Divided They Fall Together
Summary: Minnesota damaged them both, pushed them apart a little more.
Set a week after the events in Born Under A Bad Sign
a/n: One email with some kind words from Deangirl1 at some point along the way stopped the delete button from erasing all trace of this story in a dark moment. Huh, the power of email!
Many emails from milkyway22 have allowed me to find my sense of humour and realise several things…
A torch to you may be a flaming stick but to me is a flashlight
Use of the letter s is not a grammatical error and I won't use z instead
You may not know but bleeding like a stuck pig is a bad thing
I am using miles and feet (under great personal suffrage!) 'cause that's what Sam and Dean use.
Yes I'm Australian.
Hope you enjoy this – it is a WIP.
Sam Winchester balanced two Styrofoam cups in one hand as he juggled several grease stained paper bags in the other, a local newspaper also tucked firmly under one arm. He squinted as he stepped outside into the harsh Nevada sunlight, noticing the chill in the air bite through his jacket although winter was still several months away.
He headed for the Impala which was parked along the dusty kerb between the Death Valley Information Centre and the small coffee shop just outside Beatty that he had just exited. The dust which seemed to settle over everything had even dulled the car's normally polished exterior making it look tired and worn. He wondered briefly if he looked as washed out as the car 'cause he sure as hell felt like it.
It had been eight days since they had driven away from the events in Twin Lakes Minnesota. Since he had been possessed and killed Steve Wandell. Since he had hurt Jo and Bobby. Since he had shot his brother and then beaten him with his own hands. Beaten him with words that still echoed between them, in their thoughts and dreams.
It seemed like a lifetime ago but the wounds were still fresh in his mind and the burn still stung on his arm. The wounds were still showing on Dean.
Sam bent down to the open passenger window as he reached the car, noticing Dean had his head back and his eyes closed. He hesitated a moment, not wanting to disturb what appeared to be a rare moment of peace for his brother but Dean shifted and opened his eyes as if sensing Sam's reluctance.
"Are you getting in anytime soon Sam 'cause y'know coffee would be good hot."
"Thought you were sleeping." Sam somehow opened the door and got in without dropping or spilling anything in the sacred interior.
"Sleeping hmm, now there's a novel idea, might try it sometime." Dean straightened in the driver's seat and took possession of his breakfast. "After we get out of this God forsaken yet ghost free town."
Sam began eating and smiled at Dean's reference to the job they had just finished where the locals were almost more insane than the spirit itself. "I hear ya."
They had moved on from Minnesota both from a necessity to distance themselves from the scene but also because both of them needed to keep moving, keep working. It probably wasn't the healthiest of plans but it was the one they had both chosen, silently and unanimously.
Sam still felt strung out emotionally, guilt ridden and scared. It was too hard to look back and see the damage right now but that's all he could do. It was hard enough facing Dean every day, looking at the physical evidence of what had transpired, each cut and bruise on Dean's face a harsh reminder.
It was harder seeing the hollowness behind the steely green eyes that he knew he had caused when Meg had used him like some cheap puppet to hurt his brother. Sam had talked and Dean had listened to the lies of being worthless and not needed, not wanted. Then Sam had talked again and Dean had listened to his apologies, his argument that the words weren't his, but deep down he thought Dean still believed them.
What scared him maybe the most though was the fact that Dean hadn't fought. He hadn't fought to end it like he promised he would, to kill him if he couldn't save him. Dean hadn't even fought to save himself and Sam feared he would end up killing them both. If Dean couldn't save him, then Sam would bring them both down.
Sam settled back in the seat and opened the local paper, sipping the remainder of his coffee. "You want me to drive?" Already knowing the answer but still needing to ask in some roundabout way whether Dean was okay.
"Nah, I'm good." Dean drained the last remnants of coffee with a sigh. He knew Sam was asking a loaded question but he didn't really have the energy for an in depth discussion of his health or mental state right now. He felt beat and his shoulder still ached but seeing Sam's guilt-ridden glances hurt more. His own bruises and bullet wound would heal over time but Dean wasn't sure whether Sam would ever fully get over his remorse. Or his fear of turning evil.
