Characters: Dean, Sam
Rating: PG-13 for language and mature scenes
Spoilers: This story is set in Season 1, overlapping the ending of 1X12, “Faith.”
Summary: While Dean struggles to keep his head in the game after being healed, Sam works to come to grips with John's purposeful distance. The last thing they need is to run sideways of two brothers hunting for buried pirate treasure...
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Story title from Bad Company album of the same name.
a/n:There is a lot of Spanish in this chapter. For the sake of comprehension, I’m handling translations a bit differently than I usually do — I’m inserting them in the chapter. In my head, it was a bit like… subtitles. Please let me know if it’s distracting. Many thanks to onari for her translating help!
The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do […] Pirate is in your blood; you'll have to square with that someday […] So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not? -Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean
There had always been two kinds of ‘big trouble’ in Sam’s life: the kind he caused and the kind he got into. The difference was intent. In Sam’s mind, one could be walked away from, the other must be handled. Stranded in the Mojave Desert, the night cloaking any hope of escape, surrounded by six pirates definitely fell into the latter category. And he had no idea how they were going to handle this one.
Sam rolled to his knees, his fingers burying deep into the unforgiving sand as he pushed himself slowly to his feet. Dean stood near him, his focus centered on the threat around them. In Dean’s mind, Sam knew, there was only one kind of ‘big trouble.’ And the choice to walk away was non-existent. There was only the fight to survive and protect.
“Mack,” Dean’s voice was low, and surprisingly ominous in the moonlit vista of their surreal surroundings. “Get up.”
Sam shifted sideways, moving more on instinct than awareness, his body searching for his brother’s. In his head, his father’s voice echoed a mantra that had been burned into his psyche through endless hours of training and preparation.
Always maintain an awareness of your surroundings.
His back found Dean’s and he felt his brother’s shoulders bunch up just beneath his, their muscles coiling and colliding, melding to blend strength and balance. Sam’s eyes slid to the left as a mutter in Spanish sliced the night.
“Lleváoslos; de nada nos sirve matarlos aquí.” (Take them back; their death is no good to us here.)
The pirates all looked the same to him: swarthy skin, shadowed eyes, cheekbones hollowed from malnutrition visited upon them before death and haunting them in the afterlife. Their clothing was worn but whole; no flapping cloth, skeletal limbs, or sagging skin. These weren’t Disney creations. These six had been men once. They’d had homes, families, futures, debts, loves, enemies, passion.
“Es lo que dijiste la última vez y no funcionó.” (You said that the last time. It still did not work.)
Sam could hear the burden of the past in the answering voice. The grief and hopelessness brought on by centuries of solitude and perdition.
“Matémoslos ahora, empezando por Pelo Amarillo.” (Kill them now, starting with Yellow Hair.)
“Mack,” Dean repeated, and Sam could feel the rumble of his brother’s voice through his back. “You need to stand up. Now.”
“I-I… I c-can’t…”
The pirates shifted forward, almost as one. Emerson groaned slightly, his blond hair still in the grip of a weathered hand, the curved blade of a short sword pressed to the pale flesh of his exposed neck. Sam resisted the urge to glance his way; his instinct was to check on a comrade, his training demanded he not take his eyes off his enemy.
“Yes. You can.” Dean stepped forward; Sam stepped back. He was not letting even a whisper of air separate them. Their unity would be the only thing to save them.
If escape is not possible or viable, raise your hands up, palms out, at neck level, and angle your body away from them. This is your fence. Do not let them cross it.
There was a shuffle sound behind Sam and he swallowed. His hands moved slowly from his sides, fingers spread, unthreatening. He could hear Mack move through the sand away from the pirate, gain his feet, and step toward Dean. Sam slid his eyes to the left and saw movement in the moonlight that bathed the deck of the ship.
“Atta boy,” Dean was saying.
“Now what?” Sam whispered out of the corner of his mouth, hearing his question echoed in the dying whimper of Mack’s fear.
Dean took a deep breath and Sam felt his stomach tighten in anticipation.
“Don’t think running for it is an option,” Dean muttered back out of the corner of his mouth.
“¿No lo ves? Planean algo. Los últimos casi tomaron el barco, ¿es que quieres que vuelva a pasarnos lo mismo?” (Do you see? They are planning. The last ones almost took the ship. Are you willing to allow that again?)
