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.
December 31, 2005
Sam sat quietly on a chair near his brother’s bed, his eyes on the hypnotic rise and fall of Dean’s chest.
Dean had slept through the day and woke up near midnight, groggy, confused, and thirsty. Ben had been there, though, and before Sam had been able to fully wake, had made sure Dean had eaten, had checked his wounds, and had given him more meds.
It was nearly eight in the morning and still Dean slept. Quietly, no thrashing, no jerking, no crying out.
“Too bad we can’t have those drugs all the time,” Sam whispered to him.
“Wouldn’t advise that,” Ben said suddenly from behind him.
Sam startled, looking back at the doctor.
“They’re freakin’ addictive for one thing,” Ben said, sipping a cup of coffee and handing another to Sam. “And something tells me your brother hates not being… alert.”
“He sleeps with an eight inch Bowie knife under his pillow,” Sam said.
Ben nodded. “I don’t know much about what it is you do—just what Joshua told me—but, I can imagine you gotta be ready for a lot of… bumps in the night.”
Sam nodded, sipping his coffee, watching Dean sleep. “Joshua okay?”
“Well, from what we can tell he’s pissed as hell, but… not hurt.”
“You reach Mike?”
“He’s back—he and Shep are getting the weapons ready to your specifications.”
“He still upset about the car?”
Ben chuckled. “I don’t think upset properly categorizes it, but he’s a soldier, our Mike. He’s pretty much the only one of us that decided to use his military training to get over his… trauma. He knows there are times you do what you have to do.”
Sam reached up and absentmindedly rubbed at the seam of skin across his shoulder where Mack’s bullet had grazed him a few weeks earlier. “How’s Emerson?”
“Healing. Kid’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of Ayers Rock,” Ben shook his head, setting his coffee down and started to move around the room where Dean slept and Sam waited. He shifted a messenger bag off of his shoulder, placing the contents on different shelves inset into the walls. “He’s not openly admitted it, but I think he’s worried about his brother.”
Sam nodded, picking up a change in Dean’s breathing, a rapid hitch to the motion of his chest.
“You sure Mack was heading back out to the desert?” Ben asked for what had to have been the tenth time since they’d returned.
“I’d bet my life on it,” Sam said. “Hey, is he okay?”
Ben turned to face them just as Dean’s eyes flew open, his hands pressing against the bed, sweat breaking out across his forehead and cheeks.
“Son of a bitch,” Dean gasped, his heels pushing against the mattress, shoving his shaking body up high in the bed as if he were backing away from something. “Son of a bitch!”
“What!” Sam was on his feet, moving close, reaching out, but not touching. His throat constricted at the thought of touching Dean in this state. “What, Dean? What is it?”
Dean wasn’t looking at him, Sam realized. He was looking past him, almost through him. He was awake. Sam saw awareness in his brother’s eyes, but his pupils were so large the black had nearly eaten the green and his face was bone-white.
“You don’t see her?”
Sam jerked a look over his shoulder, seeing Ben do the same. “Who?”
“Oh, fuck me,” Dean whispered. “This is not happening… this is not happening!”
He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, rubbing hard then dropping them away to stare once more at the emptiness behind Sam. His breathing had reached a runner’s pant and Sam couldn’t stand it. He gripped Dean’s arm.
His brother’s eyes flew to meet his and Sam felt Dean’s hand twist around to return his hold. Dean’s fingers dug in to his forearm, holding Sam tightly, his eyes pinned to Sam’s. Slowly, as if coming up for air from a deep ocean dive, Dean’s pupils shrank, the mania receded, and reason returned.
“She’s here, Sam,” Dean said as calmly as his still-trembling body would allow.
Sam didn’t look away, feeling the anchor that was his body holding Dean to sanity. “Who?”
“She’s… here?” Sam worked to understand. “In… in this room?”
“She’s standing over by that shelf.” Dean didn’t look away, but his grip tightened. “She’s wrapped in a white sail. Her hair is black, and she has gray eyes. She’s standing there just as sure as I’m touching you.”
Sam took a breath. “Okay.”
“You believe me?”
Sam nodded. “I believe you. Don’t let go, okay? Just hang on to me.”
“Okay,” Dean nodded, keeping his eyes on Sam’s face.
“Y-yeah,” Ben replied, clearly shaken from the last few moments.
“What did you put on the shelf over there?”
Ben swallowed, moving away from the brothers. Sam heard him cross the room, heard him move something, then heard him utter a low curse.
“What is it?” Sam snapped.
“The pouch,” Ben said softly. “It’s the pouch of ashes.”
“Isobel’s ashes,” Sam said. Dean closed his eyes and took a breath.
“Yeah,” Ben replied. “He can… he sees her?”
“Dean,” Sam started.
“I’m okay,” Dean said, his fingers slowly releasing Sam’s arm. “I’m okay.”
Sam held on a moment longer. “You sure?”
“She’s… she’s just waiting, man.” Dean let go of Sam, closed his eyes a moment, then looked back toward the shelf and Ben. “Waiting to go home,” he said as if talking to Isobel.
“Well, we’re going to send her there,” Sam said. He sank slowly to his chair. “Other than the obvious… how are you feeling?”
