Characters: Dean, John
Rating: PG-13 for language and mature scenes
Spoilers: None. Pre-Series.
Summary: With Sam at school, John and Dean must find a way to connect and survive. When John is hurt on a hunt, Dean is forced to pick up the pieces. However, when ghosts threaten to take Dean down, it's up to his father to keep him from fading.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Story title from Led Zeppelin song of the same name.
“I can’t believe I’m not tired,” Gus said as he dropped into the passenger seat of the Impala.
“It’s the adrenaline,” Dean explained, his breath puffing out in cloud bursts. The warmth of the previous day hadn’t yet revisited. “I’m usually on a three-day rush when I’m on a hunt.”
“A hunt?” Gus glanced at him askance as he turned the engine over. “You call them hunts?”
“Hunts, jobs,” Dean lifted a shoulder, then reached over and turned on the radio. His lips curled up as David Lee Roth chuckled his way through Hot For Teacher.
“Maybe I should go to hell, but I am doing well,” Gus sang.
“Van Halen fan?” Dean asked, pulling out onto the road.
“Hell, yeah,” Gus grinned. The man was practically shimmering with energy. “Old school, though. Not much of a Hagar fan.”
“Oh, come on, Black and Blue? Man on a Mission? You know the Red Rocker ruled that band, man,” Dean protested, turning the radio up so that they were forced to yell at each other over the scream of the electric guitar.
Tugging on his bottom lip with his teeth, Gus shook his head. “Nah, I’m a Jump man. ‘Course, you ask me, no better band than Guns ‘N Roses.”
Dean rolled his eyes, turning into the grocery store parking lot. “I should make you walk back for saying that.”
“Axl Rose? C’mon!” Gus lightly tapped Dean on the shoulder, laughing.
Dean shoved the gear into park, and shifted in the seat. “I’ll say this once. There is no other band in the world equal to the power of the mighty Zeppelin. Here endeth the lesson.”
Gus lifted his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay, you got me.”
“You got your phone?” Dean asked.
Gus nodded, confused. “Yeah, why?”
“You need to make a few calls while I’m in there,” he informed him. “Get Sheriff Bonner to close off access to that building with his magic yellow tape. And tell the rest of the guys not to come in until you call them personally.”
Gus nodded once more. “You got it.”
Dean started to get out, then turned back. “Call Chester first, okay?”
It took just over an hour for Gus to make the arrangements and Dean to gather supplies—using the money Gus had paid him for working the construction site. He stopped at the motel office once more and gave what was left to Dan to appease him for a few more days. Dean figured that one way or another, October 15th was going to seal someone’s fate and he may as well at least try to spread some good karma out in the universe.
“You gonna wake your Dad?” Gus asked as Dean cleared the weapons from the table and set them on the kitchen counter.
He shook his head in response. “We’ll just catch him up. He’s beat.”
“What about the box?” Gus asked hesitantly.
“Uh… yeah, we’ll wait on him for that,” Dean said, not particularly excited to cross that bridge with John in the wake of their most recent duel.
“Hey, who’s Sam?”
Dean nearly dropped the shotgun he was moving. “Sam?”
“Yeah,” Gus nodded, having not noticed Dean’s flinch. “Earlier when you two were… y’know… your Dad mentioned—“
“Sam’s my brother.”
Gus was quiet for a moment. “Sorry, man, I didn’t mean…”
Dean just shook his head, grabbing a loaf of bread and starting to make sandwiches. “S’okay. He’s at school. Left a little over a month ago.”
“He used to, uh… hunt? With you?”
Dean nodded, his back to Gus. He licked some mustard from his thumb, feeling an odd sort of déjà vu as he continued to answer Gus’ seemingly incessant questions. “Yeah, he did. He’s… Sam is…” he sighed, then glanced over his shoulder at his former boss. “He’s the best of us, y’know?”
“You miss him, huh?”
“You might say that,” Dean muttered, taking a bit from the sandwich and moving over so that Gus could help himself.
“I never had a brother. Or a sister for that matter,” Gus said as he built his sandwich. “Don’t know which way is better. Having something like that for a little while or not having it at all.”
“Having it,” Dean said, moving to his wall of clues.
He began to pull down the map and notes, turning the map over on the table with the blank side up. “Okay,” he sighed. “This is when I really miss Sammy. He’s good at this shit. I just,” he glanced at Gus with a smirk, “shoot first and ask questions later. But,” he continued, frowning at the paper, “this is so inside out and backwards, we need to start fresh.”
“Well,” Gus said around a mouthful of sandwich, “with that group you had up there, you could just as easily have thrown a dart and found a bad guy.”
“You were up there,” Dean pointed out.
“I was?” Gus squeaked.
Dean lifted his chin. “How you like that dart theory now?”
Gus frowned, twisting a chair around and swing his leg across to sit astride the wooden seat. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Dean began to draw. At the top of the now-blank canvass he wrote the names Joe Lawson, Frank Teller, and Roman Sutcliff. “The Brinnon Trinity,” he muttered, then drew lines down from each name and wrote their descendants: Matt and Cole Lawson, Jake and Marissa Teller, and Jim Sutcliff. Below that row, he wrote the names of the four murdered children, Cody Lawson, Annie Teller, and James Sutcliff.
