Those Freak Adrenaline Things
K Hanna Korossy
Sometimes it just wasn't possible to make a hunt any safer.
They knew the people dying in the house had been killed by a spirit. They knew the spirit was the former Muriel Lowder, a recently deceased psychic. Unhappily not having seen her own fate, she'd been killed by one of her clients and was angry enough to try to revisit her fate on anyone who dared enter her home. And they'd both groaned to find out she'd been cremated and her ashes scattered over a nearby lake.
It was Sam who'd hypothesized Muriel's spirit was still attached to her crystal ball, the seat of her power. They knew the ball was still in the house. All they had to do was go in and destroy it, and not get killed in the process.
Right, piece of cake.
Dean cursed as another book sailed past his head. "We don't find this ball soon, I'm burning the whole house down! You hear that, bitch!" he hollered as he ducked a vase.
"Yeah, I'm sure yelling at her is going to help," Sam panted back, dodging his own barrage of household items. There was no way to completely defend against a vengeful spirit's attack like this, but they'd done what they could, their pockets filled with salt, iron pokers in hand, EMF and shotguns at ready. Sam's thick hair also glistened with salt crystals, "because every Casper this side of Hell likes to get its hands on your neck." None of it, however, had any effect on items thrown at them.
"Well, I'm not gonna be nice to her," Dean returned, then yanked Sam down as what looked suspiciously like a fishbowl flew at them. It smashed wetly against the wall, and Dean very deliberately didn't look to see if there was a goldfish flopping in the ruins.
"I'm not saying that, just—"
Considering it had all been shrieks and wails until now, that stopped them both in their tracks. Dean's eyes moved even as his head stayed still. "Did you just hear…?"
It drifted from the walls, a wondering whisper. Seer. Like me.
Dean felt his brother stiffen at his side and knew Sam had taken another kind of hit.
"Oh, no way, you fortune-telling freak, he's nothing like you. He's not trying to kill people, he's not dead, and, oh yeah, he's not off-his-meds crazy!"
Either she didn't hear him or she was ignoring him. Seer, came the creepy caressing whisper again.
Dean growled, turning to jab at Sam's ribs. "Ignore her, man. Let's find this ball and do a little bowling."
"Yeah." Sam had already regained his equanimity, if a little shakily. It hadn't been that long since the Max Miller thing had put some self-doubts into his head, but they'd talked, they'd dealt, and Dean was pretty sure they were past that now. As long as they could get rid of the Psychic Blunder before she could keep spouting off.
They'd made it through the foyer and living room, back to where Lowder had practiced her trade. Bookshelves full of New Age titles lined three walls, and the fourth held shelves of tools of her trade: candles, crystals, small spirit bags and containers of herbs. The round table that had probably been in the middle of the room for clients was now pushed into the far corner, its top bare.
Great, Dean sighed, a new roomful of ammunition. Didn't the woman have any pillows and feathers? Exchanging a glance with each other, they tacitly split to check the room, Dean heading for the shelf of knick-knacks, Sam a chest of drawers snugged between two bookshelves under a window.
The top row of books from the shelf on his left instantly started flying at Dean one by one. He ducked them automatically, starting to scan the shelves in front of him. Not recognizing the distraction for what it was, not hearing the groan of wood until it became a shriek, cutting through the suddenly malevolent whisper.
Dean turned just in time to see the far bookcase crash down on his brother.
"Sam!" Dean forgot about the ball, Muriel, and pretty much everything else at the sight of Sam going down. He cringed at the muffled thunk of the younger Winchester's head against the carpeted floor, reaching him just as the top of the bookcase slammed to a stop against his upper chest, covering his body from armpits down.
Sam arched against the blow, sprawling back against the floor immediately from the weight. He was coughing, head twisting away, and the sudden relief that he was still moving, still alive, faded almost as soon as Dean slid in to his side. Pained, panicked hazel eyes turned his way as pale lips gaped.
Sam couldn't breathe.
"Okay, just a minute," Dean rushed out on a breath, and quickly levered himself up to his knees. He stuffed his hands under the corner of the bookcase and heaved up.
Nothing. The cabinet was made of some kind of solid dark wood, and it was heavy as a mother. Dean swore under his breath and rolled back into a crouch, putting the muscle of his legs into it.
It didn't move, not a fraction of an inch.
"Hold on, Sam," Dean gritted out, and changed tactics, shifting a little so he could push sideways instead of up. It felt like the heavy piece of furniture moved a tiny bit, but then was stuck again.
Sam gave a soundless groan, mouth opening and closing like a fish. His lips were starting to turn blue.
Dean had seen this once. It had nothing to do with a hunt, just a stupid car accident he and his dad had stopped to try to help with. The guy's car had been smashed front to back, crushing his steering wheel up against his chest. The guy's body was intact, his mouth and nose uncovered, air all around him, but his chest couldn't expand to take it in. They hadn't been able to get him out of all that crushed metal in time, and Dean had watched an otherwise unharmed human being suffocate to death.