Dean looked back at him, surprised. Sam saw him test the tenderness of his side and was relieved when there wasn’t an accompanying grimace. “Better,” he said. “Starving, actually.”
“Good,” Sam grinned. “’Cause we have a lot to talk about.”
“You, uh,” Ben was looking at his shelf, tilting his head one way then the other. “You want to just… leave her here?”
“No,” Dean shook his head. “Give me the pouch.”
“What?” Sam squeaked. “Are you sure?”
Dean swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “I’m sure,” he nodded. “I have to see this through, Sam. Send her home.”
“It doesn’t have to be you,” Sam protested, putting a restraining hand on Dean’s shoulder, asking him with a touch to wait, to think, to stop, to stay.
Looking up, Dean met his eyes solidly. “Yeah. It does.”
It didn’t feel the same, preparing to take out these spirits. Even knowing who—what—they were up against didn’t turn their actions from surreal into rhythmic. Any other hunt, Dean would have been cleaning their guns, readying the rock salt rounds, centering himself on what he would be called to do, while Sam would have been finding the location of the bones or the history behind the spook.
Both, in their own ways, keeping their hands busy, engaging their brains.
“You showed him how to cap the tops?” Dean asked, eyeing the shotgun shells Mike was lining up on the garage workbench.
“Yes, Dean,” Sam replied tiredly. “He has rock salt rounds enough for four shotguns—none of them sawed off, but hey, we can’t have everything. He has a fifty caliber weapon ready to mount on the top of the bulldozer—“
“Live rounds aren’t going to do anything,” Dean broke in.
“Yeah, well, after I showed Mike our trick with the shotgun shells… he got creative.”
Dean ran his eyes over the collection of weapons and gear. Ben had insisted that Dean and Sam wear Kevlar vests beneath their shirts.
“I spent too much time putting you two back together again,” he’d said. “The idea of either of you getting skewered by a pirate’s sword or an Indian’s spear does not excite me.”
After Dean had eaten, showered, and eaten again, they’d walked in silence to the garage, ready for the mission debrief. Dean felt his heart working overtime, attempting to keep up with his racing mind. Isobel’s ashes were tucked into the interior pocket of his jacket—which he’d retrieved from Emerson after a quick check to make sure he was still among the living. Isobel’s spirit was at his side, her too-large, watchful eyes never leaving his face.
He did his best to ignore her; her silence made her bearable. But he knew he wouldn’t be able to take her eyes on him for long.
Dean picked up one of the shotguns, momentarily alarmed at how heavy it felt in his grip. He balanced the barrel with his other hand, hoping no one but the silent spirit at his side had noticed.
“Dad’ll kick our asses if we don’t get Joshua back,” Sam said suddenly.
Dean looked over at him. “We’ll get him back.”
Sam met his eyes. “Think he’s okay?”
Dad? Or Josh? Dean wanted to ask. “He’s fine, Sam. He’s tough.”
They faced the weapons once more, Sam’s shoulder leaning close, barely touching his. Dean allowed him the balance of touch, unwilling to admit he needed it almost as much as his brother.
“I know you’re going to the ship,” Sam said softly.
“You know the only way out there in time is the chopper.”
Dean ignored the greasy slick of sweat that instantly coated his skin, running in a tear-like trickle down the back of his neck. “I know.”
“You sure you can handle it?”
Dean closed his eyes briefly, then looked directly at Isobel, letting Sam see the focus of his eyes. “I don’t have a choice, Sam.”
“I can do this for you, Dean,” Sam insisted, grabbing the barrel of the shotgun that Dean still held braced in his hands. “Let me do this for you. You take the Indians, get Joshua back. Let me… let me help you with this.” He glanced in the direction Dean had been looking. “With her.”
Sam’s voice was strength battling need, reason overriding fear. It was strong and sturdy, but so young it made Dean’s heart crack as it beat against the cage of his ribs. Setting down the shotgun, Dean turned to his brother, not caring that Mike was within earshot. He needed Sam to hear this. To know this. No matter what happened, Sam had to know.
“You know what it was that you did? Getting me out of that ship, out of that desert?”
Sam’s brow furrowed, his chin ticking to the side imperceptibly.
“It was a miracle, Sam. Nothing short of it,” Dean put his hand on his brother’s shoulder, squeezing the muscles coiled there. “You never once broke, Sammy. You never doubted. And you beat them. You beat a crew full of… of zombie pirate ghosts. You got us the hell out of there and you kept us alive.”
“That’s everything, brother,” Dean pressed. “Don’t think it’s not. I’ve seen the ones that didn’t make it. All of them. They weren’t pussies, Sam. They were fighters and soldiers and hunters. They fought for their lives and they didn’t win. But you did. That’s how I knew I wasn’t out of miracles… ‘cause of you.”
Sam’s eyes swam with sudden tears. “And now we have to go back.”
Dean lifted a shoulder, the corner of his mouth ticking up in an automatic smile. “We have to finish the job, right?”
Dean turned from his brother, eyes skimming over Isobel’s pale, still face, and scanned the weapons once more. “C’mon, Sammy… don’t tell me you’re not a little jacked up about taking these bastards down.”