“Si bastara con asesinarlos con la luz de la luna como testigo para acabar con este tormento ya estaríamos en casa.” (If simply slaying them with the light of the moon as our witness brought an end to this torment then we would already be home.)
“Wha—“ Emerson tried, but was apparently stopped by the press of steal against his throat.
Dean, however, apparently picked up on his former antagonist’s line of thought. “What are they saying?” he asked Mack.
Sam felt Dean shift, jostled by the impact of Mack backing up into them then stepping away to create an inadvertent triangle of bodies.
“Uh… they’re,” Mack swallowed, “uh… arguing. About where to kill us.”
“Fantastic,” Dean muttered.
Make an effort not to get hit. Keep moving. Motion is living.
“La sangre de los hombres correrá.” (The blood of men will flow), growled a pirate closest to Sam. His greasy hair was twisted into ancient dreadlocks, the mass of it tied back with a silver medallion. The pirate stepped forward threateningly, dark eyes pinned to Sam’s face, causing him to bring his chin up in instinctual defiance. “Hombres o chicos, lo mismo da.” (Men or boys, it’s all the same.)
“La luna caiga sobre la hoja de la espada,” (Moon falls on the blade), cried another from the opposite side of the circle. “La luna lleva siglos saliendo y nosotros hemos derramado sangre durante cientos de años. Sin embargo, aquí seguimos!” (The moon has risen for hundreds of years. For hundreds of years we have slain. For hundreds of years we have waited. And still we wait!)
“Tú no te cansarás de hablar ni siquiera muerto,” (You will talk yourself into the afterlife,) snapped the pirate devouring Sam with his hollow eyes.
“Dean,” Sam pressed back against his brother’s shoulders. “What are we—“
“¡Silencio!” (Silence!) The pirate closest to Sam pulled a long, thin sword from a leather scabbard with dizzying speed and pressed the tip of the blade to Sam’s sternum.
Maintain the distance with your fence. Use your fence as a tripwire.
Sam sucked his air in, pulling his flesh away from the tip of the blade. He felt Dean react to this, felt his brother settle into a lower stance, his body lining up differently against Dean’s than it had a moment ago.
If they even touch you once, brace yourself for counter attack the next time they attempt contact.
“Hey, easy,” Sam attempted, hands up, open, eyes on the dreadlocked pirate. “Just… just take it easy.”
“¿Cómo osas dirigirme la palabra, infiel?” (You dare speak to me, infidel?)
“¡Basta!” (Enough!) The voice from the ship was the same as before; the one to call out midst the cannon fire. “¡Súbelos a bordo!” (Bring them aboard!)
“Ya has/habéis oído al capitán,” (You heard the Captain,) said the man on the opposite side of the circle from Dreadlocks. “Al Ángel.” (To the Angel.)
Dreadlocks sneered, lifting the tip of his sword to Sam’s chin.
“Dean?” Sam breathed, barely moving his lips. They had no weapons. No salt. Not even a sliver of consecrated iron. He’d never thought about engaging spirits in a fist-fight.
“Easy…” Dean breathed, seeming to echo Sam, but directing his order at his brother rather than the pirates. “Take it easy.”
The group began to close the circle, their intent, apparently, to herd the hunters toward the ship.
Dean’s decree was soft, but powerful enough to spurn them both into action.
Your strike should be aimed to the chin or jaw.
Sam felt his brother shift to his left; he instinctively dodged right, Dreadlock’s sword slicing the air between their parted bodies. Rolling in, his shoulders sliding along the length of the blade with his motion, Sam pivoted in close to the pirate’s body, coming around with his right fist up in a powerful swing, making contact with the ancient pirate’s jaw and sending him stumbling backwards several steps.
Don't be afraid to strike first; your goal is to get through the situation without being hurt.
Pivoting once more, Sam ducked into a low crouch, dodging the swing of another fist, plowing into the vulnerable side of a third body. He didn’t let himself think about the surreal sensation of making physical contact with a man that should have died almost four hundred years ago.
The fetid odor of an unwashed body caused him to flinch backwards and he narrowly missed the fist that would have laid open his cheek with the rings that adorned it. Pivoting once more, Sam slammed his shoulder into the belly of another pirate, driving him backwards, away from the group.
