With only weeks left till the end of the deal, Sam is getting desperate. But his willingness to sacrifice himself does not go unnoticed.
All characters and references to Supernatural remain the property of far cleverer people.
The thin light from the small Maglite barely penetrated the thick darkness of the tunnel. Beyond the narrow yellow beam there was nothing but the dank mustiness of stale air and stagnant water. The stench clung to his throat and stung his eyes, making him want to turn on his heels and scramble back out. And perhaps on any other day he would have.
His foot slipped on the damp, mold-covered ledge at the bottom of the high wall and he lost his balance. Stomping his other foot down hard on what he knew already would not be solid ground, his leg shot down into the water and his knee buckled, his shin slamming into the iron railing.
Hushed expletives poured through clenched teeth and he sat against the edge of the ledge. Lifting his dripping left leg from the water, cold damp air met the jagged tear across his jeans and he cupped the injury quickly with his free hand, hissing in pain as he steadied himself. He dare not contemplate just how many different bacteria must be idling in the murky water and he shuddered in revulsion.
Now he could just make them out beneath the oily surface of the unmoving stream; three thick rails. Counting himself lucky that they were no longer plugged in to the city grid, he set his left foot on the edge of the nearest one and heaved himself back up onto the ledge. Resting for a moment to catch his breath, he reached behind him and ensured the Glock tucked into the waist if his jeans was still secure. Then he delved into the large inner pocket of his black combat jacket and pulled out his cellphone.
No signal. Shit! He shook his head in dismay and dropped the phone back into his pocket. With a sigh and a grunt of pain, he scrambled back to his feet and ensured his precarious balance once again restored. This had better be worth it.
Stepping carefully along the tunnel, he found the two-part intersection and remembered her instructions. Here the tunnel made a slight incline and the water started to shallow out. Stepping down from the narrow ledge and striding along the wooden sleepers, he took the left tunnel and headed up into the darkness.
A dull glow somewhere in the seemingly unending length of the tunnel made him stop and press himself against the crumbling wall. Easing backwards against the damp bricks and merging with the shadows, he closed his eyes and could hear his heart thudding in his ears. Taking a deep breath, he peered out towards the flickering amber light and peered along the tunnel.
"It's okay. You can come out."
Slamming himself back against the wall, her voice echoing through the acoustic form of the tunnel, he held his breath and dared not move.
"I'm alone, Sam. Come on out."
"How - " His bile-filled throat was tight and he cleared it dryly. "How do I know I can trust you?"
"It's a little late for that, isn't it?" She laughed and the sound danced along the walls. "You've come this far. May as well satisfy your curiosity."
Sam squeezed his eyes shut until bright white circles stung his vision. He clenched his hands into tight fists and then let out the breath he had been holding in a low sigh and moved away from the wall.
Edging into the light from what he could now see was a small fire made up from various scraps of wood and litter, Sam made his way up along the tunnel.
"Ah, there he is …"
Sam saw her step towards the fire, the flames glowing on her smiling face. He managed a slight nod of acknowledgment and continued towards her.
"How d'you like my place?" She lifted her arms and twirled slowly, laughing once again.
"What can I say?" Sam offered quietly, hearing the tremble in his voice and hoping the resonance along the walls would keep it from her. "It's definitely you."
"Cute." She spat, her smile falling away. "But sounding a little too much like your smart-mouthed brother for my taste."
He shuddered involuntarily, Oh god, do I wish Dean was here right now.
"So." She moved away from the fire and took a step towards him. "You bring the cash?"
Sam halted. "You bring the box?" He watched her turn back and crouch down to open the duffel that sat beside the wall, his heart galloping painfully inside him.
"Y'know, this wasn't easy to find." She slid the bag down away from the sides of the mahogany cube and peered up at Sam. "I really should double the asking price."
His pulse gathering speed, Sam warily watched her grinning up at him.
"But … I just can't help myself when faced with those dewy eyes." She left the bag open and stood slowly. "What say you sweeten the pot with something a little more personal."
"Erm …" Sam could not help the smile that pulled at his mouth as he watched her approach and he shook his head slowly. "I can hustle up a couple of hundred more, Cal."
Her smile dropped from her face and she grunted in disapproval. "Oh, come on. Don't tell me you don't like this packaging." She looked down at her full chest and gave a low, growling chuckle.
Sam watched her in silence, shrugging a response as she glanced back up at him.
"No …?" Her smile was back and she arched an inquisitive eyebrow as she stepped closer to him, balancing on two of the rails and her hands resting on her hips.
He took her form in for a moment, letting his eyes wander from her long blonde curls to the fullness of her mouth and down to the generous breasts that stretched out her thin jumper. Unable to deny the effect her pleasing figure had on him, he could feel a welcome warmth amid the cold damp of their surroundings.