“I’ll be with the Indians, remember?”
“Yeah—saving lives. What you’re best at.”
Sam lifted an eyebrow. “Oh yeah? Then what’s your great skill?”
Dean lifted the pump-action shotgun and cocked it with a loud ca-shink. “Taking out the bad guys.”
“Okay, people!” Kenny’s voice boomed through the garage causing Sam to jump, Dean to turn, and Mike to finally look up.
Just before he focused on Kenny, Mike caught Dean’s eyes and held them. Dean raised his eyebrows, ready to take the reprimand, knowing he deserved it for taking the Charger. Mike simply smiled and with a two-fingered salute, turned from the brothers to face Kenny and the other men filing in. Dean smiled, relieved.
“Here’s how it’s going down,” Kenny barked, and Dean could suddenly see the mustachioed little man standing in front of a squad room handing out assignments. “Dean, Mike, and Connor are in the chopper. You’ll head out to the drop site, meet up with Tony and Lucas. Mike will drop the ashes on the ship—“
“No,” Dean broke in, startling the entire group.
“Sorry, what?” Kenny said, peering at Dean.
“I’ll take the ashes.”
“I’ll take the ashes,” he repeated, his face impassive, his eyes hard.
Kenny shifted his appeal to Sam, but before he could say anything, Sam shook his head. “He’s got this, Kenny.”
Kenny and Mike exchanged a look and then he continued. “Okay, so… Dean will drop the ashes on the ship while Mike radios to Shep at the reservation. Shep, Sam, me, and Rudy will be heading out to the reservation to return the pearls and get Joshua back.”
“And me,” called a thin voice from the garage hanger door.
Everyone turned to see Emerson, face bruised and puffy, hand wrapped and held close against his ribs, standing in the doorway, listing to one side.
Shep shook his head. “Son, it is a noble thing you think of doing—“
“Save it, Professor,” Emerson waved his good hand at Shep. “I ain’t trying to be a hero. I just… I gotta be part of something. Something right for once.”
Kenny sighed, rubbing his hand across the back of his head. “Seems I should have consulted the civilians before creating this mission.”
“Don’t want to make trouble,” Emerson said, leaning against the wall. “I just… I got nothing else, man.”
Kenny sighed and Dean saw his face soften slightly. He turned to Mike. “You keep an eye out for his brother out there.”
“Roger,” Mike replied.
“Everyone clear? Okay. We have six hours until midnight people. Let’s do this!”
The flurry of activity seemed to happen around them, bouncing off of an invisible bubble that shielded Dean and Sam from the energy. Dean simply looked at his brother, wanting suddenly to memorize him, take him in, not forget one line, one dimple, one visible scar.
“Quit looking at me like that,” Sam said. “You’re starting to freak me out.”
Dean grinned. “That’s usually my line.”
“Stay on the walkie, okay?” Sam asked. “I know he said Mike, but…”
“I won’t leave you, Sammy.”
Sam swallowed so hard his Adam’s apple bounced against the bottom of his chin. “You better not.”
He held out his hand, palm to the side. Dean clasped it, palm to palm, thumb to thumb, and Sam pulled him in for a quick, tight hug, Dean’s shoulder tucked against his. They parted and gathered their vests and weapons. Dean shot a look at Isobel, her large eyes seeming to pull the air from his lungs for a moment, then he turned and followed Mike to the helicopter.
“I can’t believe I’m friggin’ doing this,” he muttered as he climbed in, finding one of the jump seats flush against the wall, piles of tarp and ballast tucked into the back of the machine.
“Sam mentioned you had a small fear of flying,” Mike called out from the pilot’s seat as the other man climbed into the co-pilot’s seat.
“You might say that,” Dean shot back, breathing through his nose and wiping his sweaty palms along the seam of his jeans. The heavy vest pulled at his tender shoulder, but he felt stronger with it between his wounded side and the angry world.
Connor handed Dean a headset. Dean was no sooner strapped in when Mike started clicking the pre-flight switches. Silently, he began to tell himself all of the reasons it would be a Very Bad Idea to throw up.
“You feel sick, lean out the side door,” Mike called back. “You can’t breathe, you shove your fist in the air. Connor will hand you some oh-two. Got it?”
“Got it,” Dean choked out.
The heavy blades began to rotate swiftly beating the air as Dean closed his eyes. Breathe, Dean… just breathe… in and out, air is good, air helps us, there’s a big hand holding us in the sky…
“Here we go!” Mike called and the ground disappeared.
Dean felt his stomach jump ship, deciding it liked the ground better. He gripped the sides of his seat and for one moment felt nothing but blind panic. He couldn’t see, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t move. He knew in that moment that he was going to die sitting upright on the jump seat of a retired military helicopter.
“Sam said this might help,” Mike called out over the head set.
The squeal of an electric guitar caused Dean to open one eye. He blinked rapidly as the drums joined. When James Hetfield’s voice growled over the speakers surrounding his ears, Dean almost laughed.
“I was thinking, y’know, Apocalypse Now… Ride of the Valkyries, but Sam insisted.”
“That’s my boy!” Dean called back, focusing on the notes, the beats, the curses, the shouts until he almost forgot he was skimming through the air inside a metal wasp.
