"NOW!" He screamed at Ezra, who was already trying to stumble back in the fray. A blink later, almost lyrical refrains of Latin danced off Sam's tongue. The sound a vast contradiction to the command he just screamed. His mind focused on holding the demon in the pool, controlling the uncontrollable. He struggled to get a good hold on still free arm. As much as he hated to do it again, he prepared himself for driving another spike in the other hand. Dean would hopefully forgive him for any pain, but he knew his brother would sooner die than be used by any demon. For the first time, Sam felt balanced and not pulled in multiple directions internally. He didn't understand why the Rider of War couldn't dominate his mind like the other victims, but he could puzzle that answer later. So with that brief instant, Sam threw himself back into the situation at hand.
He arched the nail gun forward, yet the demon interceded pushing his body forward, simultaneously yanking at the secured hand. A leg bent inward, tucking tightly to the torso before Dean sent it flying towards Sam's arm. The weapon flew from Sam's grip. There was not time to recover it. With both hands he grabbed the rider, driving the demon under the water for second.
Dean's head broke the surface, gasping for air. Jerking and trashing, he continued his escape plan, intending to rip either the nail or the hand. The metal fastener drove clean through his hand and the only means of escape was to make the larger nail head ravage through the palm. If it took all his strength, he would free this hand. A loud, plunging squish resounded amid the splashes as the rider bammed his palm back and forth on the spike.
Sam countered by plunging the demon back in holy water pool, while now screaming an exorcism at the top of his lungs. "Exercitu praelia Domini, sicut pugnasti contra ducem superbiae luciferum, et angelos ejus apostaticos. Et non valuerunt, neque locus inventus est eorum amplius in coelo. Sed projectus est draco ille magnus, serpens antiquus, qui vocatur diabolus et satanas, qui seducit universum orbem. Et projectus est in terram, et angeli ejus cum illo missi sunt. "
Soon Ezra joined him, placing the seal face down on Dean's trapped arm. Tripping, more than jumping in the fight, his movements were sluggish and inexperienced. Hit wits took over where his body would physically fail. Like second nature, his mouth uttered a flawless baptism in Latin. "Si non es baptizatus, ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti Si igitur vis ad vitam ingredi, serva mandata. Diligis Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo, et ex tota anima tua, et ex tota mente tua, et proximum tuum sicut teipsum..."
Their voices overlapped, spouting what sounded like a jumble of mumbo jumbo to untrained ears. Each syllable's intent to drive the demonic presence out of Dean. The words merged indistinguishable between the two voices, but the effect was the same. The demon spasmed, fighting for rule of his host body. His energy spiked like a cannon in his frame as he lashed his body against the priest, followed by the same action against Sam. Ezra soared back against the wood frame of the baptismal while Sam didn't even stumble as the demon fought, bobbing back and forth under the water. "En antiquus inimicus et homicida vehementer erectus est. Transfiguratus in angelum lucis, cum tota malignorum spirituum caterva late circuit et invadit terram, ut in ea deleat nomen Dei et Christi ejus"
Returning the seal, Ezra spoke louder in a voice that would hush any unruly child in a Sunday service. "Exi ab ea, immunde spiritus, et da locum Spiritui Sancto Paraclito." The priest made the Sign of the Cross, tracing the pattern above the seal. "Accipe signum Crucis tam in fronte, quam in corde, sume fidem caelestium praeceptorum. Et talis esto moribus, ut templum Dei iam esse possis."
A loud scream reverberated high, shaking the wooden frame of the building. It was followed by a tortured, soft, and beseeching voice repeating the words. "Sam stop... stop."
"DON'T STOP!" Ezra ordered.
"It's not him! Keep going!"
"Oremus. Preces nostras…"
'Quaesumus, Domine, clementer exaudi."
Dean's skin began to burn from the insides with an excruciating pain building in the center of his rib cage. As time passed, the pressure grew stronger and hotter. Dean thrashed about vainly, beating his free fist against Sam's back and pulling at the nail with his other.
"Et hunc electum tuum crucis Dominicae impressione signatum, perpetua virtute custodi." Sam continued.
"Ut magnitudinis gloriae" Ezra countered.
With the last of his strength, the Rider grasped Sam's shirt. His fingers dug deep, bundling the fabric, using all of his reserve to try to throw Sam off balance. His attempt summarily failed.