"What a shame." Cal sighed loudly, "But … Ruby did tell me you were shy."
At the mention of that name, Sam was dragged from his musing and pulled back into the reality of his situation. He straightened his stance and glared down at her in impatience. "Do we have a deal, or what?"
Cal groaned in disappointment and then gave a small nod. "Fine."
Sam held her gaze and his face tightened. "How much more?"
"Oh, forget it." She turned and edged her way back to the bag, tossing an idle kick towards the box. "This piece of crap isn't worth it."
She glanced back and watched him approach. "What? You thought I'd steal something like this without looking inside?"
Sam gasped in horror. "You opened it?"
"Sure." Cal laughedeasily, "Needed to know what I risked my ass for." She glared at the box and shook her head in disgust. "You know the security guards actually took a shot at me for this junk."
"Youopened it?" Sam repeated in all but a whisper, hurrying over to the bag and crouching down before it.
Cal watched in interest as he gently stroked the lid of the gold-lined box, his fingers tracing the worn carvings in the flaking varnish. "I don't get it. It's just a dusty old antique."
"You were told to steal it intact, Cal." Sam grated, his voice bouncing off the walls.
"It is intact." Cal retorted, incredulous.
Sam turned the box and saw the scratch marks on the front, his shoulders falling heavily as groaned. "You broke the seal."
"Yeah." Cal scoffed, Like I said - "
He was on his feet and spinning towards her in a heartbeat. Grabbing her by the throat, he lifted her from the floor and carried her across the tunnel to slam her into the wall.
"Wait - " Cal grabbed at the fingers digging into her neck, her feet wiggling a few feet from the dusty ground. She struggled and tried to call out, thumping her fists into his arm.
Sam glared at her in fury, not even blinking as she choked and coughed, her eyes bulging and her cheeks filling with blood. "You should not have opened it." He husked.
Stepping under the security barrier and sliding inside the partially opened broken doors, Dean twisted on his torch and shone the beam inside. Beyond the bent iron gates and crumbling plaster of the station entrance, the strong stench of mildew and decay greeted him.
"You sure about this?"
Dean glanced back and met Bobby's worried frown. "This is where Ruby said he'd be." He shrugged.
"Well, shit …" Bobby grumbled, shaking his head slowly. "Lord knows, it was a sad day when we ever decided to listen to those evil sons o' bitches."
Turning back towards the dilapidated remains of the station, Dean smiled thinly and groaned in agreement. He crept through the iron gates and peered into the dark ruins, shooting his torchlight around them. "You'd think he could've left a trail of M&Ms or something …"
"Nothing." Dean sighed, "Private joke." He continued into the station and peered out along the torch beam. Sudden movement made him jump and he swung the light towards the rubble-strewn floor where it met the wall.
"What?" Bobby demanded nervously.
"Aw, crap!" Dean hissed, watching the small shape vanish as quickly as it had appeared. "Rats!"
"Oh, is that all ?" Bobby sighed, "Dammit, Dean! You damned near gave me a heart attack!"
Dean gave a small laugh and turned to his old friend, shrugging an apology. "I hate rats."
"Huh. And there was me thinking nothing scared you."
His smile faltering, Dean held Bobby's anxious gaze for a moment, seeing understanding forming there. "Oh, there's plenty of things that scare me, Bobby."
Bobby swallowed hard and gave a brief nod. "We'll find him."
Making no reply and looking away, Dean turned and headed towards the stairs.
The smell was worse in the lower levels, the air thick and close. Dean gagged as he stepped out onto the abandoned station platform and he covered his mouth, resting his other hand against the wall while his stomach heaved.
"That ain't just the water …" Bobby commented quietly, his low voice echoing around them. "That's something burning."
Dean glanced up at the thin smoke swirling along from the tunnel and groaned as another wave of nausea gripped him. "You think?" He managed hoarsely.
Bobby dragged a hand across his face and shone his torchlight around them. "Come on."
Watching the older man scramble down over the edge of the platform and enter the side of the tunnel, Dean straightened and tried to steady his breathing. He edged towards the far end of the platform and peered into the tunnel, seeing Bobby step carefully along the narrow ledge. Climbing down after him, Dean glanced down at the dark water that had pooled along the subway line over the years. Shaking his head in disgust and breathing through his mouth, he picked his way along the narrow shelf.
The smoke thickened the deeper they edged into the tunnel. Dean occasionally flicked his light upwards and watched the dark shadows amid the smoke. For a moment he could have believed it was more than simply natural smoke and he shuddered in dread.
The tunnel came to a fork and the two of them paused. Watching the smoke flowing from the left entranceway, Bobby stepped out onto the nearest rail, now above the waterline, and peered up into the tunnel.