“Okay, here’s something I don’t get,” Dean said, tilting his head at the chart. “Teresa Bowing. She was one of the kids killed by the Kappa—“
“The… what now?”
Dean pulled his face into a grimace. “It was the… thing… that killed those kids. Don’t worry ‘bout it,” he started to wave Gus off.
“No, wait… I know that name, only, I think you’re saying it wrong,” Gus scratched at his chin. He repeated the word, stretching the ‘a’ out into a longer sound.
“Oh-kay,” Dean said slowly, raising his eyebrows to his hairline. “How the hell do you know that?”
“Because his mother is Japanese,” came John’s voice from behind him, causing Dean to turn with a jerk. “And she knows Japanese folklore.”
Gus nodded. “It’s like a huge walking turtle-thing, right?”
Both Winchesters nodded.
“And… you’re telling me… it’s real?” Gus’ voice squeaked again.
John pointed to his leg, and Dean lifted the edge of his shirt, revealing the fading hand-print.
“Ho. Lee. She. It,” Gus drawled, his face paling.
“What have you got?” John said, rubbing a hand across the top of his head.
Dean pointed to the galley kitchen. “Food.”
“Thanks,” John hobbled over. “Those pills are magic.”
“Knock you on your ass, though, don’t they?” Dean commented, looking back at his chart.
“So, what’s this about Teresa Bowing?” John said, regrouping the conversation.
“Well, her dad, Terry, isn’t part of this whole… connection I’ve got here.”
“That’s because he just came to town like ten years ago,” Gus said, finishing off his sandwich.
Dean lifted his head. “Huh, okay, so,” he flipped over a couple of his notes, “he wasn’t here when Brooke Marcus was killed.”
Gus shook his head.
“Cross him off the list,” John said.
Dean nodded and drew a line through Terry Bowing. “We thought one of the kids was an accident?” he said to his dad. “I think it was her.”
“Guess we can take this guy off the list, too,” John said, motioning to Gus with his sandwich.
“Yes, that’d be great, thanks,” Gus nodded, then rested his chin on his forearm across the back of the chair.
“And Marissa,” Dean said, recounting what she’d told him back at the hospital about Matt Lawson.
“Are you shitting me?” Gus exclaimed, his eyes wide.
Dean lifted his brows. “I shit you not,” he replied. “Seems Matty got around. I’m willing to bet he did Brooke Marcus.”
John and Gus shook their heads, John speaking up, “Brooke was old enough to be Matt’s mother.”
Dean moved over to the trunk they’d dug up from the site. “But he sure knew something,” he said, pulling out his lock pick and making quick work of the lock. He heard Gus stand up and the thump-thump of John’s crutches as they approached. He looked up. “Any bets as to what’s in here?”
“Please, God, don’t let it be little Andrew Marcus’ body,” Gus whispered.
Dean opened the lid, feeling unusually tense. He could see immediately there was no body inside, but the near-empty interior had him blinking in surprise. Inside was a book, a boy’s T-shirt, and three letters in faded, stained blue envelopes. When Dean reached in to pick up the book, a necklace fell out.
“It’s a pentagram,” John observed.
“Caroline said Brooke wore a pentagram around her neck,” Dean said. “Hey, Dad, you think that even if she burned… you think there’s enough of her left in here…”
“Maybe… not enough for that kind of power, though,” John conceded, reaching past Dean to lift the T-shirt out. A faded Batman logo crossed the front and there were faded, brown stains on the neck and belly. “Blood,” John replied.
“What book is—“
“It’s a library book,” Dean interrupted Gus’ question, turning the book over and prying the pages open. “It’s from the Seattle Public Library… book on wiccan rituals.”
“Oh, swell,” Gus sat back on his haunches. “So Brooke was a witch.”
“Seems possible,” John conceded.
“Y’know,” Gus shook his head, rubbing his forehead with the heel of his hand. “I gotta say, I honestly thought she made it up.”
“You thought Brooke made up being a witch?” Dean asked, frowning.
“No—Louisa Lawson. Old Joe’s wife. She was the one that convinced Sheriff Sutcliff—Roman Sutcliff—that Brooke killed her own son. She started her own Salem Witch Trials here in Brinnon.”
Dean narrowed his eyes, listening, gears turning, rivets falling into place.
“What are you working on, Son?” John asked, sliding a chair over, the blue envelops in his hand, his eyes on Dean.
“Just… wondering,” Dean said, looking back at his dad, “if there’s a like father, like son deal going on here.”
John scratched at his whiskers, then opened the first of the three letters. “Hard to read—lots of the ink’s been smeared. Looks like it’s a woman’s handwriting. Can make out… won’t tell… and uh… looks like just want to start over.”
“From Brooke,” Dean guessed. “But to who?”
John opened the second letter. “This one is even worse than the first. But you can read the name at the top.” He looked up at Dean. “It’s to Joe Lawson.”
“What about the third?”
