AN: Thank you
Body trembling, crying out for the precious moisture, head spinning with need, Dean stared at Cross for a long few seconds, his survival instincts shrieking. His eyes slid closed and he forced the trembling of his head into a side to side movement, dropping it down to his arm, too weak to hold it upright any longer.
"No." It was a hoarse whisper, barely loud enough to be heard even in the tomb-like silence of the room but it carried every last ounce of defiance Dean could dredge from his soul. "NO!"
"S…screw…you," Dean rasped. He refused to look up, unsure he could turn away again.
"I see." Cross replied, rising. He poured the water in the dirt next to where Dean's face was pressed into his arm.
Dean jerked as a few stray drops splashed him.
Cross gave a curt nod to his thus far nameless assistants. "Bring him in."
Dean jerked his head up at that, heart thudding as the two men left the room, returning almost immediately dragging a limp form on its knees through the dirt. Releasing their grip, they allowed the body to fall unceremoniously to the ground with a loose-limbed thud.
Dean cried out as Sam's face came into view, eyes closed, a dark bruise forming over his right eye.
"Perhaps you'll feel differently now…" Cross said, returning to crouch in front of Dean with another dipper of water.
Sam frowned as he made a few scribbled additions to his rough sketch. "Something like this?" He asked, holding the paper out to William, Thomas, and several others who had gathered around to see.
William looked up. "Yes, it looks very much like that," pleased his description of the talisman had been accurate enough for the younger man to produce such a likeness. There were assenting nods from the others. "He wears it on a chain, flaunts it as though it were a medal to be proud of."
He gave the paper back to Sam. "I have only seen him call the demon with it once, but he will summon it again for the passage of the gift. Have you seen such a thing as this before?"
Sam cringed inwardly at the idea of Dean's burned corpse being given as a gift, but right now that didn't matter. He nodded absently. "Not in person and not exactly like that, I just can't remember where or when…" he smacked the table with a fist. "Dammit!"
He glanced at his watch; they were running out of time. "You said they pulled the car into town. Are they guarding it?"
Thomas looked surprised, "From what would they guard it? We have no knowledge about such things. Leviticus' followers know of our allegiance to his father, but we are no threat to him. Many of the others who follow him do so out of fear. But, yes the…car…is in the main street. Why?"
"I need to get to the… stuff… stored in it." Sam replied. "See what I can find that might help us here." He took a deep breath, "I don't know if I can stop this, but I have to find Dean. He has to know he's not alone, that we're trying to figure a way out of this. I need your help."
There was general look of horror that passed over each face. "He commands a demon!"
Sam turned toward the speaker. "My brother and I have fought demon's our whole lives!" He snapped. "You think I don't know what you're up against?" Sam ran angry eyes over the group huddled in trepidation around him. "You can lie down and wait for this to happen, you can sit back and hope that someone will come along to do your dirty work and save your asses, or you can band together and help me try to end this before it's too late. If I'm stuck here, if Dean is, then I know one thing—he won't go down without a fight. And if we are going down… dammit, we're going together!"
Sam stopped and shook his head. These people were so bound by their own fear they couldn't even try to help themselves to save their own existence. "Help or don't help," he finally said, unable to keep the frustrated contempt from his voice. "I'm going now whether you do or not."
He grabbed the drawing and stuffed it in his pocket, turning to leave.
"Wait," Thomas said, putting a hand on Sam's arm. "What do you need us to do?"
Sam followed Thomas down a tunnel and out through a door that opened onto an alley a few hundred feet from where the Impala had been dragged and now sat, her dark body reflecting the moonlight.
Stepping out from the relative cool of the tunnel into the stifling heat outdoors was almost staggering and Sam felt sweat soak him almost instantly.
"Is it always this hot?" he couldn't help whispering, wiping his upper lip.
Thomas shook his head, glancing down the street where bulky vehicle sat in the middle of the road. "No, this was one of the signs Leviticus spoke of, a great wave of heat would envelope the town as a foretelling of what was to come, innocence would be lost in a blaze of fire." Thomas cut his eyes at Sam, "Heloise Crane, today in the church."
