Characters: Dean, Sam
Spoilers: This story is set in Season 2, after the events of 2X12, Nightshifter, and before 2X13, Houses of the Holy.
Summary: Sometimes the line between the truth and a lie becomes the net that saves you. Hiding under the radar,the boys discover a witch, a victim, and a reason to keep fighting the good
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
a/n: This is a zine story, written in January of 2009 and printed in March of 2009 in Rooftop Confessions 4, published by GriffinSong Press. Many thanks to Jan for the opportunity.
"What are you looking for?" Dean asked, flipping aimlessly through the TV channels. Without moving his eyes, he could see Sam tapping one key on his laptop, over and over.
Sam sighed, his mouth bowed low in a frown of distress. "Something…I don't know…witchy."
"This is not our fault, man," Dean intoned, knowing the thoughts that were leaving dark tracks across his little brother's face.
"Yes, it is. We — no, I — brought the hex bag there."
"Dude, the witch had been working him over for a long time before we even got on the scene."
"Yeah, but…." Sam stood up, running a hand through his hair and leaving a limp part.
"The guy shoved a knife through his eye, Dean. In front of us."
"I was there, remember?" Dean flipped from a commercial about Oxy Clean to an episode of Andy Griffith to what appeared to be a Latino soap opera. "Not something I'm gonna forget anytime soon."
Sam sighed. "Okay, let's break this down."
Sam held up both hands, palms out. "Just…work with me here a minute, Dean."
Looking at Sam for several seconds, weighing the option of a smart-ass comeback that would buy him more minutes of TV time versus the big brother move of letting the kid talk, Dean took the high ground and pressed the power button on the remote. Sitting up and curling one leg under the other, Dean leaned forward, focused on his brother.
"I'm all ears."
As Sam started to pace, Dean worked to ignore the itch behind his eyes. The tingle that told him he was forgetting something.
"So…Lewis sells a bunch of clothes at the second-hand store just a couple of hours before we walked in yesterday, right?"
"Right." Dean nodded, watching Sam step through his thoughts.
"Only, he didn't think he'd put the hoodie in the group of clothes."
"Which just so happened to have a hex bag in the pocket."
"A hex bag that, based on how he died, had Lewis' contact lens in it."
Sam's face paled. "Don't remind me."
"Unless you're catching up everyone who tuned in late, we're not getting anywhere, Sam."
Taking a breath, Sam grabbed the pad of motel paper from the dresser, uncapping the pen with his teeth and started to draw. Speaking around the pen cap, he continued, "Okay, so the girl in the store said that Lewis was stalking some woman, right? Vertis or something like that?"
"Right." Dean swung his legs over the side of the bed, leaning his elbows on his knees. "Said she was…opposite of her. Pale, blonde, skin — oh, shit!"
Sam brought his head up. "What? What's the matter?"
"Shit, Sam!" Dean stood up, resting his hands on his hips. "I saw her."
"The witch. Vertis."
"In the store — when we were checking out yesterday. I saw her in the reflection of the Top Gun glasses."
"Wait, she was there?"
Dean nodded. "I turned around, but…she'd left."
"You think she was…I don't know…watching the clothes? Seeing who got them?"
"How should I know? Maybe she was hiding from Lewis. That Goth chick said he'd been in just a little bit before us."
Sam narrowed his eyes. "Hey, what was Lewis saying?"
"Before he, uh…y'know."
Dean frowned. "Dude, he was seriously buckets of crazy. I don't think he knew what he was saying."
Sam shook his head, the pen threaded between his fingers, his hand stretched out in an unconscious gesture of supplication toward his brother. "C'mon, man! Work with me on this."
Dean spread his arms wide. "What do you want? I'm right here! I just don't—"
"You were in his apartment, Dean, you saw how he lived!"
"Yeah, and I saw that he'd been going downhill for awhile. There were notebooks and protection symbols, and…rats. You followed him!"
The energy in their argument pulled Sam to his feet, facing his brother. "All he did was ride out to the edge of town and stop at some old cemetery."
Dean rested his wounded hand in the cradle of its mate, staring silently at Sam.
Sam sighed. "He…went up to a marker and made a rubbing."
Dean's eyebrows jumped to mid-forehead. "Is it me? Or does that just sound dirty?"
"A rubbing, Dean." Sam sighed, exasperated. He dropped down into his chair once more and pulled a paper smudged with brown crayon, spreading it out on the table next to his laptop. "He rubbed the characters from the grave marker onto this paper."
"How'd you get that?"
Sam shot him a look. "I'm a professional."
Grinning, Dean clapped his brother on the shoulder. "When did you get a chance to pick his pocket?"
Sam shook his head, looking back down at the rubbing. "I didn't. He stuffed it in a pack on his bike."