At Dean’s cry of surprise and pain, Sam brought his head up. Flanking his brother were the prone bodies of two pirates. A third wrestled with Emerson on the ground. Mack was backing away from a fourth—Dreadlocks, Sam realized—and a fifth, the one with the rings, had caught Dean by surprise, ramming his ancient brass knuckles into his brother’s back in a kidney punch meant to drive him to his knees.
Stay calm. Anger will make your fighting worse, and will make your punches weaker.
Sam moved away from the pirate he had shoulder-rammed and moved to help his brother, fear caramelizing on his heart and turning to anger as he tried to run in the loose sand. The ring-adorned pirate slammed his fist into Dean’s side once more before his brother could recover and Sam saw Dean go down.
If you fall on the ground, do everything in your power to keep your opponent away until you can get back up. Every second you are on the ground you put yourself in danger of getting kicked or stomped by anyone standing by as well as your attacker.
Sam felt a hand grip his shoulder and as he was turned unwillingly around, he caught sight of Dean rolling quickly away from the booted kicks of the pirate—directly across one of the bodies he’d driven to the desert floor. The pirate gripping his shoulder muttered something he couldn’t understand as Sam worked to refocus his attention on his own fight rather than that of his brother.
Never drop your guard. Before relaxing make sure there’s no one else around you. Bad guys always bring their friends.
The fist that cracked across Sam’s temple was fast and powerful. The world spun and air turned to sand in seconds. Voices swam around him, hands gripped his useless limbs, and sand once more gave way to air as he was lifted from the ground. Unable to shake the sudden dizziness, Sam worked to open his eyes, scrambling to find some sort of balance as he felt the coarse strands of rope being slipped around his wrists and over his head.
With the impact of another fist, darkness won the battle for control and Sam slipped over the edge.
Dean saw his brother sag against the ropes now binding his hands, his weight causing the leash-like rope around his neck to dig into the soft flesh there.
“Hey!” Dean barked, struggling viciously against the hands pinning him to the desert floor. Two pirates bordered him—one of whom he’d done his best to put down moments ago. “You’re gonna choke him!”
As though Sam were nothing more than a bag of bones, the pirate holding his neck by a tether slung him over his shoulder. Sam’s bound arms swung freely, his shoes dragging furrows through the sand as the dreadlocked pirate hauled him away and toward the ship.
“SAM!” Dean screamed, bucking, twisting, writhing to get free of the impossibly strong grasp the two pirates had on him. “Let. Me. Go. You sonsabitches… if you weren’t already dead I would fuckin’ kill you all!”
A solid kick to his side drove the remainder of his air from his lungs and Dean turned as much to his side as his captors’ grip allowed, gagging as the fire in his gut traveled upward, resting behind his heart, ready to explode.
“Este da más problemas que el último.” (More trouble than the last.)
“Es más joven que el último.” (Younger than the last.)
The foreign words spun around him, making him dizzy and desperate. From his vantage point on the ground, he watched as another pirate pulled a length of rope from his belt and began to bind Mack as Sam had been bound: wrists and neck. Emerson was held in a tight grip, once again controlled by a blade at his throat. His bright blue eyes found Dean’s.
“Thought you said these bastards were ghosts.”
Dean blinked, the suffocating panic at being held against his will turning his voice to sandpaper. “They are.”
“Then why can they kick our asses, huh?”
“They’re cursed.” Dean shot a look past Emerson toward the ship, watching the progress of the pirate holding Sam as he climbed the rope ladder to the ship’s deck, his precious cargo draped over his shoulder. “Something about that curse.”
“That’s fuckin’ helpful. Thanks a lot.”
“Don’t let them take me, Em,” Mack suddenly bleated. “Don’t let ‘em!”
“What the hell do you want me to do about it?” Emerson shot back, attitude bobbing his head forward, the knife shoving it back.
“Stop them!” Mack’s panic broke across his voice. “Do something! Stop them, Em!”
The pirates holding Dean jerked him up roughly, keeping him on his knees, one arm twisted painfully behind his back, the tips of his fingers turned so that they were brushing the base of skull.
“EM! EMERSON!” As the rope tightened around his neck, Mack slipped from eerie, sullen silence into full-on freak out. “Stop them, Em! Don’t let them take me!”
“Mack,” Dean tried, “calm down.”
“Stop it,” Emerson barked at his brother. “You shut up or they’ll kill you.”
Mack’s scream was choked off by the jerk of the rope as a pirate pulled him forward.
“You’re not helping, you idiot!” Dean admonished Emerson. “Calm him down. I’ll distract them.”
