TITLE: HIS LAST BREATH
Summary: A simple Salt n' Burn… For the Winchesters, however, nothing is ever simple. The brother's are separated while hunting in the woods of Kings Canyon for a murderous ghost.
Warnings: Some swearing, a potentially disturbing scene pertaining to sexual assault. Minor Spoiler for Episode 2.16: Road Kill
Challenges: Answer to a challenge on the DeanDamage website.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Andrew Jason Harris" is an actual convicted serial killer currently waiting on death row in California, although the name has been changed. The victim mentioned in not a real person and should he resemble any persons living or deceased that was no my intention.
"Each person is born to one possession which out values all his others - his last breath"
"Tell me why we're here again?"
Sam flipped the laptop open as the Impala cruised eastward, away from Fresno, on the 180. "Andrew Jason Harris. He was a sadistic killer in the 70s and 80s. He was a bartender in a gay bar in Claremont for about four years. In '68 he joined the Air Force, high security clearance type too. A year later, he comes out of the closet to his family and is discharged from the USAF on 'medical' grounds the same year. He goes back to tending bar. 1971 the first body's discovered along the Ortega highway."
"Right," Dean nodded, recalling what his brother had told him earlier. "They couldn't tag Harris with that one though, could they?"
"No," Sam confirmed. "Authorities couldn't even rule it homicide. There wasn't a mark on the body and nothing was ever found. It was assumed after he was arrested that the guy was Harris's first victim. It's speculated that Harris murdered dozens of young guys and teenage boys. Torturing them and sexually abusing them before finally killing them in a number of different ways."
"Nasty," the other brother wrinkled his nose in distaste.
"Shot to the head, stabbing, strangulation, poisons, he wasn't exactly particular." Sam moved his finger over the sensor pad of his computer and brought up another file. "A lot of his victims were military types, hitching from base to base. The rest were runaways, hitchhikers, guys he'd picked up in a gay bar."
"Something against those who shared his predilections?"
Lifting his head up, Sam looked over at his brother with a look of mocking awe and amazement. "Predilections? Seriously?"
"I know. Three dollar word or what?" Dean smirked. "I'm not just a pretty face ya know."
Sam rolled his eyes and went back to the computer. "And no, not all of the victims were homosexual. Most weren't actually. Now, Harris was arrested in '83 after he was pulled over along the San Diego freeway with a body a marine in his front seat. After searching his place, a house he shared with his boyfriend at the time, they found clothes and other possessions from more than sixty victims."
"Yea. He was officially charged with 16 murders. Plead not guilty, despite the fact that he even kept a coded list of sixty-one cryptic references to his victims."
"And that's why we're here? They fried his ass and now he's back to his old tricks?"
"Not quite," Sam said after a brief hesitation. "Harris isn't dead."
Dean looked over at his brother and arched an eyebrow. "Not dead? So who's playing homicidal Casper?"
"One of his victims – uh, Simon Fraser, killed in '78 – his body was found just off this highway about a half mile south of the Sunset Campsite in Kings Canyon National Park. It, uh, wasn't a pleasant discovery from the reports."
He shuddered, knowing it must have been really bad if Sam wasn't sharing details. "Okay, so why are we driving out into the middle of the mountains when we should be salting and burning his carcass?"
"He was cremated."
"And we're sure Fraser's our boy?"
"He was the only victim of Harris's in this mountain range, and the only violent death I could find that could explain the recent victims. Sexual assault, severe contusions consistent with being beaten, suffocation-"
"No chance it's a copycat?"
"None," Sam shook his head. "There've been witnesses. All said it looked like the victim was attacked by nothing. The injuries would just appear and then they just stopped breathing."
"Okay, so why is he acting out now? Why's he been quiet for almost thirty years before stringing up hitchhikers and campers? And if he was cremated, how the hell are we going to stop him?"
