A/N: May 18 marks more than just the anniversary of Mt. St. Helens. It's also my ten month anniversary on fanfic, and I realized I just passed the half a million posted words mark, so I thought I'd celebrate with a story. The last two anniversary stories were hurt Sam, this one, for 500,000 words, had to be hurt Dean. I planned on a one-shot, but it was a little long and had a nice break, so I decided to post as two chapters. They're both here, so no cliffhanger to wait on. Thank you everyone for reading, reviewing and all your support over the months! Special thanks to beta Abni and Dennis. Title and quote come from Horace's Epistles. Set Season Two, after "Playthings." Not Death Fic!
Each Day That Breaks
Inter spem curamque, timores inter et iras
omnen crede diem tibi diluxisse supremem:
grata superveniet quae non sperabitur hora.
The sun was setting, one of those truly spectacular sunsets that only the West seems to have. The clouds moved from a gentle tangerine, to pink, to bright orange, finally to a deep red streaked with charcoal. The sun had been shining off and on all day with storm clouds threatening a sudden downpour. The highway had been mostly empty, only the occasional semi passing the Impala. It was almost like they were alone in the world, just the Impala drifting down the highway, the changing music on the stereo and the sun and clouds, nothing else. Emptiness, vast emptiness.
The tape ended with a click, Sam yanked his attention back to the car and the road. I hope I didn't run anyone over. He glanced around, the broken hills rose around him like ancient castles tinged with the blood of the setting sun. He punched the tape out of the stereo and dug around in the box for another.
"What are you putting on?" Dean asked, his voice heavy with sleep.
"Uh." Sam looked at the tape. "It looks like a mix tape. It says Dean's number one?"
"Good choice." Dean sighed softly, and shifted. "How long till we stop?"
"About twenty minutes. I saw a sign."
Sam focused back on the road. "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath gave way to "Cowboys from Hell" by Pantera, Sam frowned at the stereo but didn't turn it down. He opened his window a tiny crack, the rush of air muffled the guitar a little. He sighed. A group of pronghorn antelope were walking along the fence beside the road. Antilocapra Americana, his mind dredged the name up. He smiled. "Only member of its species on earth, Sam, remember that," his father said every time they saw the animals. Sam chuckled to himself, it had a slightly bitter sound. Yeah, dad, and you said school would fill my head with useless information? When is that tidbit ever going to be important?
The exit he'd been looking for came up and he steered the car down the steep ramp. Several minutes later he pulled up in front of the hotel. He checked to make sure Dean was still asleep and walked into the office. The pretty clerk looked up when he walked in, a bright smile on her face. "Hi, Sheila," he said, reading her name tag. "I had reservations."
"Great! Your name?"
"Deluxe double king suite?"
"Awesome! How long will you be staying?"
"I'm not sure, probably several days at least." Sam signed the registration and she handed him the key cards, he looked at them with a smile. We usually don't stay at hotels with key cards. He walked back to the car and slid quietly into the seat. Following the directions Sheila had handed him with the keys, he pulled up in front of their room. Sam grabbed their bags out of the trunk and carried them into the room. It was on the ground floor, at the end of the building. Sam opened the curtains and looked at the view, a huge sweep of land, miles of red earth and sparse vegetation, finally running into a huge red and black mountain.
With a sigh he turned from the view. He checked through the room quickly, the kitchen had a full-size fridge and oven, a microwave and a toaster oven. There was china in the cupboards and silverware in the drawer. All sparkling like it was brand new. Good. This will do. He grabbed some clothes, dropped them in the bathroom and turned on the water in the spa tub, fussing for a minute to make sure the temperature was right. As he sat on the edge of the tub, he put his head in trembling hands, fighting the ache in his chest, the lump in his throat that made breathing difficult. He scrubbed the tears off his face, ran his hands through his hair and stood.
Sam walked back through the room, pasting a bright smile on his face. He grabbed one of the chairs from the table and used it to prop open the door. After making sure it wouldn't close, he walked out to the car and opened the passenger door.
"Dean?" Sam put his hand on his brother's shoulder.
"Yeah." Sam pulled the blanket off Dean and tossed it into the driver's seat.