Faint light could be seen dancing on the mold-covered walls and a dark shadow moved among them. Dean quickened his pace and his heart was in his throat. "Sammy?" He called out anxiously.
"Jesus!" Bobby jumped back onto the ledge and fell against the wall with a loud groan. "Give a guy warning!"
Ignoring the older man's protests, Dean hurried out away from the wall. The rails were slippery and he fought to keep his balance, hissing under his breath as he impatiently stepped down onto the sleepers and scampered up into the tunnel.
A modest fire glowed at the top of the incline, the few remaining scraps of kindling piled on top of strange mound stretched across the line. And then Dean could just about make out the shape of the mound, and the source of the smoke, and his stomach double-flipped.
"What the hell - ?"
Aware of Bobby stepping up behind him, Dean was suddenly very glad for his company and leaned back a little to be closer to him. He stared at the still smoking, gently burning form and now knew all too well why he recognized the smell in the air.
"Sam?" Bobby called out gently. And then a little louder: "Sam! You there?"
Dean held his breath as they both waited for an answer. None came. But somewhere in the darkness around the firelight there was a sound.
"Sammy?" Dean urged, his chest tight as he moved forward towards the fire. "Bro' … you here?"
The answer was faint and weary. Half relieved and part terrified, Dean hurried as fast as could manage along the narrow tunnel and gave the fire a wide berth. The body nevertheless took his his attention for a moment and bile stung the back of his throat.
And then he saw him.
"Stay back!" Sam shouted weakly, shaking his head in fear.
Dean halted quickly and stared at his brother in dread. Sam was slumped on the narrow ledge on the side of the tunnel and his torso hunched forward from the wall that supported him. His long legs were bent at the knee, his feet resting on the nearest rail. Dean flicked his torch beam across at his brother and took in the pallor of Sam's face and the white tear-stains that lined his cheeks. And then he looked down at the Sig-Sauer Sam was shakily pointing at him.
"Stay back." Sam repeated in a whisper, the sound carrying eerily along the low tunnel.
Dean heard Bobby sighing in disgust and knew he had found the body. He kept his focus on his brother and slowly raised his hands, showing Sam nothing other than the torch he held and the beam dancing on the ceiling above them.
"I'm sorry." Sam husked, lowering the gun and his arm thudding heavily against the shelf.
"Sammy?" Dean urged carefully, "Sammy, what the hell happened here?"
"I …" Sammy was breathing hard, his chest heaving with each lung-full of the stale air around them. He looked down at his lap and again shook his head, his sweat-drenched hair swinging over his creased forehead. "It was the only thing left."
"What? What was?"
"It took so long to find it." Sam continued in a husked whisper, "I should have gotten it myself but …" He lifted his head back up and turned his heavy eyes towards Dean. "I knew you would have stopped me. And I just couldn't let you … not this time."
Dean frowned in confusion, tears stinging his already smoke-sore eyes. "Sammy, what're you talking about?"
Hearing Bobby's worried call, Dean's throat tightened and he paused for a moment for their old friend to continue but kept his eyes firmly on his brother.
"I think you should see this." Bobby suggested quietly.
Dean's frown deepened and he felt his heart pounding in his ears. "Sammy ...?"
Sam hung his head and closed his eyes, his face tight with emotion. "I didn't mean for it to happen." He began hoarsely. "But … I was so angry and - " He choked on a sob and rested his chin on his chest with a quiet whimper.
"Dean!" Bobby urged.
And he had to know. Dean chanced looking away for a moment and saw Bobby crouched down over what remained of the fire. Seeing him picking through the embers, the flames leaping up hungrily as the fire was stirred, Dean saw the sorrow on Bobby's face and took a deep breath. "Bobby …?"
"I - " Bobby looked up and shook his head slowly. "It looks like all that's left of a curse box. The gold is starting to melt but - "
"I needed more kindling."
Dean spun back to his brother and saw Sam looking across towards the fire, his face suddenly void of emotion.
"And it was empty anyhow." Sam continued evenly, nodding towards the gruesome remains. "She'd opened it."
A sudden chill running through him, Dean watched his brother's face suddenly crumple and was unprepared for the tears that flooded down Sam's cheeks. He stepped towards him and gasped as Sam suddenly raised the gun once again and shook his head firmly.
"Please. Stay back."
"Why?" Dean countered, "Sammy, what the hell is going on?" He carefully continued forwards along the tunnel, holding out his arms for balance and in a gesture of calm. "What? You gonna shoot me, Sammy?"
Sam hiccuped on a sob and shook his head, his aim faltering as his arm trembled. "I don't want to."
"So don't." Dean husked, moving ever closer. "Sammy? Please, man. Talk to me. Tell me what's going on?"
Sam lowered the gun a little, the barrel aiming at the rails as his wrist slackened. He sniffed back further tears and leaned his head back against the wall of the tunnel.
