Characters: Sam, Dean
Spoilers: Virtual Season story; VS 2, episode 10
Summary: As a favor to one of John's Marine buddies, the brothers end up hunting a ghost that is haunting a small town. The tables are turned, allies become enemies, and soon Dean is literally buried in his work, Sam his only hope.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
a/n:Thanks for coming back.
Surveyor's Office, early evening
Dean was scowling.
The implications of what they discovered triggered a palpable anger in Dean. It rolled off of him in slow waves that buffeted Sam and caused him to calm down in an almost instinctive defense to Dean's reaction. He watched as his brother's eyes roamed the five points of the pentagram, his jaw tightening by increments.
"What the hell," Dean growled, his voice low. Sam knew it wasn't a question. "He knew about this… you know he friggin' knew about this."
"I told you Frank was protecting something," Sam said, his eyes still on Dean.
When Dean didn't look up at him, Sam shifted his eyes back to the map. This is serious witchcraft, he realized. Someone knew exactly what they were doing when they buried the pieces of Lawrence Jessup's body. In order to vanquish the spirit, they would have to locate, salt, and burn each piece.
Without being caught.
"So how do we know where to look in each of these… areas?" Dean asked waving a hand around the map.
"Well," Sam said on an exhale of thought. "I can cross reference the topographical map with a street map… gonna take some time, though."
Frown still in place, Dean looked up. "Something tells me we're running out of that, Sam."
"Yeah, I know," Sam nodded. He lifted a shoulder. "We could get a good idea of where the grave might be, mark up a map… problem is if we're wrong…"
"Divide and conquer," Dean said flexing his wounded right hand.
"Gimme a street map, tell me where to go." Dean's green eyes were hard with resolve.
"What?" Sam shook his head. "No way. You aren't digging with that hand."
Dean didn't drop his eyes. "Yes, I am," he said. "You know I can't figure out these… spirit element signs," he gestured to the map with his bandaged hand.
"But, Dean," Sam shifted his weight, his hands opened and pleading. "What if the spirit comes after you?"
Dean lifted a shoulder. "I'll dig faster. Not like it would be the first time."
Sam thought of Grayson… of how Dean had to burn Grayson's body alone—with a grenade—not knowing if he had been in time, not knowing what he would return to. He chewed his bottom lip, dropping his eyes. Dean was right: separating was the most efficient way to handle this hunt, to get it done. He just didn't want Dean to go.
"I don't like it, Dean," Sam grumbled. "Things never go well when we split up."
Dean chuckled. Sam looked up at the sound. There was actual mirth in his brother's eyes.
"Aw, Sammy," Dean pushed against his shoulder. "You're gonna miss me."
Sam pouted and shoved Dean's shoulder back. "Shut up. Jerk."
"Bitch." Dean lifted an eyebrow. "Now, gimme a map."
Sam narrowed his eyes at Dean a moment longer, but when Dean simply looked back, he gave in and started to pull open the drawers in the tall filing cabinets around them. Finding a simple road map of Ellicott City, he thrust it at Dean.
"Here," Sam said. "The one place I can identify on this map is St. Thomas' Church."
Dean looked at the brown and beige circles and ridges scattered across the topographical map. "How the hell—"
"It was on the highest rise in the town," Sam said. He lifted a shoulder, "I read about it in one of the pamphlets in the hotel room. They built it there, so, you know… it was closer to God."
Dean looked at Sam out of the corner of his eyes. "You're serious?"
Sam folded his lips. "Yep."
"I said it before, and I'll say it again," Dean muttered, turning to head out the door. "Demons I get. People are crazy."
"Dean," Sam called after him.
Pausing in the doorway, Dean turned to look over his shoulder. "Yeah?"
"What if Frank or Reed come back before we've found them all?"
Dean flicked his eyes behind Sam to the door Reed has exited from earlier, then wrapped his hand around the knob of the front door. "Just lock the door," he said with a lift of his shoulder. "Shove a chair under the knob or something. Should stall them for a while."
Dean pulled the door to him and moved to step through.
"Dean," Sam called again.
Dean paused and without looking at him said, "What, Sam?"
Sam swallowed. "Just, uh…" he licked his lips.”Just be careful, okay?"
Dean did look at him then. His mouth curled in a slightly crazy grin that usually either made Sam worry or filled him with confidence, depending on how close he was standing to Dean.
"Dude," he said, grin still firmly in place. "It's me."
He stepped out of the office and pulled the door closed behind him, walking toward the Impala with a quick glance in either direction. Sam watched him through the window, a cold feeling of dread slowly filling the empty spaces inside of him.
"Yeah," he whispered. "That's what worries me."
Impala, outside St. Thomas' Church, Spirit, 6:00pm
Dean sat for a moment surveying the ancient looking cemetery behind St. Thomas' Church. White tombstones, some tilted and sunken with age, were scattered across a half-acre of lush, green grass. Large oak trees dotted the area, throwing shadows across the land from the dying sunlight. Dean wondered if he had ever been spooked in a cemetery; he could never remember being afraid around graves. Not the way most people were, anyway. For him, a cemetery provided a potential solution to a problem.
