A/N So I was checking on some stuff and suddenly realised it has been a year last Wednesday (23rd) since I plucked up enough courage to post my first ever story!
I can't believe it's gone so fast..
Anyway, I thought in honour of the occasion I'd say a quick thank you to anyone who's ever taken the time to review my stuff or send me a message. It really is appreciated - I never imagined when I wrote those first stories that people would be so kind... THANK YOU... :)
As he skidded round the corner Sam's right foot hit some rubble and he did what probably looked like a slightly weird version of 'Riverdance' in an attempt to stay on his feet. Undignified or not it worked and he sped up again, sparing a glance behind him to see if the spirit was still following.
"No one leaves."
It was only Sam's quick reflexes, honed through years of hunting, that stopped him running straight into the former prison guard, who had suddenly materialised in front of him.
"I really hate when they do that." Sam said under his breath, changing direction with lightening speed.
He could of course have used the shotgun to at least buy them some time but he was putting that under the heading of last resort. They had enough problems without attracting the attention of the guards.
However deaf they appeared to be so far.
Taking a set of stairs two at a time Sam felt his lungs and leg muscles burning and really hoped Dean was getting somewhere with the digging.
Cos pretty soon he was gonna run out of air.
"A simple job. Seriously, one job that doesn't involve one or both of us getting thrown round, or locked in, or friggin strangled. Would it kill you?"
The muttered words, apparently aimed at the universe in general, were spoken in time with each blow of the crowbar against the wall.
Dean could feel the sweat trickling down his face and the pull of the stitches in his side but he kept going. His mind was helpfully coming up with images of a dozen scenarios that could be happening with Sam and the spirit, and he gritted his teeth as he tried to ignore them.
Not that it was working.
He'd managed in the 10 minutes since they'd both disappeared to shift a good portion of the brickwork covering the bones and they were now at least ¾ of the way on show.
Dean found himself wishing the guy could have had the decency to be a midget. It would have taken so much less time.
As it was he kept going, knowing they had to set fire to the whole lot for the spirit to be banished. A few more good solid hits later and the skull began to come into view. Breathing a sigh of relief Dean drew the crowbar back and was in the middle of bringing it down again when the guard suddenly appeared directly between him and the wall.
Dean let out the strangled exclamation as he jumped about a foot backwards, heart pounding. He glared at the spirit, trying to force down the slight panic at both the fact he was trapped in the small cell with the thing, and that it had come back without Sam.
"Something I can do for you?" he said dryly and the spirit took a step closer.
"No one leaves."
Dean rolled his eyes.
"Seriously, do you guys get stuck on single sentences or is it a memory thing? Least you could do is vary it a little. Gets kinda monotonous after a while, you know?"
It took another step forward and Dean shifted back, feeling his heels hit the wall behind him. He glanced at the shotgun resting against the wall.
The one that was helpfully behind the spirit.
He sighed. Next time he needed both hands to dig he was gonna be holding it in his teeth.
Taking one more step forward the spirit was now inches from his face and Dean's back was quite literally against the wall. He tensed, waiting for it's next move, and just as he began to feel an unearthly pressure against his throat a voice called out from the other side of the bars.
"Hey! We're not done you know!"
Sam waited for the spirit to turn round, his heart pounding in his chest and not just from the manic sprint he'd just made from the ground floor. When he'd realised that the spirit wasn't behind him anymore, nor had it made an appearance for a while, he'd known instantly it had gone after Dean again. Despite his legs feeling like jelly he'd found the energy from somewhere to clear the distance between where he'd got to and the cell where his brother was trapped in about thirty seconds flat.
Sure enough he'd been right and also, apparently, just in time.
The ex-guard turned to face Sam, and Dean felt the pressure ease instantly. He could just make out Sam's face in the semi darkness, could easily read the mix of fear and relief there, but before he could say anything the spirit had turned it's attention to the younger Winchester and vanished, only to materialise on Sam's side of the bars.
Sam backed up but there was only railings behind him. Dean had a sudden flash of foresight, realised in horror what was about to happen, but he could do nothing.
With a slightly manic grin the spirit 'grabbed' Sam and with one hard shove, he pushed. Sam had a brief sensation of weightlessness and then he was falling.
Dean hit the bars at a run, gripping them with both hands as if he could somehow make them disappear.
With one hunter now taken care of, the spirit turned back to face Dean.
"You son of a bitch." Dean said, venom dripping from every word.
Not even waiting for a response he grabbed the crowbar and smashed it against the wall, the adrenaline flowing through him adding extra force to it.
