Pressed Into Service
Summary: Sam's not himself after a research trip goes horribly wrong… really not himself.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Thanks for bringing that up. Cause I needed more depression. Really.
So here we are again… Trying to keep ourselves amused until the new season starts. Off we go…
"I still can't believe you made me go on a cave tour," Dean grumbled.
"You could have stayed in the car," Sam replied.
Dean waved his hand at the dark expanse of cave around them. "And miss all of this damp, moldy fun?"
"Think of it as research," Sam suggested.
"This isn't research. This is an allergic reaction waiting to happen." Dean turned back toward the front of the tour group as they all shuffled along through the cramped section of cave. Sam had signed them up for the three-hour tour which had made Dean laugh and groan simultaneously. Unfortunately that was the only tour that passed by the section of the cave they needed to see.
The truth was that caves were on his list of places to avoid. Caves, government buildings, fancy restaurants, and Itawamba County, Mississippi - a long story he would not go into even mentally. Basically anywhere he felt blocked in. He needed to be able to run, or turn and fire, just in case disaster struck or the lady in front of him turned out to be a raving, psychotic serial killer. Her mustache wasn't helping his imagination stay calm.
"Breathe, Dean," Sam said quietly.
Dean tried not to grimace that his discomfort had been that obvious. "It's the cave fungus," he grunted. "It's bothering me."
"We've got to be almost there," Sam said, ignoring the attempted deflection. "We'll check it out and then we can go."
After several more minutes of shuffling behind the small group of tourists, the cave took a sharp turn and opened into a wide, high-ceilinged space. To one side, they could see that part of the wall had caved in and been roped off. Knowing that this was what they were looking for, Sam and Dean quickly worked their way toward that side of the cavern. Dean knelt and reached beneath the ropes to grab one of the rocks.
"Don't touch anything," a female voice ordered.
Dean snatched his hand back as if he'd been burned. He looked up to see the docent who'd been bringing up the rear of the tour group glaring down at him. She was in her late 30s and had her hair pulled back in an overly severe ponytail.
"You were told not to touch anything," the woman instructed. "The cave is a living thing. Human contact can irreparably damage it."
"I'm pretty sure I had a girlfriend like that once," Dean muttered.
"I beg your pardon?" she said stridently. Dean could practically feel Sam frowning in disapproval behind him.
Dean stood and faced the woman, a winning smile firmly in place. "No touching the rocks. Got it." He nearly jumped when a whining crackle sounded loudly, coming from the pocket of his leather jacket.
The tightly-wound woman scowled. "Sir, I believe you were also told to shut off any cell phones or other electronic devices when the tour began."
Dean pulled the EMF meter out of his pocket and watched as the lights continued to dance. "I've been told not to blow my nose in public, too, but sometimes it just happens," he mumbled, worriedly looking at the cave around them. Three people had died in the cave in the past six months and whatever was doing it was still here.
Dean stumbled as something large and heavy bumped him from behind. He turned just in time to see Sam, his face upturned and slack, falling to his knees.
A ring of worried tourists formed around them as Dean dropped to the ground in front of his brother and caught him before he toppled forward. It took everything Dean had not to check Sam's back for a killing wound. That scene had filled his nightmares for so many nights now that seeing the ghost of it happening again nearly crushed the air from his lungs. It looked the same, but it wasn't the same. He ordered himself to believe it, feeling Sam's sagging form in his arms, having to fight to keep Sam's heavier frame upright. Dean could hear Sam taking short, stuttering breaths, but at least he was breathing.
"Sammy?" Dean pushed him back so that he could see Sam's face in the dim electric light. He was conscious, but barely. "Talk to me, Sam," Dean ordered, trying to keep the fear from his voice.
"Is he all right?" the docent asked.
"I don't know," Dean said sharply. He couldn't see anything out of place around them, but something was obviously affecting Sam. His eyes were open, but oddly vacant which was more frightening than anything. Sam was so… alive. Looking at him and seeing no one home was startling to say the least.