"Oh god …" Sam choked, "It was your last hope, Dean." He answered quietly, his shoulders trembling and his face tight with emotion. "It was the only way."
Dean paused for a moment, barely a lunge away from his brother. Reaching out for the wall, he steadied himself and then slowly crouched down to perch on the edge of the narrow shelf. Just a few feet from Sam, he could now hear the soft whimper of each labored breath and watched his brother in renewed concern.
"I finally found it. Stored in a museum vault." Sam offered in all but a whisper. "She called me. Said it would be easy. That she knew someone who could steal it."
"Ruby." Dean surmised.
Sam nodded, closing his eyes and fresh tears tumbling down his face. "She promised it would be okay."
Dean felt a smart comment build on his tongue and bit it back. Now was not the time. Now he simply wanted to get his brother out of this godforsaken place and take him somewhere safe. Somewhere where he could get a good look at him and work out what was wrong.
"She was told not to open it."
Glancing back at the body, Dean nodded slightly. "I guess she found out why, huh?" He looked back at his brother and saw sorrow and regret where confirmation should have been. And it made his skin crawl.
"I was so angry …"
Dean felt the tunnel dancing around him, dizzy lights played at the corner of his vision and he suddenly realized he was not breathing. With a gasp, he stared at his brother in alarm and saw Sam give a slight shrug. "Oh holy shit … Sammy? Sammy, did you - "
"I didn't mean to, Dean. I swear!" Sammy declared urgently, suddenly more animated as he took in the dread on his brother's face. His lips trembling, he shook his head slowly. "I was just so angry …"
Swallowing thickly, Dean chanced another glance back at the remains that Bobby was still carefully picking through. He closed his eyes for a moment and nodded slowly. "Well … it's one less demon to worry about." Dean offered lightly.
Turning back at his brother, Dean saw renewed sorrow filling Sam's pale face and something in his brother's eyes made his blood suddenly run cold. A groan of dismay caught in his tight throat and he shook his head. "Tell me she wasn't - "
"I swear …" Sam repeated quietly, "I didn't know …"
The full horror of the situation made gravity suddenly seem twice as strong. It was all Dean could do not to slump forward and topple between the rails. He closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing, his mind a confusing chaos of questions and fears.
Again Bobby's worried tone and Dean did not want to know what else the old guy had found. He opened his eyes and saw Sam hanging his head once more, quiet sobs making his body shake. Dean turned slowly and saw that Bobby was shining his torch on the floor between the rails. He followed the beam and saw the bright red trail that was scattered amid the dust.
He already knew where the blood would lead. It explained a great deal. But it was no less painful for Dean to swing the beam of his torch onto the scattered drops and follow them along the tunnel and past where he sat.
Sam seemed to realize their discovery and groaned weakly. "She … she said she wasn't armed."
"Shit!" Dean hissed, adjusting his balance and moving quickly to his brother's side.
"No!" Sam raised his arm and pressed his gun into his brother's chest. "Leave it!"
"What?" Dean demanded angrily, pressing closer and hurriedly sweeping his brother's slumped form with his torchlight. The circle of light found the dark glistening patch low on Sam's abdomen and the breath left Dean's body in a loud sob.
Sam shook his head and tried to keep his brother away from him, his arm trembling as he pushed him back. "Don't!"
With an angry sigh, Dean knocked Sam's hand from his chest and forced his arm out of the way. Now kneeling awkwardly beside his brother, he leaned closer and stared at Sam's bloodied shirt. "Oh god, no … Sammy …?"
Sam bit back a grunt of pain as Dean tugged at the shirt and pulled it clear. He fought against his brother's continued investigation and groaned weakly.
The wet shirt was cold and the small hole in the skin above Sam's hip already plugged with dark clotted blood. Not daring to guess how long his brother had been sat in the tunnel and even more concerned by the weak racing pulse at Sam's neck, Dean's vision misted and he shook his head in sorrow.
Movement behind Dean told of Bobby now moving towards Sam and the older man joined in the chorus of panicked confusion.
"I just - " Sam winced and his body tensed in pain. He pushed Dean's hands away from his abdomen and sighed wearily. "It was the last hope."
Dean looked up from the wound and met his brother's shadowed eyes. Swallowing back the lump in his throat, he nodded slowly. "So … you thought you'd just curl up and die, huh?" His eyes were bright in the darkness and he grabbed fistfuls of Sam's shirt to pull him away from the wall and give him a firm shake. "Not gonna happen, Sam! You hear me?" Dean's voice cracked and he cleared his throat. "Are you listening to me? You're not dying down here, Sam. You get that?"
"Dean!" Bobby cautioned softly.