Having finished with breakfast, Dean keyed the ignition and the engine rumbled to life. He would never tire of hearing that sound as though it somehow resonated on a frequency that was meant for him. It felt right.
"Hey check this out." Sam straightened, his brow creased in concentration as his interest was obviously roused in something on the page in front of him.
"Pregnant mother found mauled to death two days ago and her twelve month old baby's still missing, feared dead. Assumed bear attack."
"Well as much as it sucks Sam, shit like that does happen. What makes you think it's our kind of thing?"
"Well for starters the body was found inside, I mean that's pretty unusual for a bear attack. Then there's the dead fish."
"Well it's a separate article but all the fish in Wilton Lake were found floating and there's no apparent reason so far. Both things happened in Baker County and both within a day of each other. They can be signs Dean, dead fish, dead trees, dead insects, dead…"
"Yeah I get the pattern Sam. Any of them can signal the beginning of – of something bad but it could also mean a polluted water supply or something entirely natural."
"I know but what if it's not, what if someone else dies?" Sam wasn't arguing, wasn't raising his voice, his tone more whispered than insistent. Fearful of making a mistake that might cost more than he wanted to pay. He felt like he had to make up for his mistakes, do his penance in the hope that it might somehow save him. The more people he saved, maybe he might not turn into something that would have to be hunted down.
Since last week these things seemed more important.
Dean glanced over at his brother, concerned at the sudden change in demeanor which had happened a fair bit in the last week. Sam had a point though, and it wasn't like they had anywhere else to be right now. Oregon was as good a place as any and it wasn't Minnesota.
"We'll check it out Sam. Baker County huh? I think it'll take a good ten - maybe twelve hours to get there though."
"Let me know when you want a break. I'm gonna check Dad's journal and if I can get some kinda signal I'll see if I can get any more details." Sam reached into the backseat and retrieved his laptop, glad to have something specific to occupy his mind.
Sam stifled a yawn as he pulled off the highway, following the signs to the small motel, possibly the only motel in Wilton just inside Unity State Forest. It was just after 7pm, they had made good time – well Dean had made good time.
Sam had finally given up trying to get an Internet signal from a moving vehicle in the middle of nowhere and leafed through the journal instead. They had traveled in silence most of the way mainly listening to tapes as the local radio stations they came across were full of chatter. Neither had been willing to delve too far into any conversation at the risk of touching on any subject matter that had even the remotest chance of making them deal with everything they had just been through. Their pain. Especially their fears.
After nearly six hours of offering to drive, Sam had finally drifted off into a restless yet deep sleep and woke as Dean pulled up for gas. He couldn't believe his brother had driven for more than eight hours total and not tagged him for a turn behind the wheel.
Well actually he could believe it. Dean had done plenty of long distance driving stints but never with a healing bullet hole in his body. He looked at Dean slumped in the seat and decided to book a room before he woke his brother.
The cessation of movement and sound had woken Dean from his exhaustion. He saw Sam heading in the direction of the sign marked reception and noticed there were no other cars in the lot. He opened the door and swung his legs out, trying to stretch all the kinks from sitting too still for too long.
He felt numb yet he felt everything. He couldn't think straight but he couldn't keep the thoughts out of his head. He knew he had driven for too long – his aching shoulder was testimony to that simple fact. At least if he was driving he had a purpose, a simple goal of getting to point A or B in the shortest time possible. He could do that, no problem. It was all the other shit he was worried about – keeping Sam safe.
His brother seemed to take a while to return, and when he did he wore a distracted look on his face. Dean could almost see the light bulb glowing and the gears turning.
"What, don't tell me there's no rooms left?" Dean cast his hand around the empty car spaces.