"Ok," the woman said to the overly curious gawkers, "the rest of you need to stay with the group." She pointed toward the rest of the departing tourists. "I'll see to these two. Go on." Very reluctantly, the ring of people surrounding them began to move away.
The EMF meter that Dean had dropped on the floor abruptly fell silent. A second later, Sam suddenly blinked and looked at Dean. Dean kept his hands on Sam's shoulders, though he felt Sam straighten, holding more of his own weight.
Sam blinked again, owlishly. "Dean?" He cleared his throat. "Dean, why…" His eyes finally focused. "Wh… why are we on the ground?"
"You tell me," Dean replied, unable to keep his relief from showing. He shoved the EMF meter in a pocket, stood and then helped a still shaky Sam to his feet.
"I… I felt…" Sam turned and looked toward the cave-in, his eyes clouding again.
"Right, let's get you out of here." Dean took Sam by the arm and began to pull him back the way they'd come. "Is there a faster way?" he asked the guide.
"Look, you two stay here, I'll go call for the medics and be right back," she said. "It'll only take a few minutes."
Dean was already shaking his head. "He doesn't need an ambulance," he stated firmly. "His medicine is in the car. I just need to get him back to it as soon as possible. Now is there a faster way out of here?" he repeated.
"The elevator," she said, though she was frowning at his tone.
"There's an elevator?" Dean said in disbelief. They were more than an hour into the tour and deep inside the cave.
"I told you at the beginning of the tour-"
"I think we've established that I wasn't listening," Dean snapped.
The woman took a deep breath. "It's just for situations like this," she explained, more patiently than Dean knew he probably deserved, "in case there's an emergency during the tour. But I think we should wait-"
"No," Dean cut her off. Sam was gazing once again toward the cave-in, half-dazed, and Dean wanted him out of this place now. "I just need to get him back to the car."
The woman hesitated again, but finally nodded and gestured for them to follow her. Sam stumbled and Dean instantly pulled one of his brother's arms across his shoulders. "Easy, Sam," he said. "Just try and stay upright, will ya? You weigh more than a pregnant yak."
"Not pregnant," Sam muttered, his head lolling forward as they made their way in the guide's wake.
"Glad to hear it," Dean said, a smile tugging at his mouth.
"But I might yak."
"Whoa," Dean said, moving slightly away, though still carefully supporting Sam. "Don't, uh… damage the cave. Human contact and all. I won't like it much either."
Sam nodded hazily and Dean urged him forward again. The guide turned down another section of cave than the way they'd come and almost immediately they were facing a set of silver doors. The guide put a key in the panel beside the door and the elevator opened. Dean hurried Sam inside and sat him down on the bench that ran along the back. Sam slumped down, leaning his head back against the wall and shut his eyes.
The guide stood to one side nervously watching Sam while Dean knelt beside him, not willing to be separated even for the length of an elevator ride. The higher they rose, however, the better Sam appeared. The pallor left his face and his breathing became normal and even. Finally, just as the doors opened, so did his eyes. Dean was beyond relieved to see that they were clear, though he looked exhausted.
"Feeling better?" Dean asked.
Sam nodded and stood. "Yeah. Just… tired. Could use some sleep."
Dean led the way out of the elevator, guiding Sam with a hand at his back. He just needed to get Sam to the motel, give him a little bit to rest and then they were going to have a serious talk about any more spelunking.
Something was wrong.
Dean opened his eyes, but remained perfectly still on the bed, listening. There was no movement in the motel room and he couldn't sense anyone other than Sam.
Dean was out of the bed and had the light on in seconds flat. Sam was lying on his back, completely rigid. He took a stuttering breath and Dean knew that was what had awakened him.
"Sammy?" Dean tentatively put a hand on his brother's shoulder.
Sam's eyes opened and he looked directly at Dean. His gaze wasn't hazy or distant as Dean had feared. It was worse.
Sam sat up and Dean stumbled back, his knees hitting his own bed forcing him to sit abruptly.
Sam was watching him. But it wasn't Sam. Whoever was sitting across from him, it wasn't his brother.
Sam's eyes were blue.
More soon… And yes, insurance companies have required many of the cave tours to put in elevators in case of emergencies.