"Good. How's the room?"
"Not bad," Sam said as he gently swung Dean's legs out of the car.
"The one last night smelled weird."
"I know. That'll teach me to get a room at Red's Place."
"Yeah, you did. Ready?" he asked as he pulled Dean's arm over his shoulders and slipped his arm around Dean's waist. Dean nodded and Sam pulled him up, then waited as Dean sagged against him, trembling, his head turned against Sam's shoulder, teeth grinding together audibly.
With a deep breath Dean stood up, most of his weight still balanced on Sam, eyes tightly closed, tears running down his cheeks. "Let's go."
"Sure." Sam helped Dean into the bathroom, setting him down on the chair by the tub.
Dean opened his eyes as Sam turned off the water. "Is that a Jacuzzi?" Dean asked.
Sam smiled. "Yeah, I thought…" He swallowed.
"Good idea, Sammy. Love a Jacuzzi." Dean looked out the door at the room. "This is a really nice room."
"Yeah, two kings, full kitchen, Jacuzzi, private patio, thirty-two inch plasma TV, DVD player."
"Not the kind of place where they chain up the remotes."
"No," Sam said with a smile.
"Well, at least I'll die in style."
Several Days Earlier
The sun lit the landscape, the flat light of mid-day creating a shimmering mirage covering the barren landscape with the gentle ripples of a silver lake. The soft haze in the air was caused not by water, but by drifting dust particles, little bits of the land tossed in the air by the passage of the Impala. Sam glanced out the window, back towards the archaeological dig they had just left, the haze was thicker there, the dust hanging over the excavation like a blanket.
"Why are we out here again?" Dean asked, grabbing the bottle of water off the seat.
"Because a friend of mine called and asked for help," Sam answered. "And he's paying us."
"Paying us is good." Dean grinned, then looked over at Sam with a frown. "Why did he call you? How does he know…?"
"What we do?" Sam smiled. You really don't want to know, Dean, trust me. "I met him through a friend that did a field school."
"He went out on a dig and worked for the summer. Kevin was one of the staff."
"That still doesn't explain how he knows what we do, Sammy."
Sam shrugged. "There was an incident I helped him with."
"Incident? What does that mean?" Dean's frown deepened.
"Nothing." Sam shrugged again. Just let it go, Dean, I'm not telling you. All you'd do is frown and lecture.
"That's our turn, Dean." Sam pointed at an upcoming dirt road. "He said that's where the burial was."
"I was there too." Dean turned the car down the road. It slowly narrowed until it stopped at the edge of an arroyo. Dean parked the Impala, and they got out. They scouted around the site with the EMF meter, getting several strong readings. "They took the body?" Dean asked as they stopped at the edge of a trench running across the site and down into the arroyo.
"He said they excavated it." Sam frowned at the meter. "There's something here." Sam hopped down into the trench. "It's strongest here."
"We got hits all over the site."
"Yeah, but it's strongest here." Sam dug around in the loose dirt with his toes. "There are some bones, they must have left them…"
"When they panicked and ran?" Dean grinned down at him. "I'll get the stuff, be right back." Dean disappeared and returned a minute later with the box of salt, can of gas and matches. He dropped down beside Sam. "I want to check out a couple of those other spots. Can you handle this?"
"I'm pretty sure I can handle it, Dean," Sam said, handing him the EMF meter.
"Okay, I'll meet you back at the car."
Sam smiled as he watched his brother wander down the trench and into the arroyo. "Don't get lost."
"Bite me," Dean's voice drifted back to him.
Sam grinned and poured the salt over the bones. Not really good for an archaeological site. He pulled himself out of the trench before lighting them. They flared briefly, then died out with an odd poof of black smoke. That's strange. Never seen anything like that before. Sam walked back to the car, dropped the salt and gas can back into the trunk and leaned on the car, letting the breeze cool him off. He wandered around the site, looking for any other evidence that might have led to the hauntings. Sam stopped in the shade of a small tree, enjoying the brief respite from the heat, he closed his eyes with a happy sigh. An odd noise caused him to open his eyes. "Dean?" He looked around, his brother was nowhere to be seen. "Dean?" he called louder.