"So that's what took you so long to get up to the apartment."
Sam lifted his shoulder, shrugging Dean's hand off.
Dean leaned in, reading aloud. "Martin Stacey," he said. "Lewis had articles about this kid's death taped all over his room."
"Who is he?" Sam asked.
"Dunno." Dean shrugged. "Brother maybe? Didn't really get a chance to ask Lewis before he died all over my car."
"Nice," Sam complained.
"There's no date." Sam pointed to the bottom of the rubbing. "What kind of grave doesn't have a date?"
"Maybe he just didn't get it," Dean said. "There's a bunch of space between the name and this…whatever this is."
Sam peered closer. "Truth is the lie. Believe only when you see."
"Swell." Dean nodded. "That makes about as much sense as the rest of this—"
"The truth…." Sam interrupted.
"Come again?" Dean carefully stretched out his hand, wincing as the stitches pulled.
"It's what Lewis was babbling about — he knew the truth about something."
"Yeah, and?" Dean lowered his chin, warily regarding his brother through his lashes.
"Veritas," Sam whispered.
"Not Vertis. Veritas. Latin for truth."
Dean blinked. "The witch's name is…truth?"
Sam turned and faced his computer. "Witches take on names of elements of power — you know, like water, air, earth, or planets or energy…things like that."
"Should I be worried that you know this?"
Sam ignored him. "It has to do with a number system — a birth number. You take your birthday and add the numbers until you get a single digit. That number equates to your power or energy or whatever."
Dean crossed his arms over his chest as he listened, worrying his lower lip with his teeth. "This is all very interesting, Sam, but what the hell do we do with it?"
"Well, I'm thinking that if I can backtrack Veritas to her birthday, I can figure out who she is. We can find her. Stop her."
Dean nodded, opened his mouth, closed it, pressed his lips forward, nodded again. At a loss for what to do while Sam searched, and feeling boredom creep up at the very idea of sitting and waiting, Dean began to rock back and forth on his heels, ticking his tongue against the roof of his mouth in time with Ozzy's Crazy Train.
"You don't have to wait."
"I think I'll go," Dean agreed, grabbing his jacket. "I'll be back in, what? An hour?"
"Make it two," Sam said, his eyes pinned to his laptop. "And Dean?"
"Yeah." Dean half turned in the doorway.
"Stay out of trouble."
"You have so little faith in me," Dean said, tossing him a mock-grin. Just before he pulled the door shut, he stuck his head back in. "Hey, you know the thing that's bugging me about this?"
Sam lifted his eyes. "You've narrowed it to one thing?"
"Lewis didn't put the hoodie in the bag. Veritas put the hex bag in the hoodie. So…"
"Veritas must've gotten rid of the hoodie," Sam concluded. "But why? If she was looking to get rid of Lewis?"
Dean studied the floor a moment. "Maybe she had second thoughts…."
The gray dawn leaned on them heavily as Sam parked the Impala out of sight from the dilapidated house.
"I think you backtracked one generation too far," Dean grumbled, his sleep-heavy eyes peering through a crop of weeds and wild grass at the address Sam had found for Alena Parsons.
A narrow creek, swollen with rain water, burbled along the side of the road, winding around the yard full of what appeared to be wild sunflowers, twisting and disappearing into the ground near the base of the house.
Sam popped the plastic lid from a thick paper cup and handed it to his brother. Dean's eyes lit up and he inhaled deeply as his greedy hands reached for the steamy cup of coffee. They sat side by side on the trunk of the Impala.
"No, I'm sure this is it," Sam replied. "I worked it out, and Alena has to be Veritas. The numbers match her name, and from what I could find, no one has seen her for years. Woulda given her time to, y'know, perfect her craft. Or whatever."
"Any reason we had to get here at the ass-crack of dawn?"
Sam sipped his coffee, watching the house. "I don't know if she knows about Lewis yet. Wanted to find her before she tried to get away. Maybe, y'know, break in. Take a look around."
Dean nodded, allowing that line of thinking, but grumbled into his cup, "Still don't see why we couldn't have found her at a decent hour."
A trio of birds burst from their hiding place in the long grass and a low rumble of thunder shimmered invisibly through the air.
"Rain," Dean complained as the humidity seemed to surge around them. "Perfect. That will just make this so much easier."
"You want to wait in the car?" Sam glanced sideways at him, eyebrow raised.
Dean matched his raised brow and added a smirk that, when used appropriately, backed Sam down ninety-nine percent of the time. "You think you're funny, but you're just being a smart ass."
"Learned from the best," Sam said, sipping his coffee, his eyes on the sagging porch.
"So," Dean yawned, "I been thinking."
"Good thing I'm sitting down," Sam quipped.
Dean raised an eyebrow. "This is obviously not your first cup of coffee."