The only thing that got to him was the idea of actually being buried. Dead or not, the idea of being planted in the ground like a human seed waiting to decompose and fertilize the grass and trees he saw around him caused gooseflesh to rise on his arms. When it's my time they'd better burn my ass, he thought. Unless… unless he was the last one standing.
Dean blinked and shook his head, working to banish that thought. He flipped open his phone and dialed Sam.
"Sam," he barked into the receiver.
"I’m working on it," Sam replied. His voice was tight, focused.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Sam mumbled. "You're at the church?"
"Yeah," Dean shifted the phone so that the cell mouthpiece was under his chin and leaned forward to look around. "And, uh… it's not dark enough, man."
"It's gonna have to be," Sam said.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean pulled his eyebrows together.
"You're in the right place, Dean. Just… you gotta look for a grave or marker that would be about three years old."
"Dude," Dean's eyes ran over the tombstones. "We're talking Civil War era here."
"That's the best I can do," Sam snapped.
He heard his brother sigh on the other side. "Sorry," Sam said. "I just… I can't match a couple of these up."
"Well, chill out for a minute," Dean climbed out of the car and shut the door. He moved around to the back, balancing the phone on his shoulder with the tilt of his head as he unlocked the trunk. "I got me a grave to dig… that ought to buy you a good… fifteen minutes."
That sparked a laugh on the other end of the phone. "You wish," Sam said.
Dean snapped the phone shut, stuffed it in his pocket, then retrieved a shovel, a box of wooden matches, the gas can they kept rock salt in for these very reasons, and a can of lighter fluid. As he was about to shut the lid, his eyes caught on the silver of his .45. It was loaded with actual rounds—useless against a spirit—but something tickled the back of his mind. He reached in, grabbed the gun, and tucked it into the waistband of his jeans.
Sticking the matches into his pants pocket, Dean hefted the shovel and began to wander the cemetery, trying to look as inconspicuous to any possible passersby as he could… walking in a cemetery… carrying a shovel. He glanced up at the golden edge of the horizon, wishing for possibly the first time in his life that darkness would just fall already.
The white cross was nestled against one of the large oaks about twenty feet behind the church. Dean nearly walked past it before he realized what it was he was seeing. It looked like the kind of cross people put alongside the highway when a loved one dies in a car accident. He paused, tilting his head as he regarded it. Nah…really?
Glancing over his shoulder at the church, he set down the salt and lighter fluid, shrugged out of his leather jacket, took a deep breath and jammed the shovel into the earth.
Surveyor's Office, 6:30pm
Sam chewed on his lip, flipping a pencil around his finger in distracted thought. His eyes darted from the map to his phone, lying silent and still on the desk next to him. It had been nearly thirty minutes since he last heard from Dean. He knew from experience that if the grave was six feet deep, it would take Dean at least—
He jumped when the ring tone jarred the phone in a dance of sound across the desk. Picking it up, he hit 'talk' and pressed the phone to his ear.
"I got an arm," Dean said, panting.
"That was quick."
"Wasn't buried six feet down." Sam heard Dean's voice change in pitch as he moved.
"Did you burn it?"
"As we speak, Sammy," he replied.
"Dean, I found some stuff," Sam said in a rush, reaching over to pull a couple of books toward him. He heard Dean huff on the other end and knew that he was starting to shovel dirt back into the hole. "Are you…"
"People in the church," Dean panted.
"Call me back," Sam shut his phone, set it down and stared at it some more.
He'd found all but one location, and in cross referencing the possibilities, he'd stumbled across more Wiccan books, hidden in a drawer that he had to stand on a chair to get to. Unless Reed had a ladder, he didn't think they were hers, and his suspicions were confirmed when he opened the front cover and saw Lawrence Jessup's name written in the corner in tiny, block letters.
The spells contained in that book were ancient – and he'd recognized more than a few from his father's journal and from Bobby. There was an explanation of the significance of the Key of Solomon, a warning about using a devil's trap properly, and instructions on how to protect property and persons against possession.
It was when Sam saw the spell for binding a soul to a location by the use of a pentagram that he started to worry and stopped looking for the fifth grave. His phone rang again and he grabbed it quickly.
"I ever tell you how much I friggin' hate cemeteries?"
"Well, you won't have to go into another one for awhile," Sam said, running his finger along the line of the pentagram from St. Thomas' Church.
"Yeah, well… graves are just as bad," Dean sighed. Sam heard the Impala's trunk open and something crash inside. He waited. The creak of the driver's side door sounded and he heard Dean groan slightly as he sank into the seat.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Dean muttered. "What did you find?"
Sam heard the lie, but let it drop.