Emerson looked at him and Dean saw something slide across the blue eyes. Something that he recognized. Something that he feared.
“No,” Dean shook his head once, then winced and buckled in on himself as a pirate twisted his arm roughly. “Don’t!”
With a war cry worthy of this cursed crew, Emerson reached up to grip the hand holding his throat hostage while simultaneously stepping backward and shoving his elbow deep into his captor’s gut. Suddenly free, he screeched once more, pushing past the pirate that held Mack captive, and took off across the desert, scrambling up the dune and reaching the destroyed Jeep before slowing.
“EM!” Mack cried, his face white in the moonlight, his blue eyes large and terrified.
“I’ll get help!” Emerson called back. “I’ll bring back hel—“
He was never able to finish his sentence. The knife that had been held at his throat sailed through the air and Dean’s stomach plummeted as it found its mark, spinning Emerson to the side and toppling him from the crest of the dune down the opposite side, out of sight.
“No…” Dean breathed.
“EM!” Mack screamed.
And then, with a sound that came close to breaking Dean’s heart, Mack went slack in the tethered grasp the pirates had on him, his head falling back and a wail cutting the night. The pirate that had thrown the weapon crested the top of the dune, looked down, then turned to face his comrades.
“Está fuera de nuestro alcance. No podemos atraparlo.” (He’s beyond the breech. We cannot retrieve him.)
Mack went suddenly silent, as if someone had simply flipped a switch and turned him off. His body was limp; though Dean saw his limbs tremble. His eyes were open, though hollow. He was a human doll, pliant as the pirate lifted him from the sand and carried him over his shoulder toward the ship.
Dean was left with four pirates, two still immobilizing him. His heart thudded sluggishly in his chest, his mind spinning as he tried to categorize all the ways in which this slightly off the reservation hunt had gone to Hell. He was in no shape to fight off four seemingly immortal warriors.
And Sam was on that ship.
“What are you waiting for, fellas?” he said to the closest pirate, who was currently peering curiously at his face.
Foreign words flowed around him like water, buffeting him with breakers of frustrated confusion and pulling at him with the desperate need to know. They seemed to be interested in something, pointing to him, pointing to the dune, shaking their heads. Dean wracked his brain for any bits of Spanish he’d picked up from television, Clint Eastwood movies, hell, even Sesame Street.
The pirate peering at Dean narrowed his dark eyes. Dean watched a pink, puckered scar cinch up along the side of his face with the motion. He spoke, and Dean turned his face away as the briny breath of the ancient spirit wafted over him.
“Dude, seriously,” he gasped. “Breath mint.”
The pirate gripping Dean’s arm growled out a statement, standing suddenly and using his grip on Dean’s arm to hauling him up. Dean gasped as the pain in his twisted arm sliced through his tortured shoulder. He staggered a bit as he gained his feet, trying to balance in the shifting sand, his fingers aching from loss of circulation.
“Tenemos a su hermano en el Ángel.” (We have his brother on the Angel.)
Dean looked over at the speaker, the weight of the tone resting heavy on his heart, though the full meaning was lost to him. He did recognize one word, however: hermano. Brother. They were talking about Sam. How they knew he was Dean’s brother didn’t matter. Maybe they defined the word differently in the 17th century. Maybe they just meant partner. Friend.
All that mattered to Dean was that he knew what brother meant. And to him, it was everything.
“Don’t know what you all are yakking about,” he said, sliding his eyes around the group, “but you’re burnin’ moonlight, huh? So let’s get this show on the road already.”
Eyes still narrowed in curiosity, the pirate gripping Dean’s arm released him, stepping back. Two others put their hands to their knife hilts. Pain and relief mingled in a wave of vertigo; Dean’s knees buckled and he sagged forward, tipping at the last minute to his shoulder to avoid eating sand. To say his arm ached would be to state that the night is dark and the ocean wet. He caught his bottom lip between his teeth, huffing out two quick breaths to combat the gut-numbing sensation of blood flow returning to the edges of his abused limb.
The noise he uttered upon being once more hauled unceremoniously to his feet was just this side of a whimper. One pirate pushed him forward and he stumbled, caught his footing, stumbling again.
“Morirán en cuanto los tengamos a los dos en el Ángel. ¿Qué importa que no vaya a poner en peligro a su hermano?” (They die the minute they are united on the Angel. What does it matter that he won’t risk his brother?)