The brickwork shattered and the rest of the skull became visible. Reaching into his pocket for the salt and the lighter Dean covered the bones in one fluid movement.
Unfortunately it wasn't quick enough and he felt himself being slammed back against the wall as the spirit appeared in front of him again.
It lifted Dean's feet off the floor slightly, his whole weight held now by the hand around his throat, and Dean began to see spots in front of his eyes.
Gasping for air he kept his gaze fixed on the guard's face as with his right hand he managed to flick the lighter and throw it with complete accuracy at the bones.
For a second nothing happened and then they lit, the spirit whirling it's head round but too late.
It shrieked and for a moment the image shimmered but still didn't let go. Then the fire caught properly and the pressure on Dean's neck disappeared, leaving him to drop to the floor, coughing and gulping air into his lungs.
He watched as the spirit writhed briefly in the flames before exploding with a flash that blinded Dean momentarily. When he opened his eyes again he was alone in the cell, the bones still burning away in the remains of the wall.
Scrambling to his feet, and ignoring the many aches and pains now making themselves known, Dean ran to the bars that were still in place. He pulled on them, feeling some give that wasn't there before but realising years of inactivity and exposure to the elements meant they were now rusted in place.
"Oh come on!" he said, desperation creeping into his voice.
The image of Sam disappearing over the railings spurred him on though, and with an unbelievable amount of effort he managed to slide them back far enough to squeeze through.
Clearing the distance to the railing in two strides he gripped it with shaking hands and peered over, dreading what he was gonna see.
As it was the sheer relief he felt when he met Sam's anxious gaze, looking up at him as he clung on to the railings for dear life, was enough to make his knees almost give way.
"Need a hand?" he said, the smile threatening to split his face in two overriding the casualness of the enquiry.
Sam too was more than relieved to see his brother in one piece but was less in the mood for stupid questions. His arms were about to give out.
Sensing this, Dean was instantly all business. Reaching through he grabbed hold of Sam's wrist firmly with one hand, holding onto the railings with the other.
He really hoped they weren't half as rusty as they looked.
"Ok, on three I'm gonna pull – ready?" he said and Sam nodded.
"One, two, three!"
Sam bit his lip to stop himself crying out as burning shoulder muscles were suddenly stretched even further. He could see Dean's own expression was tight and could only imagine what strain this must be putting on his brother's still healing side.
Putting all of his strength into the move Sam managed to swing his legs up and get a foothold on the balcony. With Dean's help he somehow pulled the rest of himself up and clambered over the railings to drop exhaustedly in a heap on the other side, Dean right beside him.
They both lay there, trying to get their breath back and waiting for the sound of their heartbeats thundering in their ears to go away.
When he eventually had enough air to speak Sam shifted slightly, fixing Dean with an accusing stare.
"You probably just pulled out all your stitches" he said and Dean turned his head to look at him, raising his eyebrows.
"You're welcome. Next time I'll just leave you to plummet to your death, shall I?"
Sam clenched his jaw, knowing he couldn't exactly argue with the fact Dean had just saved his life.
"Let me check." he said in the end, reaching for Dean's jacket.
Dean batted his hand away.
"Forget it, Sammy. You can check back at the hotel if you must - unless you want to still be here when those guards finally come along?"
Realising Dean had a point Sam reluctantly dropped the issue of the stitches and pulled himself to his feet, reaching out to help Dean up.
Once upright, albeit on shaky legs, they quickly gathered up their stuff and headed back towards the broken wall where they'd come in. Dean went first, cautiously looking round for any sign of company.
Amazingly there was still no sign of the island's guards having heard anything. Not wanting to push their luck they hurried back down to the jetty, taking half the time they had to get up the path in the first place.
Dean grinned when he saw the boat was still there, and they wasted no time getting in and pushing off. Dean waited until they were a little way from the island before he started the engine and as they sped across the bay Sam kept his gaze fixed on the island, waiting for any sign of an alarm being raised.
Miraculously there was none, and twenty minutes later the boat was moored where it should be again, the keys had been left in the mailbox as arranged, and the weapons were back in the trunk of the Impala.
As Dean opened the door to the hotel room he sighed happily, anticipating a hot bath and a soft bed. In that order.
Not even giving Sam a chance to object Dean grabbed some clothes and went into the bathroom, shutting the door firmly behind him.
Sam frowned but there wasn't much he could do. Not that that meant he wasn't checking those stitches just as soon as Dean came out again.
Shrugging off his jacket Sam sank down into one of the chairs and let out a noise somewhere between a sigh and a groan. Leaning all the way back so his head was resting on the cushioned upholstery he closed his eyes.