Seeing the pain in Sam's face, Dean sighed loudly and relaxed his hold a little. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
"No." Sam husked, grabbing at Dean's hands and trying to prize his shirt free from his grip.
"Yes!" Dean shouted angrily, his voice echoing in the tunnel. "Move, Sam!"
Sam hung his head and whimpered under his breath.
"I'm sorry …" Sam whispered, glancing up at Dean and shaking his head slowly. "I tried to save you … I really tried …"
Dean groaned and blinked away tears. "I know you have, Sammy. And there's still time. You hear me? There'll be another way."
"No … this was it. The last hope."
"Says who? Huh?" Dean chanced giving Sam another shake and cringed as he heard the hiss of pain it caused. "Come on, Sammy. This isn't you. Let's get you out of here and we'll find another way. Okay?"
"Just let me go."
The quiet plea made Dean's chest tighten and he closed his eyes, his heart racing.
"I'm so tired …" Sam continued quietly, "I can't do this, Dean ..."
"No!" Dean argued huskily, "I won't let this happen." He stared at his brother's limp form for a moment and then turned to look behind him. "Bobby? Please?"
Bobby had taken off his battered cap and now dragged a hand through his hair. Tears clung to his dusty cheeks and he sniffed back more, shaking his head slowly. "Oh god, this is my fault, Dean …"
Replacing his cap and wiping his face with the back of his hand, Bobby sighed loudly. "I should never have mentioned it. The magic is too powerful … and now it's out there."
"Bobby!" Dean choked on a sob and closed his eyes. "Will you please tell me what the fuck is going on?"
Bobby stepped closer and groaned in dismay. "Shit. Sam, I'm so sorry."
"Not your fault." Sam offered in a whisper. "I would have found a way."
"A way to what?" Dean groaned, turning back to his brother. "Sammy …?"
Sam looked up at Dean and managed a thin smile. His face was then tight with pain and he hissed through clenched teeth. "Sorry …"
"No!" Dean repeated angrily, "Come on!" He hooked his hands under his brothers arms and pulled him forwards, grunting with effort as Sam tensed and pulled back from him.
"Let me go." Sam pleaded, his head rolling back heavily. "I can't do this anymore."
"No, Sammy. Dammit, get up!" Dean ordered, "Bobby, give me a fucking hand, will you?"
Bobby quickly obeyed and crossed the tunnel to crouch down beside Dean. He grabbed one of Sam's limp arms and swung it around his neck, watching Dean do the same and waiting for the signal to lift Sam from the tunnel floor.
Sam was pulled to his feet between the two men and grumbled in protest. Panting in pain, he hung heavily in their determined grasp and could not stop them from moving him along the tunnel.
It took what seemed an eternity to traverse through to the crumbling remains of the unfinished subway. Pale daylight displayed tags and drawings in faded spray-paint, evidence of those who had been dared to enter the tunnel long before and had since found scarier rights of passage to attempt.
Sweating and groaning with the effort of part carrying and part dragging the limp form between them, Dean and Bobby saw the collapsed wall loom into view. They sighed in relief as they approached the exit and could hear faint sounds of the waking city beyond the opening.
Sam had long since grown quiet and Dean hardly dared look down at his brother's pale face, Sam's head lolling heavily against his chest. He somehow managed to keep a firm grip on his brother as Bobby let go for a second and climbed up onto the low wall, all that remained of the side of the tunnel.
Bobby reached down and grabbed Sam's arms, his face reddening as he heaved the tall man's body up and over the wall. Dean lifted Sam's legs and helped slide him across the rubble, scrambling up the broken side of the subway.
The pair of them fell to their knees beside Sam's crumpled form, fighting to catch their breath and flicking sweat from their cheeks. Bobby then slowly got back to his feet and arched his back, groaning softly.
"Get the car." Dean husked.
Bobby nodded quietly and headed away from the subway.
Moving closer to his brother's still form, Dean reached out and grabbed a handful of Sam's shirt. He shook Sam roughly and swallowed back the lump in his throat. "Hey. Wake up."
Sam blinked his eyes open and stared blankly up at the pre-dawn grey sky.
"Sam?" Dean crawled closer and sighed as he took in the full state of his brother's torn shirt. "Shit …" Lifting the hem again, he checked the gently oozing bullet wound and pressed his hand against Sam's abdomen.
Closing his eyes and hissing slightly, Sam tensed and shook his head slowly. "Leave it."
"Shut up, Sam!" Dean spat angrily, sitting back on his heels and hanging his head. "God, what were you thinking?"
"This is bad, Sam." Dean groaned, feeling the tension across Sam's abdomen and knowing from experience that blood was filling beneath the hot skin.
"I don't care."
"Really?" Sam opened his eyes and turned his head slowly to look up at his brother. "So don't leave."