Dean shot a look at the gold-toothed speaker. You’re so freakin’ lucky I don’t have any salt with me, you rum-drinking bastard.
“No tenemos más cuerda.” (We have no more rope.)
Dean stumbled forward, the sound of the pirates’ laughter turning up the heat on his already boiling blood. As they drew closer to the ship, Dean had to catch his breath. It was massive, towering above him at impressive, dizzying heights. He’d never been around anything bigger than a fishing boat, and that had been on Pastor Jim’s pond.
He could hear voices calling to each other in Spanish, the movement of men and materials, and, unbelievably, the creak of wood as though the ship was rocking in the clutches of the sea. As they reached the rope ladder, Dean swallowed. He could barely lift his arm, his muscles throbbing from his wrist, across his shoulder, and up into his already-sore neck. Climbing was going to be next to impossible.
The point of a blade jabbed him with stinging encouragement in the small of his back. He didn’t need to speak Spanish to know he was being ordered to climb up to the ship deck.
“Woulda been a helluva lot easier if you hadn’t tried to Mel Gibson my shoulder, dude,” Dean grumbled, reaching up with a trembling hand to grip the thick rope. To his surprise, he felt the ship roll away from him, pulling the rope ladder with it. He released his grip and stumbled backwards, staring up at the wooden Angel beseeching the night with outstretched arms.
This time, the blade was jabbed hard enough to draw blood.
“Son of a—I’m climbing, okay! Jesus. Don’t get your damn knickers in a knot.”
Reaching up once more, he grit his teeth, turning the groan of pain into a grunt of effort, raising his aching right arm and forcing his entire will on getting his hand to close, to grip, to hold until he could adjust his body to the bizarre sensation of a boat rocking on an ocean of sand. His breaths puffed out shallowly, sweat collecting on his upper lip, running down the furrow of his spine, slipping beneath his sand-coated waistband.
Scarface first climbed next to him, then passed him, flipping his body gracefully over the edge of the rail. The others followed, making sure he didn’t drop back to the desert floor. He’d almost reached the top when he heard Sam cry out in pain, then follow the cry with a vicious curse.
“Where the hell is my brother, you tattooed bastard?”
The relief in Sam’s voice made Dean weak. He knew the feeling. His heart had collapsed under that feeling too many times over the years. Too many times since he’d pulled Sam from Stanford. He crested the top and hung there, his abused arm unable to do more than hold on to the rope.
“You okay?” Sam asked, his tone tight with anxiety and pain.
If he’d have had the energy, Dean would have laughed at the tragic irony surrounding that question. Sam was bound, shirtless, to a large section of grating, his hands tied through the solid-looking woven slats, his ankles hooked across the squared base. His right eye was swollen and blood trickled in a thin line down the side of his face. Three small cuts trailed along his ribs and the blood that smeared his side was a slick black in the moonlight.
“Jesus, Sammy,” Dean breathed as the pirates behind him flipped over the rail to the deck, reaching back and grabbing him roughly. “Hey!” Dean protested. “Easy with the merchandise!”
He was dropped near the base of the mast, Scarface burying the toe of his boot in Dean’s side as he walked past. Dean grunted and coughed, curling in as his already abused side howled in retaliation.
“Bastards,” Sam spat. “Dean?”
“M’okay,” Dean gasped, pushing himself shakily to a sitting position. He took a breath and looked blearily around. “Where’s Mack?”
Sam simply shook his head.
“They killed him already?” Dean coughed again.
“No,” Sam replied.
Dean never finished his question. Laughter—cracking crazily across the night—met his ears. He twisted, gripping the rough-hewn wood of the mast for balance. Standing toward the stern of the ship midst a group of men that had stayed aboard, in front of a door tucked between two flights of stairs, was Mack. He wore a knee-length black coat, taken from one of the other pirates, and a large-brimmed hat, complete with white plume feather. In his fist was clutched a dark glass bottle and as Dean watched, he lifted it to his lips and took a long swig, some of the liquid spilling down his chin.
“Dude,” Dean mumbled. “Kid looks like Captain freakin’ Hook.”
“He’s lost it, Dean.”
Dean twisted back around to face his trussed-up brother. “Ya think?”
“What the hell, man?” Sam said, grimacing. “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
Dean stood on hollow legs, running the back of his hand across dry lips. His tongue was beginning to stick to the roof of his mouth. He worked it against his teeth to wet his mouth, looking around the massive deck of the ship as he answered.