He was still sat there when Dean came out of the bedroom in a cloud of steam and he grinned, shaking his head at the fact Sam had apparently fallen asleep.
Dropping his dirt covered clothes in the corner Dean carried on rubbing his hair dry with the towel and made his way over to Sam.
The loud exclamation of his name coupled with the whack on his leg had Sam leaping straight up before his eyes had even opened.
Weaving slightly on his feet he blinked disorientedly for a few seconds before finally spotting Dean, bent over as he laughed hard.
"Oh man! You should have seen your face!" he wheezed, clutching his side as he tried to stop laughing.
Sam glared at him.
"Hilarious, Dean. Just remember you gotta sleep sometime too, dude." he said, trying to regain some dignity as he made his way to the bathroom and slammed the door behind him.
Ignoring the threat Dean continued to chuckle. He was gonna be able to survive on that one for a few days at least.
It was just a shame he hadn't had a camera handy.
By the time Sam came out of the bathroom Dean was laying on his bed, one arm behind his head as he watched a car auction on TV.
"You shoulda seen how much they just sold a 67 Impala for, Sam. It wasn't even as nice as my baby." he said, shaking his head. "Not that we'd ever sell her of course."
Sam glanced at the TV and shrugged.
"Not that we could, unless you want to try explaining what all those weapons-shaped compartments are in the trunk." he said and Dean grinned.
"True. So how you doing? Anything we need to get checked out?" he said looking at Sam appraisingly and Sam shook his head.
"Nah, just the usual bruises. Although I think I can now tie my shoelaces without bending down." he said and Dean nearly choked on the coffee he'd just taken a sip of.
"Well at least they now match your legs." he said with a smirk and Sam rolled his eyes.
"Whatever. How about you – you were gonna let me check those stitches." he said and Dean sighed but sat up, knowing he'd get no peace until Sam saw for himself there was no need for another trip back to the hospital.
Sam lifted Dean's tee shirt and pulled back the bandage. The area around the stitches was a little red but amazingly none of them had been pulled loose, despite Dean's exertions in the prison. Carefully sticking the bandage back in place Sam let go of the tee shirt and stood up. Disappearing into the bathroom he came back a few seconds later with one of the antibiotic pills and a glass of water.
Dean pulled a face but took it anyway.
"Happy now, Florence?" he said and Sam looked satisfied.
"Yes, thanks. You still shouldn't have been holding all my weight like that though – you're lucky you didn't pull all of them out." he said as he sat down on his own bed and took a sip of the coffee Dean had poured out for him.
"Yeah, and like I said, what I supposed to do? Unless you were planning on testing Newton's theory?"
At Sam's disbelieving look Dean looked indignant.
"What? I did go to school too you know."
Sam smirked. "Yeah, I know. I just had no idea science was such a favourite subject of yours."
Dean shrugged. "It wasn't but our science teacher, Miss Kelly – now that's a whole other subject." he said with a grin.
Sam closed his eyes. "I don't even wanna know."
Dean chuckled at Sam's distress and turned his attention back to a particularly lovely Camero that was now up for bidding.
The room was silent for a few minutes, save for Dean's comments that the guy had been ripped off paying that price, and as Sam put his now empty mug down on the side he glanced across at his brother.
Dean looked over at him.
Sam rubbed the back of his neck and looked a little awkward.
"Thanks. You know, for pulling me back up." he said softly and Dean just waved a hand at him.
"Forget it. It's what I'm here for, right? Besides call it returning the favour if you want." he said, and Sam knew he was referring to their escape from the collapsed house a few days previously.
Ducking his head slightly he gave a soft smile and Dean returned it before suddenly yawning widely.
"Well, if you're done with the chat I'm gonna get some sleep. We don't wanna miss breakfast tomorrow." he said, turning off the TV and sliding under the covers.
"Heaven forbid." said Sam dryly, getting up to switch off the light before getting in bed himself.
They actually managed to spend the next few days doing exactly what they'd set out to do – play tourist. Despite Sam's wariness – he was half expecting to end up on a killer tram or something – by mid week they'd both relaxed enough to really enjoy themselves. They did all the tourist stuff, including getting some passing dog walker to take a photo of them with the Golden Gate Bridge behind them, with a camera Sam hadn't even been aware they had.
On their final day they sat on a park bench, watching the sun slowly setting behind the bridge and eating a hot dog. In Dean's case anyway.
"I don't know how you can eat that – those pancakes we had earlier are gonna last me a whole month." said Sam with a groan and Dean grinned.