Sam simply grinned.
"I think Lewis made the hex bag."
Sam's grin tumbled from his lips, and he splashed coffee on his hand as he turned to face his brother. "Huh?"
"He said it was proof, right?" Dean continued, his eyes on the ground, heels hooked in the bumper of the car, wounded hand flexing tenderly.
"I… I guess so."
"We'd have to get his notebooks and stuff from his apartment to be sure, but—"
"We can't go back there, Dean."
"—but we can't go back there." Dean lifted his eyes to glance up at the house once more.
"I think he figured out what witches used the hex bags for. I think he just got some of the…ingredients mixed up."
"You mean, like using his own contact lens?"
"Like that." Dean nodded.
"Yeah, but… for what purpose, man?"
"Not real sure about that," Dean yawned again, "but whatever it was, it backfired."
A screen door banged. In unison, the brothers slid from their perch on the car, setting their cups of coffee on the ground. Peering through the weeds, they saw the slim, waif-like figure of a woman slip out through the front door, down the front steps and disappear into the wooded area behind the ramshackle house.
Nodding to Sam, Dean indicated he'd move left as Sam moved right. Sam blinked once in response that he understood, and they separated at a crouched run, using the long grass as cover.
Okay, this place could definitely use an extreme make-over, Dean thought as he approached the sagging porch. It didn't appear as if anyone had lived here for years.
Slinking up to the porch, Dean climbed up and shifted his weight carefully, trying not to trigger a creak and give away his position. He saw Sam on the other end of the porch doing the same.
Undetected, they approached the door, drawing their weapons.
Locked, Dean mouthed when he tried the handle. Strange, he thought, that she would lock the door of such a run-down house set so far away from any other buildings or people. What could she possibly be hiding?
Pick? Sam replied.
Dean nodded, and handed Sam his gun, pulling out the lock pick case they were never without. It took him less than a minute to open the door, which was good because he was holding his breath the entire time. Retrieving his gun from Sam, they eased inside, Dean in the lead, both with guns up and covering the empty corners.
The house smelled of age and rotten wood. Dean parted his lips to breathe shallowly. Straightening slowly, they looked around, seeing nothing outside the wavering glass of the only window but the wild tangle of weeds, long grass, and sunflowers.
"This place is like…Mrs. Haversham's living room," Sam whispered.
Dean looked at him, eyes blank. "I'll pretend I know what you're talking about."
Sam shook his head and moved slowly forward. They could see an equally ancient and deteriorated kitchen through an arched doorway. There didn't appear to be a bathroom, but a mud room and hall leading to a screened door were visible.
Dean moved toward the opposite side of the living room, opening a door with the flat of his hand, then tipped the muzzle of his gun into the empty space. "Sam."
He felt his brother turn and they peered into the room. It was clean. Not just clean, it was pristine. Gleaming. A CD player graced the top of a white wooden dresser. A wrought-iron bed was covered with a blue and green comforter. A TV was in the corner.
"Twilight Zone," Sam whispered.
"Double time," Dean replied. "She could come back any minute."
Dean stepped further into the room, catching his reflection in a mirror and jerked. Sam bit the inside of his cheek, and Dean tossed him a glare, approaching the dresser that the mirror was mounted upon. Alternately painted and carved into the wooden surface were sigils and symbols, and random words in Latin, meaningless in their individuality, worrisome in their collectiveness.
Dean motioned to the mirror, and the brothers peered closely at the pictures stuffed into the frame. Polaroid pictures of the blonde woman Dean had seen in the second-hand store. Pictures of her in a college sweatshirt, arm around a boy that looked alarmingly like Lewis. Pictures of her smiling and vibrant.
"Hello, Alena." Dean nodded at the Polaroids, shifting to follow the path of pictures that descended down the side of the mirror until one caught his attention. He felt his skin shrink against the bones of his face as pieces of their accidental hunt fell into place.
The picture was of Alena standing alone in a black dress, eyes cut out, hands blackened with a marker, and the word veritas written in red ink across the front.
"Dean," Sam whispered. "Look at this."
The ambient light in the room was diminishing and Dean heard rain begin to beat a violent rhythm on the roof of the old house. He turned away from the destroyed picture and peered around Sam's shoulder to see the scrapbook he'd found in a stack of picture albums on the floor next to Alena's bed. Sam was pointing to an article of Martin Stacey's death — the same article Dean had seen papering Lewis' windows.
Sam turned the page and matched Dean's frown as they saw a visceral snapshot of Alena, hair ragged and unkempt, eyes bruised, naked, blood-like ink on her body spelling out the words truth, beauty, liar.
"So… Lewis was obsessed with her, but not because he loved her… he was stalking her because he blamed her for his brother's death," Sam whispered, flipping back to the article of the car accident that had claimed Martin's life.