When the hand touched his ankle, his scream caused Mike and Connor to rip their head sets from their ears.
“What. The. Fuck?!”
Dean looked down, completely shocked, to see Mack Guiley’s blue eyes staring up at him from beneath one of the ballast tarps.
“He’s on the chopper? How the hell did he get there?” Kenny shouted into the walkie talkie.
“You got me,” Mike replied, his voice a tinny echo of sound. “But he’s here. Guess he either remembered how to get back or he followed his brother. He ain’t talking.”
“Shocker,” Emerson muttered next to Sam.
“Well, I guess you’ll have to keep him with you,” Kenny sighed. “No time to go back now.”
“Roger. Bravo Team out.”
Sam looked at Emerson. “He’s going for the ship.”
“He wants to go back with the pirates,” Sam said.
“How does that make any sense?” Emerson frowned.
“I’m not saying it does,” Sam shook his head. “I don’t know that anything your brother does actually makes sense.”
“You can say that again,” Emerson said, shifting on the bench seat to get more comfortable.
“Everything that happened to you—I think it kinda… broke off a piece of who Mack was. Made him part of a person,” Sam said softly, almost to himself. “Something about that treasure—those pirates—made him feel…”
“Whole,” Emerson said.
“Yeah. Maybe it was because of how your dad talked about it, or what he wrote in that journal, but…” Sam shrugged.
“Why does he want to go back to the ship, though? They… they hurt him. Cut him. Bad.”
Sam took a breath. “Well, I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been trying to figure out why those guys in the hold—and the Angel—are haunting Dean. I think it’s ‘cause he was shot down there—a piece of them, a piece of the ship, basically, was, y’know, inside of him.”
“Yeah, so? How does that matter to Mack?”
“When he and I were on the ship—when we thought you were dead—he, uh, he drank from one of the pirate’s flasks.”
Sam lifted a shoulder. “He said he was trying to get in close to them. So he could kill the Captain for killing you. And I think he amused them. They put their clothes on him and rubbed his hair and pulled him into their little group because he was small and angry and… and they knew they were going to kill him anyway.”
“So that’s what you meant when you asked him how the rum tasted…” Emerson said, his gaze inward, remembering.
“Okay, quiet back there,” Shep called. “We’re at the reservation.”
Sam waited in the back of the Jeep until Shep made contact with their guide. They all disembarked, following the guide down a wooded path as darkness grew. Night creatures chirped loudly around them, the foliage seeming to grow larger as they sojourned. Sam found himself holding his breath, wanting desperately for someone to break the oppressive silence and radio the helicopter, but unwilling to voice his request.
There was an ancient pressure here; he felt the cool of the winter fighting with the magic the seemed to permeate the dark. The very air felt the power of this night, this place, these people.
They broke into a clearing and Sam saw several small, government-issue houses. Block-style, terracotta roofs, small stucco porches. Outside of one, an ancient woman sat in a rocking chair, watching them. Standing in the doorway of another, a child of about ten peered out. Sam followed the group as their guide led them to the last house on the left, then gestured for them to step inside.
He saw Joshua immediately. He was unharmed, unbound, sitting in a high-backed chair, looking angry.
“Hello, boys,” Joshua greeted them.
“Joshua,” Shep nodded. “You okay?”
“Could use a cold beer, but other than that…”
“You have the pearls?” came a voice to Sam’s right, tucked deep into the shadows.
“Hold up. It ain’t midnight yet, Hoss,” Joshua replied. “We’re not screwing this up now.”
Landing was better than take-off, Dean decided. Either that, or the fact that he was once more on terra firma made anything from before seem worse. He bailed from the helicopter like the devil was after him, stopping only when he spotted the excavated ship in the half-light of the moon.
“Holy shit,” he drawled.
The equipment Mike had sent out days before had dug a crater of sand around the marooned ship, exposing the bow, the broken masts, much of the deck and part of the stern. The wooden angel reached up into nothing as her wings spread in broken, time-worn wooden bits across the bow of the ship. The shadow of the moon turned the surrounding sand to black, giving the impression that the wreckage floated on emptiness.
“I saw this,” Dean breathed. “I saw it, just like this.”
“Me, too,” Mack said, startling Dean. “Every night.”
Dean looked at Isobel and saw that for once she wasn’t staring at him, but at the ship.
“What time is it, Mike?”
“We have nine minutes,” Mike called back. “Load up.”
Dean wrapped the earpiece Mike had given him around his right lobe and looked at Mack. “Wait in the chopper.”
Mack shook his head. “I belong with them.”
“The hell you do,” Dean snapped. “Don’t make me knock you out, kid.”
Mack looked at him. “This is what my father died for. This… this ship. This treasure. It took everyone in my family.”
“Not everyone,” Dean shook his head. “Your brother—“
“Wants nothing to do with me,” Mack replied. “Everyone—including me—is better off if I go with them.”
Dean felt his anger curling inside him like a cobra, ready to lash out, to strike. “How do you know they even want you?” he tried.
“The last thing they said to me,” Mack revealed, “as the ship was rolling, was me perteneces.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Dean shouted.
