look, he saw that she knew Sam. She knew his brother would do everything in his power to save her.
Sam stepped fully into the room, Dean directly behind him. Closing the door, Dean's quick eyes searched the room, but could not immediately see Lucien. He leveled the shotgun at the opening to the bathroom where the rope disappeared.
"Gracie," Sam said in a low, soothing voice. "You're doing great, okay? You just hang in there."
"Nice pun," came a slightly manic-sounding voice from the recesses of the bathroom. "He thought you were going to disappoint us."
He? Dean swallowed, looking over at Sam. Sam's eyes were on Grace. Grace looked back at Sam, then shifted her eyes nervously to the doorway where the voice echoed again, this time in Latin.
"Illa es gentilitas quisnam denied vos…"
"Hey!" Dean protested loudly. "Who are you calling heathens, pal?"
His outburst produced the desired effect. Lucien stepped into the room, the end of the rope wrapped around one hand, Dean's .45 gripped in the other.
"You understand Latin?"
Dean lifted a brow. "I understand that you're a psycho. Now drop the rope."
Lucien's wild eyes darted to the corner of the room, empty but for shadows. He shook his head rapidly muttering, "No, no it wasn't me…"
Dean exchanged a look with Sam. Sam slipped the leather sheath from the Bowie knife with one hand, holding the knife carefully at his side. He stepped toward Grace's chair.
"Hey, Caesar," Dean called, working to pull Lucien's attention from Sam and Grace and focus it on him. "How 'bout you and I get to know each other, huh? So… you're a psycho that kills women for kicks…"
"YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT!" Lucien's voice deepened and his roar caused Grace to jump.
Dean saw Sam instinctively reach for her, but she caught her balance. Lucien brought Dean's gun to bear on Sam when he saw him reach for Grace. Dean's heart stopped once, then resumed in double-time. He kept the shotgun level on Lucien.
"No, no, maybe I don't," Dean said. "Why don't you explain it to me?"
"Move again, and you kill her," Lucien said to Sam, holding the rope that was attached to Grace's chair leg aloft.
Sam raised his hands in mock surrender. "Not moving."
Dean shot his eyes to Sam and watched as his brother turned his attention away from Lucien and focused on Grace. Sam didn't seem to care that Lucien held a gun on him, or that Lucien was quite obviously teetering on the edge of sanity and control. His whole focus in that moment was Grace. Dean swallowed, working to absorb Sam's calm, working to absorb Sam's strength. He had one job right now: stay alert and protect Sam.
With a damn shotgun full of rock salt, he groaned internally.
"Grace," Sam was saying softly. "You have to trust me on this, okay?"
Grace kept her eyes on Sam, blinking once when Sam dipped his head toward her. Sam looked quickly over at Dean.
“He’s not pleased. He wants you to pay.” Lucien was still focused on Sam.
“No one’s even here, man. You’re talking to the wall.” Dean shook his head.
“Dean—" Sam started, but Lucien interrupted him with another roar.
“HE IS NOT PLEASED. I am not going down for this. You stopped the cycle. YOU STOPPED THE CYCLE. I am not going down for this."
Lucien’s hands began to waver, the rope pulled taut and Grace's chair tipped. Dean had had enough. Shooting a quick glance to see how close Sam was to Grace, Dean lifted the shotgun.
“That’s what you think.” He rounded a chamber, pulling Lucien's attention to him, and fired.
At the same time that Lucien flew back against the wall, Sam lunged forward. The rope followed Lucien's descent to the ground, pulled the chair Grace stood on from its legs, and Grace fell forward off her precarious perch directly into Sam's arms. Reaching up with Dean's Bowie knife, Sam cut through the rope made of sheets and collapsed on the ground, Grace bound in his arms.
"Sam?" Dean called.
"We're okay, she's okay," Sam was saying, holding Grace to him, her head tucked under his chin.
As Dean walked past him, the gun trained on Lucien’s still form, he could see Sam visibly trembling, his eyes closed, his hand protectively holding Grace’s head against his chest. Dean pulled his lips in, swallowing his reaction, and moved forward to Lucien's unconscious body. He heard Sam talking in a low voice to Grace. He couldn't understand what he was saying, but it didn't matter. They'd saved her. Sam didn’t have to helplessly watch someone he had feelings for die. Dean had done his job.