"Dean, I think Lawrence Jessup was into witchcraft," Sam said, pulling the map to him, focusing on getting Dean on his way to the next grave. "You see Thomas Isaac's Log Cabin on your map?"
"Uh… yeah," Dean answered. "Who the hell is Thomas Isaac?"
"Dunno, founding father or something. Not important," Sam said. "There's a windmill there."
"Lemme guess – air?" Sam could hear Dean shift the phone to his shoulder as the stubble on his chin rubbed against the mouthpiece of the phone. He heard the Impala roar to life and then grabbed the book of spells.
"Yeah," Sam replied. "Listen, I found this book… there's a spell and instructions here on binding a spirit to a place using a pentagram."
"What?" Dean's voice sounded incredulous.
"The book has Lawrence Jessup's name in it, Dean."
"You think Larry designed all of this?"
"It's possible," Sam argued, standing up and pacing the room. "I mean, what if… what if he dabbled, you know? He could have told Frank about it, or even Reed."
"Like a supernatural living will?" Dean scoffed. "Why would he do that?"
"To stick around, man," Sam reached the end of the room, turned and walked back toward the desk and stacks of maps. "People don't want to let go…"
He heard a dry, mirthless laugh on the other line.
"What?" Sam asked, wary.
"Guess that depends on the person," Dean said.
Sam swallowed. "Dean…" he paused, unsure how to continue, how to tell Dean that he didn't want to die, but he couldn't live another day watching his brother, his protector, his only friend suffer as he had been. He couldn't live and let the demon eat away everything that made Dean Dean. He'd had to do it – to save him.
Dean was silent on the other end of the line. Sam felt the heaviness of his brother's heart. He felt the burden of unspoken words.
He felt… like something was standing behind him.
Sam turned, his eyes searching the empty room. He stepped sideways toward the desk, darting his eyes to the side, trying to see if he could catch a glimpse out of the corners of his eyes.
"Dean," Sam's tone was urgent. In his mind's eye, he could see Dean sit straighter in his seat. "I think there's something here…"
"What?" Dean's voice was a harsh bark of worry.
"I think I'm being watched."
Thomas Isaac's Log Cabin, Air, 7:00pm
"You see someone? Reed or maybe Frank?"
"No," Sam shook his head against the phone. "No one."
"Get some salt, Sammy," Dean barked into the phone, throwing the car into park and jumping out.
"You got the car, Dean."
Dean frowned and opened the trunk, grabbing the shovel, salt, and lighter fluid. The matches were still in his pocket. "Check around the office. There's gotta be a break room or a secret stash or something."
He heard Sam rummaging around and kept the phone pressed to his ear as he started toward the windmill that stood about fifty feet from the cabin. The terrain was rough, rocky, and tufts of grass grew in mottled lumps. The sun had disappeared below the horizon and a dim gray light stole over the landscape. Dean squinted. In the half-light of dusk, it was hard for him to see at a distance, so he kept his scan of the area to his left, right, and center.
"Packets… from a fast food restaurant," Sam finally said.
"Better than nothing," Dean muttered. "Make a circle."
"Gonna be the smallest salt ring in the history of hunting," Sam grumbled.
"Aw, Sammy." Dean forced a grin, "You know size doesn't matter. It's all in how you use it."
"Bite me," Sam's voice was muffled as Dean assumed he was tearing packets and creating a circle.
Dean shifted the salt container under his arm and gripped the shovel tightly in one hand so that he could hold onto the phone. He would have to hang up when he found the grave, but something, some childlike part of him that he rarely recognized and never admitted to, was reluctant to let Sam go. He clamped down on the irrational fear of not being able to get him back.
"You find it yet?" Sam asked after a bit of silence. Dean allowed himself a small smile. Sam didn't seem to want to sever their connection anytime soon either.
"No," Dean said, eyes still scanning the swiftly darkening landscape. "At least it's dark this time… I was like two seconds from being caught back at the church."
He heard the shrug in Sam's voice. "You can't see what's coming after you in the dark."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Dude, spirit, remember? Can't see it coming after me half the time anyway." He stumbled and almost dropped the shovel in an attempt to catch his balance. Looking down, he saw that he'd actually knocked over the small, white cross. "Yahtzee."
"Diggin' again?" Sam asked, his voice sounding strained.
"Yeah, you okay?"
"Just hurry, man," Sam said, and Dean heard a crash. "You got three more after this one."
"What was that?"
"Books… flying off of… shelves—uh!"
"I gotta find the last grave," Sam yelled into the phone over what was starting to sound like a tornado in the background. "Just hurry, okay?"
The line went silent. Dean had to bite his lip to keep from calling his brother's name into the phone again. Instead, he stuffed it in his pocket, kicked the white cross out of the way. Digging the first grave had torn open the stitches in his hand, and the white gauze Sam had carefully wrapped was bright red now. Ignoring it, Dean gripped the shovel handle.
