Season Two


By Thru Terry's Eyes

Part One

AN: This story is different from most of the others, it has a very heavy, for me, plotline. I think it's a good story, it was a little rushed and I'm trying to fix any major holes so think kindly of me. It does have some disturbing images even for me if any readers are sensitive, so sorry about that. It's very dark for me for a lot of reasons. It was a VS.

The last one I wrote.

I closed a door but I opened a window, balanced myself shakily on the sill and with encouragement, ( :) you know) I spread my wings and flew.

Raptures Climb, 1907

Leviticus Cross stared at his father. "I'm not ready?" he spat in disbelief, his pale blue eyes flashing icy fire. "I'm you're son. I've been at your side since I was seven years old, taken your place when needs be. I've done all you required of me and been an advocate of your teachings!" His voice rose with the pent up anger and frustration of realizing his deepest desire was being ripped from his grasp yet again.

"Do not raise your voice to me!" The Reverend William Cross thundered, allowing himself the luxury of a fist slammed on the desktop, causing papers to scatter in fear like a flight of birds. "You are my son. Remember your place, which is not to question my decisions but to follow them!" His own silvery-gray eyes burned with a flame so intense Leviticus was filled with self-loathing by his inability to meet the older man's flinty gaze.

The elder Cross snatched up a quill, touching the tip to his tongue in a quick jab and then tipping back the top of the inkwell to dip the pen within, making angry meaningless dashes on the remaining papers before him. "I have told you when I feel you are ready to lead the souls of my church I will relinquish them to you with a glad heart." His eyes darted back to his son in a brief, disappointed flick. "That time is not now and you are not ready." He gave his head a small shake and returned his gaze to the papers.

Leviticus' eyes narrowed and he tilted his head back slightly to study his father with an expression the elder man would not have found pleasure in had he bothered to look. "And just when, Father, may I ask, do you think I will be ready if after all these years I still appear unequal to the task?"

William continued to scribble furiously, but his voice picked up the faintest edge. "You are much like your mother even after all my efforts to bend you otherwise. You think I am unaware of you, unnoticing of your actions, of the things I know exist in your heart."

Leviticus felt a coldness crawl through him.

Daring damnation, Leviticus dredged deeply inside of himself to find the courage of defiance. "You don't know me," he snarled, "anymore than you know that pen you grip or the chair you sit on. I've just been a tool for you to use and cast aside when you finish with me-" Fury boiled up and without conscious thought he stepped forward and swept the quill and papers from under his father's face. "Look at me!!" He shouted.

William fell back in shock. "How dare you display such disrespect!" The wheelchair he sat in rolled back from his sudden movement. "Is this your way of showing me you are ready to take on the responsibilities of guiding this church down the path of righteousness? A tantrum that would shame a seven year old child?"

Leviticus recoiled, as shocked by his actions as his father, but for different reasons.

"Leave my presence!!" William roared in the voice that had terrified Leviticus since childhood, that had accompanied the physical punishments necessary to steer the child he had been toward his own path to God, that had verbally beaten the man he had become into a subservient shadow, trampled thoughtlessly beneath first his father's feet and then wheels of the chair the old man had been held captive by for the past ten years.

Fifty-seven years old and Leviticus still feared the bent old man before him. Fifty-seven years of loyalty and service, of being the slave and whipping boy, always working for the day when his father would retire and flock of Raptures Climb would be his. It had been dangled before him like a prize to be won. Every time he could feel it within his grasp, it had been snatched away once again in what he had come to think of as a sadistic game.

He was tired of playing games.

The church of Raptures Climb would never be his. Not as long as his father, William Cross, founder and Reverend of the small religious community, breathed.

"Leave your presence?" Leviticus replied in a growl. He snorted in contempt, "I think not, old man." He seemed to suddenly grow taller, back straightening, his hand slipping into his pocket.

William, eyes blazing, pushed his chair away from the desk and around to his son. "I couldn't admit it to myself," his father began in a low voice, "but I think I always knew this time would come."