He stepped close to Lucien, feeling a momentary stab of pity for the man. He moved to kick his .45 clear of Lucien's outstretched hand when Lucien's legs suddenly struck out and swept Dean's legs out from under him. He hit the ground with a jarring thud that drove the air from his lungs and sliced white-hot pain through his side.
Dean blinked dazedly as Lucien jumped to his feet and placed two well-aimed kicks to Dean's wounded side. Dean cried out as he felt Sam’s careful stitches tear, felt his side open, and the haze of pain became his world. He instinctively curled in on his side, protecting it, unable to reach forward and stop Lucien, knowing he was going after Sam.
He couldn't see anything but white. He struggled to breathe, but the heat from his side was spreading through his body like rapid fire, and the room was beginning to tilt. He heard Sam cry out – a tangle of words that meant nothing to Dean's numb ears. The only thing he knew was that Sam was in trouble… Sam was in trouble and he had to move… he had to move… he had to move now.
Sam was swearing. Dean clutched at air with a gaping mouth, working to bring it into his starved lungs, working to focus his vision. He suddenly realized that he was looking at the barrel of his .45. It was lying next to his head. He blinked, working to move his hand up and grab the gun, demanding that his body obey.
With a strange sense of detachment, he watched his own hand tremble as it reached up to grab the gun. He wrapped his fingers around the familiar grip, then lifted his blurry eyes to see Lucien astride Sam, his hands wrapped around his brother's throat. Sam's face was red from straining for air, his hands clawing at Lucien's fingers, fresh blood streaming down his forehead.
As Dean worked to force his body to still, to stop shaking, he saw Grace. She had been working to pull her arms under her body and curl her legs through her bound hands so that she could get them in front of her. The minute she did so, she lunged forward toward Lucien and Sam, but almost effortlessly, Lucien kicked out and caught her in the stomach. She dropped like a rock and didn't move.
"Arrrrrgggghhhhh!!" Dean screamed as Sam's desperate flailing weakened.
Dean gripped the .45 with both hands, bringing his unsteady hands up to point the gun at Lucien. Not caring if he had the perfect shot, Dean rolled to his wounded side and fired twice. He watched the first bullet miss and the second one hit. Lucien jerked up, his back arching, his hands falling from Sam's neck. Dean held his breath, keeping his gun up. Lucien stumbled off of Sam, turned to face Dean, still on his knees, his arms outstretched as though he was crucified.
His eyes were insane. Dean saw what Sam must have seen last night. There wasn't even a glimmer of rational thought echoing in the eerie blue depths. Keeping his eyes trained on Lucien's odd posture, Dean rasped out a desperate, "Sam?"
His only reassurance that his weakness had not cost his brother's life was a vicious wheezing from Sam. Lucien stumbled toward Dean, muttering. Dean tilted his head to the side once. Sam's words bounced in his head, as loudly as if they were being screamed at him: you kill this guy; it will be like the demon never left you…
Lucien advanced again, his muttering becoming louder, but no more coherent. Dean fired. His bullet found its mark in Lucien's chest, but still Lucien advanced. Dean had one brief moment to wonder if they had been wrong -- if there indeed was a demon in this man -- before Lucien literally pounced on him. The rapid-fire impacts of Lucien's fists rattled Dean's head, his coherent thoughts scattering like dried leaves in an autumn wind.
Amidst the ringing in his ears, Dean realized he still had the .45 in his grip. Growling with rage and pain as Lucien's knee pressed painfully against his blood-soaked side, Dean shoved the .45 against Lucien's chest and fired. The hammer hit on an empty chamber. Dean pulled the trigger again. Nothing.
"Son of a bitch!" Dean growled, reaching up and pushing at Lucien's face, digging his fingers into Lucien's eyes, trying to push him away.
Lucien's fist caught him on the side of the head and his hand loosened a moment, but he was able to release his grip on the .45 and bring his other hand into the struggle. As he fought to overpower Lucien, Dean felt a glimmer of regret that he was only human, that he no longer had the amp of dark power to call upon, that he could be so easily defeated.
Lucien was screaming. Dean knew it was Latin, but he'd lost the ability to separate words into meaning. He had been reduced to the instinct to survive. Lucien's screaming was simply the soundtrack to the chaos in his head. His only thought was keep breathing… He growled a low, guttural sound, pulled from the fire in his belly, the pain in his side that was wrapping around his whole body.
