A/N: This is a companion-fic to authoressnebula's oneshot "Closed In" (which can be read here: http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/s/4634649/1/ - make sure to put in real periods for the (dot)s). I asked if I could write this story from Dean's point of view, and she was gracious enough to give me the privilege. You don't necessarily have to read her story to understand mine, but it's a great story, and I highly encourage everyone to read it and give her some feedback, as she is a great writer. As always, feedback is much appreciated on my end as well.
Disclaimer: It's not mine. And in this fic, not even the plotline is mine - neither is the dialogue between Sam and Dean or the ending line. That's all authoress's work.
"Twenty bucks says you can't sink that shot."
Dean eyed the overweight trucker coolly, gaze flicking from the outstretched pool cue in the man's dirty fist to the scratched felt table. He tossed a couple more peanuts in his mouth and smirked, lurching away from the table. "Might as well hand it over right now," he declared, adding a little slur to his words as he yanked the cue forcefully from the challenger's grasp.
The man sneered, revealing a crooked set of tobacco-stained teeth. "We'll see 'bout that, kid."
Dean shrugged his shoulders a few times to ease some of the tension before sliding into position. He braced his hands on the table for a moment, noting the angle and spin he'd need to be able to sink the nine ball into the pocket where the trucker's twenty was perched. He forced the twinge in his gut down and bent over, letting the cue rest lightly in his grip. After allowing a moment for theatricality, he struck the cue ball sharply, sending it careening off the edge of the table and into the nine ball with a sharp clack. He reached over and snagged the twenty as the ball settled into the pocket.
"Thanks," the hunter declared with a smirk, pocketing the bill and draining the last of his whiskey in one long, burning gulp. A muscle worked in the trucker's jaw as his buddies ribbed him and racked up the next game.
The well-endowed waitress dropped off another shot on Dean's table. Dean let his eyes roam over her for a moment, noting the loosely-buttoned top and the all-too-eager look in her big blue eyes. "Keep the change, sweetheart," he murmured, pulling the twenty back out and dropping it in her hand.
"Thanks," she replied with a sultry smile, letting her hand grip his fingers a moment longer than necessary. She winked and tucked it in the waistband of her low-cut jeans just over her left hip.
Dean sighed as she walked away, watching her hips sway as he downed the whiskey in a swift gulp. Normally he'd doing a lot more than watch, but tonight… tonight he wasn't in the mood. And the fierce burn of the alcohol did nothing to quell the deep twinge in his gut. With a huff, Dean crammed a few more peanuts into his mouth before he snagged his leather jacket off the back of his chair and pushed his way through the crowd.
The cool night air filled his nostrils, purging them of the smoky interior of the bar. Dean blinked when he realized his cell phone was in his hand, his thumb lightly touching the two. Sam's speed dial.
With a growl, Dean flipped the phone shut and shoved it deep into his pocket, hunching his shoulders as he started back for the motel a mile down the road. He wasn't quite ready to talk to his brother yet – the whiskey had helped cool his frustration, but hadn't killed it.
Or changed the fact that he was right, damn it. As much as it bothered both him and Sam to say it, Sam still wasn't back at the top of his game yet. When he'd said that, Dean hadn't meant to make it sound derogatory – it was the truth, plain and simple. Sam had been focusing on his studies for the last few years (although the protective symbols Dean had seen as he climbed through Sam's window that fateful night and the fact that Sam was in better shape now than he was before he left proved to Dean that his little brother hadn't been able to completely give up some habits) and he was still grieving hard over Jessica's death, over his loss of "normal."
Dean knew that deep down Sam was more than a little bitter about being dragged back into hunting, and he honestly didn't blame him. Sure, it hurt like hell while his brother had been gone, but at least Sam had been happy. In the end, that's all Dean had ever wanted for his brother.
Although at the moment, Dean still really wanted to slap Sam upside the head for being so stubborn. He kicked an empty beer bottle at his feet instead.
True, Dean had gotten a little out of hand, letting his temper get the best of him way too soon. He had forgotten how frustrating it could be to fight with Sam. Reasoning with Sam was generally like trying to move a brick wall and nearly as painful. Dean should have remembered that – he'd had more than his share of watching Sam go against their dad.