John pulled it out of the envelope and opened it carefully. “Only three lines, perfectly legible. I want him back, Joe. He is mine. Bring him back to me or I tell everyone. It’s dated October 14, 1981.”
Dean rubbed his bottom lip. “So, Joe Lawson had an affair with Brooke Marcus, and Andrew shows up. Everything is fine until for some reason Joe flips out and what? Kills Andrew?”
“No, he took him,” Gus surmised. “That’s why she wants him back.”
“Right!” Dean pointed at Gus, getting to his feet and moving over to the chart he’d created, Brooke’s pentagram in his hand. “Joe takes Andrew, but Louisa finds out and takes over. Tells her good friend Roman that Brooke killed her son and accused her of being a witch.”
“How did she know Brooke was a witch, though? And why did Joe take Andrew?”
“Brooke wanted to break it off,” John said, fingering the first letter. “She wanted to end it, and he didn’t, so he took the only thing Brooke had that mattered to her.”
Dean began to leaf through the warped pages of the sour-smelling book. “I bet you a beer that Louisa Lawson had Brooke act as her own personal Witchy Woman,” he said, his eyes scanning the spells for youthful skin, rituals for potent love-making. “That’s how she knew.”
“So, Joe takes Andrew, Louisa gets Brooke locked up, Brooke dies in the fire…” John frowned. “What happened to Andrew?” He looked at Gus.
Gus shrugged. “Everyone assumed he was dead. No one even looked for him after the fire.”
Dean rubbed his neck. “Something’s… off,” he said. “What was Matt Lawson doing at the building site digging up Brooke’s box?”
Gus began to chew on the edge of his thumbnail. “Matt took over his construction business about two years ago,” he said, his eyes darting in memory and thought. “First thing he did was work up a plan to restore that section of building. He had the first unit extended beyond the original floor plan before he hired my crew.”
“The first unit is where the jail was, yeah?” Dean asked.
“Yeah,” Gus nodded.
“Do you have the original blue prints in your truck?” John asked.
When Gus nodded again, John jerked his finger over his shoulder. Gus practically loped from the room.
“Here’s one thing I don’t get,” Dean said.
“One thing?” John remarked sarcastically.
Dean ignored him. “Marissa said that Matt raped her sister-in-law… basically insinuating that Annie was Matt’s daughter. Matt’s wife couldn’t have babies, but yet… they have Cody.” Dean peered at John. “How did no one notice that wifey wasn’t pregnant?”
“And whose kid is he, really?”
“Because, with the exception of poor Teresa Bowing, it’s starting to look like the sons are being punished for the sins of the father,” Dean remarked.
“You ask me, these sons did plenty of their own sinning,” John replied as Gus returned with two rolls of paper.
“Here,” he said, unrolling it over top of Dean’s chart. “Okay, so this is the original floor plan. This was the jail, these were all businesses.” He unrolled another blueprint. “This is the extended floor plan—the one we’ve been working on. This is unit one, two, and three.”
Dean pointed to a space on the unit one layout. “This is directly behind where the jail would have been.”
John looked at Gus. “You remember anything about them finding Brooke’s remains after the fire?”
Gus shook his head. “Everyone just said that she’d been killed in the fire. End of story.”
“What started the fire?”
Gus lifted a shoulder. “I don’t remember.”
“They just left her in there?” John said in sickened wonder.
“No,” Dean shook his head, remembering. “They handcuffed her.”
John frowned. “How do you know?”
“Before I saw you at the hole—back at the building site—I saw her,” he revealed. “Her wrist was bleeding, like she’d been tied up. She must’ve tried to fight her way free.”
John rubbed his face. “They must’ve returned after the fire was out, saw that she hadn’t burned entirely, and were forced to bury her.”
“But… who’s they?” Gus asked.
“Well, it’s a safe bet that Roman Sutcliff was involved—it was his jail,” John said, rubbing at his leg with a grimace.
“And Joe Lawson for sure, though I’m not sure if Louisa was involved beyond her whole if it floats, then it’s a witch routine.”
Gus picked up the small T-shirt, fingering the brown spots of old blood. “Do you think they really killed a little boy?”
Dean watched Gus’s thumb rub repeatedly over the stain, lost in thought. “How old was Andrew when he was taken?”
“Uh…” Gus stopped moving. “Like six? I think?”
Dean looked at John, but addressed Gus. “How about the other kids?”
“Kindergarten, first grade, ‘round there,” Gus replied. “What are you thinking?”
“We know we have a vengeful spirit,” Dean said to his father. “One that used to be a witch. We also have a person familiar with wiccan rituals and Japanese folklore. Who do we know that could fit that?”
“Gus’ mom,” John supplied.
“Hey!” Gus protested.
“Louisa Lawson.” Dean ticked off a second finger.
“She’s full-on senile, now, guys,” Gus informed them.
“And Kwaiya,” John and Dean said together, their voices hushed.
“What? No way.” Gus waved them off. “You’re… you’re not serious?”
Dean stayed quiet, watching John’s eyes for what he needed to find: validation.
“Kwaiya wouldn’t hurt a bastard like Cole Lawson let alone kill some little kids!” Gus was starting to get angry. “He’s protected you, Dean,” he continued. “He carried you to the hospital, your dad said.”