Using the power of that cry, he gripped Lucien's throat, forcing his remaining strength into his fingers and attempting to crush his windpipe. Lucien's screams began to fade as air was denied him. Unexpectedly, Lucien shoved hard against Dean's chest, pushing himself away. Dean was unable to maintain his grip. Lucien shot to his feet, grabbing the front of Dean's jacket as he did so, and with inhuman strength hauled Dean up from the floor and slammed him, hard, against the wall.
Dean's vision grayed.
Lucien slammed him again, this time holding him there with one hand pressed hard against his throat. Dean felt his body leave him. He was awake, but not really aware. His eyes were open, but he couldn't see. He had felt this before. And the last thing he'd seen then were yellow eyes taunting him from his father's face…
The roar that cut through the shadows in his head wasn't an insane Latin ramble from the mouth of a killer. It was a cry of outrage from his brother. It was a denial of what was happening. It was resistance. Something slammed into Lucien, and his iron-like fingers were immediately gone. Dean felt his body fall. His knees vanished into the floor, the impact of his side against the ground jarred through the rest of the shadows so that he was able to once again see from his horizontal vantage point.
Sam was wrestling with Lucien. With Dean's Bowie knife gripped in his hand, he had slammed the killer to the ground, releasing Dean, and was working to subdue him. Dean wanted to call out to him, wanted to end it for him… he wanted to save Sam, to spare him from doing what he had worked so hard to prevent… but he couldn't move… he could barely breathe. Lucien's inhuman strength continued as he held Sam's arm away, held the knife away, and Dean saw him reach to Sam's waistband and pull out the Glock.
"No…" Dean whispered. "Sammy, no."
As though he heard Dean's whispered warning, Sam's efforts increased when the Glock came between his body and Lucien's. With a cry of rage and denial, Sam pressed the Bowie knife forward, the tip hovering above the base of Lucien's throat. Dean saw Lucien shove the barrel of the gun into Sam’s face. He gritted his teeth, reaching for the personification of light and dark struggling for dominance before him. With his last ounce of energy, Dean gripped Lucien's sleeve, pulling it toward him.
Lucien fired. Sam surged forward.
The bullet grazed Sam's ear. The knife plunged into Lucien's throat.
And then there was silence.
Dean closed his eyes. He felt the hungry fingers pulling at his beaten body. He wanted so badly to give in, to let the darkness take him. Then he wouldn’t have to open his eyes and see in Sam's the same look he saw in the mirror every day since he'd killed the man in the alley.
Sam's voice trembled. Dean felt his brother's hands on his face, felt Sam's fingers lightly tapping his cheeks.
"Dean, you with me?"
Yeah, Sammy, I'm with you…
"Dean, please… open your eyes."
They're not open? He blinked hard, working to pry the lids open, working to see Sam. He was so tired. He couldn't… they were too heavy…
"Dean… I need you to open your eyes," Sam said. Dean heard tears in his brother's voice. "I can't do this by myself."
"Yes, you can," Dean whispered, finally winning the battle with his eyelids. He blinked up at Sam's battered face.
"Yeah, well," Sam sniffed. "I don't want to."
Not going anywhere, Sammy…
"Grace?" Dean managed.
"She's okay," Sam nodded. "We have to get out of here."
"I know," Dean said, thinking of the gunshots, the screams… no way that went unnoticed.
"Don't move, okay?" Sam was saying. Dean simply blinked at him.
Sam stood on unsteady legs, lifting a hand to his bleeding ear. He grabbed their duffels and started stuffing anything that belonged to them into the bags. He kicked the Glock loose from Lucien's fingers, then picked it and the empty .45 up, dropping them into the bag. Dean saw him turn to face the knife.
"I'll do it," Dean said, surprised at how weak his voice was.
Sam looked down at him. Something flickered across Sam’s face when he met Dean’s eyes that he couldn't pin down. Surprise? Irritation?
"I'll do it, Sam," Dean repeated. "Just help me up."
Sam crouched down, and then Dean realized what he was seeing. Gratitude. Dean blinked. Sam’s lips turned up in a sad smile.
“Thanks, Dean,” he said in a low voice. “I got this one.”
Sam wrapped his fingers around the knife hilt and yanked. It reluctantly gave way to the pressure and slid from Lucien's throat with a wet sucking sound. Looking at the crimson blade, Sam stood slowly, then went into the bathroom.