Despite the cool of the night air, he was soon sweating once again, and paused long enough to shrug out of the coffee-stained green shirt. Hoping that this box would also be buried in a shallow grave, Dean blanked his mind to everything but digging, focusing only on shoving the spade into the earth, stamping his foot on the end, and heaving the dirt over his shoulder.
After about ten repetitions of this motion, his right hand started to slip along the wooden handle of the shovel, the blood flowing freely. Frowning, Dean pulled off the sodden bandage, and shook his hand. Blood splattered across the white of the cross lying on the ground next to his shirt. Lifting an eyebrow, he reached down for his shirt, and using his teeth and fingers tore one of the sleeves free. Wrapping the sleeve firmly around his hand, he picked the shovel up and continued to dig.
Nearly four feet down, the blade hit the edge of the box, and Dean felt along the edge.
"Son of a bitch," he muttered, realizing that he was about two feet off of center. "I swear to freakin' God," he continued to grumble as he dug the hole larger to get to a space that he could break open the box. "When I find out who the hell planted Larry pieces all over this town…" He stumbled slightly forward and he tried to heave more dirt than the shovel could hold out of the hole. "I’m gonna kick some ass…"
Three planks of the box were now exposed. Deciding that enough was enough, Dean broke through. A leg… Wiping sweat from his forehead with a dirt-smeared forearm, Dean climbed out of the hole and retrieved the salt and lighter fluid. The match lit the darkness that had descended with an eerily comforting glow. Dean dropped the fire into the hole, grabbed his shovel and supplies and turned to jog through the black to the Impala.
He didn't even put the shovel back in the trunk this time. He was filthy, covered in dirt from head to toe, blood smeared on his hand, arm, and pant leg. He slid behind the wheel and tossed the shovel across the seat next to him. Digging out his cell phone as he started the car, he dialed Sam's number.
The stress in his brother's voice when he answered spiked Dean's heartbeat.
"Sam? You okay?"
"He's here… Lawrence is here," Sam was yelling into the phone over a cacophony of noises in the background.
Shit… why is he going after Sam and not me?
"You okay?" A large crash followed by Sam's gasp was his answer. "Sam!"
"What was that?"
"Cash register." Sam swore. "And a chair."
"Let's get this done, man," Dean yelled into the phone.
"You have to go to a rock quarry," Sam instructed. "There's one – ah – one to the, uh… south of you."
"Rock quarry…" Dean gripped the map, leaving bloody fingerprints along the edges. His eyes blurred for a moment and he blinked, focusing. "I see it…"
"I'm here," Sam said again.
"Stay in that circle, man!"
Dean clicked the phone shut, threw the gear into reverse, floored the accelerator, and turned the wheel roughly to the left. The Impala flipped around like she road on air, rocking only slightly when Dean shifted into drive and demanded that she haul ass to the quarry.
Rock Quarry, Earth, 7:45pm
Dean dug out a flashlight from the glove box, grabbed the shovel, salt, and lighter fluid, and headed toward the large hole in the earth. He stopped at the edge, shining his light around the edge, in the trees, peering into the darkness. The quarry was absent of any construction machinery, and a small pond of water was beginning to collect at the bottom. Dean narrowed his eyes and looked closer at the bottom of the quarry. About twenty feet away from the pond, he saw another cross.
"Oh, you gotta be kidding me," he muttered. Licking his lips, he threw the shovel and salt over the edge, tucked the lighter fluid into his jeans pocket, and began to climb down grasping at tree roots and rock edges.
His hand was on fire by the time he reached the bottom. His arms trembled as he picked up the shovel and when he shoved the blade into the earth, the heat from his wound shot electric currents of pain up his arm and into his shoulder. He clenched his jaw, working to keep from crying out—even here, even now, with nothing and no one around. He couldn't give in even a little bit, he knew, or he would tumble over an edge deeper and darker than this quarry… and he didn't know if he'd be able to climb out of that hole.
Dean ignored the shaking of his hand as nearly forty minutes later he dropped the match in and burned Lawrence Jessup's other arm. His chest was heaving with exertion and when he bent over to pick up the shovel, his right hand wouldn't close around it. Stubbornly refusing to consider this a problem, Dean shifted his grip on the supplies to his left arm and started the laborious climb up and out of the quarry, forced to use his forearms, chin, knees and legs as his right hand wouldn't cooperate. Half-way there, he heaved the shovel and salt over the edge, pausing to grip a tree root with his left hand.
He clung to the side of the dirt wall, his body trembling, his mind numb, his hand aching to the bone. He had to move. Had to. He had two more graves… Fire and water, Dean, he told himself. You've got fire and water… climb, dammit…
"Climb," he growled at his own weakness. "You freakin' wuss, get your ass out of this hole!"