Sam made a face. He moved further back into the shadow between the buildings, wanting to have some answers to this puzzle. "If he had omens to watch for why did he… kill anyone else who came into town?"
Thomas stepped back next to Sam, shaking his head. "In the beginning, Leviticus told us he had been visited by a messenger of God and that we were to be tested for our faith. We had no reason to think he would lie to us. We didn't understand his nature then. Nor now, truth be told. He said the messenger had come to take William as well and that he had passed in the night. He's buried on the hill next to his wife. At least his coffin is."
Thomas sighed, "It was not until the end of the next cycle that we discovered the truth, much of that first week was spent in prayer and fear. We had no idea what to expect."
"What did happen?" Sam asked softly.
"I'm really still not sure what happens, exactly. It's like going to sleep without realizing it, then suddenly… you're aware again, of the world around you. Life, even for that brief period had to go on." Thomas stared out into the street, moonlight glistening on the tear that suddenly rolled down his cheek. When he spoke again, there was a quiver in his voice.
"Then came the first of the innocent who passed our way." Thomas turned away from Sam, voice growing thick. "And we believed… and we helped Leviticus…" He smashed a fist against his mouth angrily, forcing himself under control. "We were such fools," he choked.
After a moment he went on, anger evident now. "It was on the last day of the second cycle that we discovered William Cross lived. Leviticus had imprisoned him in the cellar and it was in this discovery that we found out about the caverns that run below the streets. William told us the truth of that night and several others took him into the tunnels, sealing up the entrance to the cellar. He has dwelt there ever since."
"Hasn't Leviticus tried to find him? Tried to find you?" Sam was at a loss to explain such a lack of action under circumstances likes these.
"To what end?" Thomas replied logically. "He could do us no more harm that had already transpired. We cannot die; we are trapped like this until the curse runs its time. We were no threat to Leviticus and his followers. Our time here is so brief; we could do nothing to save the unfortunates who stumbled upon us. It is as William said. Once they have crossed into Rapture's Climb they are unable to leave. We tried to aid the next who found us but all roads led back to here. And still they fell into Cross's evil hands."
Sam leaned against the clapboard siding of the building they stood next to, feeling sick. "How many?" he asked.
Thomas turned to regard Sam with a look so terrible Sam thought he would break under it. "You and your brother will make sixteen." He stated flatly.
Sam's mouth tightened and he pushed away from the building. He had to get to the Impala. An idea had crept into this mind ever since Leviticus talisman had been described to him. It was too bizarre to really be given serious consideration which made it perfect for them. "Let's see what we can do to prevent that." He peered around the corner again, "Let's go."
He and Thomas crossed the streets with relative ease. Thomas appeared to be right: the Impala was unguarded. Sam crept down the passenger side of the car stretched out his hand to grasp the handle and push the release button.
Which didn't move.
Son of a bitch! Sam swore to himself. It was locked. Of course it was locked! Dean would never leave the car unlocked no matter the circumstances! Shit!
Well, there was nothing for it. Sam reached into his pocket and grabbed his wallet, pulling his two favorite lock picks from the lining.
"What's wrong?" Thomas hissed.
"Nothing," Sam whispered back. "Just gimme a minute." A few nail-biting moments later, he felt the lock give and he carefully tried the release again, mentally rejoicing as the door pulled free from the latch. Holding his breath, Sam eased the door open, his heart jolting with every creak of the hinge that he normally paid no attention to; here it sounded as loud as a scream.
Finally the damned door was open wide enough that he could slide in and get to the glove box which, thank God, fell open in silence even though the items that tumbled free did not do likewise. No longer caring, Sam clawed through the jumble on the floor and then through the glove box, gasping as his finger was jabbed suddenly. He closed his fingers on the object of his hunt and withdrew it, turning to tell Thomas he had it.
Once again he was struck bluntly across the head, falling back against the Impala and slumping to the ground.
"You bastard!" Dean's voice was almost gone but the words were still clear enough to be heard. Adrenaline he didn't know he had left shot through his weary body and he tried to pull himself toward his brother. "Sam!"
Cross shoved Dean away roughly with a foot, knocking him back into the wall.