Dean watched him until he couldn't keep his eyes open anymore. He knew what Sam would do. He would clean the blade, and he would get sick, and he would come back for what else had to be done. At the end of the day, Sam was a Winchester, and their family did what had to be done – what no one else wanted to do.
"…yet, okay? Just a little longer…"
Dean pulled his eyebrows together. That was Sam's voice. But he'd just walked into the bathroom. Dean rolled his eyes under his closed lids, forcing them open. Sam was peering at him, crouched low, his hand gripping Dean's shoulder. Dean could see Grace crouched next to him, the ropes removed from her wrists. Her head was bloody, but her eyes were on his.
"What happened?" Dean asked, confused. He had the distinct impression he'd missed something.
"The cops are on their way, Dean," Sam said. "The manager called them. We need to move, okay?"
Dean nodded, "'Kay."
He reached out his hand to clasp Sam's outstretched arm. Sam rocked back on his heels and pulled Dean up and toward him. Dean tried to get his feet under him, but they didn't seem to want to obey him. Sam's arm wrapped around his side and Dean bit back a cry of pain.
"Sorry," Sam breathed, pulling his hand back. "Jesus, Dean, you're bleeding all over the place."
"You can stitch me up when we get back to the motel," Dean muttered, still working to get his feet under him.
Sam sat him down, gripping his shoulders. "Dean… we are at the motel."
Dean looked at Sam, wondering why he was so fuzzy around the edges. "We are?"
Sam nodded, looking worriedly at someone next to him, then back at Dean. Dean shivered. Sam was always turning the damn air conditioner on… said he needed the noise to sleep.
"Dude, turn the air down," Dean muttered, feeling the heaviness of his eyes, wanting to lie back down, unable to do so because of Sam's grip.
"It's freezing in here." Dean tried to say more, but his tongue suddenly seemed too big for his mouth. And the room was spinning. Funny, he didn't remember drinking… but he couldn't remember much… he couldn't remember how they got to the motel… why he was sitting on the floor… why his side was on fire while the rest of him was freezing…
"Let them in," Sam was saying. "Just… just let them in, Grace."
Who the hell is Grace? He just wanted to lie down. He pushed against Sam's hands and almost sighed with relief when Sam finally gave in and lowered him to the ground. He blinked. He could hear a tumble of voices in the background. They all blended into a hum in his ears. Sam's voice was the only one that was clear, even if what he was saying didn't make any sense.
"…private detectives hired by Mrs. Tyler. Call her at the hospital and you'll find out pretty fast. This is the man you should have been looking for… prove he was responsible for at least two murders… partner needs medical attention…"
Dean turned to look at Sam, but Sam was looking up at someone that Dean couldn't see. Maybe it's Dad… maybe Dad found us. Sam's acting like he's talking to Dad…
"Dad?" Dean whispered. Sam turned to him and Dean saw his eyebrows pull together.
"Dean, it's gonna be okay. Just hold on…"
Sure Sammy… Dean thought before he felt his body give in, felt the darkness win, felt himself fall into nothing.
Wake Medical Center, early evening
Sam stood at the foot of his brother's hospital bed, watching him. Dean wasn't exactly sleeping… he'd not regained consciousness since lying in a pool of his own blood in the motel room, next to the dead body of a serial killer. A man Sam had killed.
Sam had been told to sit down, to get some rest, but he knew that the moment he did, he would be out, and he needed to be standing here when Dean woke up. They'd bandaged the bullet graze on his ear, stitched his head, checked his bruised neck, face, and ribs, and had given him an MRI, calling him lucky. They hadn't understood when he'd started laughing. He would have probably scared them if he'd allowed his laughter to dissolve into tears, so he'd made his way to Dean's room.
Dean had been given a transfusion until his blood pressure, dangerously low when they were brought in, registered within a normal range. They'd stitched his side again, treated the bruises on his face from Lucien's fists, and hooked him up to a saline IV. Both had been given a bolus of antibiotics, and Sam had managed to talk one of Dean's nurses out of an extra dose of painkillers. He'd pocketed them for later, knowing his stubborn brother would insist on leaving well before he should.
The door behind him was quietly opened and out of the corner of his eyes Sam saw Grace enter the room. He didn't move from his guardian-like perch at the end of the bed, but he opened his arms to her when she stepped up close to him. She carefully wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her bandaged head on his chest. He draped his arm down her back, resting his hand comfortably on her hip.