Dean made no reply and continued his assessment of the gunshot damage, running his fingers gently around Sam's waist and under his back. No exit wound was both a blessing and a worrying problem. Knowing all too well that the bullet would have dragged dirt and bacteria into Sam's body, his brother was facing major blood loss and rapid onset of infection. For a moment he considered forgetting waiting for Bobby to bring the car around and simply chancing a 911 call. He took the phone from his jacket pocket and studied it for a moment.
"There's … there's something I haven't told you."
Looking up, Dean saw tears filling Sam's eyes and he leaned closer. "Don't talk. Lie still."
"Azazel showed me how Mom died."
Dean felt like a freight train had slammed into him. As if he wasn't suffering enough right now, Sammy had to throw old pain back at him as well?
"She knew who he was, Dean." Sam continued quietly, his eyelids heavy and tears oozing down his pale skin. "She recognized him."
"Don't." Dean shook his head and placed a trembling finger across his lips. "That yellow-eyed bastard was lying, Sammy."
"And he - " Sam closed his eyes and arched his neck as pain shuddered through him.
"Easy." Dean reached down and lifted Sam's shoulders. He slid one leg under Sam and gathered his brother's torso into his arms.
"He made me drink his blood."
Dean closed his eyes and hugged Sam tight against him, his own tears forming.
"I've got demon blood in me, Dean." Sam whispered under his breath. "You … you have to salt and burn - "
"Shut up!" Dean sobbed suddenly, giving his brother a gentle shake. "Just shut up, okay? You're gonna be fine, Sammy. You're gonna be fine."
"No." Sam argued in all but a whisper. "Without you … all I am is evil …" Sam suddenly gave a slight whine and clutched at his brother's arms, his body tensing as fresh pain grew.
"Easy." Dean soothed, pressing his face against Sam's forehead.
"You know what I mean." Sam continued quietly, "I'm different now. I think … I think when I died … I think I'm turning into … into one of them …"
Dean groaned and shook his head. "No! I won't let that happen."
"You won't be here to stop it."
"But I will." Bobby offered firmly, clambering over the rubble and hurrying towards them. "And I'll be damned if I'm gonna stand by and let this soft-filtered sappy nonsense continue." He was red-faced and breathing hard. Putting his hands on his hips and glaring in annoyance, he snorted gruffly. "Well? You pansies coming, or what?"
Dean smiled and slid out from under his brother. Renewed energy helped him lift Sam and he nodded gratefully as Bobby stepped closer to help him.
"Nice bedside manner, Bob." Sam offered weakly.
"Shut it." Bobby snapped back. "I'm tired, hungry and too damned old for all this shit. You know what time it is? God, you boys are a pain in the friggin' ass."
"Yeah," Dean chuckled, "We love you, too, man."
The small ER was still clearing up the last of the Friday night drunken crowd and held a musty scent as if the cleaners had been on strike for a few months. The staff were tired and despondent, their last shred of sympathy spent on the parents whose teenage sons had found some cheap beer and had been assessed and processed into the last of the ICU beds.
It was a blessing in disguise. The unfortunate exploits of an old farmer and his two nephews were lost in the maelstrom of the last few hours of the night shift and Sam was treated with a moderate level of calm and little questioning.
Dean sat in the littered foyer of the OR reception and gazed out at the approaching morning. His body was tired but his mind was alive with questions, his head aching with the repeated thoughts that spun dizzily.
"So what was all that shit about?"
Turning his head towards the weary voice, Dean watched Bobby toss an old sporting magazine back onto the coffee table in front of them. The older man was just as tired and stifled a yawn as he waited for a reply.
"Well?" Bobby shrugged and lifted his cap to scratch at his flattened thinning hair. "I mean, I know your daddy's crazy ideas about Sam and his connection with Azazel. You're not buying into it, are ya?"
Dean frowned and studied Bobby's weary face for a moment, unsure how to respond.
"Now, you listen to me," Bobby turned to face Dean squarely, "That boy in there has been through some heavy shit in his life. Sure, he's messed up. All of us are to some degree. But he is your brother, Dean. If nothing else, you have to hold onto that."
"Meaning maybe, just maybe, you need to set aside everything else and focus on saving each other." Bobby sighed and shook his head slowly, "I've been wrong to keep pushing you back into the fight." His eyes were suddenly bright with tears and he swallowed them back. "Shit, this hellhole will still be here waiting for you when you've healed and got your strength back."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, come on." Bobby groaned, "Just look at what you've been through. You two need to regroup, find your focus, talk things over. You're no good to anyone if you're fighting each other and not working together."
Dean watched Bobby warily for a moment. "Since when do you watch Oprah?"
Bobby glared a response.
Looking away and shifting uncomfortably, Dean let his head fall back against the wall and closed his eyes. "You talk some crazy shit, old man."