"Takes time to create an angry spirit, Dean, you know that. As for stopping him…" Sam risked a glance at his brother. "I haven't exactly figured that out yet."
Dean didn't disappoint.
With a growl, he hit the breaks and steered the Impala to the side of the road. The tires rumbled on the dirt shoulder and the car tilted to the side as it came to a stop. The older hunter slammed the car into park and turned to glower at his passenger.
"You're telling me that we're going after a murderous angry spirit with no idea of how we're going to stop it?! Are you freakin' insane?!!"
"We've done it before," Sam pointed out, instinctively back away from the pissed off man until his back hit the door. "Remember Molly?"
"Not even close to the same, Geek-boy," Dean snarled. "Molly wasn't exactly killing people, now was she? She was the victim in that hunt."
Sam blinked. "Huh…"
Dean sighed. "What now?"
"Nothing, just never thought I'd hear the day you considered a ghost the victim."
He was still glowering at Sam, but the intensity wasn't there. "Bitch."
Sam smiled, knowing the brief fight was over already. "Jerk."
Rolling his eyes, Dean placed his foot on the brake and put the car into gear. "So, this Fraser guy has some unfinished business and in the meantime is doing to others what was done unto him."
"It looks that way." Sam closed his laptop and placed it on the seat between them. "I just want to check out the area. It's not far now."
"And we couldn't accomplish this in the daylight?" He started to lift his foot of the pedal, the car easing forward slightly.
They had proceeded an entire yard before the engine sputtered and died all together.
"Aw, hell no!" Dean shifted into park and turned the key again. The engine clicked but wouldn't catch.
"I thought you just tuned it?" Sam felt a niggle at the back of his mind as Dean popped the hood and got out of the car.
"She was purring," Dean answered, lifting the hood and trying to see beneath it in the waning light. "Sam, hand me a flashlight will ya?"
Sam chuckled and took the light resting next to small bag of salt from the glove compartment. He pulled the handle and opened the door – only it didn't open. He pulled on the lock, but it was already up. He pushed as hard as he could against the door.
"Today would be nice, Samantha."
"Dean-" The name caught in Sam's throat as he noticed the puff of vapour passing between his lips. A chill swept over him. A sudden sense of urgency spurred him into motion and he started to slide across the front seat to the open driver's side door.
It slammed shut before he had moved more than a few inches.
"Sam?" Dean poked his head around the raised hood.
He barely had time to register Sam fighting to open the door when he felt an icy grip around his ankles. A second later his footing was pulled out from beneath him. His chest bounced off the bumper of his car and he was hitting the pavement face first. He felt his front teeth tear into the inside of his lips and could taste the copper of blood on his tongue. Then, with near breakneck speed he was being pulled away from the car and into the woods. "Sammy!"
Trapped inside the Impala, Sam could only watch as his brother suddenly disappeared in front of the car. A moment later he heard Dean yell and caught a glimpse of him as he was dragged across the highway, up the small rocky incline, and into the darkness.
Jagged stones tore at the thin fabric of his t-shirt and Dean felt them bite into the flesh of his chest and stomach. He hissed at the pain and steeled himself to fight against the invisible force taking him further from the road and his brother. He managed to twist onto his back, letting his leather jacket take the abuse from the forest floor.
Except the assault stopped a few seconds after it began.
The chilled grip was gone from his ankles and he lay panting to catch his breath. He could hear his brother yelling his name and pounding against the door. Dean sighed, relieved that the attack was over.
"Don't get your panties in a knot," he called down to Sam.
"You all right?" Sam's voice was muffled inside the car, but at least he'd stopped abusing Dean's baby.
Dean groaned at the pain that laced over his chest as he started to rise. "Peachy."
There was a sudden blur of moment in his peripheral and he heard Sam's cry of warning a second too late.
The translucent figure descended on him so quickly he had no time to react. His body was forced back to the ground where he could feel an icy energy pin his hands together above his head. He arched his back, instinctively trying to buck the thing off him as it solidified right on top of him. Lifeless eyes stared down at him as the spirit pressed Dean into the ground until he couldn't move.