"Nick's dead," she said in a small voice.
"I know," Sam whispered. “I’m sorry, Gracie.”
She nodded and cleared her throat quietly, trying not to disturb Dean, Sam knew. He almost wanted her to be louder. He wanted Dean to wake up. Now. He was as close to complete exhaustion as he'd ever been, but he couldn't give in now. Not until Dean was awake. Not until he knew Dean was there, really there.
"They, uh," Grace shifted against him, and he absentmindedly started to rub her back in a gentle circle. "They told me that Lucien was on something… that's how he was so strong."
"Yeah," Sam said. "Dean figured PCP."
She nodded against his chest.
"They gonna be able to tie him to the other murders?" Sam asked.
"I think so," Grace said. "They found a lot of weird stuff in his room when they searched the house after they found Ni—after…"
Sam pulled her close for a moment, then asked. "Weird like what?"
She sighed. "Oh, like… pictures of yellow eyes on his wall, and Latin phrases in permanent marker on his doors."
Sam froze. He literally went cold. Grace pulled away from him, peering up into his face.
He shook his head, unable to trust his voice.
"You okay, Sam?"
He nodded, working to get a grip on himself. "Just tired." Yellow eyes? Haris, you bastard… "Did anyone figure out why the killings stopped last month?"
Grace huffed out a laugh. "Yeah. His mom was sick and he went home to be with her."
Sam looked down at her. "Seriously?"
She lifted a shoulder. "Weird thing is… I have a hard time thinking about him actually having parents. Seems like someone that evil shouldn't have a family."
That little exorcism of yours? That was my daughter… the one in the alley? That was my son…
Dean shifted slightly in the bed, and Sam blinked, alert. He saw Dean frown slightly, then roll his head to the side. When he didn't move again, Sam looked down at Grace. She was looking back at him.
"Thanks for getting Mrs. Tyler to cover for us," he said. She nodded with a small smile.
"Least she could do. You guys caught her daughter's killer." She looked over at Dean, then back up at Sam. "You’re gonna leave, aren't you?"
She shook her head. "I don't even know your real name," she whispered.
"You know enough," Sam said, lowering his head and cupping hers at the same time.
He pressed his lips to hers, gently at first and then as she gripped his shoulders, he pressed deeper, tasting her, forgetting for one moment anything but the feel of her mouth on his. After a beat, he stepped back, watching her pull her lips in. She blinked her eyes open, then smiled sadly at him.
"Am I ever gonna see you again?"
Sam looked at the floor, the corner of his mouth pulling up in a small grin. "Anything is possible."
Grace touched his face, then looked over at Dean. "I'm glad your brother is gonna be okay, Sam."
The pain that laced through her voice cut into Sam. He'd come to his senses in that motel room, able only to breathe, focusing only on the air, and realized that the sight that met his blurry eyes was of his brother dying. Lucien had been this close to taking Dean from him. If he'd been out of it for one moment longer… if he hadn't grabbed Lucien when he did…
He looked at Grace's stricken eyes. He never wanted to feel what she was feeling now. And he closed off the part of his mind that told him that by saving Dean from the demon, by making that deal with Haris, Sam had damned his brother to this very fate, to feeling the empty heartbreak that was staring back at him through Grace's blue eyes.
"I'm so sorry about Nick," Sam said.
Grace frowned, pressing her lips together in a futile attempt to keep the tears at bay. "Thanks," she managed. “I can’t even think about him not… not being there…”
Sam nodded, holding her close to him. She felt tiny in his arms, and he remembered how easily he’d been able to forget reality while with her, if only for a moment. She had allowed him to feel good, to feel normal for just a few hours. But it was enough to remind him that normal was possible.
Reaching up to touch Sam's face, Grace stepped up on her toes and kissed him again briefly. "Take care of yourself, Sam Beckett."
"You, too," Sam said, folding her into his eyes with one look.
He watched her turn from him and quickly walk away through the hospital door. Sighing, he turned to face Dean’s bed again. A quick flutter of lashes met his eyes.
"How long have you been awake?"
Dean opened one eye. "Long enough, Sam," he said, his voice a weak rasp.
"You hear what she said about the yellow eyes on the wall of Lucien's bedroom?"
Dean opened his other eye, frowning at the IV in his arm. "No, but it makes sense, doesn't it?"
"How you figure?"