"And what time would that be?" Leviticus sneered, feeling the strength he had never been able to summon on his own flow into him as his hand closed on the talisman, its touch against the flesh of his hand a sensation of fire and ice. He felt the very room they stood in begin to grow colder.

"The time I acknowledged that you hunger for power for the sake of power, not for the strength to guide our people to God. I have seen this, the desire for control. That you were too weak to traverse the road to righteousness." William lifted cold eyes and locked them onto his son's gaze.

"Righteousness?" Leviticus barked an ugly laugh. "Your believers have been choked to death, smothered by your self-serving idea of righteousness. I've choked on it every miserable moment of my life. Had it shoved down my throat until I couldn't take another day of it." Leviticus put his foot against the old man's chair and shoved suddenly, propelling the chair backwards, watching as it struck the opposite wall, almost knocking the older man out of the seat.

William cried out, shocked, as much from the impact as the words coming from his son's lips. His gnarled fingers gripped the armrests of his wheelchair, trying to summon the only strength he still had at his command: his voice. "HOW LONG?" he thundered. "How long has this betrayal been going on? How long since you turned your back on our teachings? On God?"

Leviticus stepped nearer, towering over the frail old man he had feared his entire life. "I haven't turned my back on anything!" he retorted hotly. He leaned in close to his father's ear to speak, as though William were not only crippled but deaf, putting his hands over his father's, trapping them there. William grimaced as the cold metal of the talisman clutched in his son's grip dug into the thin flesh of his hand. "If anything you pompous old fool, I've turned toward."

To his father's credit, he did not draw back the closer his son got to him. In the icy-blue of his son's eyes, William saw no warmth, no love, only a frozen emptiness that went on forever. He knew now it had always existed there and he cursed himself for allowing it to grow unchecked, unrecognized.

"I won't let you corrupt this church!" William shouted, struggling to rise, but the powerful body he had once commanded refused to cooperate. He finally slumped back in wretched defeat, staring at his son in growing trepidation.

Leviticus' white hair swirled in an unrestrained mass around his shoulders, his bearing determined, his eyes wild. "I've waited decades for you to give me what was mine! And when that didn't happen I waited for you to die, prayed for it! And it never happened. You just kept on like some never-ending disease! I prayed to your God for the strength to bear it and that never came either." Leviticus straightened, stepping back to viciously kick the chair sideways.

William gasped, crying out as he spilled from the chair, face down onto the floor, mind swirling in disbelief.

"Then one day the strength finally came, Father, but not from God. And I embrace it! I welcome it!" Leviticus spread his arms.

"Satan has called you, Leviticus! Refuse him, come back to me. Come back to the true
path—" William broke off as Leviticus laughed again.

"Back? Back to what? Back to being your slave, your whipping boy? I've found the true path, and guess what, Father? It didn't lead to you! Your congregation belongs to me now, as it should have a long time ago! But fear not, Father, your memory will live on... you'll even be mourned." Leviticus, standing over his father's helpless form, enjoying the thought that William was cowering, held out his hand, the silver talisman spinning from his fingers by a short chain. He closed his eyes, lips moving in a silent invocation.

"No…" William whispered, as the air around him grew colder still, freezing his breath.

The shadowy figure that began to materialize in the air behind his son did not call forth fear, not on his own behalf. On the behalf of the church he had built from nothing, of the town he had founded, of the innocent souls in his charge that he was about to watch the spawn of his own loins betray. He could feel his blood recoiling in his veins.

"You cannot do this!" he cried out, clawing against the floor to try and drag his body forward, reaching out to clutch at the leg of his son's trousers. "I beg of you! Think of what you do!"

Leviticus threw his father a look of contempt and kicked the offending hand away, otherwise ignoring his pleas.

The dark figure now standing solidly at Leviticus' side looked down disinterestedly at the old man lying on the floor then raised his brilliant yellow gaze to the younger man and smiled holding out his hand, head cocked slightly.