Dean didn’t look at Gus. “The article I read said he was found beaten and half-drowned by the Quileute’s back in 1981.”
“Well, yeah… I mean, I think that’s around the right—“
“And no one claimed him,” John put in, his eyes pinned to Dean’s.
“No one wanted to mess with the Quileute’s—“
“Because everyone already thought he was dead,” Dean shifted his eyes to Gus. “They didn’t claim him because they didn’t want to know. Because this town killed his mother.”
Gus’s mouth opened, but no sound emerged. Dean watched the color drain slowly from the man’s tanned skin, horrific realization dawning in his dark eyes. “Y-you think…” He swallowed. “You think Kwaiya is Andrew Marcus?”
Dean remained motionless, watching Gus.
“A-and you think,” he pointed to John, “that he’s killed all these people?”
Dean looked down. “And I don’t think he’s done,” he said softly. “Not until everyone responsible for Brooke’s death is gone.”
“Jesus, who’s left?” Gus exclaimed.
“Joe, Roman, Matt, Cole… oh, shit,” Dean looked at his father. “Marissa.”
“You got her number?”
Dean lifted an eyebrow.
“Right. Stupid question,” John waved at him. “Call her and get her some place safe. Then we gear up.”
Dean nodded. “Right.”
Gus was still shaking his head, and Dean heard him protesting to John as he moved away, his cell phone pressed to his ear.
“But if Kwaiya is Andrew… how come no one recognized him?” Gus pressed.
Dean heard John sigh. “The man I saw looked more like an extra in a horror movie than a man. The beating he sustained as a boy obviously disfigured his face quite severely.”
“Plus,” Dean put in, listening to Marissa’s phone ring. “How much do you look like you did when you were six?” When Marissa’s voicemail picked up, he tucked his chin into his shoulder and left her a message to get her sister-in-law and go someplace out of town for a few days, then to call him back.
When he returned to the table, John was up and standing next to the kitchen counter, looking over the guns Dean had lain out.
“We’re gonna need a shotgun and a pistol, each,” he said. “And we’re going to need to blast through that floor to—“
“Dad,” Dean said quietly.
“What?” John looked over at him.
“It’s gotta be me.”
John simply shook his head, and returned to loading the weapons.
“You know I’m right,” Dean pressed softly. “You know I gotta do this.”
“No, Dean,” John growled. “You aren’t going in there alone against a spirit strong enough to appear in daylight and the Native American version of The Incredible Hulk.”
“Kwaiya won’t hurt me,” Dean asserted.
John looked at him. “Even if you’re about to destroy his mother again?”
Dean was quiet.
“Think about it, Son,” John continued. “That boy didn’t figure out that he had to go to Mrs. Spencer about the Japanese folklore on his own. He didn’t pick up on the wiccan protection symbols on his own. Someone’s been guiding him.”
“He won’t hurt me,” Dean repeated. He pulled his bottom lip in quickly, rolling it out once more as he worked out what to say next. “You can’t go in there on that leg, Dad. You… you’re already doing too much as it is—“
“—and I’m… I mean… what if something happens to you?”
John set the weapon in his hand down on the counter as if it were made of glass. “You don’t think I’m asking myself the same question about you?”
“I can do this, Dad,” Dean asserted. “I go in, replace the salt lines, use the construction equipment to blast through the floor, salt and burn, and get the hell out.”
“Easy as that, huh?” John remarked.
“What about Kwaiya?”
Dean looked over at Gus. “That’s where he comes in.”
“Come again?” Gus spoke up, his eyebrows up. He looked like he was hoping to vanish into the wall.
Dean returned his attention to John. “We send Gus to keep an eye on Kwaiya—“
“I have no idea where he is!”
“—and when it’s all done, we call Sheriff Bonner to pick him up.”
“No one knows where he is,” Gus asserted.
“I bet the Quileute’s do,” Dean guessed.
“I haven’t ever been to their village! Chester’s the only one who—hey!” Gus brightened.
Dean shook his head. “Leave him out of this.”
“Oh, you’re willing to sacrifice me, but not Chester?” Gus frowned.
“What am I supposed to be doing while you’re off playing hero?” John put in.
“You get us ready to pull out,” Dean said, lifting a shoulder.
“No,” John shook his head. “No, Dean.”
“Salt lines aren’t going to protect you from a spirit this powerful while you’re jack-hammering your way through a floor,” John returned, his voice hard, edges of words cutting through the tense air between them. “You’re not going to make it to the salt and burn.”
“If she comes back before I get the salt lines down,” Dean said, his shoulders forward, his face close to John’s, “I can’t protect you and finish them at the same time.”
“I can protect myself.”
“You can’t even stand up on your own!” Dean shouted, turning away from John. “This is just… it’s stupid, Dad!”
The room was quiet for a moment and Dean felt his heart turning folding in as the pressure of being constantly at odds with his father began to take its toll.
“You can’t be right all the time, Dad,” he said softly. “It’s not about me being your kid… or being your responsibility… You spent my whole life training me for shit like this. You made sure I’d know what I was doing.”
“Dean…“ John tried.