"Sam, wait," Dean said, pointing at the article. "Look. Martin wasn't his brother."
The date that had been missing from the articles Lewis had cut up and plastered on his windows was included on Alena's copy. It read April 14, 1976.
"Dude, I think he was Lewis' father." Dean's voice was hollow with this discovery.
Sam blinked, turning wide eyes to his brother. "She… do you think she's Lewis'… mom?"
Dean lifted a shoulder. "You tell me. 1976. Martin dies. Looks a helluva lot like Lewis…"
"But why'd she let her own kid die like that?" Sam questioned, incredulous.
Dean looked back at the portrait, the obvious loathing there. He skimmed his eyes across the Wiccan symbols scrawled in the shaking hand of one distressed. "Maybe because…he learned the truth," he said softly.
Sam shook his head, out of disbelief or wonder, Dean never found out. Before he could open his mouth, Sam was jerked off his feet, slammed hard against the floor, then thrown viciously across the room. His gun fell loose from his grip as he grabbed the doorjamb to stop his movement.
Dean whirled, gun up, eyes searching out the enemy. Standing before him was the diminutive figure of Alena Parsons, years having worn down the vibrancy captured in the photos, replacing it with paper-thin skin, blue veins trailing paths from her temples, around her eyes, and down to the corners of her mouth. Her long blonde hair hung loose, twisted and tangled into dreadlocks. Her sundress was grayed with dirt and age, and her hands were curled and wrinkled from abuse.
But what gutted Dean, what sucked the breath from his lungs and hammered his heart against the base of his throat, were her eyes. Gray, hollow, sunken, and so full of pain he felt his soul bleed at the sight of them.
"Alena—" he started, tipping the barrel of his gun up.
"I am Veritas!" she hissed viciously, sweeping her arm to the side and tossing Sam from the room.
"Sam!" Dean called in alarmed response to his brother's cry of pain.
A crash echoed from the living room and Dean started to charge forward. Alena lifted an arm to stop him, but Dean ducked his shoulder, barreling past her and into the other room.
He saw Sam push himself up from a pile of glass that surrounded him. Alena's toss had thrown him into an end table, destroying the rickety wooden structure and shattering the empty glass hurricane lamp that had apparently been on made it to his hands and knees, dragging in panting breaths, wheezing them back out.
Dean saw the blood before he saw Sam's eyes. His heart dropped from his throat to his stomach and he started forward.
Sam brought his head up. "Dean!"
Dean turned, ducking just in time to receive a glancing blow from what looked like a heavy, leather-bound book. "Sammy, get out of here!"
"Don't be…an idiot," Sam gasped, pushing to his feet.
Alena stepped into the room, her movements stilted, stiff, awkward, as if she weren't sure if she could hold back the power that surged through her.
"Alena—Veritas," Dean amended, his face tight, his hands up, gun flat against his palm, fingers free of the trigger. "We know…we know about Lewis."
"You know nothing…." Alena said, her voice a steam-like hiss of heat.
She raised both hands as if reaching out in supplication toward him and for a moment, Dean was confused. His gun wavered, his gaze darting quickly between Alena and Sam, and then the pain hit. It was pervasive, causing his body to bow backwards, his neck tightening, his features twisting into an anguished pull of pain. He fell roughly to his knees and heard Sam called his name in fear. His hands flexed tightly, painfully, and his gun fell free.
"You know nothing," Alena repeated.
Dean tried to resist, tried to hold in his scream as his spine audibly popped, his body stretched to the limit of endurance. But it was impossible. The sound tore from him, the edges digging grooves in his throat as it escaped his body.
"You do not know the truth. You do not see," Alena spat.
Dean couldn't breathe. He tried to move, tried to speak, tried to open his eyes, but his entire world was pain.
"Veritas," he heard Sam say. "Please…you don't have to do this. Please, let him go."
Dean felt the pressure on his joints, the pain in his body, ease slightly. Just enough to take a breath. Just enough to force his eyes open to slits. Just enough to see his brother.
In a moment of lucidity, Alena turned from Dean to face Sam. Her body seemed to relax, her shoulders sagging, her head rising. Her sigh was one of resignation.
"I've seen. I've seen the truth. I've seen his eyes in the face of another."
"Lewis," Sam guessed, finding Dean's eyes with his.
Dean tried to blink, but the pressure inside of him was building once more, causing him to tremble.
"Lewis." Alena nodded. "His son."
"Your son," Sam corrected.
"I loved him. I lost him. I lost them both."
Sam moved toward her, his hands out. "Alena…let my brother go."
Alena looked down, then turned back to face Dean. "I lost him. The day he found me."
"Alena," Sam tried once more. "Please."