Mack looked back at the ship. “You belong to me.”
“Oh, you poor, stupid kid,” Dean breathed.
“Dean! Weapons!” Mike called.
Dean turned and took the pump-action shotgun that Mike thrust his way.
“Connor, Lucas! Get that fifty mounted on that bulldozer pronto! Tony, grab yourself two shotguns and get up in the back hoe. If it’s not one of us, feel free to fire at will. I’ll carry the flame-thrower.”
Dean felt his breath quicken. The air pressed close, the sky seemed to roll, then pause. The stars didn’t even flash. He looked at Mack.
“This is it.”
“One minute to midnight,” Joshua said, looking at his watch. “Your shaman ready to take the treasure and end this thing?”
“If you are able to return the messenger to her ship, then yes,” the man in the shadows replied. “Show me the treasure.”
His mouth suddenly dry, Sam stepped forward, opening the box they’d collected the pearls in.
“This is not the entire treasure,” the man replied.
“It’s all we have,” Sam argued. “Why don’t you let the shaman decide?”
The man stepped forward, revealing his face in the candlelit room. “I am the shaman.”
Sam blinked staring at the wizened face, the deeply etched lines of time folding skin over dark eyes, the long, white braid, ropes of colored thread woven through strips of hair at either side of the man’s face.
Unexpectedly, the walkie-talkie at Shep’s side crackled. Sam shot a look over and watched the former teacher flick the tool to open-mic.
“Alpha Team. Alpha Team, come in.”
“This is Alpha Team,” Shep replied. “Go Bravo.”
“We’ve got activity, here, Shep,” Mike replied. “Dean’s going in and Mack is with him.”
“Mack!” Emerson cried out, turning to face Shep. “What the hell?”
“He won’t stay back, and Dean doesn’t have time to argue.”
“Can I talk to Dean?” Sam said.
“Dean? You got your ears on, boy?” Mike called. “You hear me?”
“I hear you,” Dean replied, and Sam heard the strain in his voice.
“Dean!” Sam called. “Are they there? The pirates?”
“I can… I see the scarfaced bastard that shot me,” Dean muttered. “I just gotta get… these guys made a helluva crater, man.”
“Just put Isobel’s ashes on the ship and get the hell out!” Sam cried. “We’re giving back the pearls.”
“Don’t let Mack stay there!” Emerson yelled. “Bring him back.”
“Do my best,” Dean grunted. “Ah!”
“Dean!” Sam yelled. “What is it?”
A boom sounded over the walkie-talkie, turning all feedback into white noise. Sam looked up at Shep, then over to the shaman.
“It is midnight,” the shaman stated calmly.
Time will cease and spirits rise…
The world was holding its breath. Dean saw every particle of sand kicked up in his slide down the crater to the wrecked ship hover mid-air, as if frozen in the moment. He saw every slip of air that brushed by the wooden Angel in its haste to escape the death that surrounded the cursed vessel. He saw every star in the midnight sky suspended like Lite-Brite pinpricks in a sheet of black cloth.
Standing on the listing deck was Scarface, his crooked mouth pulled into a death’s head grin, his eyes glinting from the frozen starlight.
“Me perteneces,” he said, his voice everywhere and nowhere. It emanated from the sand, shook through the frozen air, reverberated from inside Dean.
Before Dean could say another word, the suspended world shook as Connor’s fifty caliber gun fired a round into the depths of the ship, exploding rock salt across the deck and knocking Scarface to his knees. He rose quickly, joined by Dreadlocks and two other pirates, all with swords drawn.
“Dean! Now!” Mike screamed in his earpiece.
“Here goes everything,” Dean muttered, shooting a quick look at Isobel who was facing the ship, then at Mack who was trembling beside him. “You stay here, kid.”
Sliding the remainder of the way down to the ship, Dean used the crater of sand to make his way to the deck. Swing over the edge of the ship, he was surprised when his weight turned the floor beneath his feet to dust, releasing a waft of fetid air, heavy with rotting flesh.
Gagging, Dean pulled his foot free and looked up just in time to see Dreadlocks rushing him. He pumped the shotgun and fired, grinning when Dreadlocks’ face disintegrated and his body fell through the swiftly crumbling floor. Another pirate lunged for him and Dean fired, reducing his foes to two.
He could hear Sam calling him from the earpiece.
“Sam! Tell them it’s almost over!”
“They want more pearls!”
“Fuck that!” Dean yelled, firing once more and missing as the third pirate rushed him. “They get what they get!”
In that moment, Mack slipped past him, his lithe body leaping over the hole Dean stood behind and ran for the Captain’s cabin, directly past Scarface. The pirate turned, surprise etching his features, as the red-head slipped beyond him and darted through the sagging door to the cabin.
“Hey! Dickface! Yeah, you!” Dean hollered, desperate to return the pirate’s attention to him and away from Mack’s crazy run. The third pirate yelled something back at him as he moved forward. “Whatever you say man. Just hold still a sec, okay?”
Dean shoved more rounds into the chamber, cocked it, and fired, blasting a hole through the chest of the pirate just as his sword slashed through Dean’s hoodie and glanced off of the Kevlar vest. Dean took a breath, looking at the crumpled body at his feet.
