Supernatural, all audiences. Post-Devil's Trap (spoilers and speculation). Horror.
Sequel to Crash.
Many thanks to my betas: jellicle_freak and birdofparadox
The characters and situations portrayed here are not mine, they belong to the WB. This is a fan authored work and no profit is being made. Please do not link to this story without appropriate warnings. Please do not archive this story without my permission.
"You know what that is, Sam?"
It won't let him get away with not speaking. It doesn’t tolerate defiance well -- is amused by it, but doesn't tolerate it. "No."
"It's a rock. A very ordinary, plain rock. A bit of granite, dug out of the ground from some quarry. It didn't even have to be cut or shaped or smoothed. It came just like that."
It comes closer, crouching in front of Sam where he's kneeling on the stone. The stone is hard and cold and every time he shifts just a little bit, it scrapes his shins and the tops of his feet. But he can't sit and he can't stand. His hands are tied and the rope -- just simple rope -- is looped around his ankles as well, forcing him to kneel.
"You want to stay on the rock, Sam. I cannot stress that strongly enough. If you try to get off the rock, if you fall off…well…let's just say the rock is from …well. It's hard to explain... You don’t want to lose that rock, Sam...you may never find your way back again."
There is a point where he can't take the pain in his legs and hips any longer, but there's no graceful or easy way to lie down, and his left shoulder already screams at him if he so much as breathes too deeply.
"…he's coming around…"
"Put him down."
He's only just barely recognized that he's on the floor of a van, that it's moving…and he thinks…ambulance? Only there's no sirens, no flashing lights -- when a fist puts him back in the darkness again.
The darkness here isn't absolute. He's not even sure he can call it darkness by the meaning of a lack of light. But the other darkness, the darkness of souls, the darkness of evil, the darkness of everything wrong and twisted…
He's almost grateful his eyes are swollen shut now so he doesn’t have to look, because looking makes him want to scream or run; looking threatens to drive him from this rock and its promised safety right into the middle of a darkness he's only ever understood abstractly.
Sometimes it reaches for him. Sometimes it braves the barrier the rough square of stone offers…he can feel the oily grasp of it on his arms, across his face, slipping through his hair and tracing obscene patterns on his skin. It presses against his lips, and hisses in his ear and all he can do is curl up and try not to breathe or listen.
He's afraid if he breathes it will get inside. If he tries to understand what it's saying, he'll go mad.
It always withdraws suddenly. He can feel the sizzle and spark like a magnetic charge, a jolt of electricity. It builds up underneath him, makes the hairs on his arms and legs tingle, and then it discharges and the darkness retreats.
The stone granite -- granite and quartz…the granite grounding, the quartz holding the charge…he doesn't know if that’s what makes the rock safe or if that's only what he's been told…the rock is from the world he knows, the real world. It doesn’t really belong here.
Neither does he.
There's dirt underneath him and the musty smell of rotting wood and damp. There are hands on him and he tries to push them back only to find his arms and legs held as more hands, tug at the collar of his shirt. There's a sharp spike being pounded into his brain. His nose is clogged up and his ears ring. He tastes the salty thickness of blood in his throat and gags, chokes, tries to spit it out, only to have his face shoved in the dirt.
They tug at his shirt again, the collar…
"Cotton and wool. The t-shirt's got rayon."
"Get them off him. Shoes too."
He doesn't understand it, doesn't know why. It's not a hospital, and he's hurt but he's not broken, so they don't need to take his clothes off…they don't need…
It's instinct and fear that makes him shove and kick and push, too many years of training and sparring for his body not to know what to do, even if he can't think clearly, can barely see.
The heel of his hand connects with flesh and bone and a head snaps back (not far enough,) and now's he's feeling dizzy again. Sick. A fist connects with his already sore cheekbone and his left arm is caught at elbow and shoulder when a knee catches him in the stomach.
He screams when his shoulder is dislocated, popping audibly, sending pain through his arm and chest and nausea everywhere else. They aren't gentle but they are fast and he nearly passes out when his shirts are jerked over his head, when they catch his ankles and strip him of shoes and socks. They take his belt too. They tug at his jeans, his underwear -- he expects them to strip him bare.
"Be very sure."
"If you believe the labels," and there is a chuckle.
"Such a traditionalist, Sam. I shouldn't be surprised…"
He can't get his eyes to open, is still sucking in dirt, tasting blood when a hand slips into his hair, fists it. There is pain but it is minor, forgotten, when his arms are pulled back and his wrists are bound.