She lifted her tragic eyes to Dean's, and tilted her head in curiosity. Through a haze of pain, Dean watched sanity escape as her eyes were once again flooded by madness.
"Do you love him?"
Though she was looking at him, Dean knew the question was directed at Sam.
"Yes." Sam spoke without hesitation. His eyes tripped between the witch and his brother.
Alena lifted her hands and Dean collapsed, gasping, onto the floor, his world spinning, his body a thousand pinpricks of light and sensation. Alena tilted her head in the opposite direction, moving toward Sam, and then raised her arms once more.
"Does he love you?" she wondered aloud, stepping closer to Sam and lifting her arms.
Sam flew back, pinned against the wall, his head smacking hard enough against the wood that Dean winced at the sound.
"You bitch," Dean gasped from the floor. "You killed them both, didn't you?"
Alena turned to him. "What?"
Dean tried to push himself upright on trembling arms, forcing himself not to look at Sam. Looking at Sam now would destroy him. "Martin," he choked out through gasps for breath. "You were driving the car. You killed him."
"Truth is the lie. Dead is dead is dead," Alena whispered, fiercely, words sliding in and out of meaning.
Dean managed to get to his knees, spitting blood on the floor and feeling his chest rattle as he breathed. He knew something was broken inside. "Okay…maybe Martin was an accident…," Dean ground out, "but Lewis wasn't."
Alena moved forward, step by slow dragging step, her dirty, bare feet slowly trailing in the dust behind her. Dean dared to glance at Sam, watching his brother's face turn red, his neck muscles straining as he tried to pull free from the wall. Pushing himself shakily to his feet, Dean staggered a few steps back, hearing the elemental echo of thunder shake the skies into the angry pounding of rain outside of the dying walls of the house.
"You lost Martin," Dean continued, mind sifting through the jigsaw pile of facts and assembling the puzzle, eyes darting around the decaying room searching for a weapon. "And…you, uh, went a little Cuckoo's Nest…totally understandable."
Coughing, he spit more blood on the floor, dragging a trembling hand across his lips. Alena moved closer and Dean backed up a step, the heel of his boot bouncing against the bricked edge of a hearth. Looking down, he saw a set of andirons resting among the cobwebs of time in front of a fireplace that hadn't seen flame since before Lewis was born.
He reached for the poker and pulled it free.
"But then…you basically hexed your own kid." Dean backed up another step. "Who does shit like that?"
"He didn't know the truth," Alena wailed, her voice full of pain. "He couldn't know."
"But he did know, didn't he?" Dean hefted the poker, trying to pull his vision into focus, to steady the slipstream of sight. "He found out about you. Found out what you were…tried to emulate you…and you, what? Turned it around on him? Put his own hex bag in his clothes?"
Alena clenched her hands into fists, and Sam cried out, eyes squeezed shut. Dean darted his eyes between the two, desperate to find a way to free his brother. Alena dropped her head back and opened her mouth emitting an almost inhuman howl.
"Okay, so maybe you had second thoughts," Dean tried, raising his voice to be heard over her cry and the sound of the storm outside. Alena snapped her head forward, her gray eyes cold and vacant. Her lips twisted into an insane snarl. Dean felt his heart slam against the base of his throat. "But you didn't stop it. You were there in the store. You saw us. You could have taken the hex bag back, and you didn't. He found out who you were…what you were…and you killed him for it."
"You know nothing!" Alena cried, lifting her arms just as Dean swung the fireplace poker.
In an odd ballet of frozen motion and improbability, the poker was pulled from his grasp, rotated in the air, and bulleted toward him leaving him with nothing but the space of a gasp to dodge the deadly end. As it pierced his thigh just above his left knee, Dean cried out, falling heavily against the wall nearest him and slid down into a puddle of loose bones and shivering flesh.
Alena seemed to almost float across the room as she approached and then leaned close, her breath both stale and odorless. "Love is love is love is love," she whispered.
Dean panted, sweating, shaking, his hand gripping the poker as blood flowed.
She slipped closer to him, resting her lips on his ear lobe. "I killed him the day I birthed him. He wouldn't see. He couldn't know. What happened was meant to be."
Dean blinked rapidly as she pulled away, feeling the room cave in around him, light curling in around the edges, and the sound of Sam's voice calling out to him fell into a void as he slipped slowly down the wall, sinking into the darkness that erased all knowledge.
"Oh, shit, that's cold!" Sam gasped as the rainwater spilled down the rock wall and tumbled across the moldy floor to create small rapids around his bound legs.
It was the only word appropriate to describe the sound that emanated from his brother. Sam felt him strain against his rope as his body attempted an instinctual escape from the torrent of rising water. The growl spoke not only of pain and chills, but of frustration and denial.
"Why didn't you just kill us, you bitch?" Dean yelled at the witch, who was apparently watching them from a perch safe from the water.