“Thank you, Ben,” he breathed.
“What was that?” Sam yelled.
“We need to invest in some of this Kevlar shit, Sam!”
“Oh, man, I don’t want to know,” Sam groaned.
“Mack got past me,” Dean called. “Went into the Captain’s cabin.”
“Dean, just return the ashes, get the hell out of there!” Sam yelled.
“NO!” Dean winced from the ferocity of Emerson’s scream. “No, don’t you leave him there, Dean!”
Scarface turned from Dean and ran toward the cabin.
“Aw, sonuvabitch,” Dean muttered, slipping from his perch and hurrying along the edge of the rail toward the cabin. “Mike?”
“Right here, Dean,” Mike called back.
“You be ready with more salt and that flame thrower the minute I yell go, got that?”
“Roger,” Mike barked.
“I gotta be outta my mind,” Dean muttered.
“You hearin’ this?” Sam yelled, advancing on the shaman. “You hear what your greed is doing?”
The shaman blinked benignly. “The pirates took from us—took our people. Only when the debt is paid in full will the curse be lifted.”
“You selfish son of a bitch,” Sam growled, reaching out and gripping the front of the shaman’s loose garb. Not one finger of Alpha Team was raised to stop him. Sam shoved the ancient man back. “If my brother dies, you die, get me?”
The spear at his throat came out of nowhere. Sam froze, not releasing the shaman, but not advancing further.
“I’m here, man.”
“Think Dad’s ever gonna believe this?”
“Think anyone’s ever going to believe this?”
“Good point.” He took a breath. “Okay… I’m going in.”
Dean stepped through the door of the Captain’s cabin to find Mack standing, his back to a crumbling wall, the chest of pearls gripped in his hands, Scarface’s blade at his throat. Isobel stood on the other side of Scarface, her eyes on him, her body completely still.
“Hey!” Dean called.
Scarface spared him a glance. Then turned back to Mack. He began speaking in Spanish, his words draining the color from Mack’s face and loosening his grip on the chest.
“Don’t listen to him, Mack,” Dean said. “Whatever he’s saying, it’s a lie.”
“He’s… he’s saying that we’re the last. The treasure is ours by right.”
“He’s a ghost man. The treasure means nothing to him. He wants your blood.”
Scarface turned, lightening quick, and thrust out his arm. Dean didn’t see the knife fly from his grip until the blade slammed into his chest knocking him backward from his feet, chasing the air from his lungs. The vest protected him once again from the worst of the damage, but the impact with the wall shook him, stabbing his side with pain and keeping him down.
“Mack…” he tried again, unable to gather his breath. “Don’t… don’t listen to him.”
“Dean?” Sam’s voice, young, scared, came through his earpiece.
“Mack, your brother is back with the Indians. He doesn’t want you to stay here. He wants me to… to bring you back,” Dean said, closing his eyes as his ribs protested even the slightest movement.
“But… I belong with them…”
“No, man,” Dean shook his head. “No you don’t. They don’t even belong here. We need to set this right.”
Scarface yelled something over his shoulder at Dean.
Dean rolled his eyes at the pirate. “And the horse you rode in on, pal,” he muttered.
Scarface turned from Mack, pointing his sword at Dean, still talking. Dean simply blinked at him unable to get up from the swiftly crumbling floor of the Captain’s cabin. He waited until Scarface drew closer, close enough that if Dean shifted, the pirate’s blade would be at his throat. And then he brought the barrel of the shotgun up. And he grinned.
Scarface disintegrated in front of him.
“That’s the Chicago way,” Dean whispered.
“Sam? Tell those bastards we’ve got their freakin’ pearls,” Dean gasped. Mack stumbled closer to him, setting the chest down. “Mike?”
“Right here,” Mike replied.
“On your word,” Mike said.
Dean looked at Mack, then slid his eyes over the kid’s shoulder to look at Isobel. “You ready to go home?”
Mack nodded, his face thin, tear-streaked, and pale, but his eyes alight with chance. He tucked his shoulder against Dean’s ribs had heaved him up from the ground. Gathering the treasure chest with his other hand, Mack helped Dean push the door open and make their way to the deck. Dean dug into the pocket of his jacket, suddenly unable to take his eyes from her soft features, sad eyes.
He’d gotten scary good at ignoring her.
“Time to go home, Angel,” he said softly, opening the pouch and emptying the gray contents onto the deck of the ship. Isobel turned to stare directly at Dean, and as her ashes blew away, her image followed, turning to sand before his eyes. For a brief moment her smile lingered and then she was gone.
In that moment, time sped up. Sand, stars, air, wind everything resumed its normal pace. And the ancient wood beneath their feet began to fall away with the exposure to the air and their weight.
“Oh, shit,” Dean muttered, pulling his arm free from Mack’s shoulders. “Go, man, go go!”
“Roger, that’s a go!” Mike called over his earpiece.
“No, I didn’t—“
But his words were lost as a he heard the boom of the fifty cal spraying rock salt over the deck followed quickly by a storm of fire swamped the deck, eating through the salt-strewn, decrepit wood.
Sam heard his brother cry out.