He jogged back to the trench and followed it down to the arroyo. His brother's footprints were clear in the sand of the dry streambed. Sam noticed that Dean's footprints led up the bank of the arroyo. He followed them to the top and looked around. "Dean?" he shouted, his voice echoing in the empty landscape. "Dean!" A small alarm was ringing in his head, not panic. Not yet. He's fine. He's just following a lead. Sam followed Dean's footprints along the edge of the bank, glancing down at the dry streambed below for any sign of his brother. "Dean!"
A small striped lizard shot out from under a juniper, dashing across the landscape. A family of quail skittered under a yucca, Sam heard a raven calling from the mesa in front of him. "Dean!" Something caught Sam's eye. Dean had stopped and paced around in a circle. Sam looked closer at the ground, a broken piece of pottery lay in the center of the circle. "Dean!" Sam shouted as he went back to following Dean's footprints. The alarm had finally given way to panic. Sam spotted a small indentation ahead of him. The path he was following led towards it. He turned from the edge of the arroyo, but something in the streambed below caught his eye.
"Dean!" Sam looked over the edge, Dean lay sprawled, unmoving, on the ground below. "Dean!" Sam slid down the bank and ran to his brother. He quickly ran his hands along Dean's arms and legs, making sure nothing was broken. "Dean?"
"Sam?" Dean groaned.
"Hey, are you okay?" Sam asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Dean said as he tried to turn over. Sam grabbed his arm and eased him onto his back. Dean had a small gash on his head, blood trickling down his face.
Dean frowned as he sat up, Sam put one hand on his back to support him. "I'm not sure. I fell."
"You fell?" Sam stood and pulled Dean to his feet.
"Yeah, I was following something. The EMF freaked out on me, then…huh…" He looked at Sam. "Then…"
Dean frowned. "Let me think, Sammy." They walked slowly towards the car. Sam was watching Dean out of the corner of his eye. His brother's movements were uncoordinated, clumsy. He was dragging his feet in the sand as they walked. "Then…" Dean stopped at the trunk. "Then…" He fumbled with the keys.
"I'll drive, Dean." Sam took the keys from his brother. Dean wandered to the passenger seat and dropped in without another word. "Dean?" Sam looked over as he slid behind the wheel.
"I'm thinking, Sam."
"Don't hurt yourself."
"Jerk," Sam answered, relief flooding over him. See? All that panic was unnecessary, he's fine, just a bump on the head. We'll stop and get dinner. Food and a shower and he'll be fine in the morning.
The sound of the bathroom door slamming woke Sam. After a steak dinner, Dean seemed better. They returned to the room and settled in for the night, Sam surfed the net looking for another hunt. Dean crashed on the bed to watch "Heavy Metal." When Sam glanced at his brother around ten, Dean was sound asleep. Sam turned off the television and grabbed a book, an hour of quiet reading without the TV was a rare occasion, not to be wasted. He'd fallen asleep within half an hour, the words blurring together on the page as the book dropped to his chest.
Sam sat up, the book falling off his chest. He glanced at Dean's bed and reached to turn the lamp off. The sounds of violent retching stopped him. He walked to the door. "Dean?" The retching continued. Sam opened the door, Dean was huddled against the toilet, shivering. Sam grabbed a washcloth, wet it and crouched down beside his brother, placing the washcloth on Dean's neck.
"Thanks," Dean muttered several minutes later. "Dinner didn't agree with me, I guess."
Sam smiled. "I'm not surprised. Think you can get up?"
Dean nodded and let Sam pull him to his feet. "I'm okay." Dean walked towards the door, he stopped and leaned a hand on the doorframe. "I'm okay," he repeated, before Sam could say anything.
Yeah, I'm believing that less and less. Sam walked behind Dean, his brother seemed unsteady on his feet. Dean dropped onto the bed with s groan. "Is there a coke?"
"Sure." Sam grabbed a can out of the small fridge and handed it to Dean. "I think we should get you checked out tomorrow, Dean. You were unconscious when I found you, and now nausea? You could have a concussion."
"Doesn't feel like one," Dean said as he stretched out on the bed. "It's just bad food."