"I'm a recovering invalid, remember?" he said and Sam snorted.
"Yeah, right, when it suits you." he said.
Dean popped the last piece of food in his mouth and chewed silently for a moment, content to take in the view. He never thought he'd ever say this but it had actually been nice taking time out like this. Made them feel like a normal family.
Well, minus the whole Alcatraz thing anyway.
But tomorrow they'd be back on the road and back to work. Which he also had to admit would be nice.
He could only take so much normality before he began to get itchy feet.
Glancing at Sam and seeing that his brother was lost in the view himself, Dean shifted. There was one thing they still hadn't sorted out.
"Hey Sam." he said casually and Sam glanced at him.
"You never did tell me how we got the money for all this?"
Sam immediately stiffened and then forced himself to relax, although it was too later for Dean not to have noticed.
"Does it really matter?" he said, trying to sound casual himself and aware he was failing miserably.
"That depends. On whether it has something to do with that receipt from the pawnshop that fell out of your pocket."
Sam closed his eyes and cursed himself for not getting rid of the evidence properly.
"Dean." he began but Dean held up a hand to stop him.
"It was Jessica's ring. Wasn't it?" he said softly and Sam shook his head, running a hand through his hair.
"No." he said and Dean raised his eyebrows.
"Ok, so you carry a lot of women's jewellery around with you?" he said and Sam shook his head.
"No, of course not! What I mean is, it wasn't her ring. I never got to give it to her, so that makes it just a ring. Nothing more." he said quietly and Dean frowned.
"It makes it more than that, Sam. It was the ring you were gonna propose with, dude." he said, sounding pained, and Sam swallowed.
"Maybe. But it never got that far so what's the point? It's just a reminder of what we never got to have, Dean, and to be honest I've got enough of that in my head. Besides.." he tailed off and Dean waited a few moments before nudging him slightly when it became clear Sam wasn't about to continue.
"Besides what?" he said and Sam looked up at him, his eyes suspiciously bright.
"By selling it and using the money for this, I get some good memories from it. I wanted to do something for you, not just because you got hurt but because you deserve it, Dean. This way I can think of all this when I think of the ring." he said, making a sweeping gesture that encompassed the view in front of them.
Dean shifted a little uncomfortably, not particularly wanting to stray any further into a 'moment' than they already were.
"But still – it was something that was important to you, Sam. I appreciate the thought but you didn't have to do all this, especially not when you had to get rid of it to fund the whole thing."
Sam shrugged and looked back at the view, unable to look at Dean for what he was about to say.
"It was important to me, Dean. But not as important as you."
Dean looked away and felt a flush of warmth inside that had nothing to do with the dying heat from the sun.
Trust Sam to go and turn this into the ending from a Lifetime movie.
Shaking his head Dean slid off the bench and took a couple of steps forward, taking a deep breath as he watched the changing colours in the sky.
Sam watched, knowing that his brother needed space as always when things got a little more emotional than he was comfortable with.
Which of course in Dean's case meant emotional in any way whatsoever.
Eventually Dean turned round and although he didn't say anything he smiled, and Sam could read everything he needed to in that one look.
Returning the smile and taking his cue, Sam got up too and wandered over to stand next to Dean.
"So. You know where we're heading tomorow?" he said, putting them back in safer territory once more.
"Nah. Figured I'd leave it to Research Boy to find us the next job." he said with a smirk and Sam gave a long suffering sigh.
"You're too kind." he said and Dean grinned at him.
"Yeah, I know."
Turning their back on the view they both started to walk back towards the Impala.
"I'm definitely gonna miss those beds." said Dean and Sam nodded.
"Me too. And the hot water. And the non psychedelic décor."
"Yeah, it is nice not to have to wear sunglasses inside." said Dean wryly. "Still, we can't laze around forever."
Sam sighed. "I know. It's just nice to go a few days without something actually trying to kill us." he said.
"Yeah, but you know that'd get boring after a while." said Dean as they reached the car and Sam gave him an incredulous look.
"You know it really wouldn't." he said and Dean just grinned at him as he slid inside the driver's seat.
Shaking his head at the weird way his brother's mind worked Sam turned round for one last look at the view.
It really had been nice, being able to enjoy themselves without looking over their shoulders or spending time in the Emergency Room. It had felt good. The way normal families must feel all the time.
But as Dean knocked on the window and made 'get in the car' motions with his hand Sam smiled to himself.
Whether they were hunting or playing tourist for a few brief days it wasn't the surroundings or the activities that made them 'normal'.
It was the company.
As long as they still had each other, they were family.
And that was all the normal either of them cared about.