A/N: Sorry this one took longer than planned. I have a ton of WIPs at the moment and when one of them wants to be worked on, this one gets pushed to the wayside since it's mostly already written. You'll be happy to know I've got a couple thousand words of "Cracked" written, too, just need to get straight in my head what I want to reveal and when. "Vestiges" is taking longer. I said that one was like pulling teeth. Plus, I owe another fic for the fics4books auction, and now that I've got a grasp on it, it just keeps growing and growing. Again, don't hate me. I'm writing, I swear, lol.
All disclaimers and warnings on Chapter One.
Cappy scrubs a hand over his stubbled jaw, working his lips the way he would around the stem of his pipe. It's not just the absence of the actual pipe that makes anxiety twang in the dead air. "I'll be honest with ya, Sam, I ain't too keen on hanging around this foxhole much longer."
"I don't think any of us are," Sam agrees. Then, because this is his kind of war, and he's feeling like an army of one, "I'll think of something."
Sam totters over his brother's prone form until Jeannie gasps, "My lands," and ducks under his other arm. She seems intent on leading him back the way they came, which, hell no.
Gritting his teeth, he does his best to brace against the gentle pull, and how sad is it that two people in their seventies are winning that tug of war? "No," he finally grunts. "I wanna stay here. I can do the research I need from right here. Just need a chair and that journal I got from the car."
"The hell you will," Jeannie reprimands. "You need to rest if you wanna build up your strength."
"And what good will that do if those things keep us pinned down here until we run out of food or electricity? Or Dean's..." He swallows around the possibility. It hasn't been spoken yet, and maybe that's the only thing keeping it from coming to pass.
"You watch your mouth, boy," she scolds. "I happen to have it on good authority that your brother wants you to get better before you worry your head about him."
Sam laughs, small and mirthless. "Which is how he ended up in this condition to begin with. Stupid, stubborn..." He starts to sway, even with a person at each arm to keep him steady. He's grateful when the rocker/recliner slides up behind him, and he sinks in so fast he almost goes over backward.
"Takes one to know one, I think," Jeannie tsks, one hand on her hip, even though she's breathing too hard with exertion to make a convincing show of force. Her shoulders sag when she glances behind her to where Dean lies, grey and gasping. "And I'd bet anything he's used to winning this game. He ain't gonna quit unless you do. Running yourself into the ground ain't doin' either one of ya's any good."
"Well," Sam pants, "then it's a good thing I can do research sitting down." Working up his best, most charming smile, despite the way pain drags at the corners of his mouth, he grasps one of Jeannie's arthritic hands between both of his. "No running into the ground or anywhere else. I promise."
For a second, she melts, but she's been around too long for it to last. Steeling herself, she jerks her hand from his grasp. "I hope those bastards eat you," she snaps. "It's preferable to watching you kill yerselves." She wipes his sweat off her hand in the hem of her shirt and stalks off behind the sheet curtain.
Cappy shrugs. "Nothing crabbier than a broody mother hen," he says by way of apology. "Only way I ever found to cure that partic'lar affliction is a nice pot of boiling water. They're a little tough, but it's better than getting your ass pecked to shreds every time you go in the coop." His joke falls flat, mostly because Sam's too busy trying to decide if the chair's rocking or the room is. "What I'm trying to say is, she means well."
"I know she does," Sam concedes. "It's nice, actually. To know someone cares." He glances in Dean's direction again, watches his struggling breaths like each one will be the last. "We get so used to being anonymous. Just dropping in long enough to do our jobs and then leaving again. We're not used to people caring about whether we make it or not."
Cappy pats him on the shoulder, solid reassurance. "Well, we do. And she does." Then he laughs, rubs a hand over the stubble on his chin like it misses the weight of his pipe drooped against it. "Worse comes to worst, we can always eat her. I'm sure she won't mind. Hell, she'd probably jump in the pot of her own accord if she thought it'd help."
It's Sam's turn to laugh. "Yeah, I think I see that about her." They're silent for a few seconds, and as an afterthought, Sam asks, "Olga and Armando?"