He can't think. Doesn't know what's going on…where he is…what's had happened…who are they and why…why…
"You remember all those incredibly restrictive passages in Leviticus? They had good reason not to mingle the weave of their clothes, to avoid certain food…unclean they thought. But really, it's the little things that let the devil in, Sam. Everything's got its place. Everything's got its order…"
"Ahh. You mean why this? Well, it's sooner than I want. Not quite ready for your part in all this."
It's moving around him now, and Sam twists his head, trying to follow the voice, trying to make his eyes open.
"You've forced the issue, so to speak. But I'm not ready for you yet and so you're going to have to wait…and I need to make sure you do wait, Sam… but your father and your brother have pushed things a bit. "
Dean…Dad…the car and the truck and the crash and the shattering glass and Oh, God…
"No…They're …where are they? Dean? My father?"
"Well, beyond your reach boy…well beyond your reach."
"You're lying." They can't be…they…after all this…not -- it can't be all for nothing.
There is another chuckle. "Would I lie to you about something like that?"
There are words Sam doesn't understand, but they make him feel kind of sick inside, or that could be the beginning of grief…
Then he feels hands on his shoulders, pushing down, and the words are unintelligible but obscene all the same and a harsh light flares brightly even against his closed eyes.
He's pushed down but that's not what makes him scream…
Something reaches up inside him and pulls him inside out, pulls him through himself, out of himself, and he thinks he's falling only it feels more like being ripped apart from the inside…
…this…this is how his mother died…Jess…Dean…
Fire would be a kindness.
The car is moving, but he can't see out. It's pitch black, darker than dark. He can't even see the interior of the car and he should be able to. The instruments panel, some kind of reflected light from the headlights unless Dean's forgotten to replace a fuse or there's a reason….
But it's the car, the Impala. He knows the feel of it, the sound of the engine, the thrumming hum and rumble of the tires on asphalt.
He feels the crash before he hears it, impact and the tearing of metal but it happens around him. He feels the crash; the crack of his head against the window, the feel of Sam's arm instinctively reaching out as they are both tossed forward.
He feels the crash and the twisting of metal, the collision of Sam's body into his, of Dean against the back seat. He feels it.
And then it happens.
He'd been ready to die earlier, at his youngest son's hands.
This time, he's not ready.
It comes back to him at odd times. Never all of it, not even most of it. Dean tells him it was five days.
Five days isn't long enough to cover forever.
At the same time, he doesn't have enough memories to account for the time that's passed: a moment here, an impression there, fourteen and half seconds of screaming followed by an hour or two of silence that scares Dean and Sam can't explain.
The first time he can actually see Dean he isn't sure if he believes it. That's not his brother's face with blackened, bruised skin that bleeds into pale. Those aren't his brother's hands, swollen and brown-purple, like an old man's with arthritis and liver spots.
Those aren't his brother's eyes when Dean won't look at him.
I got him back, Dad. I got him…
He can't remember the last time he heard Dean cry. At least he thinks that's what that is. The hiss and gasp, the cracked voice.
Something happened to Sam…something…
The hiss and gasp are mechanical, steady, rhythmic…
His chest expands and deflates. His heart beats steady, a blip.
He's got nothing to do with either of them.
There's something wrong with his eyes.
The doctors checked. They'd flushed them and given him drops at the hospital.
"…it's grit. Some dried blood…better?"
It's great, it's perfect, it's fine…
"Blurred or doubled vision?"
"Light sensitivity? Focus here…read the chart…fifth line."
E S F C Z P
"And now the last line…"
F P T O Z L P E
"That's good, Sam. It's great…you've got excellent vision. You might have some blurring…maybe a headache…concussions are…"
It's not his vision.
He sees things. Not clearly, never directly on. It's not blurring or eye strain when he stares at Bobby and sees a shadow step from behind him and to the right. When the shadow looks at Sam even though Bobby and Dean are looking at the car. When it disappears if he looks back.
It's not his vision when he sits by his father's bedside and the words on the page of the article he's reading change to a language and configuration he doesn't recognize, while his mouth is still calmly reading about some celebrity get-together from the People magazine someone left in the waiting room.
It's not his vision that makes his eyes water and burn when Dean strips off his shirt so Bobby can reapply the symbols and protections on Dean's skin again until he can have them made permanent.
It's not his vision that makes those same symbols move and try to crawl off him when Bobby does the same thing to Sam, because Dean insists.
There's something wrong with his eyes. That's all.
There's light, then there's dark. It's got a pattern and a rhythm. A cycle.
It stays the same for so very long. Sounds moves through it: feet on linoleum, voices in hollows, the rustle of cloth, the splat of liquid falling.
Then there's pain. It's been so long since he felt it he doesn't even know what it is, only that it is.