Reaching over his head he pulled himself up, hand over hand, ignoring the fresh blood that ran down his arm, the near-cold pain that had begun to shoot through his joints. When he breeched the top, he used his arms and pulled himself over the edge, laying face-down in the dirt for a moment, pulling in air and feeling his body radiate weariness. He could see the familiar outline of the Impala in the starlight. Dragging himself to his knees, he grabbed the shovel and supplies, pushed himself to his feet and stumbled to the car.
He was retrieving his cell phone before he'd thrown the shovel across the already muddy seat. His hand left smears of dirt and blood on the keypad.
"Sam!" He barked into the phone when he heard it connect.
"Dean—" Sam's voice was strained. Dean heard the pain laced through the sound of his name, the plea to just make it stop.
"Sammy, I'm coming back," Dean yelled, throwing the car into reverse and allowing the motion of the Impala to swing the door shut.
"No!" Sam gasped. "No, Dean… you gotta… you gotta finish it!"
"Sam, what is it?"
"God, Dean… pressure… ah!"
"Are you inside the circle?"
"Circle's…" Sam panted. "Circle's gone."
"Shit, Sam…" Dean clenched his jaw. "Where do I go, man?"
"There's… there's a – a river and a foundry…"
Dean shouldered the phone, flipped on the dome light, and grabbed the map. He was heading back toward the surveyor's office and realized that he had no idea where either of those things were. He pulled over to the side of the road.
"River's to the west," Sam yelled. "Foundry's…ah!"
"Foundry's north of you."
Looking at the map, he saw the foundry Sam was talking about. Dropping the map, he turned the car around.
"He knows, Dean," Sam yelled.
"Sam, get out of there!"
The line went dead. Dean grabbed the phone from his shoulder with his wounded hand and with a guttural growl of rage threw it across the car. It landed, open, on the passenger seat. He pressed the accelerator to the floor, his lip curling in perverse pleasure as the kick of the car thrust him back against the seat. He didn't allow himself to think about the spirit attacking Sam. He didn't allow himself to think about Frank hiding information. He didn't allow himself to think about the distraction Reed's coy little body had offered him.
He didn't allow himself to think about losing his brother nine days from now.
Foundry, Fire, 8:40pm
Dean just drove.
He reached the foundry, shut off the car, and grabbed the blood-stained shovel. The lights from the foundry illuminated the surrounding area, and he could feel the heat from the melting steel seep through the thick brick walls and soak into his body through his thin, black T-shirt. His eyes darted, looking for the white cross. He could feel himself shaking from the inside out, tension riding through him like waves.
"Where is it…" he muttered, turning when he reached the end of the building and letting the soft orange glow from the furnaces guide his eyes. C'mon c'mon c'mon… "Where is it?" He screamed into the uncaring, silent night.
He wanted to throw something, to hit something, to get bloody, to cause pain, to hurt. He clenched his teeth, unaware that he was actually growling. He was about to turn and walk to the other side of the building, when his eyes caught sight of a white cross, shifted sideways and partially buried in the loose earth.
Squaring his shoulders, Dean marched over to the cross, kicked it out of the way, and started attacking the earth. He huffed out ragged growls of pain and anger with each thrust of the shovel, focusing only on getting to the box with whatever piece of Lawrence Jessup it contained.
Time ceased, sound stilled, and the only thing Dean felt was the burn of the muscles across his back and in this arms, the trail of sweat down his face and along the curve of his spine, and the drip of blood as it ran down his arm and fell from his elbow. The earth was almost sandy and soon his shovel hit something hard. Digging faster, Dean uncovered the curved, mahogany top of a coffin.
"What the hell?"
Dropping the shovel, Dean jumped down into the hole, using the back of his left arm to clear off the rest of the coffin lid. There was a nickel-plated latch on one side, and the lid was one long piece of wood.
"A friggin' coffin?"
He reached down and turned the latch, lifting the lid. Inside rested Lawrence Jessup's skull. Dean rubbed a weary hand over his face. Hey, Larry… As he turned to climb out of the hole, he caught a brief glimpse of the legs of a person standing on the dirt ledge above him. Before Dean could raise his eyes to see who the legs belonged to, he felt a blinding pain in his head.
And then all he knew was darkness.
Surveyor's Office, 9:15pm
Sam strained helplessly against the invisible force of bone-chillingly cold air that held him prisoner against the filing cabinets. Lawrence's attack had grown in ferocity with each of Dean's phone calls. Sam had stayed inside the salt circle as long as he could, until a vicious wind wiped away all traces of the salt.
Groaning, Sam shot his eyes desperately over to his cell phone lying discarded on the floor. His jaw trembled as chills wracked his body from the spirit's attack. The noise in the small office was like a thousand voices screaming at once, but Sam couldn't cover his ears: Lawrence had pinned his arms against his side.
And then suddenly, everything stopped. Sam dropped to the ground in a heap, his body still shaking. He reached up with a tentative hand and wiped at the blood that was once again running down the side of his face, and now from both his nose and his bottom lip. Thank God, Dean… As he pressed his hand to the floor, trying to push himself up, he heard his name.