He heard Dean tell Mack to run, just run and don’t look back, heard him swear, and then white noise once again sang through the walkie-talkie. He hadn’t moved. He still held the shaman against the wall. A spear was still poised at his throat. And he hadn’t moved.
It was now ten past midnight. A new year. Time had resumed, spirits had gone back to their cloaked existence, and Sam refused to move. And the men with him waited.
At fifteen past midnight, Sam’s hands began to shake. At twenty past, he felt the panic press tight behind his eyes. And then… he heard it. A crackle. A bend in the silence. And the unmistakable sound of helicopter blades beating against the air.
Sam released the shaman. The spear was pulled away and Sam sank slowly to his knees at the sound of his brother’s voice.
“Still here, man.”
“You tell those Indians to look out their back window.”
Sam looked up at the shaman. “You heard the man.”
Alpha Team left the small hut, looking heavenward as a canvass tarp was dropped from the hold of a helicopter, landing with a dull thud in the center of the circle of houses. The shaman made his way to the tarp, parting the folds, and exposing the shattered remains of the treasure chest and its complete collection of pearls.
“Let our people go,” Dean ordered.
The shaman nodded at Shep. “It is done. The curse is broken.”
As a unit, Alpha Team surrounded Joshua, tucking Sam and Emerson into their fold, and marched back to the waiting vehicles.
January 1, 2006
“I am never getting into a plane, a helicopter, a freakin’ glider again for as long as I live,” Dean vowed as they touched down on the camp tarmac.
“Never’s an awfully long time,” Mike reminded him.
Conceding this point, Dean amended. “Let’s just say the world better be ending.”
His aching body moving half a second behind his tangled mind, Dean slipped from the helicopter, stumbling at first, swaying when he stopped, then gaining his balance and crossing the lot to the returning vehicles. He ignored everything else, every order shouted his way, every call of congratulations, every shout of concern.
Not until Sam emerged from the back of the last Jeep did he truly take a real breath.
“Dude,” Dean grinned when Sam loped up to him, reaching out immediately to grip his shoulder, “it’s good to see you.”
“Same here, man,” Sam grinned, his dimples diving deep and holding on. “You look like crap.”
“Well, I feel fantastic,” Dean chuckled. Just past Sam, he saw Emerson’s battered figure emerge stiffly from the Jeep. “Hey, man,” he called. “There’s someone waiting in the chopper for you.”
The relief on Emerson’s face struck Dean’s heart.
“He’s okay?” Emerson asked, hesitantly.
Not releasing his hold on Sam’s arm, Dean looked down for a moment. “Just… go easy on him.”
Emerson turned and headed toward the helicopter.
Joshua walked up to them, his face serious, his eyes stern. “So,” he said, facing the brothers, hands behind his back. “You went against orders. You put yourselves in danger. You put my men in danger.”
They stood quietly, at attention, absorbing.
“And you pulled off the riskiest, most complicated salt-and-burn in hunting history.”
Dean couldn’t help it; he grinned.
“You’re not mad?” Sam asked.
“Think I can stay mad at John Winchester’s boys?”
“Uh, speaking of…” Dean hedged. “Any chance you’ve heard from him?”
Joshua looked down, then away, working his jaw slightly, then returned his gaze to the brothers. “Not exactly. But… he sent you something.”
Dean frowned. Sam tilted his head. Joshua nodded toward the garage. Turning, the brothers saw parked just to the right of the hanger doors the gleaming black body of the Impala.
“Son. Of. A. Bitch,” Dean murmured, already in motion toward the Chevy.
“But… how…” Sam stammered.
“He wasn’t here,” Joshua reassured them, following as they made their way to the car. “You didn’t miss him. This was taped to the dash.”
Sam took the paper as Dean kept walking. “Boys,” he read aloud, “I got a lead, and it could be the one. I’m getting closer to this bastard, and he knows it. I found the Impala. Seems you two have been living lean. I stocked you up. Caleb was heading to see Joshua, said he’d drop her off for you. Merry Christmas, Boys. John.”
“Caleb’s here?” Dean said over his shoulder, reaching the Impala and running his hand reverently over her trunk.
“In the mess hall,” Joshua said. “Couldn’t wait for food, I guess.” He paused for a moment. “I’ll stop in, say hi to him before I get Mike to round up that equipment out in the desert. Not like we had permits or anything...”
“Hey, Josh,” Dean called, straightening up. “What about the Guileys?”
Joshua shrugged. “We got a few spare bunks.”
“The cops are still after them,” Sam reminded him. “And they’re more than a handful. Not only that, but… Emerson’s not exactly one hundred percent innocent.”
Joshua smiled a small, sad smile, reached into this jacket pocket and pulled out the keys. He tossed them in a low sloping arch to Dean who snatched them from the air. “Who is around here?” he said. “Besides… everyone deserves a second chance.”
Sam smiled, then faced the trunk as Dean opened it up. The sigh the echoed from both of them was indeed akin to kids at Christmas.
“Ammo, rock salt, holy water…”
“Jeans, underwear, socks…”
“First aid kit, pain meds, antiseptic…”
“Dude, he fixed the slide on my .45!”
“The blade on the scythe is sharp again.”