"Tuae rudimenta servans, per custodiam mandatorum, ad regenerationis gloriam pervenire mereatur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum."
"Exorcizo te, omnis spiritus immunde, in nomine Dei Patris omnipotentis, et in nomine Iesu Christi Filii eius, Domini et Iudicis nostri, et in virtute Spiritus Sancti, ut discedas ab hoc plasmate Dei" Sam spouted, dunking his captive in the water again.
A strange gurgling rumbled in Dean's throat. He gagged as the entity crammed tight, like a protestor. The creature clawed to the hiding place of his throat, filling and spreading. What little space that remained to provide air, filled with a smidgeon of water. He wasn't sure if the water or the demon would drown him first. Finally, when his head was allowed to surface, he coughed out the liquid followed by something darker, murkier. Black smoke poured from this throat and then scrambled back inside. He yelled in pain as if his head busted wide open. His grip loosened on Sam, but he didn't let go. Then he was plunged down once more. The inflections of Latin banged inside his ears through the liquid.
"Animasque ad aeternae gloriae coronam destinatas furetur, mactet ac perdat in sempiternum interitum. Virus nequitiae suae, tamquam flumen immundissimum, draco maleficus transfundit in homines depravatos mente et corruptos corde; spiritum mendacii, impietatis et blasphemiae; halitumque mortiferum luxuriae, vitiorum omnium et iniquitatum."
Again, Dean resurfaced and dark onyx smoke erupted, thick and carbon hard. He gagged, shaking violently, wanting desperately to get his hands free to rip the presence out him, but Sam restrained his other arm too. "LET ME GO!" Dean screamed, aware this time it was really his voice. Yet, Sam wasn't about to stop. Suddenly the entity flashed red, moving like a stampeded out of him. He had experience pain before, but even calling this pain seemed to diminish the sensation.
More and more fumes hurled out of him, dragging against the tissue inside his throat. Dean thought his scream had worn out and turned to silence by now, but the voice came regardless from somewhere. The smoke kept cramming, scrambling in to hold his position, pressing against Dean's windpipe. Then the internal tug-of-war ceased. He could see it now- a materialization hovering before him. Finally, the stream ended, hanging in the air above the water.
Slowly, the dark vapors turned to an almost crystal like energy, drawing down into the seal, trapping the Rider once again. "Grow in grace from day to day. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen." Ezra finished as he withdrew the seal from Dean's flesh, leaving a strange pattern cut into his skin.
Dean sank down, slipping into the water now, letting himself drift. He was too tired to fight- too tired to move. It was the worst pain Dean could remember. The world seemed to be lopsided for a moment, but it was Sam pulling him back to the surface. He feebly tried to defend himself, not really sure of if the ordeal was over. Exhausted, he stopped struggling and looked up at Sam, whose stare was strangely deep and seething with emotion.
When it was all over, Sam twisted Dean closer, pulling his trembling brother to rest against the wooden side of the pool. His hands fumbled, checking heart rate, breathing, and pulse. He had cause to worry as the last blows had not had sufficient time to heal, leaving Dean severely battered and beaten. "God, please, no. Let him..."
"Get it.. get it out….get…" He demanded weakly. Dean's red-rimmed, blackened, and swollen eyes darted as if he were anticipating another attack.
"It's gone." Sam reassured.
"Easy, son. The demon is gone." Ezra reassured.
"It's really gone." Sam promised.
Mistrust sprang forth, Dean flicking his head towards Ezra. He muttered indistinguishable words, but the meaning seemed abundantly clear. This time both Sam and Ezra seemed to recognize what Dean was thinking.
"He's a friend."
"I'm a friend." Ezra offered at the same moment.
A warm flicker lit in Sam's eyes. For whatever reason, it made Dean end the mumbling. The brothers stared at each other breathing hard. Dean's head rolled a little and he gasped for air as everything hurt when he breathed. He tried to collapse into a ball, but was anchored to the wood base and unable to fully tuck into himself. Dean wobbled and his eyes goggled in his head. For a moment, he stayed upright with great difficulty, but shortly tried to slip back under the water. Sam propped Dean up, jamming his arm under his brother's shoulder to keep him adrift.