Small, strong hands pulled at his arm, helping him sit up the rest of the way. Sam blinked bleary, dazed eyes at Reed. She looked exhausted, her face pale, her large eyes searching his.
"Sam, what happened?"
Sam wiped at the blood on his lip with the back of his hand. "Your dad's spirit," he croaked, shaking his head to try to stop the ringing in his ears.
Reed dropped his arm. "What?"
"I'm sorry, Reed," Sam rasped. "Your father's spirit… it's gone."
Reed sat back on her heels. "What?" she whispered again.
"My brother…" Sam used the cabinet behind him to help push himself to his feet. "My brother found all the graves."
Reed stayed where she was, her eyes following his lanky form as he suddenly towered above her. Her brows pulled together. "I – I don't understand…"
"Dean burned the bones, Reed," Sam tried again, pressing the heel of his hand against his temple. His eyes shot over to the cell phone on the floor. He'll be calling any minute…
"I wouldn't be too sure about that, kid," said another voice off to Sam's left.
Sam whipped his head over, watching as Frank walked in through the back door left open by Reed. Sam's face folded into confusion. Frank reached a hand down and offered it to Reed, helping her up. Sam watched. Frank's hand had smears of blood on it. Blood… and dirt.
"Frank?" No no no no…
"I'm sorry, Sam," Frank turned to him, and Sam could see dirt on his pant legs. His eyes dropped to the floor and he saw the sandy footprints tracked in from the doorway. "I'm really sorry."
"Uncle Frank?" Reed's face was pulled into a tight question. "What did you do?"
"Where's my brother?" Sam stepped forward on unsteady legs.
Frank glanced down, then lifted his eyes. Sam searched his face, looking for a glimmer of hope, for a sign that Dean was okay. Frank looked over at Reed.
"We need to talk," he said.
Sam launched forward, but Frank caught his fist and shoved him roughly back against the cabinets.
"Where is my brother?" Sam yelled, arms sprawled against the cabinets to try to maintain a semblance of balance. He was focused on Frank's face and missed the swift movement of the cop's hand to his sidearm.
"I'm afraid your brother got buried in his work," Frank said. Reed gasped. Sam lunged, and Frank brought his gun up, connecting solidly with Sam's jaw.
Sam didn't even feel the impact of his body against the office floor.
The first thing he was always aware of upon waking was the smell. It was how he knew if he was safe – if he was in a motel with Sam, if he was in a hospital, if he was in the Impala.
He could smell dirt, and something nauseatingly sweet. It was a smell he was familiar with after digging countless graves. It was the smell of death.
Dean groaned, clumsily pushing his hand under his chest and trying to shove himself to his knees. He got about a foot off the material that he was resting face-first on before his back came in contact with something. What the hell?
He blinked in the complete darkness. He could feel soft, almost silky material against his face. Not motel sheets, that was for sure. He tried to remember what happened before he'd apparently decided to take a nap. A sharp throb across his forehead brought it back to him. He wriggled a hand up to his head and felt gingerly along his temple and forehead. His fingers came away wet and sticky and he winced as his touch glanced across a good-sized gash.
Continuing with his blind, face-down exploration of his environment, Dean reached to his side and felt the edges of the silk roll up to meet a ceiling of silk. Oh God… Larry's coffin. Which meant that Larry's head was in there somewhere with him. The thought sent an odd shiver down Dean's spine. Curling his shoulders in, he managed to slowly turn himself until he was lying on his back.
He could feel the hard edge of his .45 digging into his back. He'd completely forgotten he'd put that there. It was such a part of him that it wasn't until he was actually laying on it that he even felt it tucked into his jeans.
He felt something next to his face shift. Closing his eyes out of instinct as the pitch blackness didn't allow him to see anything, Dean reached over tentatively and felt the smooth, cool bone of Lawrence Jessup's skull.
"Man, that's just gross," he groaned aloud. The sound of his own voice was muffled back to him, but was oddly comforting. "You were that lonely for some company you decided to trap me in here with you?"
Dean reached down into his pocket and dug out his matches. Lighting one with his thumbnail, he took stock quickly. The coffin was lined with white silk. He was stretched out length-wise. He shifted his eyes to one side and saw the red stain of his blood covering a swath of silk near his head. Looking the other way, he met the empty, hollowed eye sockets of Ellicott City's favorite son.
The match burned down to his fingers and he shook it out. As the darkness swallowed him once more, he immediately wanted to light another match, but he knew it was probably not the smartest thing to do. He didn't know how much oxygen he had left and he certainly wasn't sharing any with fire.
"You might think that this is a bad situation," Dean said to the skull. "But you'd be wrong."
He reached up and wiped some blood out of his eye. "I've been in plenty worse situations than this," he winced as a sharp pain sliced through his head. "I do wish I had about four aspirin right about now, though."