"So I guess that means we have a deal?" he said, smile broadening into a grin as Leviticus' hand closed with his.

"NO!!" William screamed.

But the time for compromise was long past.

Raptures Climb, Present Day

The coming of dawn burst through the impossible mists that crawled and drifted through the woods surrounding Rapture's Climb. As the glaring rays of the early sun burned away the dissipating tendrils that shrouded the buildings and streets, the sound of singing began to permeate the air, emanating from a low slung clapboard building with a stubby steeple that squatted at the end of the main street.

Even in the early morning the heat inside the small wooden church hung in a thick, suffocating mass that made it hard to breathe. The few windows present were closed tight, the glass bare of decoration, allowing the sun to burn through with full power.

Hair straggled limply from beneath the chastely fastened hats of the women, long sleeves pulled down to the wrists and fastened firmly in place, high collars buttoned up tightly. Men in long sleeved shirts and jackets, collars buttoned equally tightly, the darkening sprawl of sweat soaking through both jacket and shirt.

Some of the congregation waved fans listlessly but the humid drift of the sluggish air brought no relief. A few flies droned, moving slowly enough to pluck out of the air with a bare hand, but even that expenditure of energy was too much. Their heat-dulled faces glistened with sweat, their eyes lifting slowly to stare blankly at the tall, black clad figure standing at the podium.

Watching as the sunlight crept slowly across the floor, the Reverend Leviticus Cross raised his own eyes and studied his congregation with ill-concealed disgust. He dragged a bony finger across his chin to catch the drop of sweat that rolled down from his temple.

Two more days and it would be done…

At last.

"My God," Dean groaned, wiping the sweat streaming off his forehead away for the umpteenth time, a continuously useless gesture as more sweat immediately ran down into his eyes. "Can we have it a little hotter, please?"

His hands were so slick with sweat he was having trouble gripping the steering wheel. His clothing was plastered to his body and the heat felt like a vise tightening around his head. Everywhere he looked the grass was brown, the ground was cracked, and the old broken tarmac was littered with bubbles of hot tar.

Dust settled heavily on the body of the Impala, turning sleek black into dull brown, and Dean had to keep turning on the wipers to get it off the windshield.

Sam sprawled next to him, melting steadily into the hot black leather of the seats. His long hair so damp with sweat it was curling, Sam rolled his eyes at Dean, but forbore to comment, taking another drink from the lukewarm bottle of water in his hand.

The interior of the Impala, even with all of the windows down, was as oppressive as an oven. The air conditioner, weak at the best of times, had passed on to wherever air conditioners go when they die—suicide, Sam had declared—and the air blowing in through the open windows was like a blast furnace.

The temperature had risen steadily the further they had gone down the badly marked, meandering detour, following vague directions from a gas station attendant regarding getting around the severe road construction that had been going on for approximately the past ten years.

Dean coughed as dust billowed into the window, swearing between hacks.

"You want some water?" Sam asked, holding out an unopened bottle of water, voice slow and heavy, eyelids at half mast.

Dean rolled his eyes and gagged. "Dude, I've drank so much water already, I'm sloshing whenever the car hits a bump and I'm still thirsty. No. I do not want any water! Besides it's warm. I can't drink warm water." He rolled his shoulders and made a sound of disgust. "I want food and an air conditioner set on arctic! Shit." He added flatly, running the side of his hand across his brow to catch the incessant drips.

"Where the hell are we anyway?" he growled, "Didn't that gas station guy say there would be a turnoff after a few miles? Hell, we've gone at least five miles and there's nothing!" He banged his fist on the wheel.

"Maybe we missed it," Sam replied, rolling his head along the seat back, staring up at the roof of the car. "Some of these back roads aren't marked very well."

Dean shot him a dirty look. "Aren't marked very well?" He snorted, "Try friggin' non-existent!" Dean rubbed a hand across his mouth. "I think that guy was full of shit and we're on some wild goose chase."

Sam stared at him. "Why would the guy send us off with the wrong directions? He showed us on the map; we're following the route it showed. Wallford is on this road, it's just taking a while to get there."