“I can pretty much guarandamntee you that there’s nothing about… zombie-like ghost pirates in Dad’s journal.”
“Aw, man. Dad,” Sam grunted, tugging against his bound wrists.
“What about him?”
“We shoulda called him, man.”
“Take it easy, Sammy,” Dean soothed, bracing himself unsteadily against the impossible motion of the shipwrecked Angel. “We’re gonna get out of here first. Then we can fight about calling Dad back.”
The grating that held Sam fast was propped several feet inside the bow of the ship. Two cannons were positioned to Sam’s right, a pyramid of heavy metal cannon balls stacked to their left. Boxes and chests containing who-knew-what lined each side of the boat. Piles and piles of rope and canvass were stacked in various sections of the deck, and he counted at least three hammocks slung between the masts.
“Why didn’t they tie you up?” Sam asked.
Dean looked over his shoulder as the group of pirates that retrieved them argued with another group that had stayed behind. In the center of the deck was a slightly raised cross-section of wood with what appeared to be a brass hook and catch lock. Beyond that was the stern, the room that Mack appeared to be guarding, the wheel, and the rear deck.
As he trailed his searching eyes back toward Sam, he counted twelve men, aside from Mack, milling about the deck, all with varying degrees of menace skirting their expressions.
“You figure out what the big deal is?” Dean asked, daring to move away from the mast, toward Sam. He staggered a bit as the deck seemed to roll beneath him.
“Yeah, Dean,” Sam snapped quietly. “I suddenly remembered I could speak Spanish.”
Dean managed to circle around behind Sam without causing a stir. “Ass,” he retorted, trying to loosen the impossibly tight knots with aching fingers.
Sam hissed in pain as Dean tugged on the ropes that were biting into his wrists.
“I don’t get it, man,” Sam craned his head to check his brother’s progress over his shoulder. “Why didn’t they just kill us?”
“They’re fighting about something.” Dean managed to work on section of the stopper knot but was delayed by the reef knot. “You get anything out of Mack before he decided to go pirate?”
“Dude, I woke up hog-tied to a piece of floor.”
Dean tilted his head in concession to this excuse. And continued to work on the ropes. He could feel Sam’s skin tremble beneath his fingers.
Frowning, he muttered, “Y’know… I coulda been a pirate.”
“No way,” Sam retorted.
“Think about it…” Dean grunted, digging his nails into a knot. “Freedom of the sea—“
“Knowing you, you’d get seasick.”
“—don’t have to answer to anyone—“
“Waiting to get your throat slit.”
“—get the treasure and the girl.”
“Dean,” Sam shifted, easing the tension on a knot, looking back at his brother over his shoulder. “You might be a born hustler, but you’re no pirate.”
“Yeah?” Dean lifted his eyes, keeping his chin down. “What makes you say that?”
Sam sighed, as if the next words pained him to say. “I don’t know… you’re… honorable.”
Dean felt his lips curl up in a grin. “Aw, shucks, Sammy.”
“Traedme a su jefe.” (Bring me the leader!)
The voice boomed over the shouts of arguing sailors and both brothers froze, Dean peering over Sam’s shoulder to see a large man with shoulder-length, red hair and a wiry black goatee step from the room behind Mack.
“This can’t be good,” Sam breathed.
The red-headed man slung an arm around Mack’s shoulders, lifting the large plumed hat from the boy’s head and dropping it onto his own. Mack looked across the deck to Sam and Dean fumbled faster with the knots.
“Dean, they’re heading this way…”
“¿Dónde está el cuarto?” (Where is the fourth?) The voice was booming, echoing across the night and sending chills along Dean’s exposed flesh. “Eran cuatro.” (There were four.)
“Lo eran.” (There were.) Mack suddenly spoke up.
This caused the brothers to freeze once more and this time, Dean found himself standing enough to see Mack completely over Sam’s shoulder. Oh, God… His stomach turned to ice as he saw Mack’s pale face angle away from them and toward the large man, who was no doubt the Captain of the Desolation Angel.
“What the hell is he doing?” Dean hissed.
The Captain looked down at the smaller man and Dean saw him draw back and away, his expression one of surprise.
“Oh, no,” Sam breathed. “That’s the Captain, Dean. He’s… he’s challenging the Captain.”