Thinking, Dean tapped the toes of his boots against the bottom and lid of the coffin. He remembered that the coffin had a latch, but he couldn't tell which side it was on. He lit another match and felt with one hand along the seam of the white silk. There… there it is.
Blowing the match out, he wondered if whoever stuck him in here had dumped that sandy dirt back on top.
"Who was it, Larry, huh?" he shifted, digging his fingers into the silk and pulling it away from the latch. "Reed? She doing your dirty work for you? Or Frank? My money's on Frank… or, well, I guess it's his money. Since he paid us and all…" He grunted with exertion as he pulled more silk away from the latch.
Lighting another match he saw that the latch was secured from the outside. Of course it is… He shifted again, and felt the smooth bone of the skull against his cheek.
"Eh, easy, there, man," Dean shoved the skull up and away from his face with his shoulder. "Stay on your side of the coffin."
His head pounded, and his hand burned. It felt too large for his arm. He tried to make a fist and gritted his teeth against the pain. Think, Winchester… you've been in worse situations than this…
"You don't believe me?" he asked Larry, not realizing that he was starting to pant for air. "How about being grabbed and strung up by a wendigo, huh? Sucker's got some freakin' nasty claws, too… 'course Sammy saved my ass that day." Dean dropped his hands on his chest and closed his eyes. Just lay here for a second… just a second… just until my head stops pounding…
"That's not enough for you, huh? Well, I guess we can't all be witchcraft studying philanthropists. Maybe you're rich… is that it? You found some buried treasure and your daughter and your brother are trying to keep you around… to, uh… to find it."
Damn, it's hot in here.
"Got stuck on a plane once… with a possessed pilot. Tell me that isn't worse. Metallica didn't even get me, uh… get me outta that one. Sammy came through with the Latin… and don’t even get me started on those damn bees. 'Course none of that beats having your own brother shoot you… possessed… mind-controlled, whatever, the dude still shot me. And it friggin' hurt, I'll tell you that."
He slid his head to the side, in the direction he'd shoved Larry's skull. "I can tell you that, can't I, Larry? You won't say anything, will ya? It hurt. For days. Lots of them."
His head swam and he blinked in the darkness. He felt the blood drip down in his eyes once more and reached up with the back of his hand to wipe it away. How long until Sam realizes I'm not coming back… unless…
"Sammy…" he whispered. ”I hope you're leaving him alone, Larry… y-you can't hurt him, okay?"
He tried to pull in a deep breath to stop the spinning in his head.
"He took me to a faith healer once… I was stupid, got myself zapped trying to fry a Rawhead. Messed up my heart. But he saved me. He tricked me, but he saved me. It was the worst moment of my life when I couldn't find him… when those backwoods, redneck, cannibals grabbed him… then I get him back only to let him walk away from me again, like an idiot…"
He licked his lips, his throat dry, his chest rising and falling rapidly with the need for air. His voice was low and hoarse, but he didn't stop talking… he couldn't stop. If he stopped, it was over.
"We, uh… we fought vamps, and uh… a demon… that just happened to be in my dad… tell me that's not worse than this… no, forget it. I'll tell you. That's worse. That's worse… seeing those freakin' yellow eyes in his face… he tore me up, Larry." Dean swallowed, remembering.
"He didn't even have to touch me. He tore me up. And then he left us… left me and Sammy. Again. And the things we've fought… the things we've killed… demons and spirits… spirits a lot worse than you, Larry. Hell, I even faced a spirit that looked like me in a… an old-west shoot out."
He felt his eyes droop, and reached up to wipe the blood from his eye again, brushing his hand across his amulet. "You think this is bad… try having a demon trapped inside of you…" He swallowed. "Try having to listen to it when you're awake and, uh… and try to keep it away from you when you sleep… hell, sleep… like that's even… even possible anymore…"
We should just leave… just run away, Sammy. Go to Canada, or Amsterdam… go where Haris can't find you.
"See, man? Lot worse than this… lot… lot worse… Man, it's, uh… hard to breathe in here. Quit using up all the air, Larry…"
But where could they hide in a world constantly caught up in a war between good and evil?
Dean shifted again, trying to work the .45 into the hollow of his back and keep the skull away from him at the same time. Shit, Dean… the .45! He groaned as he strained his already abused muscles and twisted until he could grasp the .45 with his left hand. He knew there was no way he could fire it at the latch inside of the coffin and not deafen himself.
Laying the gun on his stomach, he worked his fingers into the silk around the latch and began to tear. He ripped off two pieces, wadded them up, and one at a time and shoved them into his ears. Lighting a match to make sure he knew where to fire, he shook out the match, pulled his T-shirt up over his nose and mouth, aimed the gun, then turned his face in the opposite direction.
He pulled the trigger.
The acrid smoke from the gun filled the small space quickly and Dean started coughing through his shirt. His ears were ringing through the silk plugs like he'd been standing too close to the speakers during a Metallica concert. He was afraid to light another match, unsure about the gunpowder residue in such close quarters. Coughing, he reached up with his left hand and felt for the latch. His bullet had blasted through the latch and left a sizable hold in the wood.