"Maybe the guy was bored, gets his kicks sending people the wrong way so when they turn around to get better directions he gets to sell 'em more gas—hell, I don't know! If I had to live in that crap-hole town back there I might do the same thing. Jesus! Iit's too early in the morning to be this damned hot!!"

Dean hated hot weather. In his opinion, seventy-five degrees was optimum but they never seemed to find that; it was always too hot or too cold. Although right now, he would have happily stood naked, ass-deep in a snow bank and embraced a snowman.

He grimaced, pinching the bridge of his nose. The headache that had dogged him for what had seemed like days now, coming and going like the tide, had grown steadily worse with every passing mile. He didn't know if it was the heat or the overall stress of their existence the past few months but suspected the answer lay somewhere in the middle.

His wrists were still scabbed and healing from being hung from a rafter a short time before while a brood of test-tube vampires tried to destroy them. Sam had been writhing in agonized death throes shortly before that, as a victim of a poisoned bullet.

He was tired, dammit.

Sam pushed himself upright with an effort, groaning. The air was almost too thick to move in. His long body, normally under fairly decent control, seemed twice its size, twice its weight, and was operating at twice its normal temperature. It just wasn't worth the effort to shift it about.

"What are you doing?" Dean exclaimed as Sam abruptly drizzled the remainder of his water over his face, allowing it to dribble down his chest and soak in to his shirt.

"Trying to get cool…" Sam droned, closing his eyes and leaning into the air blowing in the window. There was a brief, blissful sensation of cool, but then almost as fast as it came he was dry again. And slightly muddy from the blowing dust.

Dean snickered at Sam's efforts, "Nice try, Sasquatch."

Reverend Cross's pale blue eyes, almost lost under a ridge of bristling white brows, burned with an intense light, sweeping over the congregation, noting among the prayerful the telltale signs of encroaching corruption. He drew in a slow breath as his eyes moved from face to face, body to body.

Here and there were several young women sat with unbuttoned collars, an ankle visible below the trailing edge of a non-descript skirt, casting wanton glances at young men with their shirts also unbuttoned below the collar, sleeves brazenly rolled up, revealing strongly muscled forearms glistening with sweat.

In church.

In HIS church…

In a fury, he seized the heavy, black leather-covered book lying on the podium and raised it.

"And God said unto him!…" he roared into the thick silence, "arraign thyself in the trappings of evil and evil thy shall become!!" His voice thundered through the small wooden structure, eyes lifting from the benches to stare as he slammed the book back down onto the stand with a reverberating crash.

The congregation jumped back as one. Cross leveled a gnarled finger at them, leaning across the podium to single out each member with the twisted digit.

"You whimper and whine that God has turned his back on us! You dare this blasphemy, questioning the purpose of the Almighty and yet you sit there, painted whores, layabouts, SINNERS! You walk in the path of the devil and cannot understand why God has chosen to smite you! That his retribution is just and deserved!

"Since that day, so long ago, when God's messenger came to me and revealed his plan for Raptures Climb, we have fought to keep the blight of the outside world from our lives in the belief that at the end of our time of trial we would be rewarded with the gift of heaven. Do you dare defy his commands, now? So close to the end of our journey?"

Overcome, Cross stormed from the raised stage and grabbed the arm of a young woman in the front pew, dragging her to her feet and spinning her to face the congregation. He caught the back her neck and yanked on her, forcing her head back, baring even more of her throat.

"See this? She bares her flesh to lure in the innocent, encouraging thoughts of lust and carnal desire!" He grabbed the open sides of her collar and pulled them together roughly, "Cover thy shame!" he exclaimed, shoving the girl back into the pew and pointing at her parents, cowering next to her, sudden shame clearly showing on their faces. "And you allow this! This child's guides and guardians!"

He stomped further down the short nave and pulled a young man from the seats, his strength surprising in one of such advanced age. He roughly jerked the boy's rolled sleeves down.

