Disclaimer: All things Supernatural belong to Kripke not me (Rinse & Repeat)
A/N: Unbeta'd so all niggles, wtf's and humdingers are mine, all mine. Inspired by challenge #6 at foundficspn
Crossing Business with Bridges
The jacket was fucked. He lifted his sopping arms and flicked water uselessly from his hands. It didn't matter anymore. He'd been too wet for it to matter seconds after the pipes had burst. Dean stood in the centre of the tiny room with his hands on his hips and tried to focus. Say for instance, on something other than what the water was doing to the leather. But man…three hundred dollar jacket…come on. At least the high pressure deluge buffeting him wasn't sewage. Silver lining numero uno. But it was incessant, and loud, and very, very cold. His hair was plastered to his skull, and the water ran in rivulets down his face. He narrowed his eyes, cocked his chin a little to the left and the river hung a right towards his ear, started cascading in a waterfall from his jaw. He blinked wetly. He was utterly drenched but for all the attention he paid that fact, he could have been standing in broad sunshiney daylight. The point was, he wasn't. He was in Gina Urquhart's utility room in her basement, and it was filling with water. Fast.
Dean stepped to the left once and rattled the door handle again, as if the element of surprise was going to help. It didn't. The handle swung smoothly, unhindered, but despite his entire thrown weight behind the door it wasn't going anywhere. He stepped back and got a good three step run up, threw his shoulder against the wood one last time. Nothing. Fuck. He ran his hand up through his slick hair so it spiked sideways at his temples. The water was already pooling around the cuffs of his jeans. He shuffled his rapidly submerging boots with a long, aqueous sniff.
On the other side of the door where all things dry and free roamed, Sam looked down at his own shoes. He waited until the thumping stopped on the other side.
'It's not budging.' Dean's voice was muffled. And calm. Surprisingly calm. He didn't even sound annoyed. Sam ventured forth with a jibe.
'Try opening it inwards.'
Silence. For just a beat. 'Quit fucking around and get me outta here.'
'You got anything over there?'
Dean looked up at him blankly from the book he was reading. 'You talking to me?'
Sam gave him a liberal dose of expectant face. 'Who else would I be talking to?'
'No, it's just – I didn't...' He grimaced. 'I don't think I'm reading what you think I'm reading.'
Sam closed his eyes. He saw out a self-imposed cooling off period before he spoke again.
'What are you reading, Dean?' he asked patiently.
Dean slowly lifted the cover off the tabletop. He could see from Sam's face that any sudden movement was ill-advised.
Dean shrugged sheepishly.
'So we've been in this library for an hour and a half and the only thing you've found is a book on martial arts? Have you found anything useful since we got here?'
'On Maggie Knight? No. But on the other hand, this book does have an index listing for armlocks, so…' He spun the text book round for Sam to see, winked at him. 'You know, ideal for those high pressure gee-I-could-really-use-an-armlock-about-now situations.'
Sam raised his eyebrows. 'Like that bar in Houston?'
Dean snapped his fingers. 'Exactly. Totally would have come in handy.''
Sam narrowed his eyes. 'Yeah? 'Cause I seem to recall it was about six LESS beers that would have come in handy that night.'
Dean let that one by the keeper, slammed the book shut.
'So what have you got over there, Geek Boy? Another standard salt and burn or are we actually gonna break a sweat on this one?'
'Well, the good news is we know how she died. Drowned in the utility closet in the basement during a storm in 1947. Bad news is she was cremated, so no salt and burn.'
Dean rubbed his hands together. 'So, good old fashioned exorcism?'
'Maybe. While you've been brushing up on your torque locks over there I've been compiling a list –' Dean rolled his eyes '-of all the sightings and reports associated with the house in the last fifteen years. It's really quite interesting.'
'You mean actually interesting or Dear God, stab me in the eye with a pen?'
Sam tried and failed to suppress his amusement.
'No, I mean actually interesting. The activity starts every year around April, random events all over the house, but as the year goes on it starts to converge on the basement. March thirteenth, every year, utility closet floods.' Sam tapped his notepad with his biro.
Dean gave him a deadpan stare. 'Pass me that pen?'