Aware that Gus had backed up, working once more to blend with the shadows, Dean turned to face his father, lifting heavy eyes to find John’s. “I don’t know what else to do, Dad.”
John closed his eyes and sagged back against the counter. As Dean watched, he seemed to shrink, fading inside himself, even his shoulders curving in. The image was frightening and Dean wanted to shake his head and see his father, his hero, again but he didn’t move.
“You go,” John said, his voice coming from somewhere around his knees, “and lay down the salt lines. In my journal are a few protection symbols you can use to counteract the wiccan ones.” John opened his eyes and Dean saw with relief that the fire he’d come to count on was still there, just burning low, like heated coals. “You set it up before dark, then get your ass back here and pick me up. We do this together.”
Dean wanted to protest, his worry for his father going into battle when he was still so obviously broken frightening him more than any spirit or monster ever had. But the weight of the day wore down his resistance and logic was lost to him in the wake of John’s orders.
“Okay,” he said, accepting the compromise.
“Gus,” John turned to the contractor, pulling him from the corner with the command in his voice. “You call this Chester person. Get him to talk to the Quileute’s and find Kwaiya. And you sit on him until we tell you otherwise.”
“What if I can’t find him?” Gus asked, his voice hollow.
“Then you come back here,” John replied.
John looked at Dean and something seemed to shift in the air around them. Dean was suddenly reminded of the moment two minutes before Sam had walked into the room and told them he wanted to leave. He’d felt the same charge then, the sensation that a balance was shifting.
“I’ll be careful, Dad.”
“You sure as hell better,” John said, his voice tight with emotion. “Give me my journal.”
The day had passed more quickly than any of them had realized.
When Dean drove east toward the work site, watching in the rear-view mirror as Gus’ truck head west to the location he was to meet up with Chester, he was forced once more to squint against the sun, this time watching it retreat to the under-side of the earth, no longer forced to bear witness to the wickedness this selection of humanity.
He denied the truth that his hands shook as he gripped the Impala’s wheel. He ignored the fist tightening in his belly. He dismissed the throb of bruises along his face.
He had a job to do.
Parking about a block down from the construction site, Dean hoped the rock salt had been delivered as promised by Dan Glover’s contact. Verbal confirmation wasn’t as good as his own eyes and he didn’t breathe easy until he saw the bags sitting in front of the heavy plastic of the make-shift door.
“Okay,” he nodded to himself. “We’re in business.”
He pulled out the page from John’s journal with the symbols John told him to use and the can of black spray paint Gus had handed him from the truck. He tucked his shotgun under his arm, wishing—not for the first time—for a third arm.
“This is where I could really use you at my back, Sammy,” he said softly. “You don’t know how much I counted on you for that.”
Stepping into the west side of the building, Dean took a quick sweep of the room, the shadows playing tricks on his eyes. The smell of paint was thick in the air as was the stench of blood—from Jim Sutcliff, he assumed—and something else familiar that he couldn’t quickly identify. Assured that he was alone, for the moment, he set about spraying the symbols onto of the plywood and exposed insulation. He finished unmolested and dropped the spray can, turning to drag the first of two bags of salt into the room.
“No hard feelings, Brooke,” he muttered as he began to line the room. “What happened to you sucked out loud. But…” he grunted with effort as he hauled the second bag inside, “the wrong people are dying.”
“You got that right.”
Dean jerked upright, shocked to hear the familiar voice and cursing himself for not searching the entire building before he had begun. He lifted his shotgun, knowing it wasn’t loaded to kill, but hoping to buy himself some time.
He wasn’t fast enough.
“Where the hell is he?” John grumbled.
The pads of the crutches were rubbing raw patches under his arms as he thunk-thunked his way back and forth across the room. When night had fallen, he’d gotten angry. When Gus had called that they couldn’t find Kwaiya, anger had turned to worry. When Gus pulled up in his truck, exiting with a whip-thin man at his side, worry shifted to full-on fear.
“We called Bonner,” Gus said, not bothering to introduce Chester and John. “He’s on the far side of town. Some domestic thing.”
“He’ll be here in an hour,” Chester informed John.
John looked at the tattooed man, slightly disturbed by the fact that Chester looked basically in his direction, just not actually at him. “This whole thing could be over in an hour. Get me out to that construction site.”
“But what about—“
“Gus! You got a homicidal son of a spirit out at that construction site and my kid’s there alone. Get me the fuck over there!”
“You got it,” Gus nodded.
“I’ll go get Bonner,” Chester said.
“How?” Gus exclaimed, holding the door for John. “You don’t have a car.”
Chester lifted a shoulder and pulled out a cell phone. “I’ve got people,” he explained.
“Grab the gun,” John yelled to Gus over his shoulder. “No, the other one!”
“Right! Right, sorry,” Gus grabbed the Ruger from the table and closed the motel room door behind them.
“He better have a damn good reason for this,” John muttered as Gus flattened the accelerator of the truck to the floor boards.
Dean had found that over the years he could deal with pain by shoving it into compartments. The sharp, stabbing pain at the back of his head was buried low, it’s level an attempt to dull it, if only slightly. The sting of the cut that bled down the back of his neck went one level higher. But it was the pain his shoulders and wrists that was interesting.