"You are going to die," he remarked, a though commenting on an event of little import. "There is no escape for you. You are to be claimed at dawn by the one I shall call forth. Before the deed is done, you will acknowledge your evil before me, before my congregation and before him. There will be no doubt among my followers that I am truly meant to lead them."
"Yeah," Dean grated. "Straight to… hell!"
Cross looked at a third man standing in the doorway, addressing him. "If this young man does not immediately plead he be given something to drink, I want you to kill that one."
Cross nodded his head toward Sam's unconscious form, then returned his attention to Dean who was watching the newcomer as he crossed to Sam and knelt by him, pulling a familiar-looking knife from his coat and brandishing it over Sam's throat.
Dean's eyes widened. "Where did-"
Cross kicked Dean again, cutting his eyes to the man over Sam who obligingly pressed the edge of the blade to Sam's skin.
"No!" Dean cried out.
Cross raised his free hand to stop his companion, holding out the water to Dean again with a smile.
It was a no-win situation and all Dean could hope to buy was time. Give Sam a chance to recover and maybe they could figure a way to get out of here.
Dean swallowed with effort and closed his eyes. "Give...give me the...water," he ground out, raising his hand, willing it not to tremble.
Cross shook his head. "Is that how your mother raised you to ask for things?"
Dean's eyes snapped open.
Cross's smile faded slightly at the corners as what he saw in those fiery green depths.
"Please," Dean said through his teeth, unable to control the shaking now. "May I have… the water?"
Cross's smile broadened and he leaned down to hold the container to Dean's mouth, tipping it to his lips.
Once the liquid touched his lips Dean couldn't stop himself, he grasped the dipper and drank desperately.
Cross stepped back, pleased.
He waved the other man away from Sam, who was beginning to stir.
"You did very well, thank you, Thomas."
Sam rolled his head again the hardness behind him, his head once again thumping with pain. What the hell…
He tried to sit up but discovered his hands were tied to something behind him, bringing him up short as he moved. Where the hell was he and how did he get here?
He blinked, waiting for his surrounding to come into focus. The room was dark except for the illumination provided by a weak sliver of light leaking through a slit in the ceiling.
It was hot. Not as hot as outside during the day, but no air moving, thick as molasses, hard-to-breathe-hot nonetheless. He couldn't imagine what the closed room was like during the sun-blasting hours of the day.
As his eyes adjusted he made out some strange looking contraption in the center of the room.
He felt a chill as he realized the thing had straps hanging off of it and two rings bolted on this side of the floor. He didn't want to think of Dean strapped to that—whatever it was—unable to move, broiling in the oven-like room.
He moved his eyes toward the shadows beyond that-
Sam jerked against his restraints. "Dean! Dean wake up!"
Dean was sprawled unmoving, on the dirt floor, his face turned away. Sam stared into the dimness intently, feeling a rush of relief as he saw the faint movement of Dean's bare chest.
"Dean it's me! Sam! C'mon Dean, wake up!" Sam raised his voice slightly but drew no response from his brother.
Sam sat back in frustration. Great! Here was trying to figure a way out of this mess and he gets stuck even deeper in it.
But, he considered, at least he and Dean were together and Dean appeared to be alive, if not conscious. That was worth something.
He automatically tried to lift his arm to see the time, forgetting his arms were tied behind him and apparently to the wall. How long had he been out?
He ran his mind over the time after he had left with Thomas to get the dagger from the car. He had been struck, which he was not expecting because Thomas had been adamant that guarding the car was pointless.
Sam suddenly rolled his eyes, making a sound of disgust. Of course there was no need to guard the damned car because Sam had the guard with him the whole time.
That son of a bitch.
Sam cursed his own gullibility. How could he have been so stupid! The whole thing had been an act carried out by a very talented group of homicidal maniacs intent on sealing their deal with the devil.
Even as this thought stomped through his head it felt wrong. Thomas...yeah, a plant would have made sense, someone to keep an eye on the other side, but thinking back, recalling the pure emotion in William's eyes.
No, that part had been real. He was sure of it.
He jerked back as the door opened and a figure stepped inside, walked a few steps to Sam and hunched down.
Sam curled his lip, pulling against the ropes. "You're a real piece of work, you know that?"