"Armando's at the top of the stairs guarding the door. Olga's having a tough time of it, poor girl. She's a mite claustrophobic. Dark place like this gives her fits. Jeannie gave her some potatoes to peel to keep her mind off things. The rate she's going, she'll have peeled the whole sack by morning. Don't ask me what we'll do with 'em after that. Probably all black on the bottom already." He shrugs, "But you know, routine's good for keeping the demons at bay."
Sam remembers Dean, the night Sam announced he was going to California and Dad gave him the famous ultimatum. The time it took Sam to gather up just what he could fit in his duffel bag and hit the door was silent except for the scrape, scrape, scrape of Dean's knife over the whetstone. Only the pink tinge to the blade and the barely perceptible tremble in Dean's chin had given any clue it wasn't just a night like any other. "Yeah." Suddenly, he thinks maybe Jeannie was right about resting. He's more tired now than he's ever been, past and present burdens weighing in together as though one isn't enough to do him in.
Jeannie must sense the quiet starting to crush in on them, because she chooses that second to burst back through the curtain carrying the journal. One stubborn eyebrow crooked and her lips pursed defiantly, she drops it unceremoniously in Sam's lap and points a knotted finger at him, three four beats in the air as if she can't find the words to back it up, and then she storms back out.
Both men laugh with only the weakest commitment as Sam fumbles through the pages in search of anything and everything he can use to get them out of this mess.
"Anything in particular you think might be in there?" Cappy asks.
That's good question. Nothing like dog paddling through white water to highlight the necessity of some low-hanging branch to grasp onto, something to focus on other than how tired and sore he is and how he's not getting any less of either. He tilts his head into his chest, drawing hard on what he already knows, what's left elusive and taunting. "Answers to a couple questions. A few inconsistencies. Anything we might have overlooked."
"Well, on thing I don't get is, the first one was solid. We set the trap, waited for it to trip, and when we went to check it, she was inside. It was pretty cut and dry from there," Sam says. "The one in the alcove wasn't even fazed when I took a shot at it. I think they have to be solid before they can be killed, sort of like those sci-fi films where the ships have cloaking devices and shields. You have to get them to take down the shields or find something that takes the shields out yourself."
Cappy nods but doesn't offer any suggestions. Obviously not his area of expertise. "Well, uh, I hope you find something," and with a nod toward Dean, he adds, "the sooner the better. I'll leave you to it. See if I can't get the woman settled down. You know to holler if'n ya need anything."
Sam nods and watches Cappy leave, suddenly more aware than ever that this is all up to him.
"I don't suppose you have any suggestions?" He's talking to Dean, head turned like he expects Dean to answer. He's surprised to find Dean's eyes open, but they're glazed and fixed like just holding back the eyelids takes all of his strength. He knows Dean can't answer, but it's just what they do. They plan. They strategize. Where one comes up short, the other chimes in. They toss out the knowns, speculate about the unknowns, and somehow, between the two of them, they figure things out. Now, Sam's on his own, but he's kinda hoping the strategizing parts of his brain don't know that yet.
"What?" Sam pretends to listen, his eyes closed as he searches for that perfect little thinking place in his brain, where it's all as effortless as dreaming. Instead of some helpful continuation on his theory about spacheships and shields, he imagines Dean doing what Dean does... giving him shit for being a geek. Sam plays along. "Dean, nobody wants to hear about your thrusters."
"Speak for yourself," Jeannie admonishes. Sam opens his eyes just enough to see her tucking the sheet around Dean's feet, a tired twinkle in her eyes. He hadn't even heard her sneak in.
"Okay," he corrects. "Some people want to hear all about your thrusters, after we get out of this mess." He pretends to listen again. "No, we don't have any pie. How can you be hungry at a time like this?" Another pause. "Well, you should've eaten your kidwiches instead of feeding them to the dog."