His eyes rolled. For an indeterminate amount of time his mind and face was utterly blank. He body was lethargic as if he were filled by cotton and not flesh, blood, and bones. Awareness returned slowly. He tried to grab at random thoughts, but they effortlessly slipped through his grasp, making his head crash with murderous pain. Attempting to raise his hand to rub at the gnawing headache, he rediscovered how trapped he was. Meanwhile, the stinging pain of the move cost him dearly, but it heightened his awareness to some conscious level
All three men remained in the water for a while, not knowing what to say. It was only when Dean grew quiet for too, did Sam begin questioning. "Hey, talk to me! I'd ask if you were alright, but..."
"Dead, all dead. I killed them. I did that.. can't live..."
As if he took some cue that he was invading a private moment, Ezra floundered out of the baptismal font. Then it seemed he was ready to resume his work on his precious church, fiddling with tools during his brother's time of crises. Sam might have minded had he not so relieved to have the rider gone.
Relief appeared to be the one thing Dean couldn't find. Tears fell down his face, he was repeating the same words over and over "My fault, I killed them, it's my fault."
He barely waited for Dean to finish before he countered with a statement. "It wasn't you. Let's get you out of this cold water and you'll feel better soon."
"Sam?" Ezra said suggestively, reappearing at their side.
The younger brother puzzled for a moment, but when he noticed a pair of pliers in the priest's hand he understood. Ezra hadn't left them at all, but was preparing for aftermath.
Ezra knelt beside Dean as Sam pulled him further into his "Hold really still," the priest coaxed.
Sam gently nudged Dean's head to him, keeping the view of the nail spike out of sight. He was sure, Dean felt the agony of the metal, rigid in his palm, but he didn't have to watch this. This was one thing his brother would not have to witness.
The metal claws of the pliers braced around the nail head. With the first pull, Dean flinched, trashing forward. The pliers slipped away and Dean wasn't ready for another attempt. The pain was sickening. Between the two of them they managed to hold Dean stationary long enough to grab the impaled metal for a second attempt.
The screeching sound of the wood not wanting to release its iron spike prisoner groaned so loudly at first, but when the nail began to move, it was overshadowed by the scream from Dean. He looked like he was about to pass out. He writhed in pain. When his hand freed, he tucked it closing, hiding it like Sam and Ezra might hurt him more. His voice grumbled and ragged as he screamed.
The strange sensation of the extremely supple white sweater on his cold skin compared to the throb from the hole in his hand more than affirmed that he was still alive, if only barely. The ripples of the malleable, downy threads hugged warmth too him. It was definitely not Dean Winchester's style, but he wasn't going to grip about that point. Stretching his legs out, he let them drape over the end of the wooden pew.
"Take these!" Sam ordered, shoving three large pills near Dean's view without any attention of waiting for his brother to agree. Painstakingly he fed them to his brother one by one down a scratchy throat. Each dose followed by the ease of a cold drink of water. Sam guided both medication and hydration, not letting Dean lift a finger.
When Sam's turn at nurse was finished, Dean sank deeper in Ezra's old sweater, obviously too large.
Again, as if he knew thoughts, Ezra answered. "You'd be surprised how cold it gets out here and beggars are not choosers... or so I've heard. " As he spoke, a pair of tweezers moved mangled flesh around Dean's hand, cleaning any stray wood splinters from the palm. When he was finished with that, he passed the bandaging duties to Sam and found the next gash that needed attention.
"Still think we should get you to the hospital!" Sam claimed.
"We could tell them you got jumped."
"And then you will explain how you got beat up too?"
"We got jumped."
"Sam, when you finish with the gaze, you may want to put the ace bandage around it to keep it immobile." He stated giving Sam a look to let the idea drop, at least for now.
A gush of lethargic air hissed from Dean's mouth. Even the routine care provided by Sam and his new friend was too much at the moment. How could he explain he didn't want to see people, when he couldn't understand the feeling at all himself? He just wanted to sink into nothing and be nothing for as long as he could.
Lowly, the priest hummed quietly around him, at the pitch that Dean found most soothing and strangely familiar. He permitted them to finish the overly attentive medical attention, releasing his muscles without any will. His eyes glassed over like he had been sedated. And he might have been. He didn't really question the pills Sam just fed him like candy. His mind was elsewhere anyway.
"Go on. The pain isn't bad." His mind so distant he didn't realized how quiet he had grown. Even the priest had walked away, probably thinking it was awkward to be caught in this drama. "Go on…stitc..."