"John. John. Jack. Johnny. J. Winchester. Oh, how the mighty have fallen…not that you were that mighty…I feel a bit like the tailor and the flies. Three with one blow."
Why can he feel this? Hear this? Fear this?
"It's a fine weapon you have for me, John. Fine and powerful."
The gun. The Colt. Ahh, Sam…If you'd just…
"It's not quite ready, of course. Not quite honed enough, but he will be, John. He'll be sharp like a blade, cold like glacier. Opened like a vein. Remorseless just like his father and brother. Must be something in the genes, don't you think?"
"You know, John, just give me the word and I can...you could be up off this bed, back with your sons. Back in the world. Who knows? You put up a helluva fight there, Johnny. Helluva a good show…maybe you could do it again. Get this husk of a body moving. Just ask me, John…after all you've given me, I owe you one. One son to feed me, the other to use…what can I do for you, John?"
"Oh, no. No…you've already given that job to someone. So, how many lives do you think Sam will spit out before he gets to you? I promised Dean he'd be last but, you know, age has its privileges."
You can't have them. You can't have him.
"Too late, John. He's already mine.
They both are."
If the rock is supposed to be safe, he doesn't know how the demon can sit on it like he does, legs crossed, knees pressed to Sam's. Those are knees, right?
His vision is blurry at best, the right opening only when enough tears have fallen to dissolve some of the crusted blood that keeps sealing it shut.
His legs have gone numb again, along with most of the rest of him: shoulder, head, stomach. He's afraid to move because moving will send blood flowing and wake them up and the pins and needles are more than he can stand any longer.
"Almost time, Sam…I'm sorry to keep you waiting but this…these things take time. I've been a terrible host I know…but I want to make sure we do this right. That it's perfect. I'd hate to have to go through all this again, wouldn't you?"
There are hands on him again, pressing his shoulders back, lifting his chin. The pins and needles in his legs flare…burn, sear, and he sobs because that little thing sets the alarm for every other nerve in his body. And there are hands at his jeans now, opening the button…pulling the zipper down, shoving the denim down, his underwear, and he can't not fight back, struggle.
"Shhh…shhh…Sam…Sam…really. If I wanted that from you, don't you think I could have taken it by now?
The hands are cold on his skin and the tears streaming from his eyes have cleared his sight a little only he doesn’t want to look…doesn't want to…
The fact that it's Dean's hands on him doesn't actually help at all.
Aw, John. It's a mess you've gotten yourself into this time, buddy. It sure as hell is a mess like we'd never hoped to see. I know you're hurt bad. But them boys of yours…
He missed the first of it and waits for the rest, but Bobby's gone quiet.
Hello, John. How are we feeling today? Cheerful and bright, but he doesn’t know her as she talks, hums a little…moves him, shifts him, rolls him, and slides fresh sheets…leaves him on his side. Those two boys of yours sure are handsome men. Did you have a nice visit? Then she's rolling him back and he feels her hand on his wrist, taking his pulse.
He feels her hand on his wrist.
The insurance money lets them pay for three months in advance on a small one bedroom apartment near UNL. It's not as close to the VA facility as they'd like but it's cheaper and it gives them access to the library.
It's furnished with cast-off's and road side pickups that Dean first grumbled about then was amused by. According to him, Sam learned some useful things at college after all.
Sam spent a day or so scouting out the better neighborhoods and calling about trash pick up days. It paid off in a decent couch, a couple of small bookcases and three wooden chairs that only needed glue and a couple of nails to make them usable. They bought a couple of discounted mattresses and threw them on the floor in the bedroom, discovered they wouldn’t both fit so put one on top of the other, a piece of plywood in between and it's high enough that if Sam uses the third chair for leverage, he can get to his feet without needing Dean's help.
The tattoos have barely healed, even after all this time. The skin is less red, but they itch and hitch under his shirt until sometimes he can't stand it. Dean doesn't even ask anymore. Burn lotion with lidocaine, neon blue with a cheerful little Mr. Sunshine on the label and he smoothes it on Sam's skin, across his shoulders.
Sam doesn't want to tell him he doesn’t think it’s the lotion. That it’s the matching marks on Dean's hands, on his shoulder and chest. That it all eases when Dean touches him even without the lotion.
But when he does, the brand on Sam's hip throbs and aches like the bones are shattering underneath.
His head is killing him. His mouth and throat feel stuffed with cotton.
A nurse checks the needle taped to the back of his hand and he grips her fingers because it hurts…
It's hot in Nebraska. Who knew?
Dean's out picking up groceries and Sam's sharpening their blades, windows open and in his boxers, listening to the midday news.