A hole that was quickly filling with the loose, sandy earth the coffin had been buried in.
"Son of a bitch," Dean growled.
He reached up and grabbed the skull. "Listen, Larry, you gotta let Sam go, okay? He's…" Dean coughed. "He's my only shot, man."
Shoving the skull up toward the top of the coffin, Dean began to shove against the lid, hoping the dirt that was falling into the hole had been simply knocked down by his bullet. He felt the lid shift slightly, but as it did, more dirt fell in on him.
He felt his panting increase, felt his chest hitch with the speed of it. Keep it together, Dean… you're not gonna help Sam this way… you're not gonna help yourself this way… keep it together…
"Goddammit, Sam!" Dean punched the lid of the coffin with his right hand, crying out as the pain shot from his wounded palm through his arm and into his shoulder. "You freakin' selfish idiot!"
He punched the lid again, then followed that punch with one from his left. The pain was harsh, slicing, complete. The pain was the only thing in that moment that was real, the only thing he could control. He slammed his fists into the lid again in rapid succession.
"Why did you do it?! Why?" He was panting, bleeding, hurting, but he couldn't stop.
"I gave everything for you… I gave all I had… I survived everything that demon threw at me… everything he wanted me to believe… I did it for you, Sam! And you just threw… it… away."
Blood ran into his eye and this time he ignored it.
"Why didn't you just kill me, Sam?! You should… have… just… KILLED me…"
He began to kick the lid, the bottom, the walls. The gun slid from his chest to rest next to the hollow of his body. He slammed his shoulders, fists, and elbows against the sides.
"You didn't save anything…" punch… "You didn't save anyone…" kick, slam, punch… "I won't survive without you, you asshole… I won't do it!" PUNCH… "If he takes you… if he takes you… he takes me, too…"
With a vicious, final thrust, Dean's right hand went through the brittle wood near the edge of the latch and buried into the side of the earth wall. The jagged edges of the coffin dug grooves into his arm. Panting, dizzy, shaking, Dean slowly pulled his arm back toward him and brought with him more dirt from the grave wall.
He started coughing again, unable to find any air, unable to fill his lungs. His shoulders shook and he tried to turn on his side, using the width of his body to push the lid up and open. He groaned, teeth clenched as he pressed his wounded, bleeding hand against the bottom of the coffin. He felt the lid give slightly, but as it did, more dirt fell in.
He was breathing shallowly, barely panting. His lips began to tingle, his arms were heavy. He tried again to push the lid, but his arms were shaking too badly. He collapsed against the silk liner of the coffin. His body was twisted slightly around the dirt that spilled in. His knuckles, knees, and shoulders throbbed. His hand bled freely, the gouges in his arm ached, and blood from his head began to fill his eye.
He reached blindly up for Larry's skull, pulling it toward him almost drunkenly. He couldn't see anything, so he felt along the bone until his fingers dipped into the eye sockets, turning the skull to face him.
"L-listen… Larry," he gasped. "I g-get it… I do." He swallowed. "I get why a g-good person becomes an angry… angry spirit. Y-you're alone. Nobody…" he gasped in a breath, his lips numb. His voice was barely above a whisper. "Nobody wants to be a-alone…"
He closed his eyes as his head spun viciously. His lungs ached and he turned his face up in an instinctive move to grab for more air. The skull sank down against his cheek.
"S-Sammy… and Dad…" he whispered, his eyelids fluttering. "They're it, Larry. I-if I lose Sam... He's my job… he's my one j-job."
He arched his back, his mouth open, desperate for air.
You're it, Sammy… and you killed me the day you saved me.
In a flash faster than the time it takes for lightning to connect the earth and the sky, Dean saw his life as a hunter, a son, and a brother. He blinked rapidly, trying to slow down the images, trying to hold one… just one. He saw John's hands, his eyes, his anger, his smile, his tears. He heard Mary's voice, saw her spirit disappear in flames. He saw demons and vampires, werewolves and spirits. He saw blasts from the ends of shotguns and felt the impacts of knives into flesh. And he saw Sam.
Sam in Dean's arms as their lives were burned away from them, Sam lying under a burning ceiling, his eyes bleeding before a mirror, his face contorted in rage as he pulled the trigger of a shotgun aimed at Dean. He saw Sam collapsing under the weight of a vision, fighting with him, fighting for him. He saw Sam holding Dad with a tearful smile. He saw Sam coming for him, appearing when it was impossible to appear, pulling him from the clutches of hell itself, pulling him to safety.
Sam would come. He had to. Dean didn't have any fight left. He didn't have anything left. He gasped once more, falling back, his arms lax, his eyes blinking shut.
On his last breath, Dean pleaded, "H-hurry up, Sam."
And then the air was gone.
a/n: Part 4: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/46249.html
Hope you enjoy!>