"No we got a room and there's even a diner up the road but there's been another death. Harley, the guy in the office, was bursting at the seams to give all the gory details. The dead woman's husband Mark Reed, shot himself in the head 'bout two hours ago."
"Yeah well grief does things to people Sam, sometimes it all gets too much. Sill might not be our thing."
Sam paused, looking at his brother over the roof of the car as he tried in vain to read how much that comment actually meant to Dean.
"I get that." Sam spoke softly. "But grief doesn't normally make you run screaming down the street claiming to be chased by a woman with a lion's head who was trying to eat you."
"Okay." Dean nodded his head almost appreciatively. "So I guess we gotta job to do."
The boys unloaded their stuff from the car, noticing with relief the room wasn't the worst they had stayed in, although the taste in furnishing came close. They had decided to get dinner and then do some research, figuring they couldn't do much 'till morning anyway. Both were beat though neither was admitting to anything.
They had walked along the road to the diner, seeing as Harley had indicated to Sam it wasn't far. Cougars. The sign on the outside of the modest looking building seemed out of place but there were quite a few cars parked outside. As the brothers entered, they were surprised to find a fairly crowded diner and bar complete with pool table and juke box.
Dean's face lit up for a second before he realised that he was in no shape to hustle or even play pool. However his expression remained positive at the thought of having a beer, or two, with dinner.
"You never mentioned there was a bar involved Sam."
"Well Harley didn't say anything about it, just said we could get a good meal here. I guess we'll soon find out."
They found a booth in the corner, on the side of the room that served meals, ignoring the curious stares from those they passed. As they ate they became aware that most of the conversations going on around them were about the recent deaths so they started listening in, trying to piece together bits of information they would never find on the web.
They heard a variety of gossip about the dead couple Janice and Mark Reed, ranging from rogue bear, sordid affairs, insanity and murder.
"So, ya both staying in town or moving on 'cause ya don't wanna take no notice of all these stories. Folks jus' ain't got nothin' better to talk about." The waitress, a girl in her mid twenties with a short skirt, a low top and Mindy on her nametag, cleared away their plates.
"We'll be staying a few days. Did you know the couple?" Sam diverted the conversation not wanting to give out too many of their details. Dean sat back and sipped his beer.
'Sure. They moved here 'bout a year ago, one of them sea change things they said, y'know get back to nature an' all. Janice is…was, in all the local women's clubs and worked part-time at the bookshop. Mark was a writer and he'd just started writing a new book, don't ask me what it was about though."
"You've got a bookshop in Wilton?"
Dean shook his head. Out of all the information that had just poured out of Mindy's mouth, Sam had retained that one fact.
"Yeah it's been here like forever. I mean the closest library is over in Baker City so it does good business. Bala the owner, also does painting classes and stuff. Listen I gotta work, you guys want anything else?"
The boys declined and left to walk back to the motel after paying their bill. Dean had also purchased a six pack to go from the bar on their way out, insisting it would help him research better. Sam guessed it was more to help him sleep better having witnessed Dean tossing and turning every night since they had left Bobby's place. He made no comment, hell he could probably use a drink as well but this was a new case.
"Okay, so far we've got one dead woman mauled inside the house, we'll assume it's not a wild animal. A missing baby and a suicide victim claiming he saw a woman with a lion's head. Could be some kinda family curse, everyone has their secrets." Dean cracked open a can and leaned back on the headrest as he stretched out on his bed in jeans and t-shirt, socks, boots and shirt strewn on the floor.
"I guess but what about the dead fish? That would mean something bigger, something related to the area and if they only moved here a year ago." Sam shrugged.
"We should check out their house maybe it's something to do with the land or what's buried in it. Could be another salt and burn after all."
"I'll see what I can find out about the Reed's." Sam plugged his laptop into the empty phone socket, grateful for any internet connection at all. "Why don't you see if there's any entries in Dad's journal about lion headed women."
"Pretty sure there's not, I would've remembered something like that but what would tear someone up and then run off with their baby? We've gotta break this down to make any sense out of it Sam."