"…with a high of sixty-two."
Fresh sweat breaks on Sam's skin and he slices the end of his finger off, bringing the small hurt to his mouth, the blood bitter and salty on his tongue. He looks at the thin flap of skin.
His hip throbs and flares…aches.
Blood smears across his belly and drips on his thigh as he shoves the cloth away, angling the blade, just under <i>there</i>. The skin is raised, the welts creating the pattern, and the blade slips under it…he stretches the skin back and wipes at the blood so he can see…
It wasn't a brand -- not iron or stone, not a blade or needle. The blood drips thick and black and clings to a finger, then to a long brush made of bone and hair…
He can't see the symbol, he can't make it out, eyes too swollen to see anything much, but the pattern rests there, in the palm of his hand/claw/bones and blood and…
They've stripped him near bare, left him still on his knees, pulled back until it feels like his spine will snap.
"I wish I could say this won't hurt," he says, kneeling in front of Sam, knees shoved hard between Sam's spread thighs. "But of course, I really don't wish that…"
It's just a symbol on the palm of his hand, pressed to his hip, claws siding into the tender flesh there, a talon driving deep into the soft flesh of his pelvis, cupping the bone and pressing that whatever-the-fuck-is-is it-doing-don't do this to me, please please please …no…God…no nononononoooooooo.
There's blood everywhere. Sam hears glass break and shatter and then Dean's right there, knocking the blade away, pressing hard on the wound that's spreading blood all over Sam's hip and groin and thigh and the couch…
"Christ, Sam. What the fuck have you done?"
"Really, John. You need to talk to your boys. Sam's completely out of control and the other one…protection symbols will only get him so far…"
John gives him the finger.
The whiplash of a slap that registers mostly in his mind is worth it.
It healed. Of course it healed. And the brand is still there.
Dean had been furious and Sam couldn't blame him. "Get it off me," was all Sam said and Dean's fury had broken like the bottles of beer he'd dropped.
"We'll find a way, Sam. I swear to --"
Dean doesn't swear by God any longer. Even in passing.
So, they are back here, at Bobby's. They've scavenged tools, a few odds and ends. Found a home for the dog.
What's left is already falling under the spell of time and wind and rain and high grasses. Even the chimney has started to crumble. The stove sits there like a giant iron "Fuck you" challenging the elements all by itself.
Sam kicks at the scorched floorboards, knocking aside weeds growing up between them and one of the boards gives way.
He almost misses it, but the tattoos sizzle and burn and he feels nauseated. Shapes dance at the edge of his vision, leers and fangs and phantoms and…
Dean grabs him and it settles a little.
The metal box is scorched but intact. Inside some of the papers have turned brown, the book is brittle. The Polaroid photograph melted into shiny black tar.
Dean pulls the papers out carefully, unfolding the sketches and Sam feels a lancing pain from hip to belly, through his back. His mouth is dry but he tastes blood. He swallows and reaches for the drawings anyway.
They've got the name of a blacksmith in North Dakota. A man who might be able to make a gun -- or a branding iron.
He knows it's Dean's hand because it's too cautious and yet strong all the same. Stronger still when he manages to hook a finger around the leather cord Dean wears on his wrist.
He really isn't used to the sound of Dean crying. He'd rather not be.
Sam's hand is even less sure, lighter and….
God…pain, terror, despair…fear…helpme…cloying…bitter… forgivemeSammyplease…
The monitor squeals, high and piercing.
The ceiling tiles are white and water stained and one of the florescent lights hums and shudders and flickers.
He looks for faces he recognizes and finds them.
Looking shocked and hopeful and scared and relieved…gripping Sam's arm, his shirt.
And Sam, terrified and remote and with scars on his face and the…the shadow, right there behind him, its hands on Sam's shoulders and grinning at him like this is all a huge joke…
"Get the fuck away from my son," he says it with no power and no strength and, No, God no, because it's Sam backing away, pulling away, pale and shocked and that look on his face like when…
...you leave now, you stay gone…
He never, ever expected or wanted to see that much accusation or betrayal in Dean's eyes, in his face.
And then it's gone and so are both his sons.
"Look, this is a bad idea. Burns are…I mean…"
His name is Joseph and he's a bear of a man with a pony tail and arms that would practically make up both of Sam's thighs.
"I'll handle the burns afterward," Dean says evenly. "I've just never…I can't…don't know how long to…"
Joseph looks worried but he knows what this is about.
The iron goes into the forge.
Sam can't even feel scared as he strips off his jeans, straddles the work bench in Joseph's smithy. Dean studies Bobby's notes again, wipes at his mouth and meets Sam's eyes.