Dean could not stop the small smile that pulled at his lips. Glancing briefly at the clock opposite and calculating roughly how long Sam would still be in surgery, he closed his eyes shut again and let his mind drift to sleep, reassured by the still grumbling presence of the friend beside him.
The small room was bright with the amber glow of the new day and Dean crossed quickly to the large window, grabbing the string that controlled the blinds and closing out the light. He watched his brothers unmoving form in the bed, seeing new bruises and scars on Sam's part covered torso.
His vision misted as he stepped a little closer and watched Sam breathing. Slow, regular movements of his chest continued silently and Dean was glad for each one, relief bringing more tears and an increasing tightness to his throat.
The door opened and Dean looked up quickly, anticipation tensing his shoulders.
"Hey." The young nurse smiled wearily and nodded in greeting. She crossed to the bed and checked Sam's vitals, lifting the thin cotton sheets to check on the dressed wound.
Dean watched her methodical assessment and sat down in the plastic chair beside the bed. It was a moment before he realized he was being watched and he flicked his head up to meet her gently smiling concern.
"He's going to be okay." The nurse offered quietly. "He's had a few units of blood to replace what he lost and the surgery went well. The damage wasn't as bad as it seemed."
Oh, it had looked pretty bad to me.
"He has a fever but we're treating that and he'll be fine."
Depending on your definition of 'fine'. Dean nodded slightly, looking back at his brother and agreeing that Sam did have a little color in his cheeks now. But it was hard to see anything other than the fading, bleeding body that he had clung to desperately in the rear of the Impala while Bobby had sped them wildly through the outskirts of the city.
"We're right outside if you need us." The nurse stated softly and wandered from the room.
Dean chanced reaching up through the raised bars at the side of the gently tilted head of the bed and placed his hand on Sam's bare shoulder. His skin was indeed hot to the touch but anything was better than the cold, clammy body that Dean had held onto tightly.
"God … Sammy … what were you thinking …" His voice was barley a whisper through his dry throat and he coughed hoarsely.
Sam made no response and Dean relaxed back against the back of the chair, content to wait it out. Content to simply see that his brother was alive.
A gentle knock at the door and Dean was pulled from his musing. Expecting to see the nurse returning or perhaps Bobby poking his head round to check on them, he was surprised as a middle-aged doctor stepped into the room.
"How's our boy doing?" The tall man looked tired and in need of a shave, his bright eyes shadowed with fatigue.
Dean watched the dark-haired doctor approach from the opposite side of the bed and gave a small shrug of reply. His senses were somehow on alert and he watched every move of the new visitor, his pulse racing as he noted the doctor paid no attention to the monitors or charts beside the bed. He peered at the badge pinned to the man's white lapel and saw the surgical title and common sounding name. Still. Something did not seem right about the way the doctor was studying his brother.
"So …" The doctor leaned against the side of Sam's bed and sighed heavily. "This is Sam, huh?"
Dean gasped and leapt to his feet, drawing the Colt from the waist of his jeans.
"Sit!" The doctor raised one hand and glared a warning.
An unseen force gave Dean a gentle shove and he stumbled, backing into the chair and unable to do anything other than he had been ordered.
Lowering his hand and a small smile dancing on his narrow mouth, the doctor held Dean's defiant glare in quiet calm. "I'm not here to hurt him, Dean."
An instant retort came to mind but then Dean saw the affection that filled the stranger's face and his curiosity won over. His grip tight on the still raised weapon, he paused for a moment.
"I needed to see for myself that he is alright." The doctor offered quietly, moving his focus back to Sam and his smile faltering. He leaned closer to Sam and reached out his hand, placing his fingers over Sam's forehead.
Sam stirred and murmured slightly, his face tightening in pain.
"Stop!" Dean barked angrily, cocking the Colt and ready to fire. The gun was then snatched from his hand and sailed across the room, landing with a noisy clutter in the opposite corner.
Dean glared at the doctor, noting that he had made not a move to pull the gun away and was still focused on smoothing his hand over Sam's eyes. He watched his brother tensing and heard another whimper of protest. Unable to move from the chair, Dean growled and glared with renewed anger at the unknown assailant.
The doctor then suddenly nodded and removed his hand. Sam relaxed back against the pillows with a sigh of relief and returned to quiet sleep. Smiling, the doctor looked up from Sam and turned to face Dean. "I just had to be sure."
"Of what?" Dean grated.
"That she wasn't lying."
"She - ?" Dean's frown faded and he nodded in sudden understanding. "Ruby."
The doctor quirked an eyebrow in interest. "You say her name with such contempt. And yet she has just secured your salvation."
"Yeah, well let's just say I - " Dean stopped himself as the man's words sunk in and he stared up at him in confusion. "She did what?"