The room became quiet except for the rustle of pages being turned and the clicking of the mouse or keyboard. It was several hours and beers later when Dean realised he had read the same passage about four times and still couldn't retain what it said. He had moved on to one of the books Bobby had given Sam but still had nothing concrete to clue them in on what kind of hunt they were on.
"You got anything Sam?"
"Nothing on the Reed's 'cept the basics, no deep, dark family secret. The house they moved into just out of town doesn't seem to have any grim history either. The old guy that owned it sold it through a realtor, there's even a picture of it on the web. There's been a few deaths over the years, maybe more than normal round here but all I can I find so far is accidental or wild animal. The articles I found on the dead fish have ruled out any toxins or algae but the cause is still under investigation and the lake's off limits."
"Okay, it might be worth checking out the details but for now let's call it quits and get an early start. At least we've got a couple of dead bodies and crime scenes to cover that might shed some light on whatever this is."
Sam looked at Dean with a blank face. "Well isn't that just something to look forward to in the morning – dead bodies and crime scenes. God our lives are weird."
Dean gave a half smile as he removed his clothes down to his boxers and climbed into bed, draining the can of beer on the bedside table before his head collided with the pillow. "It's all a matter of perspective Sammy."
Dean sank into sleep quickly, the beers doing their job well. However they didn't stop his body protesting restlessly after several hours as his mind slipped back into the darkness that he wouldn't allow during his waking hours. The nightmares were getting more vivid as the days passed, maybe his brain was finally trying to sort and analyse the events from last week even though he would much prefer not to go there. It wasn't Sam.
His breathing increased as he hit the wall not long after Bobby. He knew what was coming next as white hot pain tore through the fresh wound in his shoulder as Sam dug his fingers in deeper. As Sam enjoyed the pain he was inflicting. Not Sam.
"No." In his sleep Dean moved a hand to his injured shoulder.
He couldn't move let alone fight as he saw Sam's fist fly through the air, connecting with his face again and again. Not Sam.
There was something different this time as he listened to the cruel taunts coming from his brother's mouth. He felt the cool, hard metal of a gun in his right hand. He pressed it into his brother's chest over the heart. Not Sam.
Sam woke as Dean struggled with another nightmare, his brother's hand protectively over the bullet wound. As Sam watched, Dean seemed to cry out in pain but still didn't wake. Sam swung his legs off the bed and stood, leaning over his brother and seeing the sweat bead on his forehead in the dim light. He had woken his brother several times over the last week, and the last thing he really wanted to see was the pain and fear in his brother's eyes for those first few unguarded seconds when he woke. But he couldn't leave Dean trapped like this either.
"Dean. Hey c'mon wake up." Sam placed a hand on Dean's right shoulder shaking him a little.
As soon as Sam heard Dean's sharp intake of breath and felt the muscles under his hand tense, he knew he had startled his brother which was so not good. Sam started to stand, reflexively distancing himself but Dean's left hand shot up from underneath and connected quite solidly with his jaw, knocking him backwards onto the floor between their beds.
"No!" Dean's voice was horrified.
"Dean, it's me." He stood and reached over turning the lamp on and rubbing his jaw.
"Sam?" It came out more of an anguished sob than anything. "What…?" Dean looked around the room squinting at the sudden light "I…just, just a nightmare." Dean winced as pain flared through his shoulder and his knuckles buzzed from making contact.
"Some nightmare. You okay, wanna tell me about it?" Sam knew they were getting worse but he forced himself not to push too much. Not yet.
"Yeah, no. You okay?"
"Yeah but your nightmares are becoming a little hazardous to our health. You shouldn't be hitting things, including me with your left arm man, you're gonna do more damage. At least you didn't pull the knife on me." Sam grinned trying to get that look off his brother's face but not succeeding.
Or a gun. Dean added silently to himself.