“Stupid-assed kid,” Dean echoed. “He’s gonna get us all killed.”
Mack pulled a short dagger from the pocket of his borrowed coat.
“Habéis matado a todos los que tenía.” (You killed everybody I had left.)
Dean didn’t need to understand the words to know that Mack was about to bring down the wrath of twelve angry spirits upon them. Before the kid could follow through with what was sure to be their end, Dean stood up, strode around Sam and headed for the nearest crewmember.
“Dean!” Sam called out in a desperate stage whisper. “No, don’t!”
Dean was already in motion, and without an immovable object to stop him, he was going to stay that way. He grabbed the sword hilt from the scabbard at the pirate’s hip, pulled the blade free, and with a two-handed sweeping arc that lit his shoulder on fire, sliced the blade through the former owner’s neck, relieving the man’s body from the burden of his head.
For one breath, nothing moved.
“How do you like that, bitch!” Dean crowed loudly, bringing all eyes on him and away from Mack and any threat to their Captain. “Highlander, Season one!”
He turned, holding the sword in front of him, eyes darting everywhere at once. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he registered that the pirate he’d decapitated hadn’t bled. The deck was free of blood, but thick with malice as the crew of the Desolation Angel advanced on him.
He was able to bring the sword up once, digging into the arm of one assailant before he was overpowered by the sheer mass of men coming at him, swinging, tearing, stabbing, dragging him breathless and dizzy to the deck, then pounding him into the safety of darkness.
Sam felt sick.
He strained against the ropes holding him fast against the grating until he literally saw stars. He’d seen just enough of the crazy light in Dean’s eyes before he grabbed that sword to know the next moments were going to go Very Wrong, but he’d been unable to stop his brother.
Stupid, stubborn, asshole of an idiot… Sam struggled again, bellowing his brother’s name as the pirates overpowered him, slamming their fists against his sides, his legs, his head, until Dean went limp. Sam stopped calling out then and focused everything in him on finishing the job Dean had started on his knots.
The pirates backed away, one stepping to the body of the headless crewmember. As Sam watched in disbelief, another pirate grabbed up the severed head, and they calmly tossed both off the starboard side of the ship. It occurred to Sam then that it took more than twelve men to crew a galleon. He licked his dry lips, his brain skipping and stuttering across realizations that weren’t continuing to full completion.
Two pirates lifted Dean from the deck. Sam’s stomach hitched when he saw his brother hang limply from their grasp, his head lolling, his now-bare chest slick with sweat, his fingers dangling and swaying with motion as they dragged him to the door in the center of the deck, kicking open the lock, then unceremoniously dragging him below. Sam winced as he heard his brother’s boots bang against the stairs as they descended.
“Mack!” Sam roared. “Where the hell are you?”
His eyes searched the deck through the milling, arguing pirates, taking in how they began shoving at each other, fist-fights breaking out on the port side of the ship, arguments with the Captain back toward the stern. A small figure with red hair slipped through the melee and crouched on the side of the mast where the pirates had initially dropped Dean.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Sam snapped. “Kill the Captain?”
“They killed Emerson,” Mack replied in a shaky voice.
“There’s too many of them,” Sam countered.
“They can die,” Mack returned. “You saw that.”
“You almost got Dean killed,” Sam snapped.
Mack looked off to his left, then back at Sam. “He didn’t have to save me.”
Sam tugged at his ropes. “He wasn’t saving you, you little shit,” he snapped. “He was saving all of us.”
Mack ducked a dueling pair, drawing his legs in and making himself as small as possible.
“Tell me what the hell is going on,” Sam grunted. “And get me untied, already, dammit.”
“No way,” Mack shook his head. “They’ll see.”
“Oh, now you’re scared?”
The fact that he couldn’t see Dean, couldn’t hear what might be happening to him, was bleeding into Sam’s already heightened sense of panic. They were in so far over their heads he felt as though he were drowning on air. He tugged and twisted the ropes, trying in vain to get his ankles free of the base of the make-shift stocks.
“Why are they fighting?”
Mack watched the ruckus with wide, guileless eyes. It was as if he’d found a way to disappear inside himself, observing the fighting crew with a detached interest as though it was all part of the show.
“They’ve gone through this for hundreds of years, and they’ve never been able to break the curse,” Mack said, his voice holding something of a childlike quality. “Some of them wanted to kill us right away; others said we had to be on the ship.”