Jethro's been lying on the floor at Sam's feet since they set up the chair, and he whimpers, cocks his head to the side. Sam starts to chuckle, then stops, several images coming to mind at once. First, there's the female chupacabra, pieces of the steak they used to bait the trap still clenched between her jaws and dripping blood. Then, the one that attacked him in the alcove, it's muzzle red and spraying red mist over the ground with every huffing breath. Finally, Dean mustering he strength to give him a seemingly pointless message before passing out. His eyes fly open, his fingers opening spastically like he's been hit with a jolt of eureka juice. Goat sucker, vampire, blood. Reaching down, Sam levers the back of the chair up to a straighter sitting position. He leans closer to Dean, close enough to feel the heat radiating off him in waves, and says, "Dude, you're a genius." He listens for a second, then adds, "Jerk."
He cranes his head around toward Jeannie. "You've got a deep freeze down here, right?"
"Yeah, that we do," she says. "It ain't running right now, but it's full so everything in there should stay cold."
"Doesn't matter," Sam says. "Any meat in there?"
Cappy's jerks the sheet aside, pokes his head in, his face screwed up in genuine bewilderment. "What the hell else would you need a deep freeze for?" he asks.
Sam laughs, "I dunno. Ice cream? Anyway, I have an idea. Can you spare a few steaks, maybe a dozen?"
"What would you want with those? There's no way to cook 'em down here," Jeannie says.
Sam shrugs and starts to lower the foot rest slowly, grunting with every excruciating inch. Finally, he looses his lower lip from between his teeth and hisses. "'ts okay. The rarer the better. I need to test a theory."
"Will it help us get out of here?" Cappy asks, already having admonished Sam too many times that he needs his rest and shouldn't be exerting himself any more than necessary.
"I hope so."
"Then, I think we can spare a few. Hell, if it'll get us out of here, I'll marinate 'em and rub 'em with sea salt."
"Just the steaks," Sam says, "And something to help me stand. A cane or something."
"Now, wait a minute, son." Cappy nods to Jeannie to go fetch the steaks and presses Sam back in the chair. "Anything you need done, you can get one of us to do for you."
"Not this," Sam argues, his hand constricting around Cappy's bicep. "I need to see for myself. And you need to keep an eye on my brother. Just get me on my feet and let me get us out of this."
Jeannie comes back with an armful of frozen steaks wrapped in white freezer paper, which she drops on an end table. She brushes the traces of frost off the front of her blouse and abruptly pings Sam on the ear. "Every bit as stubborn as your brother," she tsks. "And for that I owe you a smack upside the head, just as soon as you're better." Then, her face softens, and she smooths a thumb over his cheek. "But I have every faith that's going to get us out of this." She turns on her heel and smacks her husband on the shoulder. "You heard the boy. Let's get this show on the road." Her voice is light, but she's got her eyes on Dean when she says it, something like panic in the whites.
Sam follows her gaze, his heart clenching at the sight of his brother, so sick, and he's never been more grateful for maternal instinct. He's not sure he could do this alone.
It turns out getting him on his feet is just wishful thinking on Sam's part. There's no way he bear any kind of weight on his mangled leg. As soon as his toes touch the ground, his knee buckles no matter how hard he wills it to lock in position. Sam's not the only one with a streak of ingenuity going down his backbone. Cappy breaks the legs off a bar stool and forms a support cage around Sam's knee, holds the whole thing together with Ace wrap and duct tape.
"A regular MacGyver," Sam observes.
"Who?" Cappy asks.
"Nngh..." Sam grunts through the pain of the final wrap tightening. "No one." He finally muscles to his feet with Cappy's help and sways. "I think that's got it. Now, all we gotta do is wait for that meat to thaw out. You got a microwave down here?"
"Sure, sure we do," Cappy says, "but microwaved meat tastes like..."
Jeannie cups him upside the head. "'tain't for us, you buffoon." She shakes her head, eyes rolling comically as she spares Sam a glance before taking the steaks up again. "I'll see what I can do," she huffs.
Once she's made her exit, Sam slumps back in the chair to wait. "You said Armando's guarding the door?"
"That's what I said," Cappy nods.
"I'm probably going to need his help. You think he'd be willing to back me up?"
"I don't know why not," Cappy shrugs.
"Well, have you told him yet?" Sam ventures. "About his brother?"