Still, Dean thought Sam would've been able to see his point this time. They had absolutely no idea why people disappeared when they stepped on the Huntley property. The victims – thirty in all, and those were just the ones they knew about – had simply vanished, never to be seen again. There was no connection, no pattern, and no remains had ever been found.
Sam, frustrated with the lack of information on the property, had wanted to visit the area, check out the house and the surrounding woods. Dean had immediately refused – he wasn't about to go in blind to a situation like that. Maybe before – when Sam was gone and he just didn't care – he would have, but now, with Sam back, Dean was bound and determined to be the big brother again – to keep his little brother safe.
But Sam had immediately pounced on Dean's refusal, accusing him of trying to be Dad, of trying to control Sam, of trying to make Sam be a follower instead of a partner. That had never been Dean's intention – he would much rather have Sam doing his share, and not just because he hated doing research, either. Growing up with his brother within a twenty-foot radius almost all of the time had created a connection between the two that not even their father could fully comprehend. They worked a lot better together than they ever did alone. Sam's time at Stanford had made that more than clear to Dean.
That knowledge didn't keep him from making his point clear, however. The beat-up picture of a beagle on their motel room wall had vibrated with the force of their yells, and Dean had decided to end what was quite possibly the quickest fight of their lives before he ended up smashing something – namely Sam's face. With a final growl – We're not going out there until we have more information and that's that, Sam! – Dean decided to get some air and let them both cool off.
Two hours, a pool game, and four shots ago that had seemed like a good idea. But then his gut started clenching in its Sammy is in trouble way, and that was more than enough to send Dean back to the motel room.
Now he wished he'd driven to the bar. The walk hadn't seemed nearly this long on the way. He picked up speed, the flickering neon sign of their motel visible but still a good half-mile away. The Impala keys jangled in his pocket, but that didn't mean much in the long run. Dean knew Sam had a spare set buried away in his duffle bag somewhere, and if Sam was pissed enough…
Before Stanford, Dean knew Sam would never have gone off on his own. But after Stanford… Dean was still trying to re-familiarize himself with this man that had taken his little brother's place. For the most part, his Sam was still there, under that mop of hair and behind those big dark eyes that hadn't changed much over the years. But Sam was different, acted differently, moved differently. True, they still moved in sync – when it counted. But Sam moved with a new agility, a new grace that had replaced the awkward, loping gait of a skinny eighteen-year-old with the strong, forceful one of a twenty-two-year-old, and when they weren't fighting some evil sonofabitch, it was a little disconcerting at times.
As Dean jogged the rest of the way to the parking lot, the empty space outside their door cleared off any remaining haze the alcohol had created.
The Impala was gone. Sam had left.
"Damn it, Sam," Dean hissed, yanking his phone out of his pocket and hitting the speed dial. It rang once, twice, three times before going to voicemail.
"Hi, this is Sam. Leave –"
Dean flipped the phone shut as he shoved his key into the door lock. After a little twisting and jiggling of the door handle, he got the battered door open and ripped the key out with the harsh sound of grating metal. His eyes were already scanning the room, noting the duffel bag full of weapons that had been resting on his bed was gone. Sam's duffel of clothes was still there, predominantly perched at the foot of the bed farthest from the door – a testament to the fact that Sam had planned on coming back, even though he hadn't left a note.
Dean's teeth ground together for a moment. If Sam had gone up to the Huntley property – and Dean would bet the Impala that he had – he might not have much of a choice in coming back.
Dean moved to the space between the beds, and yanked the drawer of the small end table open. He grabbed the .45 resting next to the beat-up Bible, tucking it in the waistband of his jeans at the small of his back. He reached under his pillow and grabbed the knife he'd placed there, strapping the sheath to his right calf and pulling his jeans over it, then reached under Sam's mattress to grab the spare flask of holy water and tucked it into his back pocket. He hit Sam's speed dial again, pausing when he heard a faint ring coming from the duffel bag perched on Sam's bed. Slipping the phone back in his coat pocket, he pulled the zipper back and groaned when he saw Sam's light jacket resting on top of the pile of clothes.
"Damn it," he hissed, pulling the zipper closed again. Sam must've grabbed his heavy jacket and forgotten to grab his cell phone out of the pocket of his other coat. And he was the one that got the full-ride to Stanford, Dean thought without humor, striding back to the door.