Sam grunted, tugging harder, until finally he felt his right hand slip free. Frantically he worked the knot on his left. “So, we’re here, now what?”
“They can’t figure out the curse,” Mack shrugged. “Guess they cheated some Indians out of the pearls or something. They’re bound here until they figure out how to break the curse. Blood on the blade, blood in the moonlight, moonlight on the blade… they’re just doing it wrong.”
“So,” Sam ducked as a box sailed over his head and crashed against the deck on the opposite side of the ship. “They’ve killed people every year? No way. How come nobody noticed?”
“They only killed the ones lucky enough to find the ship. Or the map,” Mack said, rolling away from two fighting pirates, landing at Sam’s knees. He lay on his back, looking up at Sam. “Like my Uncle.”
Sam swallowed. Mack had lost everyone. No wonder he’s out of his mind. “Listen,” Sam said softly. “You help me get free and Dean and me… we’ll get you out of this.”
Mack blinked slowly. “Why would I want out?”
“Why would I want out?” he repeated, rolling to a seated position. “The less pirates left at the end of the solstice night, the more treasure for us.”
“They killed your brother,” Sam reminded him, incredulous at what he was hearing.
Something akin to clarity crossed Mack’s face like a shadow on the sun, then the look of blank innocence returned and he stood, pulling free the small dagger that had started this whole thing. He stepped around behind the grating and cut Sam’s left hand free. Sam fell forward, catching himself before his face came in contact with the time-smoothed wood of the deck. As he lay prone for a moment, he felt the impossible sway of the ship in the none-existent current. Painfully, his face twisted into a grimace, he unhooked his ankles from the base of the stocks.
“Help me up,” Sam ordered. “I have to get to Dean.”
“They’re trapped you know,” Mack said softly, leaning down until he was inches from Sam’s face.
Sam turned to his side, peering up at Mack, his face close enough that Sam could count his freckles. Mack grinned, his eyes bouncing with a manic thrill.
“Trapped?” Sam gasped, reflexively tightening and releasing the muscles in his legs, trying desperately to return blood flow to his feet. “Ah, man… wha-what do you mean?”
Mack leaned closer, his lips brushing the edges of Sam’s ear as he whispered, “They can’t go beyond the dune.”
Sam jerked his head to the side gaping at Mack in surprise. “You’re serious?”
Mack smiled, then flinched as a struggling pirate stepped on his outstretched fingers. Before Sam could react further, the Angel shook violently as another cannon roared into the night, blasting sand high into the air and silencing the fighting crew, more effective than a pistol shot.
The red-headed Captain stood next to the smoking cannon, and Sam shook his head as his ringing ears settled. Mack reached out and helped him sit up as they watched the Captain tug at his dark goatee, his flinty eyes drifting over his crew with lethal judgment. Raising a hand over the crowd like a modern-day orator, the Captain bellowed a stream of words that turned the remaining crew contrite.
The pirates shuffled their feet, looking at the deck, then back up at their Captain. Sam looked expectantly at Mack.
“Uh… he’s saying that they have to stop fighting and kill us right.”
Sam took a breath. “Got any idea what that means?”
Mack lifted a shoulder.
The Captain turned to them and Sam instinctively shoved the younger man behind him, working to stand on numb legs. With a snarled statement in Spanish that sounded to Sam like a death sentence, the Captain reached out and wrapped powerful-looking fingers around Mack’s skinny bicep. Two crew members shoved Sam roughly out of the way.
“What?” Sam reached out, trying to grab Mack from the iron-like grasp of the pirates. “What?”
“I can’t really shoot,” Mack confessed as he was hauled across the deck toward the bow. “I can’t shoot at all.”
“What?” Sam cried, moving forward, halted by two pairs of strong arms that pulled him back and away. “What are you talking about?”
“Emerson lied. I didn’t mean to shoot you!”
Sam’s head spun as his arms were pulled roughly behind his back once more, his battered body dragged away from the image of Mack being lifted and tied onto a make-shift cross over a large treasure chest. As a rope settled around Sam’s neck once more, he saw the red-headed Captain throw open the lid of the chest to reveal millions of milky-white pearls gleaming in the moonlight.
Sam tried to call out to Mack, but the rope was pulled tight, cutting off his air, and he was shoved toward the stairs leading to the dank, rancid smelling belly of the ship.
Part 3B can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/55034.html>