Dean looked at Sam, grinning. “Merry Freakin’ Christmas, brother.”
“Still… woulda been pretty cool if he had made it,” Sam said softly.
Dean looked back at the loaded trunk. “Y’know, Layla said something to me… back in Nebraska,” he revealed, his tone hushed, secretive. “I can’t shake it loose.”
“What’d she say?” Sam asked, not looking at him.
“She told me that… if you’re gonna have faith… you can’t just have it when the miracles happen.” He looked askance at Sam. “You have to have it when they don’t.”
“We’re not gonna stop looking for him, are we?” Sam asked, his eyes round and hopeful as he regarded his brother.
“Not a chance, man,” Dean replied. “We’ll find him. One of these days… we’ll call and he’ll show up.”
“If we have a lead on the demon, I can pretty much guarantee it,” Sam said, grinning ruefully.
Dean’s smile was pained as he closed the trunk, stepping back with surprise when he saw Mike standing near the driver’s side door.
“Care if I take her for a spin?” the former Marine asked, his grin sly and weighted.
Dean looked at Sam.
“Oh, boy,” Sam murmured.
January 8, 2006
Dean wasn’t whole, but he was better. His wounds were healing, and even the bruises from the knife thrown by Scarface were starting to yellow and age. He still walked with a slight hitch, his arm held close to his side, but he was once more rarely still. He’d worked with Shep to repair the garage’s sound system and had introduced the scholar to the finer elements of Led Zeppelin, worked with Mike on both the Charger and the Impala, and traced a pattern around the entire camp one hundred times over.
Sam knew that if they didn’t leave now, he was going to have a caged tiger by the tail. Dean needed to be on the road, doing the job, fighting the good fight. And, Sam reasoned, if he were honest with himself, so did he.
The last location their father had mentioned was Pennsylvania. Sam figured it was as good a place as any to resume their search, picking up whatever jobs they could along the way. So, he was surprised when Dean, once again behind the wheel, pointed the Impala west.
Leather jacket back where it belonged, half-smirk at home on his face, Dean looked as if nothing much had happened in the time they’d spent at the Vet camp. Sam couldn’t hide his grin of satisfaction as he asked where the hell Dean thought he was going.
“Dude, this was your idea,” Dean said as Sam shifted sideways in the seat, his back against the passenger door, facing his brother.
“Navy-blue water… beach stretching on for miles,” Dean tossed a grin at his brother. “I think I’d be a bitchin’ sufer…”
“You… you remember that?”
“Hell yeah!” Dean said, reaching into the pocket of his coat and pulling out a cassette tape. “You’ve got a point. Joey was… well, she was damn fine,” he smiled and Sam rolled his eyes. “But I don’t want to say the last girl I laid had a dude’s name. So, the bikini’s… how skimpy are we talking?”
“What are you doing with that?” Sam eyed the cassette as Dean shoved it into the Impala’s player.
“Oh, this?” Dean asked innocently.
“Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand. Creatures crawl in search of blood. To terrorize the neighborhood…” Vincent Price’s ageless voice slipped like eerie molasses from their speakers, and Sam looked over at Dean with disbelief.
Dean’s grinned widened. “I told you I wasn’t finished.”
“And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver. For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller…” Mocking, evil laughter echoed through the speakers and the unmistakable beat of Michael Jackson’s Thriller bounced inside the Impala.
Dean jerked his shoulders in time to the beat, turning his head to the side at the exact right moment.
“C’mon, Sammy… you know you love it.”
“You such a friggin’ jerk,” Sam said, unable to suppress his grin. As the music continued, Sam lifted his arms, hands extended in claws and jerked them forward, a zombie dance in the confines of the Impala’s seat.
“Atta boy,” Dean grinned.
Sitting back, Sam laughed. He rolled down the window, wanting to catch the first whiff of ocean air.
a/n: I’m bracing myself for your reactions now that the truth is out there. I hope that you each found some entertainment in these pages.
*peeks out between fingers*
Next up, Wearing and Tearing, a pre-Series story centering on John and Dean in the weeks after Sam left for Stanford. A promo vid made by the amazing lovinjackson can be found here:
I’ll also be posting a zine story that has been ‘released’ for posting called Shadows and Dust. If you choose to read, I hope you enjoy!
Translations: Thanks to the lovely onari who is as gracious as she is talented.
En el solsticio de invierno regresará ellaa las aguas y la sangre de los hombres correrá hasta que volvamos a alzarnos… She will return to the water on the winter solstice and the blood of men will flow until we rise again…
Cuando la luna caiga sobre la hoja de la espada, ella llevará su carga a casa… When the moon falls on the blade, she will bear her burden home…
En el último minuto de la última hora del año, el tiempo cesará y los espíritus se levantarán. Cuando el tesoro descanse en manos de sus gentes y el cuerpo del mensajero sea devuelto, los espíritus no estarán ligados a la tierra por más tiempo… In the last minute of the last hour of the year, time will cease and spirits rise. When the treasure rests in the hands of the people, and the body of the messenger is returned, the spirits will no longer be bound to the land.
Me perteneces… You belong to me.
Thriller by Michael Jackson>