'Dean, I'm serious. Two years ago a little girl died in that basement. Last year Gina Urquhart was in Australia for the whole of March, but she came home to waterlogged basement and a dead cat bobbing around in the closet. I mean, it's not exactly flipping the universal EMF needle but this is still definitely our kind of gig.'
Dean rubbed his jaw, made a face. 'Alright. But after we get Maggie to hang up her rubber duckies, we're finding ourselves a proper job.'
'Whatever you say.'
'I'm serious. None of this mamby pamby exorcism shit. I want shotguns, smackdown, explosions, the whole shebang. I want armlocks, Sam.'
'This is not good.'
Dean said it out loud as the water lapped at his groin. Parts of him he preferred to keep warm were about to get an arctic taste of basement water. And that wasn't the only shit airborne and speeding fan-ward. He'd given the situation a pretty thorough going over, and come to an undesirable conclusion. He was fucked. Not just might be fucked, which would have been okay. Dean lived his entire life in Might Be Fucked. He owned real estate there. This was south of that border into Fucked Central.
On Sam's insistence, he'd gotten down on his hands and knees before the water got too high and groped around for any missed resources on the floor of the closet. He'd come up with three paper clips and a ballpoint pen that had rolled under the shelving unit. When he'd shouted his findings through the door, Sam had for some reason chosen to mock him.
'So when you're done with your filing, you'll get back to me about this burst pipe thing?'
Dean had blinked at the blank expanse of the door. He opened his mouth, shut it, then started again.
'So, any ideas?' He could kick his ass later. Correction, would kick his ass later. Repeatedly.
'Maybe we can do something with the pen. I mean, other than write your famous last words.'
'How about I stab you with it?' Dean muttered, fishing in his pockets for anything he might have missed. 'How about I jot that down?'
He had his pocket knife and his pick. But his brilliant idea of taking the door completely off its hinges had ended in failure when the screws all turned fine, but threaded themselves. And you couldn't pick an unlocked door. It just wasn't opening. This bitch of a spirit was really starting to piss him off.
'Listen, Sam, you think we can hurry this along? I'm ass deep in borewater here.'
Sam didn't answer right away, and when he did his tone had changed completely. 'Already? How long you think?'
Dean looked around. A decomposing rat floated past his hip and he flicked at it with the back of his hand. Gross. He wondered what else was floating around in here. He sized up the room and made some rough calculations.
'I'd say 'bout twenty minutes.'
'Seriously? That's it?'
'Maybe twenty five. But Sam? Do me a favor and bet on twenty.'
It hadn't taken much to get in the door. Never did when you led with a dose of Sam Winchester concern and followed it up with a bit of Dean….well, any of Dean really. By the time he was done lying to her about the gas leak she didn't have, Gina Urquhart had been more than willing to step not only out of her house, but out of her underwear as well. Dean pocketed her business card with a low whistle as he shut the door behind her.
The basement light fritzed as they reached the bottom of the stairs and Dean was right on it. He vaulted onto a desk and hooked a hand on the rafters, swung out toward the fitting. He turned the housing and flinched back suddenly when the socket popped loudly and the globe exploded in his hand. Below him, Sam leapt sideways to avoid the shower of glass.
'Dean! Jesus, you ok?'
His brother shook his hand vigorously, whistled through his teeth.
'Holy crap.' He examined the burnt ends of his fingers. 'I just got a boot.'
When he twisted back and raised his hand up towards the fitting again, Sam yanked hard on the edge of his jacket.
'Are you kidding me?'
'There's a fine line between angry spirit and faulty wiring, Sam.'
'Yeah and either way, you just nearly electrocuted yourself. Get down from there.'
Dean hopped a little on the desk and peered down under his armpit.
'You're a whiney little girl, you know that?'
'Uh-huh. And you're conductive.'
So this was it. Twenty odd years of demon hunting and in the end he was going to fry himself sticking his finger in a light socket. Actually, when he thought about it like that, it made sense.
'Dean, let's go. Off the desk.'
'Dude, what is your hurry? We've got a couple of hours.'
'Gee, I don't know. Don't we have some knives somewhere waiting to be stuck in toasters? Some positive and negative electrodes we should be mixing up?'