"Do not reveal thy flesh in a manner to lure the innocent!" He reached out and hauled the skirt of the girl in the next pew down her legs to cover them completely.

"Who is the greater sinner? He who sins or he who sees the sin and turns away? Have you forgotten our teachings? Evil will corrupt the minds, bodies, and spirit of this town of Raptures Climb! Will you welcome it with your arms open and unquestioning, turning from our way in this, our final test? When the reward for our steadfastness lays only two days from our grasp?"

He pushed the boy back down, stalking the pews like an animal in search of prey. Church members turned from him as much in fear as shame.

"I say unto you, the realm of God's love is for the righteous!" He stopped at the end of the nave and pointed at the portrait hanging over the entrance door. "William Cross, my father and the father of all we have followed lo these many years, sought the righteous path and turned away from that which would corrupt us."

Turning in a slow circle as he moved back toward the stage, he raised his arms and pointed at the congregation as a whole and as individuals, his gaze burning them all.

"Would he look upon us with disgust and loathing as we become the very things we sought to set ourselves apart from? Or with pride and love for the strength and determination we have shown in the time we are allotted?" he continued. "Would you call down the evil promised us?" He stepped onto the dais, facing away from the group, head lifted, arms upraised toward the heavy wooden cross mounted on the back wall, addressing it.

"That which would bring to an end the very world we have come to know, our homes gone, our lives, our souls, lost to the encroaching evil because we were not strong enough to stave it off!!"

Turning, he swept the group with an angry eye, watching in satisfaction as they guiltily averted their gaze from his.

Overheated back into silence once again, Sam and Dean continued to drive along. After a while, Dean frowned, lifting his shoulder to catch the fresh moisture running down the side of his face with his sleeve. "Dude, we're going uphill. Isn't it supposed to be cooler in the mountains?"

Without opening his eyes or moving any more than necessary, Sam groaned. "This isn't the mountains; we're just driving closer to the sun."

Dean shrugged with his eyes. "You're the one who took the directions, not me," he accused, staring through the dusty windshield at the road ahead. "Do you suppose it's much further ahead?"

Sam had dragged the map off the floorboard and was tracing a blunt fingertip down the crooked magic marker line the gas station attendant had drawn. "There's nothing on this map, it doesn't show this detour, it must have been cut after the map was printed; all we have is what the gas station guy gave us." He crumpled up the map that he usually refolded neatly, to Dean's everlasting annoyance, and tossed it on the floorboards. His head fell back onto the seat, eyes closing. "Let's stop when we get anywhere, take a break."

"God, yes," Dean agreed, "I gotta get some air conditioning, food, a beer and a bathroom, not necessarily in that order. Hopefully, there's somewhere to stop."

Sam glanced over at Dean, "You want me to drive for a while?" He hadn't missed the signs that Dean's head was bothering him.

Dean shook his head, "Nah, dude, civilization can't be that much further."

"Fine, "Sam replied, "but I know you've got a headache."

"It's just this friggin' heat, don't make a big thing out of it. I'll take something when we stop."

Sam had fruitlessly searched the car for any sunglasses and was disgusted to discover there wasn't a pair to be had even though Dean insisted there was always a pair in the glove box. Getting short tempered, as much from the never-ending road that apparently led nowhere as the ever increasing heat, Sam had shoved his hand into the glove box and swept the contents onto the floor to prove he wasn't lying.

That had merely pissed Dean off more.

After a short, but sharp verbal altercation, Sam began to gather up the collection of miscellaneous IDs, odd bullets, a curved dagger from Damascus with a broken grip Dean had been swearing to fix, M&M bags, both empty and full, a dog-eared spell book, two half-melted black candles, a bag of mandrake shavings Sam had been looking for a month ago, and what seemed like at least a hundred other odd bits, some of which he couldn't even identify, that he had pulled from the dash compartment in his fit of fury.