That he wasn’t sure at what level to insert that pain because it rippled, rolling from a demanding heat to an icy jab with each sluggish shift of his tired body.
Blinking his eyes open, he saw with a certain level of confusion that he was on the upper floor of the building—the walls unfinished, the windows unframed, the floor simply plywood. His hands were cuffed and the short chain that connected the handcuffs had been nailed to a support beam above his head, the nail, it seemed, bent inward toward the wood.
He tugged at them, but stopped immediately when the icy fire licked his joints and the tender skin on the inside of his wrists began to tear.
“Couldn’t’ve just… left, huh?”
Dean blinked his eyes into focus, peering off into the corner of the room where he knew the stairs began.
“Wasn’t enough that you ruined my life… you figured you had to stick around and just dig it all up, open up that old wound, kill the town while you were at it.”
“You got this all wrong, man,” Dean replied, his voice slightly strained by the pressure his raised arms put on his still-healing ribs.
As he watched, the figure in the corner stepped forward, moonlight from the exposed windows streaming in and crashing across his face, showing age and lines Dean hadn’t seen in his previous run-ins with Cole Lawson.
“No,” Cole shook his head. Dean saw that he held a narrow lighter in his hand—the kind used to ignite gas grills or candles. “No, I don’t think I do. I know you talked to Marissa.”
Dean felt his stomach tighten. “What did you do to her?”
“She’s fine,” Cole rolled his neck, keeping his eyes on Dean. “Or she will be. Maybe I should say… she’s alive.”
“You sonuvabitch,” Dean hissed, rocking against the beam and pulling at his handcuffs.
“Calm down,” Cole ordered blandly. “That’s more than I can say for the others.”
“What others?” Dean asked, glaring up at the big man.
“They didn’t get it, y’know? Family sticks up for each other.” Cole shook his head, stroking the length of the lighter in almost a caress. “This town… this town is a family. And they… they let it all fall apart.”
“Did you kill those kids, Cole?” Dean asked, feeling the fist in his belly tighten once more, turning cold with the thought of it.
Cole jerked his eyes toward him and Dean saw that the pupils were nearly blown they were so wide. Shit… what the hell is he on?
“NO!” Cole protested. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t kill my own… my own son,” he sobbed out the word.
“Your so—“ Dean started and then stopped, the final rivet falling neatly into place as the wheels began to turn in earnest. “Cody was yours, wasn’t he?”
Cole looked down, fat tears rolling down his ruddy cheeks. “He was such a good boy.”
“Marissa heard wrong,” Dean continued. “It wasn’t Matt’s wife that couldn’t have kids… it was Matt.”
“He loved soccer, y’know? And was always laughing,” Cole continued, lost in memories of Cody.
“You’re the one that raped Jake Teller’s wife, weren’t you, Cole? She said it was Matt, but it was you wasn’t it?”
Cole sniffed, his lip curling up in a snarl. “Bitch thought she was better than the rest of us because Jake wasn’t really a part of it. Because Jake’s Daddy had tried to stop it. But she learned that she weren’t no better.”
“Annie was yours, too?”
Cole nearly smiled. “She was a pretty thing.”
“Did you kill Jake Teller, Cole?”
Cole’s eyebrows went up and a bemused smile crossed his face. “It’s amazing what one little pin out of place can do.”
“What about Jim Sutcliff?”
Cole turned on him. “Yes, okay? Jim, Jake, Frank… they fuckin’ deserved it, okay? They agreed—they promised him.”
“Jesus Christ, you killed Marissa’s parents, too?”
Cole kicked Dean’s legs apart, crouching between them. He traced Dean’s jaw with the opening of the lighter. “My Daddy… he love that girl. He would have done anything for her. But she turned him away. Told him she was going to take his kid—my brother, y’know—away. I was just in high school at the time, but I saw what it did to him. Matt and I both did. We promised him that we wouldn’t let her do it.”
Cole ran a tongue over his lips, his dilated eyes taking in Dean’s face as if he were looking for a place to begin devouring.
“Matt grabbed the kid when he was swimming,” he said, his mouth folding as if in regret. “Stupid bastard fought so hard I thought we’d done drowned him. But it took more than that to kill him.”
Dean felt the icy fist climb higher until it pressed against his lungs.
“You beat him,” he choked out.
“Bet your ass I did. Matt took the shirt back to show Daddy. Mom saw… found out the truth.” Cole lifted a shoulder. “It was a family affair.”
“Who cuffed Brooke Marcus in her cell, Cole?”
He tilted his head in thought. “Uh… that woulda been Sheriff Sutcliff.”
“And the fire?”
“Oh, that was my Daddy,” Cole said, somewhat proudly. “Construction is in the blood. So is,” Cole grinned, “destruction. As you’re about to find out.”
He stood and started toward the stairs.
Dean tugged viciously against his handcuffs. “Cole! You’re not going to just walk away from this one!”
Cole giggled. “Jake thought that, too. He wanted the building done so that if the truth ever came out it would be impossible to prove. But he was anxious. Minute he got that paternity test back and knew his wife wasn’t lying, he went all…” Cole waved his hands in the air.