The water that was now quickly rising over Sam's legs and up his waist.
"Dude, don't give her ideas," Sam said, craning his neck to direct his comment at his brother.
"Verum mos paro vos solvo," Alena intoned.
"What?" Dean spat. "What was that?"
"The truth will set you free," Sam translated for him. "She's toying with you, man, don't listen to her."
"Come on down here, Veritas," Dean yelled. "You're the truth, right? What was that on Martin's grave? The truth is a fuckin' lie, right?"
The only sound that met his demand was that of the rushing water rising around them.
"Dean," Sam called, his teeth chattering from the bone-aching cold of the nearly chest-high water. "Dean, we have to stand up."
"You can do this. Just plant your feet, press your back against the pole and—"
"Sam, I can't feel my leg."
"It's…it's pretty numb. I'm not gonna be able to…."
Sam nodded, though he knew Dean couldn't see. "Okay," he said. "Okay, man. I got this."
"You got what?"
"Just…when you feel me pull…don't fight it."
"Sam! You can't—"
"Love is love is love is love," Alena sang once more, her voice fading beneath the heady rush of water.
"Hey! Hey, come back here, you freak!" Dean yelled, his voice cracking.
"She gone?" Sam gasped as the water splashed his collar bone. He grimaced as the body of a drowned squirrel floated past.
"Yes," Dean gasped. Sam heard him spitting out water.
"Good. You ready?"
Dean took an audible breath. "Yes." His voice shook with what Sam took to be both doubt and determination.
Sam nodded, bracing his feet. His whole balance was off-base with his bound legs and he found he had to use the post they were tied to in order to not lurch harshly to one side or the other.
He twisted his hands around to grab Dean's wrists as best he could. Once he was sure he had a grip on his brother, Sam pushed up, ignoring the pull and sting of the cuts along his side, ignoring the stitch in his lungs, ignoring the protesting muscles of his back. Using the beam as a brace, he pushed until he felt Dean's weight at the end of his bindings, his body shaking as he took another breath and shoved upwards with as much force as he could muster.
Then, suddenly, he was up, the water now only at his thighs. He was able to shift his grip to Dean's belt loops, helping to keep his brother upright.
"Damn," Dean breathed as they both gasped for air. "Someone ate their Wheaties this morning."
"I'm thinking," Dean said softly.
The water rose. Their teeth chattered. Their bodies shivered.
"I haven't thought of anything yet," Dean confessed.
"The truth is a lie, right?"
"She's just talking crazy, Sam." Dean leaned heavily against the beam.
And the beam shifted.
"Dude," Sam said suddenly.
"Did you feel that?" Dean asked, yelling to be heard over the rising water.
"It moved. The beam moved."
"The water must be loosening the foundation—" Dean sagged as the beam slid once more on its base. "Okay, but if the beam goes, won't the ceiling go, too?"
"C'mon, we'll shift it back and forth…and then…then we can…y'know, slide our hands free…and…uh…swim out of here," Sam said, beginning to shift his weight against the soggy wood.
"With our feet tied?"
"We have to be quick," Sam amended. "I go left, you go right. Okay, right! Left! Right! Left!"
With shivering shifts of their weight, the brothersslid their bodies one way, then the next, loosening the wooden beam from its base. Feeling the beam buoy, Sam yelled for them to shift once more, then the beam slipped loose.
With barely time to grab a breath, the weight of the beam pulled both brothers under the rising tide of rain water as it fell to the side.
Twisted to the side as best he could beneath the water, Sam grasped Dean's wrists, unable to see anything in the murky depths. Through a controlled panic, they managed to work their bound hands down to the base of the beam, sliding their hands loose.
They were free, but still back-to-back. Sam could feel the heaviness of his brother drag on his arms and he lifted his arm, twisting the rope around and turning himself so that he was facing where he knew Dean floated near him. Sam pushed his bound legs hard against the slimy floor of the basement and gasped in a ragged breath as their heads broke the surface. They faced each other, both blinking rapidly.
Coughing, choking on rainwater, Dean used his undamaged hand to tear at the rope that bound his left hand to Sam's right. Sam held him up as best he could, keeping them both afloat, Dean's wounded leg and his damaged side spilling red into the rising water.
The wet ropes argued with his chilled fingers, but Dean was able to loosen the knot enough so that they worked their hands free. Sam saw more blood swirl and follow Dean's hand as he moved, his stitches pulling away from the damaged skin.
"Feet!" Dean ordered roughly, straining to keep his head above water. "Knife!"
Sam nodded, diving below the surface, his left hand still bound to Dean's right, and pulled the throwing knife from Dean's boot, cutting their feet loose. Just as he worked himself to the surface once more, Dean's head slipped under.