Sam sank onto the bed and put a hand on Dean's forehead, his brother batted it away. "No fever, your pupils look okay, but I still think we should…"
"I'm fine, Sammy. Go back to bed, sorry I woke you. I feel better now." Dean closed his eyes, when Sam didn't move Dean opened one eye and looked at him. "Go away, I'm fine."
"Right," Sam huffed. He paced over to his bed. He's fine, it was just steak, onions, fries, whipped cream, apple pie, beer…Sam stopped himself, he an odd sense of impending doom. He looked over at Dean, his brother's hand was clenched around the remote so tightly Sam could see his knuckles. "Dean?"
"I'm okay," Dean said through clenched teeth. "Go to sleep."
Fine, Dean. You're going to the nearest clinic in the morning. Sam picked up his book and settled down to read, keeping an eye on Dean until his brother went to sleep.
"I'm okay, Sam," Dean said as he put a hand on the table, steadying himself as they were leaving the motel.
"I'm okay, Sam," Dean said when he grabbed the table at breakfast and closed his eyes for several seconds.
"Yeah." Uh huh, as soon as I see a clinic we're pulling off.
"I'm okay, Sam," Dean said when they stopped to get gas and he disappeared to the bathroom for five minutes.
"Yeah." Next town is fifty miles. We're stopping no matter what.
"I'm okay, Sam," Dean said as they were leaving the diner and his legs buckled for a moment. Sam grabbed him. Dean leaned against Sam for a minute, trembling, his eyes closed.
"Yeah." Fifty miles.
"I'm okay, Sam," Dean said as he pushed a tape into the stereo with a shaking hand.
"Yeah." Twenty miles, only twenty miles. I saw a hospital sign.
"Sam! Take the wheel!" Dean shouted five minutes later. Sam reacted to the order without thinking. Dean pitched to the side, banging his head against the window, his muscles contracting. Sam slid across the seat, got his foot on the brake and pulled the car off the road.
"Dean!" He's having a seizure. "Dean!" Sam pulled Dean against him, trying to keep his brother from hurting himself. It ended as abruptly as it began. Dean relaxed against him. "Dean?" Sam shook him. "Dean?"
"Cold," Dean whispered.
"Okay," Sam opened his door and got out, then pulled Dean across the seat. He grabbed a blanket from the back seat and tucked it carefully around Dean.
"I'm not okay, Sammy," Dean said as Sam pulled the car back onto the highway.
"Yeah." You think? No shit, Dean..
Sam paced across the room. Twenty-nine steps to the window, turn, twelve steps to the wall by the door, turn, thirty-nine steps to the desk in the center of the ER and back again. They'd arrived five hours before. The ER waiting room had been crowded, and Sam feared a long wait. Leave it to Dean to hurry it along. His brother had collapsed as the nurse was taking his blood pressure. They'd been whisked back, a doctor seeing them almost immediately. Then the long round of testing had begun. Blood draw, EKG, CAT scan, Dean was currently getting an MRI, since they could find nothing to explain his increasing pain, loss of consciousness and seizures.
"Doc? How's my brother?"
The doctor shook his head. "We're admitting him for further observation."
"Did you find anything?"
"We need to run further tests. They are taking him to his room, you can wait there, if you like."
"Thank you, but doctor…"
"We'll know more in a little while." The doctor left before Sam could ask another question.
"Thank you," Sam said to the doctor's back. Well, that's helpful. Why can't they ever say they don't know? Further tests. Yeah, and what will they show? Nothing! Sam was beginning to suspect Dean's symptoms were supernatural in origin. They came on so quickly, there's nothing wrong with his head. Nothing they can find. Sam asked for Dean's room number, stopped by the Impala to get his laptop bag and then headed to Dean's room.
"What took you so long?" Dean asked, his voice raspy and weak.
Oh god, Dean. Dean had dark circles under his eyes, his hands were visibly trembling where they rested on the blanket. An IV snaked its way into his arm, a tube ran under his nose, a heart monitor beeped softly behind the bed. "Stopped by the car to get the computer and dad's journal," Sam said, sitting in the chair beside the bed.
"Looking for a new hunt? Good idea."
"No, I thought I'd see if I could find out what was wrong with you." Sam set the computer on the tray and opened their father's journal.