"About?" Cappy's face goes pasty as he realizes what Sam's talking about. "No, no I haven't. Do you think it's a good idea to tell him now? Might make it hard for him to focus."
"Or easier," Sam suggests. Nodding toward Dean he says, "If something happened to Dean, I think I'd..."
"...want a piece of whatever did that to him," Cappy finishes. "I guess it's only fair if I tell him," he concedes.
"Gotta know where his head's at if we're gonna do this."
"You're right." Cappy shifts the sheet aside and starts to exit.
"Cappy," Sam calls.
"Tell him I'm sorry."
Cappy nods, turns to leave, and Sam's alone again with the weight of impending doom and his ailing brother. God, he's tired. He leans his head back against the chair, listens to the microwave hum somewhere in the dark. He doesn't mean to doze off, but he does.
When he wakes, it's with a start, his breathing quick and ragged like he's just finished a race. He thinks maybe the microwave timer has gone off and set him off in the process. He's never usually one to wake with an alarm. His internal clock's always served him well, and to be honest, he's so high strung, the things usually send him through the roof.
It takes him a good thirty seconds of staring at the goosebumps rising on the exposed parts of his arm before he realizes what's wrong. It's not a beep, a buzz, or any noise that's wakened him. Not any noise at all. More like, the lack of one in particular.
It's too quiet. Jethro notices it at about the same time as Sam, leaps to his feet with a whimper, his head cocked to the side. He runs to the side of the couch and nuzzles at Dean's hand, whimpering and making excited little barks. When Dean doesn't move, he nips his teeth into the sheet, teeny, tiny, little anxious bites like he's trying to scrape corn off a cob.
Dean's not breathing. He's not breathing, not coughing, not shaking like the previous two are at war inside his chest. He's just, still.
"Dean!" He looks over his shoulder for Cappy, can't see where anyone else is for the sheet. "Help! Somebody help!" He yells, already in the process of levering himself up on his newly-splinted leg. He makes it to a stand just fine, but the first step is a bitch, and he lands on the couch beside Dean, his hip nearly crushing the limp arm dangling off the edge.
"Dean! Wake up!" He doesn't even try to hide his panic, both hands cupped around Dean's shoulders and shaking him. "Dean!"
"Hold on there, son." Cappy's at the head of the couch, sliding his fingers down to check Dean's pulse before Sam even hears the sheet rustle. Sam stops trying to rouse his brother long enough for Cappy to determine if there's a heart beat, but his hands don't stop shaking for even a second.
Cappy nods brusquely, says, "Still got a pulse. Help me lever him up." Sam does as he's told, grasping Dean beneath the rib cage while Cappy lifts up from under his armpits. Neither one is in any shape to be moving this amount of dead weight, but they get it done in two motions.
With Dean sitting almost straight up, Cappy says, "You catch his head, now Sam," and pushes Dean's torso forward until his head lands on Sam's shoulder. His forehead's clammy, the ends of his hair damp.
"Okay, now you rub your hands up and down his ribcage. Don't be gentle about it either. Put some muscle behind it. Let's hope he's a little ticklish."
Sam does, and Cappy does the same on Dean's upper back, brisk strokes with the heels of his hands. Sam's movements get harder and faster, more desperate at the seconds tick by with no response. "You really think this will work?"
Cappy doesn't say yes or no, even that he doesn't know, just, "Sometimes it works... on puppies and newborn calves." Sam meets the old man's eyes, feels the hope bleeding out of him, disillusionment stepping into the void. "We gotta try," Cappy says, unapologetic.
Fuck yeah. Sam knows better than to give up on a long shot just because it's a long shot. He rubs harder, with renewed intensity and vigor. The bandages on his arms start to unwind and tangle in his hands, but he keeps going. "Come on, come on. Don't do this. I'm going to figure this out. I just need a little more time." His arms are burning and he's breathing a little hard himself. "C'mon you stubborn jackass. Do it for me, okay?"
A few more hard rubs, and Sam can see Cappy start to slow his effort, a slight shake to his head as he ducks his gaze away from Sam's.
"No," Sam breathes, a sob choking him. "No."
A/N: Ugh, I'm evil.