He stood on the sidewalk, eyeing the small assortment of cars scattered throughout the motel parking lot. The Huntley property was a ten-minute drive away if he drove – twenty if Sam was behind the wheel – and he'd left the room almost two and a half hours earlier. That meant Sam had probably gone out to the property over two hours ago.
Two hours. More than enough time for whatever was haunting the place to do its dirty work.
Dean jogged over to a black Ford pickup truck with a rusty tailgate that was parked at the very edge of the lot. Less than two minutes later he was peeling out, his hands gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles were white.
When I find that kid, I'm gonna kill him.
Dean made it out to the edge of the woods surrounding the Huntley house in seven minutes. He swallowed as the truck's headlights illuminated the sleek lines of the Impala, parked on the side of the road, safely out of the way of any passing traffic. Dean climbed out of the cab and jogged over, running a hand lightly over the Chevy's frame as he moved to tug on the driver's side door. The door didn't move, so Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out his own keys, the door squeaking loudly as he pulled it open. He popped the glove box open and grabbed his flashlight, noting that Sam's was missing.
Locking the door again, he moved to the trunk and opened both the lid and the false bottom. He reached in, grabbed a spare sawed-off and several rock-salt shells, then slammed the bottom and the lid shut again. He clicked the flashlight on, loaded the shotgun, and jogged towards the edge of the woods thirty feet away.
Ten feet inside the woods he found the weapons bag, a flashlight, the EMF, and another shotgun lying on the ground. But no Sam.
"Shit," he muttered, raising his flashlight and turning in a complete circle, forcing his panic back into a tight ball in his gut. "Sam?" he called, his breath puffing out in a thin fog. "Sam!"
He stood still for a moment and noticed for the first time that he couldn't hear anything. No animals, no breeze, no Sam – nothing.
Bending down, he unzipped the bag and tossed in his shotgun and Sam's flashlight before zipping it back up. The EMF was quiet as he picked it up. He checked to make sure it was still on, then tucked it into his pocket. He grabbed the shotgun, slung the bag over his shoulder, and straightened.
"Sam!" he called again, heading deeper into the woods, constantly shining the flashlight in all directions. His common sense was screaming at him to come back later in the daylight, or to try and find more information before going in blindly.
Screw common sense. This was Sam. Leaving was not an option.
He stepped over a fallen tree and kept moving, his eyes narrowed and his hand gripped tight around the shotgun as he continued to shout his brother's name. The EMF clicked occasionally, but never whined loud enough to make Dean pull it out of his pocket to check – just enough to keep him even more on edge than he already was.
When I find him, I'm still gonna kill him, he thought resolutely, trudging through the underbrush. Dean didn't care that at least thirty people had disappeared in these woods, never to be seen again. He didn't care that he had never encountered anything like this before – something that could make dozens of people disappear without a single trace, something that left no track of any kind, something that took everything and left nothing.
Thirty people were gone. Vanished without a trace. And Sam was number thirty-one. But that made no difference to Dean.
Dean would find Sam. End of story.
"Sammy!" Dean called, his voice cracking slightly as he broke through the edge of the woods to stand on the dirt patch that was the lawn surrounding the old house.
He paused, eyes widening at the faint, terrified call. It sounded like it was coming from inside the house. "Sam?"
"Dean! Dean! DEAN!"
"Hang on, Sammy!" Dean bellowed, dropping the heavy bag to the ground and sprinting for the house. The EMF screeched in his pocket for a moment before fading away as Dean pounded up the front steps. He juggled both the shotgun and the flashlight in one hand and grabbing the doorknob with the other hand, Sam's hoarse, terrified shouts ringing in his ears and making his heart thump painfully in his chest as he twisted the knob.
The knob wouldn't move.
"Damn it," Dean growled under his breath. "Sam, hang on!" he called again, shoving at the door with his shoulder. Despite the age of the door, it was solid and didn't move an inch.
Sam was no longer crying out, and that terrified Dean more than the panicked shouts had. "Sam!" he shouted, backing up a step and kicking at the door. He winced as pain flared up his leg, but kept kicking, grunting with the effort. "Sam!" he called again as the door frame started splintering. Over his own kicks, he could hear faint thuds resounding from somewhere inside the house. "Sammy!"
With one final kick, the door frame gave way and the door swung inward. The EMF screeched again as he crossed the threshold, but Dean mostly ignored it, keeping the shotgun at chest level as he swept the musty room with the flashlight. "Sam?" he barked.