Thomas looked puzzled. "I'm not quite sure what that means but it doesn't sound like a compliment and I thought we were getting on so well." He shook his head sadly.
"How can you do this, turn your back on these people?" Sam demanded.
Thomas smiled. "I have no need to justify myself to you. I came for him." He nodded toward Dean's limp body.
"What did you do to him? I swear-"
Thomas rose, making a clucking noise with his tongue. "Swearing is a sin. You should be watchful of what comes out of your mouth. We gave him a drink, he was thirsty. I guess he was too thirsty to wonder what was in it. Now he's getting some rest, we want him alert for his performance. Don't worry," he added, moving to the door to the door and gesturing outside. He was joined by another, rather large man, easily as tall as Sam and much broader. "You'll be joining him shortly. It'll be dawn in another hour and we have a lot to do. It's going to be a big day. You don't want to miss it. Take him." Thomas said, pointing casually at Dean.
The large man walked to Dean and scooped him up as easily as a child, throwing him over a shoulder. Dean hung limp and unresponsive as the man walked back out of the room.
Sam thrashed impotently. "Dean!!" he yelled.
Thomas held his fingers to his lips. "Patience is a virtue, Sam, and silence is golden."
Sam ground his teeth together as Thomas moved closer and hunkered down companionably beside him.
From inside his coat he produced the curvy bladed dagger he had held against Sam's throat, the one Sam had taken from the Impala's glove box, the one Dean had bought cheap in a junk shop because the guard was missing that he kept meaning to repair.
"Recognize this, Sam?" he asked conversationally.
The one the shopkeeper had sworn had been given to Charlemagne by Pope Leo the III and had been carried through all the Crusades as a holy symbol of God and was purported to possess the means to slay the minions of the devil.
The one they'd tossed in the glove box so many years ago and forgotten.
Dean had listened to the story, laughed to himself, and bought it because he thought the etchings along the blade were pretty.
As an antique would have been incredibly valuable, intact, as a means to kill demons, it would have been priceless.
Without the guard it was worthless.
And the guard, Sam knew now, was hanging around Leviticus Cross's neck.
"I cannot believe you've had this in your…car…all this time and never realized what it was. You do know what it is, I assume?" Thomas cocked his head and lifted a brow.
"Yeah," Sam gritted. "I do now."
Thomas laughed with delight and flipped the blade so the ornate handle rested in his palm, the blade pointed at Sam. "It's dangerous to use a knife like this without the guard, you have to be very careful not to slice your hand."
"What are you gonna do with that?" Sam growled.
Thomas shrugged. "I suppose you'll have to wait and see." He patted Sam on the shoulder, getting to his feet.
He strolled back out the door and slammed it shut.
"Damn you!" Sam shouted.
Thomas' echoing laughter was his only response.
It was probably less than an hour when Sam heard footsteps coming down the hallway and the door banged open, but it felt like days. The man who had taken Dean earlier entered along with another man just as large.
The first man leaned down and slapped Sam casually across the face, shocking Sam more than hurting him. He waved a meaty finger in Sam's face. "If you twitch, I'll kill you and you'll never see your brother again. Is this clear?"
Sam spit blood and nodded. The other man produced a knife and slashed through Sam's bindings. Between them they hauled him to his feet. The desire to fight back, do something, was almost overwhelming but Sam controlled himself and walked along between them, frantically trying to come up with a way out of this.
He was pushed outside into the first gray light of dawn, the stifling heat a solid object to be traversed.
The sight that greeted him did not fill him with hope. There were at least fifty-odd people gathered loosely in the center of the street, milling restlessly. Men, women, old, young, even a few children all gazing at the spectacle before them.
Sam followed their collective gazes, across the body of the Impala, a dark presence at the front of the crowd. A large amount of wood was piled around the vehicle, a sight which under any other circumstances might have been laughable, but Sam felt no smile tug at his face.
Behind the Impala, atop a much larger pile of wood, a small stage was erected with two poles thrusting up from the center and another pole spanning the small distance between them as a crosspiece.
Dangling from the center pole, bare chested and covered with red whip marks and trails of blood, thick ropes wrapped multiple times around his wrists, was Dean.