"Were done now. Think you can...want to talk?"
"I beat the hell out of you...get patched up yourself..." That should appease his little brother, Dean thought.
"The rider beat me..."
"Not even close." Sam affirmed.
"I just want to be alone for a while." Everything in him was blank, still processing guilt and responsibility of his and the Rider's actions.
Sam sighed, stood, turned away, and joined Ezra on the far side of the church.
"He will be.." Ezra reassured.
"I don't understand. I was so angry I could have killed the universe when the Rider touched me and all it did was make me attack him. Dean has to think I hate him so much that I.."
"Tell me something. What brings you peace in this world?"
"Nothing… nothing at all. It's just a big mess."
Really?" He said knowingly. "So everything in your life is a fiery ball of tragedy?"
"A hell of a lot of it."
"And Dean? What about him?"
"Dean…he keeps me from losing my mind."
"Do you not find peace knowing he is there to share your pain, fears, and hopes. Who do you think of when..."
"..shit hits the fan."
"Precisely. You have no peace to retreat to except Dean. So in essence the Rider took your peace the night he possessed Dean. You can't steal something twice. You'll be okay, Sam."
"This deal… I have to stop it."
"Don't you think the demons know how to push your buttons? This deal…they are going to use it to get you to break. You have to find peace with and without Dean. If you don't, that will be your greatest worry."
"I'm not worried about me. He's so….so.."
"…lost. Has he not been lost before?"
"It's different… so distant….like he's in pieces."
"Pieces are often more beautiful than the eyes can perceive. Only then can you really see what it's made of. A clay pot is so sturdy and fragile. God calls us clay pots. We try to fulfill His purposes but we get cracked and broken. If you are broken in your life because of choices you made, don't stay in pieces. God will forgive you, pick you up, and mend you."
"What happens when pieces are destroyed to dust."
"New piece emerge...a mosaic rebuilt with new flavors."
"What if I can't save him… I fail him time and time again. What do I have to do to…"
"I don't have that answer, dear boy, but I know one thing. Have you prayed hard each night for God to please save Dean... Let me save Dean."
"Every day, morning…hell even in the car when I stop for gas!"
"Have you ever prayed to give Dean what he needs?"
"He wants to live too."
"Want… that is different than need. Often we ask for things that we think will make us happy, but life is full or pain and lost. Death is a part of living. You cannot delay it forever. Often the adversity of a situation seems unbearable, but it prepares you to stand through something far more difficult."
"But he did it to save me."
"Did that deal spare you pain?"
"It's killing me. I'm alive but it's…"
"Ask God for help and let him guide you to his plans, let him fix the cracks."
"I can't lose him."
"You never really will. Remember who taught you about life. He shaped part of who you are and that will never go away, if you don't let it. Be the man he taught you to be. The one he admires."
"I look up to him, not him to me…"
"He does. He's always been proud of you, even when you disagree. Those things live on forever."
"That's a poor reconciliation to having my brother."
"I wish I had all the answers, but for right now, I think you just need to be there for him. He needs time to compartmentalize what's happened and build walls around it. He needs your reassurance to do that."
"He wants to be alone...he's…"
"Want….is…" Ezra smiled.
"entirely different than need." Sam finished. He walked back to his brother, sat down silently on the floor, not saying a word or trying to pry. He glance at Dean's closed eyes, hoping sleep had taken hold, but his brother blinked, staring back.
For a long moment, Dean waited for some lecture to start, but Sam didn't make a peep. Somehow Sam's presence did help him as much as he didn't think he deserved any comfort at the moment. With a deep breath, his mind and body started to relax.
Sam afforded a slight smile for Dean's benefit. Deep inside, Sam was already mourning Dean's passing while formulating a million ideas to save him. In his head he prayed. "God, I know I want to save him, but I need to save him. I don' know if I can do this without him. If I learned anything, he keeps me going- reminds me why I do this. With his help, it's not a scorecard of how many demons or things we can kill. It's about who we save. I can't understand why you would let this happen to him. Please... just please...Whatever you need us to do... go through to do this job...I'll do it.. do his share for him... just... just... give him a life he deserves."
Ezra smiled briefly and then turned his attention to sanding some railing. Silently, he whispered. "Lord, I know the road is going to be more painful for those young men. Lead them as you will to be whole and reborn. May they have enough to strength- fill their needs to accomplish the battle ahead."