The broken tarmac gradually gave way to just plain dirt and they were forced to drive fairly slowly to avoid choking themselves to death on the resultant dust the passing of the Impala kicked up. It was that or roll up the windows and Dean's absolute threat to shoot Sam if he so much as touched the window handle put a stop to that.

"I'm dyin'," Dean groaned finally, deciding after an extremely protracted silence to grace Sam with his forgiveness for lying about the sunglasses. (Dean knew they were in the car—somewhere—despite Sam's claims to the contrary). "My brain's melting and its gonna run outta my ears." He pressed the heel of his hand into his temple to try to ease the throbbing there. His eyes felt gritty and strained from the constant glare.

Sam blasted him with a dirty look and went back to staring out the window.

They did look at each other as the car suddenly bucked.

"What was that?" Sam asked warily.

Dean didn't answer as it happened again, wincing as though it caused him pain. "No, no, no, nooooo…." He moaned as the temperature gauge moved swiftly to the red mark while he watched. "Don't do this to me…" He stopped the car, seeing tendrils of smoke curling along the edges of the hood.

"What is it?" Sam asked. "Did it overheat?"

Dean ignored him, jumping out of the car with surprising speed and popping the hood, swearing and waving his arms as a white cloud billowed out from the engine.

"Son of a bitch!!" The radiator cap was too hot to touch, as he discovered by stupidly reaching for it when he knew better. He jerked off his soaking t-shirt and used it as a hot pad to twist the cap off, still managing to scald himself as hot steam poured out.

He was vaguely aware of Sam coming to join him and stare uselessly at the ticking engine.

Dean suddenly cocked his head, sniffing the air and then dropped to his knees in the dust to look under the car where greenish fluid was puddling.

"Crap!" he snapped, getting back up and using his t-shirt to wave away the steam. He leaned into the engine and felt along the radiator hose, his hand coming away wet where it encountered a ragged slash.

"We blew the damned radiator hose! Great! Just friggin' great!"

"Can we fix it?" Sam asked.

Dean glared at him. "No. WE can't fix it." He said pointedly. "I could fix it if I had a new hose, which I don't." He grimaced, pressing his fingertips to his forehead.

"You okay?" Sam asked, watching him.

"Yeah," Dean growled. "But my head's gonna split in half if I don't get somewhere cool soon," he admitted in a rare moment of candor. He stomped to the back of the Impala and jerked open the trunk, rummaging through the items stored on the lid of the weapons cache, muttering to himself.

"Look, I know I'm not gonna be any help here, I'm gonna walk ahead a little, see what's around that bend." Sam offered, keeping a safe distance as items were tossed haphazardly from the trunk.

"Yeah, whatever," Dean replied, distracted.

Sam hadn't taken a step when Dean suddenly straightened. "Ten minutes, Sam. Back in ten and I'm not kiddin'." He held out a .45.

Dean might threaten to shoot him if he rolled up the window, but there was no such thing as too much precaution anymore. The world was still full of bad things that jumped out at you when you least expected it and Dean didn't want anymore close calls.

The sight of Sam, his body locked in muscle spasms, growing steadily weaker as poison sucked his life away, and worse, the sight of the empty bed when he'd thought Sam had…

Pain blasted his temple, making him press his hand there again.

"Ten minutes," he repeated in a voice that brooked no argument.

Sam frowned at him, taking the weapon and tucking it in the back of his jeans. "Will you be okay?"

"As long as you're back in ten minutes," Dean replied.

"Ten minutes," Sam agreed, turning away.

Dean nodded. "Ah hah!" he exclaimed, reaching into the clutter. He brandished a roll of duct with elation. "I knew you were in there!"

Sam walked down the dusty road, the sun bearing down with almost physical force. Even walking slowly he was around the bend in a moment and out of sight of Dean and the Impala. To his surprise he was confronted by a weathered sign hanging crookedly from a post.

Raptures Climb welcomes the righteous. Turn away those who would corrupt us.

Cocking his eyebrow, he moved on.