“People know what you did—more than just me! Sheriff Bonner is on his way here!”
“Sure, sure,” Cole waved at Dean as he started down the stairs, his voice drifting upwards. “Jim said he was going for the sheriff when he caught Matt trying to get Daddy’s secret box. Didn’t get too far, though did he?”
“Cole!” Dean shouted. “Co—“
The whoosh was unmistakable. And suddenly Dean knew what the smell had been before: lighter fluid.
“Oh, Dean, you idiot,” he growled at himself, gathering his feet beneath him and working to twist around as he listened to the bite and crack of the flames as they licked the walls below him.
“’Bye now!” Cole called up to him. “You be sure to let that bitch know that you had it all figured out when you see her!”
John saw the flames kick out through the framed windows of the construction site and his heart stopped. Mary’s scream—the scream that still woke him from a dead sleep—echoed in his head and shook down his spine.
Dean’s in there…
“Get as close as you can,” John ordered as they passed the Impala. He grabbed his crutches.
“What the hell’re you—“ Gus reached out and grabbed John’s jacket sleeve.
John pulled violently away. “Let go! Dean’s in there.”
“Wait for the fire department!” Gus pleaded, already dialing.
“Fuck the fire department.” John dropped from the truck onto his good leg and pulled his crutches out after him. “My kid’s in there.”
“Son of a—“ Gus slammed the gear of the truck into part, the vehicle stopped in the middle of the road, and bailed from the cab, fast on John’s heels. Using John’s shoulder as leverage, he pushed past him. “At least let me go in fi—“
The blast of the shotgun silence Gus and John staggered back and away as the contractor was blown off his feet, taking the hit in the chest. A fine, white powder hung suspended in the air and John tasted salt on his lips.
Oh, thank God, he breathed as he looked down at Gus’s unconscious form. The blast had come from a rock salt shotgun. “DEAN!” He called, not wanting his son to shoot him on accident as well.
“Sorry,” replied an unfamiliar voice punctuated by the bone-chilling sound of a shotgun being cocked. “Dean’s a little busy getting barbecued at the moment.”
A barrel-chested man with a ruddy complexion stepped through the plastic door, flames visible behind him. It was the thug from the alley, John realized. The one that had beat Dean up. He wanted to shoot the man on principle alone.
He pointed the shotgun at John.
“You don’t want to do that,” John told him, snaking his hand from the crutch to his jacket pocket under the guise of gaining his balance.
“I think I do, actually.” Cole grinned. “This baby’s got a kick to it.”
“So does this,” John replied, pulling the Ruger free and firing, winging the man and sending the shotgun tumbling.
Tossing a mental apology to Gus as he lay unconscious on the sidewalk and crutching his way over Cole’s dazed form, John entered the burning building, the heat from the flames sudden and intense, stealing his breath and shaking his nerve.
“DEAN!” He yelled. He couldn’t hear anything over the crack and roar of the hungry heat. Off to his right he heard something pop loudly followed by a small explosion that rumbled through the whole structure. “DEAN! Answer me!”
Dimly, he heard a cry from above. He lifted burning eyes, his lungs already protesting the suffocating smoke. He could smell chemicals in the cloud that built from around his ankles and twisted up around his legs as if eating him whole. The cry was repeated and John made his way to the stairs—spared thus far from the flames.
I’m coming… I’m coming, kiddo…
He made it up two more stairs.
Mary’s scream… Mary is screaming… Mary’s screaming…
Take your brother outside as fast as you can… now, Dean, go!
Another step. He was coughing so hard at this point he could barely maintain his grip on the crutches.
“De—“ he fell to his knee, his left leg lost to a whirl of pain, heat licking him from the inside, from his bones, from the break left there by the creature that was the beginning of the end for Brinnon’s nightmare. “DEAN!”
He heard him then. His kid. He heard Dean’s ragged, desperate voice call to him and he followed, crawling up the final two stairs. As he breeched the upper floor, he found a minute amount of relief from the smoke, but the heat—God, the heat… we’re gonna bake to death…
“Oh, God, it’s good to see you,” Dean panted. “I take back everything I said. You can be in charge as much as you want.”
John blinked away the smoke-induced tears to see Dean standing, more or less, facing a large wooden support beam, his hands out in front of him and somewhat suspended about his head. Blood ran down the side of his neck and jaw and his face was coated with sweat.
“What the hell?”
“Cole,” Dean said, sinking a bit to his knees, then wincing and pushing back up again.
Using his crutches as support, John made his way over to Dean seeing, finally, the reason for Dean’s strange posture. His hands were cuffed and the cuffs were nailed—solidly—to the beam. Dean had twisted and tugged, pulling against the bindings until his wrists were raw and bleeding, blood running down his forearm and disappearing beneath his jacket sleeve.
“He killed them—all of them,” Dean grimaced as John reached up to touch his son’s bleeding wrists.
“Not the kids,” Dean amended. “But everyone else. Including Andrew Marcus. Or so he thinks.”
“Damn,” John pulled on the chain nailed to the beam. “This bitch is tight.”