He was not doing that again, certainly not with Sam.
"Shut up," he growled, and considered his options. Axe in the car: too much time. A lever to lift the bookcase? The poker maybe. Dean scrambled to his feet, wedging the base of the iron rod under the shelf…and realized he had no fulcrum to push against. A quick scan of the room revealed nothing thick and solid enough, nor could he think of anything in the room beyond. There was just too much space between the bookcase and the floor to use the poker alone. The width of Sam's crushed, now-writhing body.
Oh, God. For the first time, it crossed Dean's mind that he might not be able to do this. He rejected the thought just as quickly. While there was life, there was hope. Sometimes even beyond.
"Hang in there, Sam," he ordered sharply, casting his gaze desperately around to look for another way. Rope was also out in the car. Legs? He braced himself against the nearest wall, planted his feet against the side of the bookcase, and pushed, but nothing happened. Okay, then…pull Sam out, maybe? Dean jumped behind him, taking firm hold of his brother underneath his arms, and applied force.
Sam didn't have the air to cry out, but the choked sound he made had Dean abandoning that idea quickly. God, oh, God, he had to find some—
Sam gurgled again, and this time it was for what Dean wasn't doing instead of for what he was.
It cut through the panicked whirl of Dean's thoughts like a finely-honed knife. He froze, then looked down at Sam. And was transfixed instantly by the terror etched into his brother's face, his need for Dean, and not just to save him.
Dean understood that. Damn it all, he got that too well.
"Sam." Dean dropped back to Sam's side as if his legs had been chopped out from under him, tears stinging at the sight of his sibling's struggles for air.
Sam's eyes calmed at his presence like they had as far back as Dean could remember. His gaze latched on with a lifetime of trust his big brother would make it better, even as he reared uselessly against the weight on his chest, salt sprinkling to the floor around him.
Dean stared at him helplessly. He could keep trying things; it wasn't in him to give up, not on Sam. But Sam was scared.
And if Dean couldn't help free him, there was one thing he could at least do.
He swallowed and cupped the face he knew so well between both his hands, blinking his eyes clear so he could see Sam because this was important. "I'm right here, okay?" His voice choked, and he swallowed hard. "I'm right here, Sammy. Just look at me, keep your eyes on me. I'm here with you." He let go with one hand to fumble under the bookshelves, finding Sam's clawed fingers. Dean took his brother's hand, feeling it seize his, rubbed Sam's cheekbone with his other thumb. "It's gonna be okay," he said, the words shaking, but he put the strength into them that he couldn't into the damned bookcase. "Everything's gonna be okay, I'm here," he said more softly as Sam's eyes started to calm.
Dulling in death.
Sam's mouth moved again, no longer gasping for air, trying to say something. Dean squeezed his hand tighter. "I know, okay? I know. Me, too."
Something sparked in Sam's dying eyes, something hot and fierce. Absolution. Love.
Dean's chest tightened in its own vice. "I know. It's all right, Sammy. I'm here."
And then Sam's eyes fluttered shut, his body going slack.
Dean's throat closed. "I'm sorry," he whispered now that he could, all the volume he could manage. His eyes filled again. It wasn't all right. It wasn't right. Not now, not this way. Not before they even reunited with Dad, or ended the Demon. Not Sam.
The pressure in Dean's chest erupted in a cry of denial. "No." He would not let this happen to his little brother.
Dean let Sam's lax hand go, shoved to his feet. "No way." He had no more left to give that he hadn't given before, but he couldn't just let go. "Not you."
Dean grabbed hold of the bookcase, poured every ounce of his despair and grief and desperation and love into it, and yanked.
It rose, just a little.
Dean groaned long and loud as he strained. His neck was taut with it, arms and back stretched and locked. His heart felt compressed against his chest, eyes bulging with the effort. Didn't matter, none of it mattered with the lifeless form sprawled underneath. Dean grit his teeth harder and pulled.
The bookcase slid, tilted. Finally reaching a tipping point at Sam's ribs, it slid down to rest along one edge.
Maybe he'd just broken all of Sam's ribs on that side, but Dean would take the chance. Jamming his hip and back under the angled bookcase, he reached beneath again, grabbed Sam, and rolled him in the opposite direction.
Sam flopped over like a ragdoll, coming to rest once more on his back. His arm less than an inch from the massive bookcase as Dean dropped it and it crashed to the floor.
Dean didn't even pause to catch his breath, surging around bookcase and brother to fall to his knees beside Sam. Who still lay ashen and unresponsive, chest not moving.
"Sam!" he barked, shaking his brother's shoulder. "Come on, dude, breathe."
Dean growled low in his throat and leaned forward to slap the pale face. "Wake up, Sam!"