"Oh, no you don't," Sam gasped, gripping the knife between his teeth and grabbing for his brother. After two missed attempts, he managed to pull Dean up, slack-faced and pale.
Turning Dean's back to his chest, Sam transferred the throwing knife to his bound hand and grasped Dean against him. He kicked for what was left of the basement stairs, stumbling and climbing, dragging Dean awkwardly next to him until they were both clear of the rapidly rising water.
Pulling his brother to the dry, but dirty, kitchen floor on the other side of the basement door, Sam shook him roughly. "Dean!"
Dean's head snapped back and forth like a wet rag doll.
"Dean! Open your goddamn eyes! You hear me?" Sam's voice broke across his bellow. "Open them. Right the hell now!"
Water sputtering from his lips, Dean began to cough, then blinked his eyes open, lashes melding, pupils wide.
"You okay?" Sam asked, his voice immediately softening.
Dean only shook his head, hanging limp from Sam's grasp.
"We need to get out of here," Sam said, breathlessly.
He pulled Dean close to him as his brother coughed again, his exhales huffing against Sam's wet chest. He used the throwing knife to cut the last rope from their wrists, the action offering him the excuse he needed to hold onto Dean just a little longer than his brother would have normally allowed.
The flooding basement water crested the floor of the kitchen and crept toward their shivering bodies. Sam braced his feet and pulled Dean up. He slipped his brother's arm over his shoulder, and held Dean's belt loops with a trembling made their way clumsily back toward the door they'd opened just that morning, both instinctively glancing at the incongruous bedroom as they passed.
Alena lay on her bed, her hands at her sides, her eyes open wide and unseeing.
"Is she…" Dean started, his shivering body unable to complete the question.
Against his better judgment, Sam turned them, moving into the pristine bedroom. Alena's skin was pale, her eyes glassy, pupils fixed. Sam pressed his wet fingers to her throat and waited for the tell-tale beat of her heart.
"She's gone, man."
"I don't get it," Dean said, shaking his head as he stared at the body before him. "She had a second chance."
"Dean," Sam stopped him. "Look."
Leaning forward, careful to keep hold of his brother, Sam plucked another newspaper article from Alena's hand. It was folded into a tight square, only Martin Stacey's grinning countenance visible at first. Water from his longish hair dripping on the delicate parchment, Sam opened the article. It was dated one year to the day after the story of Martin's death with Alena behind the wheel.
"Oh, shit," Sam breathed.
"Wh-what?" Dean asked, shaking against him.
"Alena wasn't driving, Dean. Lewis had it wrong. She didn't kill Martin."
"Martin was driving. Says here they…oh, God, Dean."
"I-I…don't w-want to know this."
"Lewis was there, man. He was almost a year old. He was on Alena's lap. The accident threw them all from the car. Martin died. Alena…" Sam shrugged, the motion shifting Dean against him. "Lewis went to foster care."
Water crested the threshold of the room, swirling around the base of the bed. Sam ignored it for a moment, looking around the room at the modern conveniences Alena had allowed herself in moments of lucidity.
"She thought he was dead, man. She thought Lewis was dead. Crazy as she was, when she saw him, she probably thought it was Martin."
"Okay, Sh-sherlock." Dean weakly tugged against Sam. "Let's f-figure out the mystery later."
"We just going to leave her here?"
Dean looked from Sam to Alena, then closed his eyes.
"Right," Sam said. "Guess this is the only place she's really home."
With that, the brothers staggered through the house and out into the rain.
Dean sagged heavily against Sam as they worked through the tall grass, water flooding up around their ankles, cresting to their knees. Sam hoped they'd parked the Impala on a high enough area that it wasn't mired in the flood.
"I-I'll…l-let you…d-drive," Dean managed, gripping Sam's shoulder with frozen fingers.
"That's big of you," Sam returned, finding the car with water half-way up the wheel wells. He eased Dean into the back seat, then climbed behind the wheel.
As they backed the car away from the time-forgotten house, Sam heard a deep groan. He looked up and saw the foundation of the wooden porch shift, pull and start to float away from the house. He knew it was only a matter of time before the house went with it.
And with the house, Alena.
And with Alena, the truth.
"Need to get to a hospital," Sam said, glancing in the rear-view mirror. He could see Dean struggling to tie something around the wound in his leg.
"Not gonna…argue w-with you…"
"You stay awake until we get there," Sam ordered, slipping a hand across his tender, cold side, thankful that the germ-infested rainwater was good for one thing: he was no longer bleeding. "Dean?"
"We sure…messed this one up, huh?"
Sam looked in the rear-view mirror at his brother as he maneuvered the car onto the highway, windshield wipers working overtime in the deluge. Dean's face was pale and he lay slumped against the door. Sam shivered at the memory of another time, another injury…and another passenger.