"You think you can find something?" Dean's voice had a sarcastic edge to it. "No one else can."
"They aren't looking where I will. I think this is supernatural. Something happened to you before you fell, Dean. You said the EMF freaked out."
"You know what Sherlock Holmes said?" Sam looked at his brother.
Dean sighed. "I bet you're going to tell me."
"When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains no matter how improbable is the answer."
"That actually makes sense." Dean smiled. "I trust you more than the doctors anyway. Can you hand me the remote? It fell off."
"Sure." Sam handed Dean the remote and leaned back in the chair, flipping through the journal and another reference book he'd acquired. Dean was watching a "Scooby Doo" marathon, chuckling softly every time Velma uttered a "jinkies."
"Sammy," Dean called out in a strangled voice. Sam looked up as the seizure started, grabbing his brother's outstretched hand. The heart monitor was beeping wildly as air was forcibly expelled from Dean's lungs. "Hurts."
"Sorry," Dean said as the spasms stopped.
"It's okay, Dean," Sam said, watching Dean brush the tears off his face with his free hand.
"Yeah." Dean shifted, but didn't let go of Sam's hand. "I can feel them coming on. I get a little shock in my head right before they start."
"How long were they going on?"
Dean shrugged. "The one in the car was the first bad one. I'd had a couple little ones, but mostly dizzy spells before that."
"You don't seem to be having as many."
"No, but they hurt more." Dean looked at Sam. "My heart feels funny too, kind of, I don't know, fluttery."
"The pain's getting worse, isn't it?" Sam asked without needing an answer.
Dean grimaced. "Nah."
"Uh huh." You are lying to me, Dean.
"Have you found anything?"
"Nothing yet," Sam said, flipping through the reference book one handed. "I need to get onto the internet…"
"They probably have wifi in the cafeteria."
"Yeah…" But that means I have to leave.
"Sam? I'll be okay, better now than later." Dean smiled his lopsided smile. "Bring me back a coffee."
"Go, just don't be gone too long, okay?"
"Yeah." Sam gave Dean's hand a squeeze, grabbed his laptop and headed towards the cafeteria. He ordered himself a latte, sat down and opened the computer. Rather than surfing for the information and reading it there, he started saving pages to the desktop so he could research in Dean's room. After half an hour of work he headed back.
A doctor was standing beside Dean's bed when Sam reached the room. He turned as Sam entered. "I'm Dr. Bilagody," he said with a smile.He was tall with native features, wearing a heavy turquoise and silver bracelet on one wrist.
"That's my brother Sammy."
"It's Sam. Have you found anything, doctor?"
"Tell him what you told me," Dean said, looking at the doctor.
"We haven't found anything," Dr. Bilagody said softly.
"Except that I'm a dead man."
"I didn't say that," the doctor chided.
"Yeah, right, I…" Dean clenched his jaw. "Sammy?" Sam grabbed Dean's hand and held it as spasms wracked his brother's body. Sam glanced at the doctor, the man was frowning in concentration. "Sam…" Dean convulsed again and relaxed, eyes closed.
"Dean?" Sam put his hand on Dean's shoulder.
"You were supposed to bring me coffee," Dean said without opening his eyes.
Sam smiled. "If the doc says it's okay, I'll run get one right now." He glanced at the doctor, the man nodded. I know that look, it's the "it doesn't matter now" look. Shit. Dean? Hang on. "I'll be right back." When Sam returned with the coffee, the doctor was gone and Dean had the TV turned to a "Top Model" marathon. "I'm worried now," Sam said, setting the coffee down on the tray.
"Why?" Dean looked at him with a frown.
"You're watching 'Top Model'?" Sam grinned.
"I'm watching a show about hot young model wanna bes and you're worried?" Dean shook his head with a smile. "Find anything?"
"I saved a bunch of information, I'm going to go through it now."
"Thanks, Sammy." Dean turned his attention back to the TV.
Sam shifted close enough to the bed so he was in contact with Dean and opened the laptop, sifting through the pages he'd saved. Nothing. Page after page was rejected. Wait, what's that. He opened the page he'd just closed. Black spots? He read through the information again. "Dean?"