Sam felt his knees buckle. He was yanked sideways and pulled into a position at the front of the crowd.
Dean hung limply, his head barely moving as he struggled to lift it, his feet dragging loosely against the wooden floor, legs unwilling or unable to bear his weight.
Sam pulled against his captors, heart racing, and received a sound clout against the side of his head that almost took him to his knees.
Shaking his head to clear it he stopped dead as a tall figure dressed entirely in black, wearing a ministers white collar crossed the platform of Dean's pyre and stood waiting for the small crowds attention. Around his neck was the talisman, a silver glow on his chest from the first rays of dawn.
The tall preacher, Sam assumed it was Leviticus Cross, raised his arms and silence fell over the waiting audience.
"My dear friends, my fellow townspeople, my congregation." He began in a ringing voice "Long have we awaited the day that lies before us. Since the night that God's messenger visited me and told me Rapture's Climb had been called to put it's faith on the line we have endured hardship unlike any other, but we have protected ourselves and out faith from the evil that attempted to overtake us on our path to God. The day has come when our trial would come to an end and He will reward His faithful of Rapture's Climb for their devotion and sacrifice!"
There was a chorus of "amens" that made Sam sick to hear. There was no way he could convince these deluded people that their "leader" was dooming them to an eternity of virtual non-existence.
He gestured in Sam's direction and Sam's attendants immediately grabbed his arms and pulled him forward to stand next to Cross.
"Dean!" Sam called, twisting to look up at him. "Dean, please, wake up!"
Dean moaned and rolled his head, his legs shifting, but he didn't respond otherwise.
The crowd began to murmur earnestly among themselves and point.
"Witness our triumph, our final gift, the evil that was foretold to us so long ago stands before you, ready to be offered up as a tribute!"
"You're insane!" Sam shouted.
The resultant blow did take him to his knees this time, lights flashing on the periphery of his vision.
He gasped as he was jerked roughly back to his feet and a voice barked. "Stand up and be judged!" Thomas stood close behind him, the ropes around Sam's wrists tight in his grip. "Don't move," he hissed.
Sam tried not to gasp as the cold hardness of a knife was pressed into his hand. Shocked, Sam turned to stare at Thomas who locked hard eyes with him and mouthed "Wait." Sam recognized the shape as the dagger of Charlemagne and he quickly curled it up out of sight, confused but ready to accept whatever providence offered him. It may have been another trap but either way he had a weapon.
Thomas nodded at him and moved away. Sam's heart began to pound even faster.
"We will reduce this evil to ash that will blow away with the flames of hell that have hovered over our town as a sign of what was to come, destroying finally, the harbingers of doom for whom we have waited for so long!"
Cross swiftly crossed the platform and stepped up to Dean. Reaching out he grasped Dean's jaw and lifted his head for all to see. Dean's eyes were sunken and dried blood clung to his chin from his cracked lips. He blinked slowly and appeared dazed.
"Admit your guilt, the evil which you were sent to bring upon us. Admit this and we will be merciful with your companion, his destruction will be swift. Do you confess this?"
When Dean didn't reply Cross moved his hand to Dean's hair and pulled his head back, shaking it. "Confess!" Cross bellowed.
Sam forced himself to stay still, having no choice but to let the situation play out, simply rescuing Dean was not going to fix this.
"Are you the harbinger?" Cross demanded.
Dean grimaced, his eyes fell on Sam, but there was no light of recognition.
"Yes," he whispered hoarsely, barely able to force sound past his parched throat. "Yes…"
"God, Dean…" Sam whispered in return.
"Praise God!" Cross cried raising his arms. The voices of the crowd filled the air with their echoed cries. Cross climbed down from the platform, helped by willing hands. He accepted a torch that had blazed into life, held it aloft to the adulation of the gathered crowd, then thrust it into the tinder that lay beneath Dean's stage. It caught with enthusiasm, yellow flames licking up through the wood.
Cross stepped back, a look of satisfaction on his angular face. His hand closed around the talisman and his lips began to move as he recited the words he had memorized so carefully. His long unbound hair began to stir as a sudden breeze moved through the air.