Off to his left, he could hear the thuds coming from the direction of the living room. He turned, aiming both the gun and the flashlight in the general direction of the noise, the hair prickling on the back of his neck as the EMF fell silent. He cautiously moved into the room. "Sammy?"
There was no response, but he could still hear a faint drumming, as if someone were banging on something. He went to a window and looked outside, frowning as he noticed an entrance to a cellar just below the dirty glass. One of the doors was thrown open.
He ran back outside and down the stairs into the cellar. The pounding grew louder as he descended the steps, and as soon as his feet hit the dusty wooden floor he felt the floorboards vibrating in time with the sounds. They were coming from the corner of the room, and as he crept forward, he could hear a hoarse voice groaning, "NooutoutoutnoDean letmeout, someonepleaseletmeout, outoutoutout, Deanhurry, pleasepleaseout," and his eyes widened.
Sam was trapped. Inside the floor.
"Oh my God," Dean breathed, rushing forward and falling to his knees. "Sam, hang on! I'm here, I'm gonna get you out!"
The panicked stream of words never let up, and Dean licked his lips as he ran his fingers over the vibrating floorboards. With his height, Sam had a hard enough time with small spaces as it was, and judging by the frightened babble, he'd already been pushed near – if not over – the edge. Dean started calling his own reassurances, hoping that somehow he could get through to his brother. "I'm here, Sammy, I'm here and I'm gonna get you out, it's me, I'm here…"
His hands paused over a small section where three of the floorboards were vibrating more violently than the rest. One of the boards was starting to pry loose – presumably from Sam's panicked kicking.
Dean yanked the knife out from the sheath on his leg and used the handle to splinter off a small piece of the floorboard so he could wedge it underneath to force the board up. "I'm here, Sam, calm down, you're getting out…"
As soon as there was enough room, Dean stuck the fingers of one hand into the gap, dropping the knife so he could put his other hand into the space as well. He winced as Sam's shoes connected with his fingers, but pushed the pain aside and focused on pulling the floorboard up. There was a sharp crack, and Dean nearly fell backwards as a piece of wood a foot long splintered off into his hand. He tossed it aside as Sam's foot shot up then dropped down and paused. For a split second there was silence in the room.
Then Dean was grabbing at the floorboard over Sam's left foot and Sam was kicking more violently than ever, the toes of his shoes colliding painfully with Dean's fingers. The rubber thudded loudly against the concrete foundation below him every time his feet went down. There had barely been enough space for Sam's feet to rest between the floorboards and the concrete, and there was a brace right below Sam's shoes, which meant he hadn't even been able to flex his feet down.
No wonder the kid was freaked out. Dean felt his chest tightening at the thought of being trapped in such a small space. "Sammy, calm down, calm down," he called, his voice cracking as more chunks of wood broke off in his hands, sending splinters deep into the palms.
But Sam – being Sam – defied orders and continued to kick frantically, his voice little more than a broken whisper, and Dean had to get him out soon before the kid hyperventilated or did more than bruise and sprain Dean's fingers.
As soon as the hole was wide enough across for Sam's broad shoulders and about two feet long, Dean rocked back into a crouch, reached down, latched his bruised and bleeding fingers around Sam's ankles, and backpedaled.
Sam's legs stiffened for a moment as he screamed in surprise. He thrashed for a few moments before he started wildly kicking again. "Damn it, Sam, it's me, it's Dean, you're safe now," Dean called, his voice rough as his eyes burned.
He continued backpedaling, letting his arms move loosely with Sam's legs but keeping his grip firm around his brother's ankles as he pulled Sam's knees out, hips out, hands and chest –
Then Sam was free and twisting and clawing the floorboards, panting and whimpering as he tried to get away from whatever he thought Dean was. Dean didn't breathe, continuing instead to pull Sam closer to him, grabbing his knees, his side, his arms, trying to bring him in, constantly muttering reassurances as he tried to get through to his brother.
"I got you, Sammy, please, it's okay, shhh, I got you, it's me, I got you, it's me, you're okay, you're okay, I got you Sammy, it's all right, I got you, shhh, it's okay…"
Sam suddenly stopped moving, and Dean took the opportunity to wrap himself around his brother protectively, lacing his fingers through Sam's hair and tucking his head to his chest with one hand, wrapping the other arm around his brother's back and gripping Sam's jacket tightly, his low voice rough as he kept murmuring in Sam's ear.