"Yeah," he said softly. "Maybe I should have listened to you about the second-hand stores."
"We can't save them all, though, right?" Dean's voice was fading.
"But…we did save someone, man," Sam argued.
"H-How do you figure? Lewis dug his eye out and b-bled all over my car…Alena just…dunno, gave up."
"Or something," Sam muttered.
"Or something," Dean agreed softly.
"Think about it this way. We stopped that hex bag from getting to someone else…maybe getting someone else tangled up in this…someone who…maybe wouldn't have been able to handle it."
"'Cause we s-sure did a bang up j-job of that…."
"Yeah, well…we're only human, Dean."
The back seat was quiet. Sam jerked his eyes to the mirror. "DEAN!" he barked, watching in satisfaction as his brother's eyes snapped open. "Close them again and I'm pulling the car over."
"And d-do what?"
"Oh, I'll figure it out, don't worry."
Dean chuckled weakly.
"What?" Sam asked, passing a semi-truck and fighting to see through the backwash of rain. He'd glimpsed a blue sign up ahead indicating a hospital was close. Warmth, stitches, antibiotics…fake names, fake insurance, fake explanations…lies.
Their lives were saved by lies.
"You just sounded like Dad's all."
"Good," Sam replied quietly.
"You know…Veritas, Alena, whatever the hell her name was…she was right."
"Yeah?" Sam said, taking the exit. "In what way?"
"The truth is a lie," Dean slurred. "Every good thing that's ever happened to us is 'cause of a lie."
"Not exactly," Sam said, feeling his cheeks heat up despite his shivering at how close Dean was to his own line of thinking. "I mean, you and me…we tell each other the truth. Now, anyway. Us, Bobby…"
"Yeah, but…there've been times…" Dean trailed off. "Lotsa times…"
Sam pulled into a parking spot near the ER entrance. It was a smaller hospital, which could be both good and bad, depending on their story. Which they had to get straight before they hobbled inside. He shut off the engine and turned to hang an arm over the back of the seat.
"If there's nothing else true in this world, Dean," Sam said softly, pulling Dean's hazy gaze to his. "You can count on this. I'm your brother. And I would die for you."
Dean's lips angled up in a smile. "You're such a softie."
Sam shook his head, glancing down at the make-shift bandage Dean had tied around his leg. Recognizing the green hoodie that had started this whole mess, he said, "You wanna know something weird?"
"Only if it gets me inside before I pass out."
"Alena had your birth date."
Dean blinked. "That is weird."
"So…," Sam grinned. "You're truth, Dean."
Dean looked away, cheek twitching as if he wanted to smile. "If that isn't the definition of irony, I don't know what is."
Sam got out, the rain almost warm on his chilled skin, the soaking from the basement flood saturating almost to his bones. He opened the back door and caught Dean as his brother slumped into the void.
"You got the card?" Dean asked through clenched teeth, his face pale and waxy in the lights from the parking lot.
Sam nodded once, gripping Dean's wet shirt and lifting him from the seat. He felt Dean tremble the moment he attempted to put any weight on his wounded leg.
"I got you," Sam assured him. He knocked the door shut with his hip and gripped him tightly, feeling Dean's stiff fingers grasp his shoulder for balance.
"C-cover story?" Dean gasped out as they lurched toward the lit entrance.
"Got caught in the flash flood," Sam said, spitting out rain as it tracked down his face. "Were changing a tire…you got stabbed in the leg…with the tire iron…"
"W-what about your s-side?"
Sam coughed, searching for a plausible explanation as he continued to haul the ever-increasing weight of his brother across the parking lot.
"You saved my ass," Dean supplied finally.
Sam pulled up short, shifting his grip on Dean's body. "No, Dean, I—"
"Listen," Dean lifted heavy eyes, his fingers clumsy as he gripped Sam's wet, clinging shirt. His voice dropped so that Sam had to lean forward to hear it over the rain. "You did, Sammy. You saved my ass."
Sam looked at his brother for a moment. Really looked. The unspoken gratitude was clear in Dean's pain-laced eyes.
"That's how you hurt your side," Dean said on a wince as he turned away from Sam, facing the ER entrance once more. "You had to keep me from getting…s-swept away by the storm."
Huffing out a wet laugh, Sam nodded. "Right. Yeah, well, that works, too."
"Hey, man," Dean grunted, clutching Sam's shoulder once more as his leg threatened to give way. "I speak the truth."
They stepped from the darkness of the rain into the warmth of the ER light, ready to lie their way to safety. Once more, two steps from the freedom honesty provided, and sitting comfortably inside of the story.
a/n: Thank you for reading. Still working on a couple projects I've hinted at and will be posting a chapter from one of them in the coming weeks. As always, your comments and time mean a lot to me.
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