"Over the other one?" Joseph asks. Dean shakes his head and Sam lies back, gripping the pole the bench is anchored to. Dean uses an eagle feather and a mix of holy water, alcohol, hyssop extract, and a drop of Sam's own blood to both mark the area and purify it as well as he can. The liquid burns Sam's skin like hot oil but doesn't sear it.
"This won't undo it, only counter it."
"I need three seconds. You need to make sure he doesn't move. Little close to the family jewels there."
Sam almost laughs at that. Like he's going to ever need them. Like he'll ever bring a child into this world that could be tainted by whatever he is.
Dean straddles his chest, presses down on Sam's shoulders. Joseph settles on his legs.
He feels the heat before he feels the pain.
Tastes Dean's tears in his mouth before he tastes his own.
Chokes on his own scream and the blood that fills his mouth when he bites his tongue.
At least the tattoos on his shoulders and chest don't hurt anymore.
Sam doesn't come to see him but Dean does. Dean who looks like if he had a choice, he wouldn't be here either.
It's still hard to talk, to even find the words sometimes. He's not got much of a voice and can barely sit up by himself. Everything below his neck feels numb and not part of him.
"It wasn't Sam. I didn't mean Sam…I need to tell him…it's whatever, whatever that …it's got … it's got Sam."
"No," Dean says flatly. "No it doesn't. And it won't."
"Tell him. It wasn't him…it wasn't… "
The anger in Dean's eyes eases back. He grips the side rails. "You have to…I'll get him here, but you have to."
"He's marked…It's got its claws in him," ...in all of us.
"It had him for five days, Dad. Five fucking days. We've had him for twenty-three years. He's ours. Ours."
He can always find the stone, the rock. It's there, cool and rough, solid and sharp. It exists only in darkness.
It's big enough for him to stretch out on. End to end, side to side; when he spreads his arms up and his legs down, he still can't reach the edge of it. When he flings his arms wide, he still can't grip the edges no matter how far he stretches.
A finger smoothes around the half healed burn on his left hip, never quite touching, just teasing the enflamed skin.
"It's good, Sam. Very good…I've got nothing but admiration for the Winchester ingenuity and perseverance. It will come in handy. But this…" There's a lick and the sound and scent of burning flesh. His skin crawls, his stomach sours. He wants to lift his head before he chokes on his own vomit. He wants to shove it way but he can't move, can't even lift his head or wiggle his fingers.
He can't close his eyes.
"…this only marks your flesh, protects your body. It's good for now. It will take some time to undo that…nicely played. Check. But, really…it was never your body I was after."
The other symbol flares, burns, sears across his bones and boils his blood, sends it erupting to the surface as the symbol, the seal, is licked, caressed with mouth and claws. Something reaches inside him, pulls him inside out, his body throbbing, thrumming, bones turning liquid and he gags and chokes…"Not your body at all, Sam…"
Dean's hands haul him up and he chokes, tastes blood; brings a hand to his mouth to catch whatever threatens to come up.
"Dude, do not barf on the sheets," Dean says and thrust a shirt into his hands.
He retches dryly and still tastes blood. Wipes at his nose and stares at the smears there.
Dean's hand rubs at his upper back, leaning with him, hip to hip. "I'll get you some water."
"No," he grabs at Dean's leg and digs his fingers in, feels Dean flinch but he doesn’t pull away. He eases his grip. "I'll get it."
Dean goes with him anyway, watches him with shadowed eyes.
Movement flickers in the corners of Sam's eyes and he ignores it. Splashes water on his face.
Dean wipes at his mouth. "Look…Come with me to see Dad, today, okay? Just…he wants to see you, Sam. He needs to."
"No. Not yet."
"Sam. It wasn't you he was talking to. It was…"
"Not yet. Please? Not until this heals. It might help."
"I need to get the sketches to Joe anyway," Sam says.
Joseph thinks he's almost got the gun ready. They need to etch some protections into it. He's weighed and measured the bullet, even has blanks of the same size and weight and shape made up.
Dean isn't looking at him, the lines around his mouth are deep.
"Just tell, Dad, I said hi, okay? I'll be…I'll go…"
"You could call him."
Sam nods. "I…okay. I will. When I get to Joe's I'll call. Take your cell."
Dean agrees and the lines ease a little. "You all right?"
"Yeah. I'm going to take a shower. Hit the road. I should get there about the time you go to see Dad."
Dean doesn't wait to watch him pull the bandage off his hip.
He turns the water on, cool. His skin always feels so hot.
Sam's got some ideas about the bullet. About what it is and how it was made.
He thinks they might need two.