He couldn't miss the wooden signs posted along the edges of the road, hand painted from the look of them. "Do not upon thyself take the sins of others," read one. "Do not walk with evil lest evil begin to lead the way," read another.

They seemed like…warnings…or admonishments. If they had stumbled on a religious town he would have to caution Dean to watch his mouth and behavior.

He paused to read another of the frequently-posted quotes. "Question not the teachings of thy master." He frowned at the next sign as he passed. "Blessed is the chaste woman". He found the markers a little dire and unsettling, wondering idly what sort of religion went along with signs like that.

The few scattered houses he passed were simple, neatly maintained buildings and perched right on the edge of a narrow street he assumed was "The Town." Power and phone lines appeared to be non-existent. There were no cars. There were, however, several horses and a few buggies. No one was on the street. He wondered if they had come upon an Amish or Mennonite community.

At the end of the short street there was a compact white building that was obviously a church of some sort; a blunt steeple with a cross on top made it the tallest building he could see in the small collection.

He paused to glance at his watch, he had already been gone almost ten minutes and it was turn back now or get his ass kicked thoroughly. Dean was balancing on the edge of a razor nerve-wise lately and it was too freakin' hot for a major confrontation. He mopped sweat from his face with his soggy t-shirt and edged closer, drawn by the sound of unmelodious singing, unaccompanied by any musical instruments.

He stretched upwards to peek in the narrow glass window, fingertips just clasped on the edge of the frame, concentrating so hard on what he might see he didn't pick up on the sounds he should have heard.

Something hard caught him with great force right behind the ear. He went down without a sound, crumpled on the hot dirt.

And he stayed there.

Dean peeled the hot, sticky tape from his fingers as he tried for the third time to wrap it around the radiator hose. The engine of the car was so damned hot he couldn't stand to be under the hood for more than a few seconds.

His head was pounding so hard that when he stood, he stumbled back dizzily, ending up ass down in the dusty road clutching his head while the immediate world spun around him.

He sat there for several minutes, eyes closed while his head and stomach crawled back to their usual positions.

This was not good. Blearily, he rolled to his hands and knees, reaching out to use the bumper of the Impala to shakily regain his feet. He groped back to the driver's seat and sank into the blazing interior with his head down between his knees until he could stand to open his eyes.

He fumbled for the water bottle Sam had offered earlier and cracked it open, first pouring a goodly amount over his head and neck and then, warm or not downing several swallows. He let his head hang again, balancing elbows on knees, feeling the water trickle down the bare skin of his chest and back and drip to the ground between his boots. His skin was so hot, he was surprised it didn't sizzle.

His eyes focused on the face of his watch and he jerked as he realized Sam had been gone over half an hour.

"Shit!" he snarled. Pushing to his feet as adrenaline pumped into his system he turned in the direction Sam had gone but could see nothing beyond the bend in the road.

He walked a short distance and yelled Sam's name. In the thick air the sound carried about seven feet before it, too, succumbed to the heat and collapsed to the ground.

Dean came back to the car, groped for the shirt he had tossed in the backseat earlier and shoved his arms down the sleeves, fumbling a few buttons through the holes. He swiftly locked up the car, swearing. He jerked out his .45 and a decent blade that he shoved in his boot sheath and slammed the trunk lid down. Stomping down the road, angrily rolling up his sleeves, he wasn't sure what was causing him more pain, his headache or his worry.

Rounding the bend, he stopped dead at the sight of the old sign mounted next to the road, frowning.

"Rapture's Climb?" he read out loud. "What the hell kind of a name is that?"

There must be some kind of a town up ahead, maybe Sam had found a cold place to hide. His initial relaxation at the thought burned away as he considered if that was the case, why the hell hadn't Sam come back to let Dean in on the secret?

The answer was simple.

He would have, as long as he was able.

Looking down, he could make out the prints of Sam's boots in the dirt. Sweat dripped from his chin and splashed into the closest boot shaped depression. Swiping his forehead with an equally sweaty forearm, a grim look on his face, he stalked down the road following Sam's clearly marked trail.