"Seems like your visions always have something to do with that bastard… one way or another."
Dean reached over and started to pull at the tape from around his IV.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Getting out of here," Dean said matter-of-factly. "Don't act so surprised."
"You do realize that you left about two gallons of blood back in that motel room?" Sam said, stepping forward and helping Dean remove the IV.
"Looks like I got it back," Dean said. "You got my clothes?"
Sam silently helped Dean out of the hospital gown and into his jeans, shirts, and shoes. He ignored Dean's occasional hisses of breath, but was unable to turn away from the weak sway once Dean was dressed and standing. He wordlessly draped Dean's right arm across his shoulders and grabbed whatever supplies were lying in the room that he could use to replenish the first aid kit.
"Grace will be okay, Sam," Dean said softly as they made their way from the room. "You'll probably see her again… you saw Sara again…"
"Not exactly the best example," Sam muttered.
"Yeah, you're right," Dean nodded as they maneuvered down the empty hall and out into the fading light of the day.
"You don't have to make me feel better, Dean."
Sam shook his head, opening the back door on the driver’s side. "I'm gonna be okay."
He shifted Dean's arm from his shoulder, slightly alarmed that his brother didn't even protest at being relegated to the back seat. He helped Dean ease back on to the seat, closed the door, then slid behind the wheel. When the Impala roared to life, he heard Dean sigh in contentment.
As they pulled out of the hospital parking lot, Dean said. "You don't have to be, you know."
"I don't have to be, what?"
Sam shot his eyes up to the rear view mirror, looking at Dean slumped against the opposite door, his face pale, his eyes shadowed.
"Why? You always are," Sam said.
"That's different," Dean muttered.
"Because, Sam, it just is."
Sam drove away from Raleigh, the radio playing softly in the background. Kansas' The Devil Game teased him.
I've got books that say the good man's golden
And more that say the bad will fall,
Take a look at what the future's holdin',
Won't be yours if you don't heed this call,
Life is a game, and the stakes will remain the same.
Now you've gotta choose, is the devil gonna win or lose again.
"You didn't have a choice, Sam," Dean said suddenly.
Sam looked at him again in the rear view mirror. He looked like Sam felt – hollowed out and exhausted. Watching the signs on the side of the road, Sam pulled off at the first exit claiming to have gas, food, and lodging. Leaving Dean lying across the back seat of the Impala, Sam went in to the motel office and got them a room for a week. He planned on sleeping for most of that time.
He drove to the room, unloaded their bags, then came back for Dean. He hadn't moved, which told Sam all he needed to know. Dean was at his limit. He was against his wall. Sam opened the door and eased Dean out, helping him find his footing and slinging his arm across his shoulder.
Apparently not done trying to reassure Sam, Dean gripped him with, "I would have done the same thing."
Sam eased him down on the nearest bed. "I know, Dean. You have."
"You have done it. For me. You killed for me," Sam pulled Dean's boots off, then handed him two painkillers and a bottle of water. "You've sacrificed for all of us, man."
Dean swallowed the pills and shook his head, dismissing Sam's words. "You weren't wrong."
"About killing that guy. You weren't wrong…” Dean shifted on the bed, wincing slightly. “But what happened isn't the same thing."
"Guy's still dead," Sam pointed out, helping Dean adjust his pillow so that there was the least amount of pressure on his wounded side. He pulled the blankets up to Dean's shoulders.
"You saved my life, Sam," Dean said, his eyes closing slowly, then opening with obvious effort. "Just wanted… you to know… some things are worth it."
Dean blinked once, twice, his lashes shadowing the purple circles of exhaustion under his hazel eyes. "Worth the sacrifice…" Dean breathed, his body relaxing into the bed as real sleep finally claimed him.
Sam sat heavily on the bed opposite his brother, the one furthest from the door as always. He stared at Dean's face, the bruising, the lines of pain that were still present even in sleep. For a moment, Dean actually looked young. When he was awake, Sam was acutely aware of the wary, watchful gaze ever-present in Dean’s eyes. His eyes were old. Sam watched his brother breathe and knew that he had done the right thing. He'd had to do it to save Dean, just as Dean had saved him.
"Yeah, man," he whispered as he lay back on the bed, closing his eyes. "Some things are worth it."
a/n: Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.
Next up is Suffocate, Episode 10 from Virtual Season 2, originally posted in June of 2007. Hope to see ya then!>