"Do you remember what happened?"
"When I fell?"
"Yeah, did all the thinking accomplish anything?"
Dean looked over at him. "I was walking along the riverbed…"
"You went up the bank."
"Yeah, I did, the EMF and I had a hunch, just a feeling, you know? The meter…" Dean stopped and held out his hand. "Here it comes."
"Dean?" Sam grabbed his brother's hand, and waited as the seizure passed.
"Those suck." Dean opened his eyes. "The meter lit up on a piece of pottery, then…huh…I heard something. I think. There was the shallow depression, the sound had come from there. The EMF freaked out. Never seen it like that. I stepped into the depression…"
"And I woke up face down in the sand."
"You don't remember falling?"
"I…" Dean closed his eyes. "I ran. I just ran, not caring where, just away. I knew I had to get away, there was something bad."
"I think I know what happened." Sam looked back at the screen. "Listen to this, it's from a doctor in Canada. 'The patient claims to have stepped into a shallow hole in the woods. Within hours after the incident severe nausea, dizzy spells, pain and lack of coordination began. Within twenty-four hours, the patient began suffering seizures, severe pain and loss of consciousness. Forty-eight hours after exposure, frequency of seizures had diminished, with an increase in severity.' "
"What does it say after that, Sam?"
"Read the rest, damn it."
Sam sighed. " 'Seventy-two hours after exposure, seizures had almost disappeared. Pain increased, as well as lack of coordination.' Listen to this, Dean, it's a little further down. 'It appears as if the patient's body short-circuited, the "electrical systems" slowly malfunctioning.' There's more. The doctor investigated other similar occurrences, and he found that all the victims had stumbled into a shallow hole or depression. He researched and came up with the idea of 'black spots'."
"It's a place in the earth that holds dark forces. The concept is actually common in folklore throughout the world."
"How far did they malfunction, Sam?"
"The patients?" Dean snapped. Sam looked away. "That bad, eh?"
"I'll figure it out, Dean."
"Can they do anything for me here?" Dean shook Sam's arm when he didn't answer. "Sammy?"
"They can control the pain."
"So that's a big fat no. We're outta here. Let's go check out."
"Do it, Sam, or I'll pack up and go without you. I'm not dying here."
"You're not dying." Oh god, Dean.
"Yeah, I am." Dean looked at him with a smirk. "Especially if I don't get out. Get me out of here."
Sam walked to the nurses' station and spoke with the nurse on duty. She shook her head as he relayed Dean's request, finally huffing and informing Sam she would call Dean's doctor. Dean was pulling the leads of the heart monitor off when Sam got back to the room.
"What are you doing?"
"I told you, I'm leaving. Help me up." Dean held his hand out.
"Let's wait for the nurse to pull the IV, okay?"
"What's going on?" the doctor asked from the doorway.
"We still don't know…" Dr. Bilagody said.
"You know I'm dying. So I'm not dying here. I'm leaving."
"Dean, would you just wait a minute?" Sam snapped. "Have you found anything?" he asked the doctor.
The man shook his head. "No, I'm sorry."
"Sammy found something," Dean said, turning off the IV. "Black spots, and you can't help. So, we're going."
"Black spots?" the doctor looked at Sam, meeting his eyes. "I understand. Wait a minute," he said to Dean. "Let me get the nurse before you hurt yourself. Sam, can I speak with you?" The doctor motioned Sam into the hallway. He spoke with the nurse and she went into Dean's room, then the doctor turned to Sam. "I understand," he repeated.
"You do?" Sam asked skeptically.
"I was raised…" Dr. Bilagody stopped and shrugged. "Doesn't matter, but my grandfather was a medicine man. I know about black spots. I recognized the symptoms, but most people…"
"Don't believe, yeah, I know. Is there any way to save my brother?"
The doctor was shaking his head. "I've never seen anyone survive…"
"But?" I heard a really big but there, doc.
"There's a legend. There's a sacred spring in the mountains, it's guarded by one of the dark beings who created those spots. If a warrior can defeat the guardian and get the victim to the spring, he's released from the hold of the dark beings."
Sam looked at the doctor for a long moment. "Where's the spring?"
To Be Continued