'Pipe down, Sergeant Safety.' He glanced around the room and pointed to the box of globes sitting on the shelving unit against the far wall. 'Grab me one of those globes and flick that switch again for me.'
'What are you – a handyman now?'
He bitched, but he did what he was told. Sam marched to the switch and threw it, then crossed to the box of globes. He brought one back to the desk, thrust it up at Dean impatiently.
'Now just stick it in, and then PLEASE can we get this over and done with.'
Dean took the globe and tapped the air in front of Sam's face with it.
'That attitude? Exactly why you never get laid.'
'Dean, I think we've got a problem.'
'Yeah?' Dean crossed his arms, hunkered his shoulders against the relentless spray. The frigid water was taking its toll. He couldn't feel his toes anymore, and he was starting to shiver. It was a violent, dangerously cold quaking. His hips ached, an arctic bone-chilled protestation. 'No shit.'
'No, I think we've REALLY got a problem.'
'This exorcism. I can't do it in twenty minutes.' He heard rising anxiety in Sam's door-muffled tone.
'We're already half done.'
Dean distinctly remembered being half done. Right before Maggie Knight laid the smack down on his ass and sent him sailing into the utility closet. When he'd come to on the floor, he was being pelted by a James Cameron-esque downpour that put the post-iceberg-Titanic in the kiddy-pool section of the park.
'So, shorten it.'
'I can't just shorten it.'
'Why not? Just…paraphrase.'
'Dean, if just saying Fuck off evil spirit worked, no-one would need our help.'
'So say it in Latin.'
He exhaled onto his fingers. He couldn't feel if his breath was warm anymore. The feeling in his hands was gone too. Dean did a lap around the small room. Fuck, he was cold. He didn't think he'd ever been this cold before. He could feel the last vestiges of his core warmth leaching out of him. He had to keep moving. Generate some heat. Things were going pear-shaped in a hypothermic kind of way. Sam was silent. Dean stopped for a second, turned his head a little to hear better over the torrent of the water. He knew Sam was standing on the other side of the door, chewing his lip, hand poised over the panic button. The less time he had to think, the better.
'Still there Sam?'
'Dean, I don't know how I'm gonna get you outta there.'
Dean lifted a numb hand out of the water, wiped it down over his face. A spike of fear slid in between his ribs and came up against the thudding, determined wall of his heart. Don't you lose it too. There's still time. Think. THINK. He pressed his submerged palm up against the door, willed Sam to keep it together.
'Okay, Sammy. It's okay. What about…what about that book Bobby gave us. Didn't that have some gear about opening stuff? Unlocking things?'
'It's in the car.'
'Go get it, take a look.'
He kicked his boots off as the water level hit his chin. A second later, the burst pipe sunk below the rising tide and the comparative silence it brought to the utility closet was as eerie and chilling as the dark lake rising around him. Dean was acutely aware of his own breathing, harsh and echoing in the remaining airspace of the closet. He forced the air in through his nose and out his mouth, tried to slow his breathing. By the time Sam came back, he was treading water.
Dean was tracking out the rock salt on the floor when Sam came back from the car and dumped a duffel bag near the wall.
'Okay, we about set to go?'
'Just about.' Dean shook out a clump of salt, straightened the line with the toe of his boot before Sam had a chance to start grousing about his attention to detail. 'So what's this bitch pissed off about anyhow? Isn't drowning supposed to be the best way to go? All peaceful and shit?'
Rummaging through the duffel, Sam shrugged. 'Maybe she has some unfinished business.'
'Yeah, well, not for long.' Dean shook his head, dropped the canister of salt next to Sam's feet. 'What is that, anyway? Why's everyone got so much unfinished business. If people just finished their business on a daily basis, our lives'd be a whole lot easier.' He put his hands on his hips, swiveled to look around the basement. 'I don't have any unfinished business.'
Sam sniffed off an incredulous laugh. He thought about their lives. This job. This family. Their father.
'You don't have any unfinished business. Nothing.'
'Nope.' Dean barked. He smoothed the air in front of him with his hands. 'I'm all clear.'
'What about the job?'
'What about it?'
'You get taken out tonight, the idea of that doesn't bother you?'