And one minute Sam was lifeless and still, the next he was curling into a ball, sputtering in air, coughing so hard that he was choking on it.
"Hey, easy, go easy." Dean lay a hand on his back, patting lightly. He dropped down on his rear, suddenly feeling weak. "Small breaths, Sam. You can do it."
Water was squeezing out of Sam's eyes as he tried to breathe through what was probably excruciating pain. His chest had to be a mass of bruises from the weight of the bookcase, God only knew if the heavy wood had broken anything, not to mention how painful it was first not be able to breathe, then to start again. Dean had experienced that one a time or two himself. He also knew there was nothing but time to help it, and relaxing as much as possible. So he slid closer, knees pressing into Sam's back, doing a careful assessment of ribs, hip, legs as he talked.
"You're doin' good, man. It'll feel better in a minute, just keep it going a little longer, okay?"
Amazingly, nothing seemed broken. When Sam's hand flailed out blindly, Dean gave up the triage and caught it, feeling a painful tweak of déjà vu to before, Sam holding on to him as he faded out. But there was returning strength in the fingers that gripped his this time. Sam pulled his hand in to his chest, half-rolling on it to trap it there. Dean let him do whatever he needed. He was a little too busy feeling his brother's heart beat, listening to him breathe, watching his back flutter with each inhale. Appreciating all the signs of life he usually took for granted but that were proof now he hadn't lost Sam.
Seer, the petulant whine came above them.
Dean's gaze narrowed. The volley of books and housewares had stopped once the bookcase had fallen, but Muriel was probably just enjoying the show. Now that she'd lost her chance at her fellow psychic's company, her displeasure was clear in the dropping temperature and rising electrical charge in the room.
Dean looked around, calculating. "Sorry, Sammy, got some unfinished business here." He let Sam keep his hand a few seconds longer, but used the other one to roll his brother into his own body, wrapped an arm around him, and tugged Sam along the floor. There, clear of the path of any more potential bookcase collapses, he pulled out the box of salt tucked into his jacket and twisted and bent to pour out a ring of salt around Sam.
Sam sounded rough, in pain and weak. But the one word still made Dean smile. He took the moment to lean in, brushing a hand through Sam's hair. "Good thing we salted you so she wouldn't choke you, huh?"
Sam tried to laugh and winced instead. "Ball. 'N safe."
"Safe?" Dean sat up. "What's—oh, a safe? What safe?" He peered suspiciously at Sam. "You have a vision?"
"Seer," Sam confirmed, then raised a shaking hand a few inches to point to behind Dean. "See it ri' there."
Dean turned, frowning, to look at the wall that had been previously hidden by the bookcase. And the safe that was set flush in it.
He turned back to give Sam a grin, smoothed one hand over the rising-and-falling chest before gently freeing the other, then got up to do a little safecracking.
No! Things started flying across the room again.
"Yeah, not listening anymore," Dean muttered, holding up the reclaimed poker in one hand to deflect the blows to his head and ignoring the rest. The tumblers quickly fell into place, and he opened the safe door.
The ball, a small, uneven, cloudy grey crystal that didn't look anything like the stereotyped glass orb, sat inside on a scarf.
Dean pulled it out, turning back to smile at Sam. Sam returned a wan smile from the floor.
Dean moved to stand in front of him. He'd always been more comfortable with Sam at his back. "Hey, Muriel!" he called, holding up the ball. He waited until thin mist formed in front of him, furious glacial-blue eyes staring from its midst. "Catch," Dean said. He threw the ball, hard, then bent to shield Sam.
It slammed against the wooden chest under the window and smashed into a thousand pieces. Dean could feel a few rain on his jacket and jeans and fall off, harmless.
There was a shriek, then an odd whoomph, as if something had just gone up in a flash fire. And then everything fell quiet and still.
Dean pulled in a breath, then sank to the floor beside Sam, hand automatically falling to his brother's shoulder. "Well, that was fun." He turned to scrutinize Sam. "You okay?"
"Sore." Sam was already trying to push himself up on wobbly arms, and Dean resisted him a moment before giving up and helping him sit. He watched and cataloged every wince that crossed the still-pale face.
"I'll bet. Anything broken?"
"Don't think so." Sam tipped his head back against the chest he was propped on and rubbed at his chest. His eyes were on the bookcase a few feet away. "Dean, how did you…?"
Dean was also staring at it, momentarily awash in the memory of the light fading from Sam's eyes, his pained gasps falling quiet. Even with Sam making it out alive, it was a miracle the shelf hadn't broken his ribs, hip, even toes. Apparently, that ginormous body had let the weight distribute evenly enough not to do serious damage. Just a bad scare, and Dean dragged himself back to give Sam a loaded smile. "You think you're the only one who can move a cabinet to save his brother?"
Sam stared at him a moment, then quietly, painfully, started chortling.
Dean joined him. And if there was just a touch of hysteria to both their laughter, well, he figured they were entitled.