The doctor shrugged, his smile growing. "She tells me you and your brother are a two-part set. That Sam will not survive without you."
Dean's heart slammed against his chest and he was lost for words.
"Seems she was right." The doctor nodded towards the still sleeping form in the bed and sighed heavily. "So ... I am here to keep my end of the deal."
"Deal?" Dean scoffed dryly. "Thanks, I'll pass."
"A deal I made with Ruby, not you."
Dean gave a short laugh, "Well, that makes it so much better."
The doctor frowned in concern and stepped back from the bed a little. "She didn't tell you …?" He saw confusion fill Dean's face and gave a small sigh. "No … I suppose she knew you would not trust her … shame …"
"What?" Dean husked, "That I've hurt a demon's feelings? Bite me."
"No. It's a shame that you are so blinded with grief and pain that you cannot see beyond your own needs."
"Meaning?" Dean demanded impatiently.
"The enemy of my enemy."
Dean frowned and regarded the man in suspicion for a moment.
"Without Sam's guidance, there is only chaos." The doctor continued, "A never-ending mess of suffering and pain."
"Yeah, yeah." Dean sighed, "Revelations. I've heard the story."
"No. You've seen the Disney version. And all this." The doctor waved his hand to indicate the world around them. "The few skirmishes you've cleared up. They are nothing compared to what is to come."
"So, what? Now you're telling me my kid brother is the Messiah?"
"No." The doctor laughed and shook his head in sympathy. "It's a little more complicated than good versus evil. First there is evil versus evil." He nodded to Sam. "And that's where our little David here comes in."
Dean's frown deepened and he was lost for a reply, or even a dry retort.
"But he is nothing without you, it seems. Which is where I come in."
"Yeah?" Dean quirked an eyebrow, "And who exactly are you?"
"I am Alad. The gatekeeper."
Dean mouthed the title, feeling the words roll over his tongue and his heart rate quickened as the meaning of the word began to settle in his mind.
Alad nodded slowly. "They will come for you, Dean. I cannot stop them. But I will not let you pass."
Tears stung Dean's eyes and his throat tightened. With a gasp, he spun to look at his brother and was disappointed to see Sam was not awake to hear the news.
"Let him rest." Alad continued quietly, following Dean's gaze and watching Sam sleep. "He will need his strength in the coming days."
Dean looked back and saw the man's gentle smile.
"He will need you." Alad confirmed softly.
Nodding in agreement, unable to speak past the lump in his throat, Dean watched the man turn and head for the door. He then realized the hold on him was gone and he quickly got to his feet. Dean hurried round the bed and stepped between Alad and the door, holding up one hand in reassurance as he saw the man flinch in anticipation.
Alad watched Dean staring at him in confusion and gave a small smile. "I was trapped in the box." He nodded calmly, "Ruby set me free. The price was you." Alad's gaze moved to the charm hanging around Dean's neck and his smile grew slightly.
"But …" Dean's mind was suddenly racing with questions and he did not know where to start. And then something Alad had said made his skin grow cold. "Wait … why did you call my brother 'David'?"
Alad's smile faltered and he stepped closer to Dean. He placed his hand on Dean's arm and took a deep breath. "You will understand." He stepped past Dean and opened the door, his shoulders heavy as he moved from the room. Turning back, his eyes were filled with worry and he gave a loud sigh. "You will understand when you see Goliath."
Dean could not breathe. He watched Alad step from the room and heard the door close. The room danced around him dizzily and he staggered towards the wall. Pressing his hands into the magnolia plaster to support himself, he felt his knees buckle and he sank to the floor slowly.
He sat there at the foot of the wall for a long while, his mind racing and his body numb. Tears dropped unnoticed onto the linoleum beneath him and he hung his head wearily.
When Bobby entered the room with much needed coffee and a quiet greeting, he saw what he assumed was pent up grief and exhaustion. He helped Dean stand and guided him to the chair. Putting an arm around the boys shoulders and giving him a gentle squeeze, the older man made no attempt to try and soothe what he knew was beyond mere words.
Dean was grateful for the contact and in need of the affection. He leaned against Bobby and closed his eyes, lost in his thoughts. And when his brother stirred and whispered his name a few minutes later, his fears faded a little and his mind cleared.
"Hey, sasquatch." Dean husked, sitting up and moving closer to his groggily blinking brother. "It's okay."
Sam frowned and shifted slightly in the bed, groaning as he moved.
Dean reached out and wrapped his fingers around Sam's hand. He noted the surprise in his brother's face and then the relief and grateful squeeze that his contact brought. "It's okay, Sammy." Dean repeated softly, fresh tears building as he heard his own words and the certainty that they carried. He took a deep breath and smiled warmly. "It's all gonna be okay."
- fin -