'Sure, it bothers me. I'm not gonna drown a little girl in a basement over it. Besides, I'm not talking about the job. I'm talking about people. All these spirits we deal with? They're all full of things they shoulda done or not done, or things they shoulda said, or not said, or people they shoulda wasted or not wasted. You gotta think, if they'd just said and done what they really wanted when they were alive, maybe they wouldn't end up on the wrong end of a rock salt cartridge or the two of us.'
Sam straightened, flicking through the pages of a small, leatherbound journal. He thought about Jessica and his father. The leagues and leagues of unspoken detritus still clogging his internal drains, slowly filling him with regret.
'I don't know if it's that simple, Dean.'
'Well, it should be.'
'You call do-over all the time,' Sam pointed out.
'Exactly. Right then and there. I don't store that shit up. I got something to say, I say it.'
Sam considered this for a second.
'Huh,' he said finally.
He didn't know everything about his brother, but there weren't a lot of dark corners there either. Shadows maybe, indistinct shapes. But if you tossed Dean Winchester on the stuff that mattered, Sam knew which side he came up on. He had a predictability about him that made room for surprises but sank its foundations deep. It made him dependable and reliable and Sam felt a sudden flare of guilt in his gut that the same couldn't be said about himself. All the secrets and promises and dark little threads twisting beneath the surface, tangling like blonde hair in the fingers of his mind. Maybe Dean was right. It was too messy.
Like I loved you and I lost you. It should be simple.
Sam must have tried opening that door in every language known to man using every incantation that had ever been penned. But it stayed shut. Dean listened to his muffled efforts through the wall and used his last ten inches of air to contemplate his unfinished business theory. If he had anything he wanted to say, he was beginning to think now was the time to say it. It took him a few precious minutes to choose his words, and by then he was nearly nose to the ceiling.
'Last two inches, Sammy!' he shouted.
Then he used them booting every last bit of air out of his lungs in five sharp exhalations. As the water licked at the corner of his lips, he took the biggest motherfucking breath he had ever taken in his life, and dropped away from the roof of the closet into the quiet dark sea beneath.
It had been a little over two minutes since those last muted words had come through the wall of the closet.
Last two inches, Sammy.
Not Get me out of here. Not Sam's name, shouted in panic. Just the last piece of pertinent information he had at his disposal, laced with an urgent, unspoken - chest-cracking - dependence. There was weight in the trust of those four words, tones and tones of heart-seizing pressure. Sam threw the Key of Solomon on the floor behind him and hauled on the door handle with both arms. He knew it was useless. Dean was dying in there. His brother was drowning less than two feet away from him – from air – and there wasn't a goddamn thing he could do about it.
Except… Sam let go of the door, stepped back as though someone had cracked him hard in the face. Oh my god. Except….
Drowning was the best way to go? What a load of fucking monkey spit. Every fibre of his being was rallied, on alert, screaming for air. Every bronchial tendril in his lungs was on fire. Every impulse rebelled against his steadfast clamp down on what was ordinarily a perfectly innocuous and unconscious activity. Every cell of this body was twitching and twanging with the irrepressible, inescapable, impossible desire to open his mouth and TAKE A GODDAMN BREATH. But he couldn't. There wasn't any air to be had. Enveloped in the dull sounds and pervasive chill of his liquid world, he clenched his teeth against the trembling that crept into his lips. He palmed the wall of the closet, sent out a message over his internal public address to his mutinous respiratory system.
A ringing started up in the base of his skull. It was persistent and distracting and growing in volume. Like the small army of neurons that were firing off in his pain receptors back there. Drowning hurt.
He kicked a little until his hand found the door again. Thumped his fist against it. Getting a little critical here, Sammy. When you're ready, bro. Under the water, the feeble thudding seemed dwarfed by the deafening thump of his blood in his ears. The frantic beat of the pulse at his temples. A terrible, insidious fatigue dragged persuasively at his hands, his feet, his thoughts.
I am NOT gonna go like this. I'm not DROWNING in a UTILITY CLOSET. Who the fuck drowns in a utility closet? Now it seemed funny, and he knew that if this seemed funny then he was losing it. He was running out of air and he was losing it. But it was funny. It was fucking hilarious. And he almost gagged on the joke and that sent a slew of bubbles from his lips towards the ceiling. Damnit. You're wasting air you stupid fuck. Don't try and take a breath. Sam's on his way. Don't you give up on him. Don't you give up on your brother. He's coming. WAIT.