Then Sam slumped against him, and Dean felt the tug of his t-shirt as Sam's fingers twisted in it, and he started breathing again, sighing with relief as he let his voice fade away.
"M'sorry," Sam croaked, and Dean had to hold back a snort. Figures the first thing Sam would do after almost dying would be apologizing. "Dean-"
"Not your fault," Dean said immediately. He swallowed. "We didn't know the thing was burying its victims."
Sam was silent for a moment, and beneath his fingers Dean felt Sam's head move a little so he could look back at the hole in the floorboards. Dean dropped his chin lightly onto the top of Sam's head, finally letting the reality of the situation settle on him and closing his eyes as they began to burn.
He'd almost lost Sam. If Sam had come a little earlier, if Dean had even stayed for another ten minutes at that bar, Sam would've hyperventilated – probably passed out – and Dean never would've been able to find him. He never would've thought of something trapping people in the walls and the floor – not until it was too late.
Sam shuddered, his head turning back to Dean's chest. Dean tightened his arms reflexively, drawing as much comfort from the feel of his brother breathing – of Sam being alive – as he knew Sam was drawing from him.
"Not that," Sam whispered. "I…I still went alone."
This time Dean did snort. Typical Sam – taking on the weight of the blame even when Dean had been the one to drive his brother away from safety, into the car, to the forest, into a frickin' trap. "Yeah, because I all but told you to. That's on me, Sammy, not you. I shouldn't have said what I did. I'm sorry, kiddo."
Sam's fingers tightened in his shirt. "S'not your fault. Shouldn't have-" Sam was cut off midsentence as a deep cough racked his body. Dean shifted slightly so he could support his brother as he kept coughing, as if Sam's lungs had finally realized they could take in as much air as they wanted.
He coaxed his brother through the coughing fit, keeping a firm hold on Sam's quivering body. Gradually the coughs gave way to deep gasps, and Dean could feel Sam's ribs heaving against his. "Then it's not your fault, either. Breathe, Sammy. Just breathe."
Sam breathed, and Dean matched his breaths, shifting subtly so he could support more of his brother's weight. Gradually Sam's death grip on his shirt loosened, then gave way completely as the younger Winchester hissed and shook his hands violently.
Pins and needles, Dean realized as Sam flexed his long fingers and shook his hands. As tight as the space had been, it was no wonder the blood hadn't been able to make it down to Sam's hands. He moved his arms and grabbed Sam's hands, stilling their movement and gently massaging them to ease the feeling back. The skin on Sam's fingers was as raw as the skin on his own, but Dean was relieved to feel warmth coming back to them.
Sam slumped against him as he worked, his shaggy head resting on Dean's shoulder. "Creature?" he whispered.
Dean swallowed, keeping his eyes focused on Sam's hands. "Couldn't find it. When I found the bag of weapons outside, finding you sort of became the priority."
Thirty people gone. Vanished without a trace. Sam had been so close, so close to being number thirty-one…
Something was going to die in the near future. Dean would make damn sure of it.
Sam's head shifted, and Dean looked down into his brother's tired eyes, trying not to dwell too much on how bloodshot they were. "We'll come back tomorrow, you and me, and waste it," he declared firmly.
Sam blinked. "Sure you still want me hunting, trailing after you?" he asked quietly. Resignedly – like he expected Dean to send him away or something.
Yeah, right. As if Dean would even consider letting Sam out of his sight for the next three weeks.
"I don't want you trailing behind me," he replied firmly, wrapping his arm around Sam's shoulders again, this time more in reassurance than anything. "I've kinda gotten used to you hunting beside me."
Sam didn't respond to that, but he didn't have to. Instead, he rubbed his fingers against his palm and shifted subtly in Dean's grasp, as if testing to make sure he still could. Dean let a small, reassuring smile slip through as Sam glanced back up at him and made a mental note to avoid spaces smaller than the Impala for a very long time. "You ready to get out of here?"
"More than," Sam agreed. Dean gripped his brother and pulled him up. Sam wobbled for a moment but headed towards the steps mostly on his own speed. That didn't stop Dean from keeping a hand at Sam's back, an anchor for both of them as they emerged from the cellar and back into the forest.
Everything was back to the way it was supposed to be, and Dean walked back out of the forest with his brother beside him.