"… save… me…"
The ghost's voice was faint and raspy, as though he didn't have much air to voice them.
For a moment, Ghost and Hunter shared a common fear. But then those undead eyes changed from prey to predator. The thing vanished, but the pressure keeping Dean immobile remained.
Invisible hands raked down his chest, shredding the tattered remains of his shirt. He screamed in pain as nails dug into his skin, blood pooling in the scratches that appeared. The unseen hands moved down his body, groping and cutting his body as they descended.
Dean clenched his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, his body going rigid when the sensation continued from his torso to the waistband of his jeans.
Imaged flashed across the inside of his lids; things that happened decades ago to a scared boy that had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bound hands clawing at the dirt; mouth opened wide in a silent scream; bloodied body unable to fight the things being done to it.
He relived everything Fraser had seen and felt. Hours of pain and humiliation and begging for death, all in a matter of a few horrifying seconds.
He wanted to scream but like Fraser, his breathing was limited by the weight on his chest.
He wanted to die.
He wanted Sam.
And then it was over.
The invisible bindings on his wrists remained, but the weight holding him down was gone. With a shuddering sob he took in a deep breath, slowly exhaling as he willed his body to relax.
It was that moment he felt a vice gripping his throat.
Near panicking emerald eyes snapped open when the hold tightened and his airway was cut off completely. Dean stared up at the stars in the sky above him, unable to move and desperate to breathe. Seconds passed, feeling like an eternity, and the pinpoints of light began to expand and overtake his vision.
The world fell away around him and he heard Fraser's voice rasp against his ear again.
"… save… me…"
Sam was beyond frantic.
Fraser's ghost fell on Dean like an animal, and then it vanished. Yet from the way his brother was thrashing and fighting on the ledge above the road he knew it hadn't gone. It was doing to his brother what he had done to the other victims – what had been done to him.
Sealed inside by the spirit's aura, Sam was yelling Deans name as he railed against the doors. His shoulder slammed into the metal again and again but to no avail. When that didn't work, he leaned back and started kicking at the window, praying to whatever god was listening that the glass would break.
All the while, he watched the ledge.
When Dean suddenly stopped fighting and went still, Sam's heart leapt into his throat. "No!"
His brother was going to die and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"DEAN!" he went at the window again with everything he had. The skin on his knuckles split leaving spatters of blood on the glass with every frenzied strike.
Time was not on his side. He read the reports, knew that Dean had maybe seconds left before Fraser succeeded in killing him.
Tears burned on his cheek and the fear was stealing his strength. He paused in his assault on the window and looked up at his brother's body.
Dean wasn't alone anymore, Fraser hovered above the hunter, his arms stretched down and wrapped around the boy's throat.
Sam's forehead rested momentarily on the blood smeared window. He closed his eyes, sending another trail of terrified tears down his face. His breathing increased, his teeth clenched, and a scream filled with rage and fear tore passed his lips as he suddenly drew back his arm and thrust his fist once more at the window.
He was not going to lose his brother!
Several of his fingers dislocated beneath the impact, but the pain didn't have time to register as the fist shattered the glass.
Fraser's hold on the Impala faltered and Sam moved without thinking.
He grabbed the small bag of rock salt from the glove compartment and scurried out the window. Several jagged pieces of glass tore into his arms and legs as he climbed out, but he didn't care.
As soon as his feet touched the pavement he was running. His long legs carried him quickly up the incline and in seconds he was near enough. He threw a handful of salt at the apparition above his brother and closed the distance when it disappeared.
Not wanting to take a chance on its return, Sam spun around, letting loose the salt from the bag as he did so. A haphazard circle of the white crystal encompassed the Winchesters, and the younger wasted no time in kneeling beside his unmoving brother.