"NO!" Sam yelled.
"Stop this abomination!" A voice rang out.
All eyes shot to the speaker as the crowd began to part with gasps and cries and William Cross was pushed forward in his wheelchair by Thomas. Stopping just short of his son.
Leviticus actually staggered back a step, his hand dropping from the silver pendant.
"Father…" he gasped. His eyes flicked to Thomas who smiled softly.
"This ends today, Leviticus." Thomas said clearly. "It's over."
Leviticus shook his head, "No. It begins today!" The invocation had been spoken, even with this sudden turn of events, the prize was still within his grasp.
Unnoticed in the confusion Sam frantically sawed at the ropes on his wrists with the dagger, feeling the strands part, he glanced up at Dean, who was starting to stir and cough as smoke began to drift around him. The tips of the flames just beginning to lick through the boards of the platform.
A hazy figure began to form next to Cross as Sam watched. Gasps went up from the assemblage. The wind was picking up and people were starting to shield their eyes from flying grit.
"You have slaughtered the innocent in your quest for this tiny bit of power," William accused, "doomed this community, turned your back and spit upon everything that we held sacred!" His voice rose to be heard over the now howling wind.
The flames beneath Dean began to crackle with a vengeance. His body was swinging with the force of his coughs and the power of the rising wind.
The form next to Cross coalesced into a well dressed young man with a salesman's smile.
Sam felt the ropes on his wrist part.
The demon flashed yellow eyes at the gathering with a disapproving eye. "We have a problem here?" he asked.
"No!" Leviticus shouted.
"Yes!" Sam replied. He shoved Leviticus into the demon and jumped onto the burning pile of wood. It was two quick steps through the flames and he was next to Dean reaching out with the dagger to cut him free.
"Stop him!" Leviticus cried, untangling himself from the demon and his father who had all gone down in a heap.
Several men rushed the burning platform. Sam twisted, fighting them off in a fury of slashing and long legged kicks, desperately trying to protect Dean. Two men went flying into the crowd, the third managed to grip Sam around the waist and drag him off the platform, both of them hitting the ground with a breath stealing thud, the dagger flying from Sam's grasp.
Sam floundered to his feet and delivered a kick to the chin of the man who had taken him down. He staggered sideways and fell to his hands and knees, shaking his head. Vision clearing, he searched the ground frantically for the dagger. Out of the corner of his eye he saw William, lying on the ground, close his hand over it and begin to clamber shakily to his knees.
The fire was starting to rage and Sam had no time to vacillate. He scrambled up what remained of the burning platform, his clothing smoking and stumbled to Dean who was struggling to breathe.
Sam knew he had no pocketknife on him, he could try to burn the ropes to free Dean but by then the whole thing would be ablaze. There was a solid thunk next to his head and he jerked back instinctively.
A short bladed knife was quivering in the wood where his head had been. He didn't stop to question the gift but pulled it free and cut Dean down with two quick slashes.
The knife clattered to the wood as Sam lunged to catch Dean's body as it fell. Sam could feel Dean moving in his arms but it was with the strength of a kitten. Looking around at the flames surrounding him, Sam took a deep breath, wrapped his arms around Dean and jumped.
To his surprise waiting arms broke their fall and he looked up stunned as the men and women in the crowd gathered around them, many of them with tears streaming down their faces.
The wind had stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The only sound was the crackling of the flames and soft weeping.
Sam saw the people in front of him move to the side, their heads down as a figure walked through them. He pulled himself in front of Dean as the demon stood over him shaking his head.
The demon turned, waving a hand behind him. "Who'd've thought," he snorted in disgust.
Sam, eyeing the other man suspiciously, rose hesitantly and took a few steps forward.
A short distance away laid Leviticus and his father, unmoving. William's hand was clasped tightly around the handle of the dagger, which was buried in his son's heart, the blade locked through the center of the talisman like a bullseye.
Thomas was staring down at both men. He looked up at Sam and sighed, walking over to them.
"All the little random things that come together to mean something," the demon mused with a smile. "I guess some things really are meant to be." He made clicking noise with his tongue and turned to Thomas holding out his hand. "You win."