“Got a pick?”
John shook his head, patting his pockets, thinking desperately as Dean began to cough. He considered shooting the chain free, but knew he couldn’t hold the gun steady enough in his condition to guarantee that he wouldn’t miss.
He saw his son’s legs shaking from the effort of hold himself in this position and he started to empty his pockets.
“What are you looking for?” Dean panted.
“Paper clip,” John said. “Spring, wire, anything.”
“Try your crutch,” Dean said, then groaned as he wiped his sweat-covered forehead on the inside of his bicep. “Maybe there’s something in the handle or something.”
“Good idea,” John said. He turned to brace himself against the beam, lifting one of the crutches in to his hand, when Dean suddenly cried out, “DAD!”
Instinctively, John ducked. The shotgun blast of rock salt aimed at his head peppered the beam and coated the side of Dean’s face with salt. John looked up, seeing Cole Lawson standing at the top of the stairs, cocking the shotgun once more.
“You son of a bitch!” Dean yelled as John pushed himself up, reaching for his Ruger.
He saw Dean begin to pull with renewed effort at his bindings, a fire in his eye that he hadn’t seen in some time. Cole took a few steps closer and John could see that he was having trouble gripping the gun with a right hand covered in blood.
“I’m gonna rip off your fuckin’ head and shove it up your ass!” Dean was growling.
“Stop, Cole,” John ordered, his finger hovering over the trigger. “I don’t want to have to kill you.”
“Guess… guess that’s… not something we have in… in common then,” Cole choked out over the heat.
John heard the flames crack as they ate more of the building.
“That gun won’t kill us,” John informed him. “It’s filled with rock salt. For the spirit of the woman you helped kill.”
“I didn’t kill the woman,” Cole yelled. “I killed her goddamn kid!”
“No,” Dean shook his head. “You didn’t.” John looked over at the strange calm that had come over his son in the wake of his violent decree.
Following Dean’s eye line, John looked to the unfinished upper windows, blinking in amazement at the sight of Kwaiya, hovering in the opening like Batman himself, his damaged, scarred face illuminated by the moonlight, his eyes full of sadness as he stared at the man who was his brother.
“Cole Lawson,” Dean said, a tremor of pain in his voice. “Meet Andrew Marcus. I think he already knows you.”
Kwaiya dropped something on the ground at John’s feet, it’s hollow, heavy clatter revealing it to be metal, then slid from the window opening into the room.
“Wha… how… how did you get up here?” Cole stammered, staggering back, eyes wide with shock. “No one could make that climb!”
“I did,” Kwaiya said simply.
John picked up the bar Kwaiya had dropped and immediately set about prying Dean loose from the beam. He could hear Dean trying unsuccessfully to suppress a groan of pain as the bar applied more pressure to his wounded wrists just before he was finally freed.
He caught Dean just as his son sagged into the void of relief, lowering him slowly to the ground to catch his breath and try to regain some feeling in his arms.
“You’re not him,” Cole was saying. “I killed him. I killed you.”
“I lived,” Kwaiya replied.
John leaned over and gathered Dean up against him, helping his son stand as Dean panted through the pain caused by lowering his arms. Cole pointed the shot gun at Kwaiya and John felt Dean shift toward him. Confused at first, he quickly realized that Dean was reaching for the Ruger. John raised it, aiming it once more at Cole.
But everyone was too close. Dean’s trembling body was leaning heavily on him, Kwaiya was just to the left of Dean and Cole stood in front of Kwaiya. The heat, the smoke, the fire, the scream… that constant, horrified scream… coalesced and John’s vision wavered.
His hand trembled and he lowered the gun slightly, his arm weakening. In that moment, he felt his world shift. The pop-bang he’d heard before repeated its performance only this time when the building shook, the people inside of it began to tumble. John instinctively tried to catch himself, his weakened leg giving way. He fell to his side, away from Dean, his wide eyes watching the next few seconds uncomprehendingly.
The floor beneath Kwaiya’s feet gave way and as if the building had decided to swallow them, the big man, Cole, and Dean fell through to the floor below.
“DEAN!” John screamed.
He crawled across the heated plywood to the break in the floor, staring horrified at the tangle of limbs below him. All he could see of his son were Dean’s still-bound hands raised slightly as they rested against Kwaiya’s back, his fingers limp and curved inward as if ready to curl into a fist at a moment’s notice, blood coating the silver of the handcuffs, reflecting ominously in the encroaching firelight.
a/n: Two chapters still to come! I would apologize for the cliffhanger, but… well, it’s Christmas. And if I lie, I go on the naughty list.
All over the world, we as a human race will pause in the busy act of living to take a breath and, for just one moment, appreciate life during this holiday season. It all matters and now is when we choose to give it a nod of appreciation and concede the possibility that magic might exist among us.
In the thirty-odd years I’ve been alive, the holidays have predominantly meant one thing to me: a hope that things will get better and a promise that it won’t stay the same.
Nollaig shona duit. Happy Christmas!
Hot for Teacher, Man on a Mission, Black and Blue, and Jump by Van Halen
Part 6 can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/71187.html>