Blood oozed from more than a dozen scratches and gouges on the older boy's chest, and already deep bruises were forming on his throat. "Dean?"
Sam's hands were shaking as he tentatively reached toward the side of Dean's neck.
The unnatural chill returned as Fraser's ghost appeared just outside the protective circle, watching as Sam felt for a pulse.
Knowing he was in a panic, Sam felt his heart hitch when at first he found nothing. He lifted his fingers and shook them out in an attempt to rid himself of the tremors before pressing them against Dean's neck again.
It was there, faint and thready, but enough to let Sam know his brother was alive.
He just wasn't breathing.
Ignoring the pain that pulsed through his hand, he tilted Dean's head back and pinched his nose closed. His lips sealed around Dean's mouth and he blew two steady breaths into the older man's still lungs. He paused for a moment, hoping and praying that the chest would rise on its own.
When it didn't, he felt a chill that had nothing to do with the ghost hovering around.
"Breathe, god dammit!"
Seconds ticked by as continued breathing for his brother. Nearly a full minute passed before he took another pause to check the pulse again.
Sam could barely feel the beating of the heart, but it was still there and that was all he needed.
"Come on, you stubborn sunovabitch!" He yelled between breaths. "BREATHE! Don't do this to me, Dean! You're stronger than this!"
"… save… me…"
He spared a glance to the spirit drawing closer, stopping only when the salt line prevented its advance. Sam momentarily expected Fraser to attempt to find a break in the circle, but instead he saw a glimmer of hope in the dead man's eyes.
And it was then that he figured it out.
Dean's body suddenly jerked, gasping as his lungs finally took a breath on their own.
Relief flooded through Sam at the sound of his brother's ragged coughs. He pulled Dean to him, mindful of the bloodied welts on Dean's chest.
"I got ya," Sam held tight while Dean thrashed briefly against his. The man's eyes were wide with panic and fear, and Sam felt his heart shudder when he realized what Dean had just gone through. "It's okay… it's over… you're okay, you're safe… I got ya now big brother…"
The reassuring words did the trick and the battered hunter calmed.
"I'm here, Dean."
"… thank… you…"
Fraser knelt just outside the circle, his eyes focussed on Dean. "… thank… you… I… can… breathe… again…"
Sam tightened his arms around his brother when Dean's tremors intensified. "Harris was caught," the youngest Winchester told the ghost. "He can't hurt you or anyone else anymore."
The spirit nodded once, and then was gone.
The warmth of the California night touched them again and Sam was confident that Fraser wouldn't be back.
Dean's voice drew his attention.
"Get me out of here, will ya?"
Helping the other man to his feet, Sam nodded. "You need a hospital?"
"No hospitals" Dean growls as they picked their way cautiously down the incline back to the road. "M'fine. Just… let's get out of here."
"All right, Dean." Sam was careful not to jostle dean too much as they moved around the car and Dean climbed into the passenger's seat. After brushing off the glass from the seat, Sam was behind the wheel and starting the engine with ease.
Making a U-turn, Sam headed back the way they came; back toward Fresno. He drove slower than the speed limit, keeping the noise from the wind as it passed the broken window to a minimum.
Sam paused, glancing at his brother in the seat next to him. Dean was turned away from him, his head staring out the window at the trees speeding by. How could he tell him his theory, knowing what had just happened to him?
Noticing the silence, Dean turned to face Sam. "Sammy?"
"I can only guess, Dean."
He sighed. "I don't think Fraser was dead when Harris left him in the woods." His brown eyes flicked to see his brother's face before turning back to the road. "I think his heart was still beating, but he wasn't breathing. He lay there, slowly suffocating because he didn't have the strength to breathe on his own. He's been making people relive what he went through, waiting for someone to get him breathing again."
Dean went silent and looked back at the world outside.
The pair drove in quiet for several minutes before Dean spoke again.
"You broke my window."
Sam chuckled and glanced over at his brother. "Yea, Dean."