Thomas gripped the offered hand but did not smile. "I didn't make the deal to lose."
Thomas turned to Sam, genuine shame on his face. "I'm sorry, this was the only way. After William revealed what Leviticus had done, we couldn't figure out any way out except to make another deal. If the guard of the dagger was rejoined with the blade before Leviticus could make good on his deal, we were to be released. I'm sorry you and your brother were the ones to get caught up in it. But you had the dagger. I guess it was meant to be."
He held out his hand to Sam, wasn't really surprised when Sam just stared at him then moved back to Dean. "Thank you," Thomas said, letting his hand fall. He walked around Sam to join the people gathered behind him.
The demon shook his head. "Ah, well. Can't win them all. There's always another deal, another day." He glanced past Sam to look at Dean. Sam stepped to the side to block him.
The demon laughed, his form fading. "I'm sure we'll meet again, Sam Winchester."
There was a tiny pop, a brilliant flash of light that made Sam shield his eyes and the demon was gone leaving behind only an acrid smell of sulfur.
Sam lowered his hand, blinking. The sight that met his eyes caused him to whirl around to look behind him.
Everything was gone.
Around him were tumble down buildings and a few artifacts strewn about. The wind picked up again and tiny whirlwinds danced down the dusty street. The sun, which had risen to glow brightly, became obscured as clouds rapidly gathered in the sky.
At his feet Dean groaned and coughed.
"Dean, my God, Dean, are you okay?" Sam knelt and put his arm under Dean's shoulder to help him sit up.
"Thirsty…" Dean whispered, brushing his throat with his hand.
"Hang on, can you walk?" Sam helped Dean to rise, supporting as much of his brother's weight as he could. Sam opened the driver door, settling Dean in the seat.
Sam scrabbled through the car in search of water, turning up two bottles, one of which he opened and handed to Dean who immediately turned it up and gulped.
Sam pulled it away after a few swallows.
"What are you doing?" Dean protested, coughing, reaching out for the bottle.
"Slow, Dean, you'll make yourself sick. You can have some more in a second."
Dean slumped back against the seat. He felt like a dried-out sponge. "What happened? I don't remember anything after they made me drink that water…" He sat up slightly and looked around. "Where is everyone? The buildings?"
Sam gave him a grim look, "I'll explain later. If I can." He popped the hood. "Did you get this fixed?"
Dean nodded, "Good enough. Needs water though, get us to the next town for a new hose." He held out a shaking hand, "Please, Sam, I'm really thirsty."
Sam glanced up and down the street, spotting a hand pump next to the remains of what had been the store. He handed the bottle to Dean. "Small sips, Dean!" He noticed Dean was shivering.
The sky was darkening steadily and the wind was rushing through the ghost town, the temperature had dropped considerably and there was a hint of moisture in the air.
"Let me get you some clothes," Sam said getting in the back seat and rummaging in Dean's duffel for dry jeans, a shirt and shoes. "Can you manage?" he asked.
Dean nodded, too exhausted and spent to offer a dirty look.
"I'll be back in a second, yell if you need me."
There was a bucket lying next to the pump. It took some serious effort but eventually water began to trickle from the spout.
As Sam carried the full bucket to the car, thunder rumbled overhead and it began to rain. Sam hurriedly filled the radiator with water and slammed the hood down. he paused briefly before he slid under the wheel and looked around them, at the emptiness that surrounded them.
Biting his lip he got in the car and slammed the door. Dean was slumped against the window, nursing his botle of water, eyes closed.
Sam started the car, threw it into gear and drove back the way they had come.
Around them the sky wept, whether from joy or sorrow he would never know.
Looking up as a distinctive rumble sounded over the soft rain, the station attendant stared in disbelief as the black Impala he had sent down the detour two days earlier roared past, rooster tails leaping upwards from the water on the road.
He reached under the counter and pickied up the bowl he kept there, stirring the deep red contents with a finger, hoping it was still fresh enough to get through.
He closed his pale blue eyes and waited.
After a few seconds his eyes snapped open again, the soft blue replaced by a solid marble black.
"No, " He said into the swirling scarlet. "I'm sorry. It didn't work. They got away."