Sam had set his phone alarm for 6.30am and woke to find Dean already showered and dressed, sitting at the laptop. He sat up and clasped his arms around his knees, studying his brother with a look of disbelief. His hand unconsciously rubbing his slightly bruised jaw.
"Morning Samantha. "Bout time you woke up, I figured we could head on over to the diner and grab a bite before we do the crime scene thing."
"Dean, did you even go back to sleep?" Sam couldn't help his concern but wasn't surprised when his brother brushed it off.
"I slept, okay. You should know better than to wake me like that man, what were you thinking?"
"I was thinking that you sounded like you were in pain and couldn't wake up. What was I supposed to do?"
"I don't know Sam, not that. Just… throw something next time."
Sam took a second then grinned at the suggestion. "You want me to throw something next time?"
"Only under extreme circumstances." Dean frowned. "Otherwise there will be retribution."
"Yeah, payback's a bitch." Sam muttered as he stood and headed for the shower.
The boys drove the short distance to the diner this time so they could continue on to the Reed's house then try and talk to anyone who saw the suicide. With Sam navigating and Dean cussing the dirt road and what it was doing to the already tarnished finish on his beloved baby, they finally made it to the scene of the first death. Police tape fluttered across the door to the cabin style dwelling but that was the only sign that anything was out of place.
The distinct creak of the car door's opening and closing sounded alarmingly loud in the stillness and Sam winced as the peacefulness was shattered.
"Looks like the Reeds had the right idea moving here from the city. Nice little spot, nice cabin…"
"Yeah and nice grizzly way to die." Dean interjected as he crossed the tape and easily picked the lock on the front door. "Man what a mess." He added quietly as he pushed the door open and saw the wreckage and blood that still remained untouched.
"C'mon let's do this." Dean grimaced as he stepped over the carnage and then looked back to where his brother remained in the doorway. "Sam?"
"Yeah." Sam answered distractedly as he followed Dean.
"What's wrong with you? It's not like there are any bodies here Sam, we've seen a lot worse."
"That doesn't make it easier Dean. That shouldn't make it easier, we can't just get used to this as though it doesn't matter. A mother died here Dean and her baby's gone, they're not just bodies."
Sam's tone was almost fierce and Dean didn't quite know how to deal with this flood of emotion. Wasn't quite sure what had triggered this particular outburst although he had a whole list of possibilities - none of which he wanted to delve into or open up for discussion right now. He knew damn well who had died here - that was the problem, it was a little too close to home. Just because he was not going to let his emotions impair his judgment didn't mean he felt nothing. It just hurt that Sam seemed to think it meant nothing to him. Is that was his brother really thought of him?
"I know that Sam but if we're gonna do this job you're gonna have to deal with it." Dean's voice remained quiet, impassive. He walked further into the room, sparing only a sideways glance at his brother.
Sam heard Dean's words but it was the way they were spoken that really knocked him for six. God he was a jerk! Of course this wasn't easy for Dean, hell it was probably harder knowing how protective his brother got if any of their hunts involved kids. And now he had just accused Dean of not caring 'cause he didn't wear his heart on his sleeve.
"You're right Dean. I just, I'm sorry man I didn't mean…"
"This is all wrong Sam." Dean stood first looking down at the crude chalk outline of the body then rotating slowly in a circle, his eyes scanning the room.
"Yeah in so many ways." Sam couldn't help himself but Dean seemed focused elsewhere.
Dean advanced through the cabin his brother in tow as they surveyed every room. "Both doors intact, no windows broken and no damage 'cept for what we first saw – this was no bear attack. At least we know for sure now."
"There's still fruit and packaged food on the kitchen shelves so whatever it was, it wasn't looking for food."
"The furniture, it looks like it was all swept out of the way pushed up against the walls to clear a circle. The only cleared area is in the middle where…where the woman died. It's too organized for a wild animal or anything else I can think of for that matter."
"There's an awful lot of blood spilt here Dean but the um, chalk seems to show a whole body."
"We need to see it for ourselves Sam."