It was okay. It was all going to be over soon. All he had to do was wait another few seconds and then it was all going to be okay. Sam was figuring something out. Where the fuck was Sam? Had he waited long enough? How long had Sam said to wait? He couldn't remember. What was he not supposed to be doing? Man, he couldn't concentrate. He was just going to take a breath and then he'd be able to concentrate. He'd be able to remember once he'd taken a breath. And he really needed to remember, because whatever he was not supposed to be doing, he knew it was REALLY IMPORTANT that he not do it.
A second later, he was struck by a belated moment of awful clarity. He'd made a mistake. A very big mistake.
The door gave as if the devil himself had flung it open and the water tsunami'd out into the basement. Dean ragdolled out with it, limp and slack in a way that was inanimate beyond mere unconsciousness. Sam had hold of the arm of his jacket before he even stopped moving, hauled his waterlogged brother back through the deluge as it eddied and swirled around him. God, he was heavy. Oh god, he was so damn heavy. He clapped a hand to his slick, pale cheek.
He slipped two frantic fingers beneath his jaw, knowing in the pit of his stomach there was nothing there to find. No. Nononononono. He flipped Dean onto his side, shifted his jaw until a slew of water left his – blue, oh Christ, they're blue - lips. But not enough. Not nearly enough. He knew there were oceans inside him needing to come out. He had to get the water out and some air in. Remind that big dumb organ behind his ribs that it was laying down on the job. And no bit of Dean laid down on the job. Not ever. His panic mounting, Sam yanked him onto his back and started compressions. He counted them out inside his head, a pulse of denial.
He sent two breaths rattling wetly down Dean's throat. He couldn't tell if they reached his lungs, if they got past the water and lifted his chest. He was too late. He hadn't thought or acted fasted enough. He'd cracked jokes. Wasted time. Do me a favor and bet on twenty. Do me a favor. God Dean, I am so sorry.
Dependable, reliable, predictable Dean piped up in the back of his head, mildly annoyed. One crisis at a time, Princess Panic.
Sam went back to the compressions. Focus. FOCUS. He let the tension out between his teeth, a keening sound that didn't fit his normal repertoire. Then he flipped the switch in his head, the one Dean was so good at, the one that was going to fix this. Kick your own ass later. CONCENTRATE.
Two more breaths and then Dean seized up beneath him on the second, retched a cupful of water up against Sam's open mouth. His heart stopped for a chest jangling moment, then started up like a jungle rhythm against his ribs. He spat to the side, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Thank God. Thank fucking CHRIST.
Then: I can't believe I'm GLAD Dean puked in my mouth.
On the floor in front of him, Dean made a sound that was equal parts drain and rinse cycle of a motel washing machine. Sam jerked him back onto his side, held him there while he gagged and retched and his nervous system oversaw a violent debate about expelling water and inhaling air. For what seemed like an eternity he did a lousy job of both and Sam helplessly wondered if he was losing him, if he was going to drown again there on the floor in his own lungs.
But two minutes later he had choked up half the Pacific Ocean onto the concrete floor and his desperate sucking on the dank basement air approached merely labored. Sam made pointless circles against his shoulder with the flat of his hand, waited him out. Dean finally coughed a few mouthfuls of basement flavored silt onto the floor and dragged a shaking hand up across his nose and mouth.
He started to say something and gagged. Choked and spat. He fisted his hand up on the floor beside his cheek, tried to raise himself up. Sam suggested otherwise with a firm hand between his shoulder blades.
'Uh-uh-uh. Stay down.'
When Dean made another attempt to speak, Sam leant in to hear. The words were wet and hoarse and shaky but they were arguably the sweetest four words Sam had ever heard.
'You took your time.'
Sam had jammed the heater up so high the interior of the car sounded like an aircraft hanger. He shifted in the driver seat and felt the uncomfortable squelch of his own jeans against his thighs. If he was cold, then Dean was freezing.
He'd managed to get the jacket and shirt off but Dean had drawn the line at riding back to the motel in his underwear. So the sodden jeans had stayed on. He was curled against the passenger seat and the door, grieving his ruined leather jacket, with the grimy blanket from the trunk gripped up around his chin. His teeth were still chattering but the chill was starting to leave him in the warmth of the car. The shivering was less constant, more sporadic.
'Three hundred dollar jacket,' he groaned again miserably.
'We should really get you to a hospital.'
'I just need to warm up.'
Dean punctuated the statement with an impressively soggy coughing fit that ended with something coming out of him audibly into this blanketed hands. Sam made a mental note to avoid that section of fabric when they got back to the motel. He knew they weren't going to the hospital - that they really couldn't risk it - but he couldn't shake his concern now that Dean was upright and talking and coughing pieces of his insides into an oil-stained rug.
'Seriously dude, you inhaled, like, a lake's worth of water back there. You could get pneumonia. Or pleurisy. Jesus, do you know what pleurisy can do to you?'
'No.' Another wet cough.
'Well, neither do I, but it sounds bad. I mean, it doesn't sound good, does it?'
And now Dean was laughing. Sam couldn't believe it. He was coughing and choking but he was laughing too.
'What are you laughing at?'
'You.' He hocked up a noisy mass from the back of his throat and appeared to debate how to dispose of it. In the end he swallowed it, made a face. 'Fuck, Sam, you always gotta worry about six damn things at once?' He closed his eyes, leant his temple against the window.
'One crisis at a time, man. Cross your bridges when you get to 'em.'
Sam looked from the road to Dean, back to the road. He shook his head, smiled wearily. One crisis at a time, Princess Panic. Old habits die hard.
'Dean, you drowned back there. Actually drowned.'
'And you got me back. No harm, no foul.'
'What if I hadn't got to you in time.'
'But what if I hadn't?'
Sam gave up. There wasn't any arguing this point with Dean Winchester. A little over six feet of dogged determination. One foot in front of the other, step by step to the end zone. Turn your shoulder into the tackle and keep going. Dean had been born knowing the things it had taken Sam in excess of two decades to even begin to see.
Get where you're going one step at a time. Scale one fence, then the next. Trust the track is going to be there on the other side. Make sure the guy standing behind you is someone you trust. That way you never have to look over your shoulder. Tie up your loose ends. Every day.
Dean was riding the crest of sleep against the glass of the passenger door and Sam wasn't sure if that was such a great idea.
He didn't open his eyes. 'What?'
'Don't go to sleep, man. Just stay with me till we get back to the motel, okay?'
When Dean didn't answer Sam turned up the volume. 'Dean!'
'What!' He forced his eyes wide. 'Alright I'm awake, I'm awake. Holy crap.' He pulled the blanket closer around him.
'How did you get in?' he asked suddenly. His teeth had started up again, cracking together like castanets.
Sam shot him a sideways look. 'What?'
'The door. How'd you get it open?'
'Seal of Solomon. Unlocking incantation. Latin.'
Sam was normally a whole lot worse at lying. But he kept this simple, believable. And Dean wasn't at the top of his freakishly intuitive game right now, so he had that on his side. He huffed out an impressed noise, rattled off another damp sigh. Sam kept his eyes on the road. Dean didn't need to know what had happened. Maybe not ever. He was right about unfinished business, but he was also right about bridges too. You crossed them when you got to them. And that white water was still a ways down the track.
I can't believe I started out just having dreams. That's what Ava had said, right? No fucking shit, you crazy psycho killer bitch. But you were wrong about one thing. I'm starting to get that idea about exactly what I'm capable of.
It wasn't like he'd crossed the line. He'd just stepped up to the edge of the cliff face, passed his flashlight over the gloom. But still. Dean didn't have to know. He knew what his brother would think. He'd think that he'd leapt off that yawning precipice between Sam then and Sam now. That it was all downhill and sharp rocks and freefalling and sickening, bone crunching tumbling down the rock face from here on in. That he'd better revise his unfinished business status, because now he had some. That's what Dean would think.
He threaded it all down deep where he anchored Jess and his father and the rest of that mess. He kept his mouth shut. And he drove.
skd © 2007