TITLE: Inner Eternity
AUTHOR: Eleri McCleod
CONTACT INFO: elerimc at gmail . com; elerimc . livejournal . com/
STATUS: complete, posted one part per week
CONTENT LEVEL: T, 13+, FR13, take your pick
CONTENT WARNINGS: None. Just remember I love messing with people's heads.
SUMMARY: A simple salt and burn turns deadly when a witch from the past makes a play for Dean's future.
DISCLAIMER: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke, Kripke Enterprises and Warner Brothers. I'm just borrowing them for a little while and will return them unharmed. No copyright infringement is intended.
ARCHIVE: FF, Supernaturalville, LJ, any others please ask
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Very special thanks go to Lynette for trudging through this entire thing in a crazy short amount of time. She is the queen of all betas. I started this fic long before season five aired and any similar ideas or concepts are pure coincidence. Unfortunately, there's only so much Google Maps can show me. If I've used your hometown in this fic and changed details, please forgive me. I chose them for a reason, I promise, even if it doesn't seem obvious. As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.
BLUE SPRINGS, MISSOURI
Thursday, 12:10 am
Sam Winchester hitched the shovel higher onto his shoulder and glanced across the three feet separating him and his brother. Dean had a smile stretching from one ear to the other, clearly happy about something. Looking around the seemingly never-ending rows of marble headstones and grave markers, Sam had to wonder if his brother was just a little too enthusiastic. "Why are you in such a good mood?"
"What? I'm not allowed to enjoy my job?"
He stopped, shoes digging into the soft ground. "We're searching for one specific grave so we can spend two hours digging up a coffin in order to salt and then burn whatever remains are left. This is disgusting and just slightly disturbing. No one should enjoy this job."
Dean didn't even bother to look back, just kept walking. "Of course we should. It's a black and white case of good versus evil and we're going to stop it. What's not to enjoy?"
"Let me see," he mumbled under his breath, starting after Dean who moved with his usual ground eating stride. "Aching back muscles from digging up over a hundred and fifty cubic feet of dirt, the smell of burning corpse permeating our clothes and the possibility of getting tossed around by a pissed off spirit. Just little things like that." But he knew his brother wouldn't count even the worst of those as negatives. To Dean, stopping something evil would outweigh any consequence to him personally. Sam just wished his brother would care a little more about himself than everyone else.
"And here we go." The marker was small compared to those around it, more like a passing thought than a remembrance. "Martin Sutter, whoever you are, you've had your last bit of undead fun." Dean set his bag off to the side, the contents clinking as it struck the ground. Pulling the shotgun free, he laid it on the grass before picking up his shovel.
Sam toed the marker, his gut twinging slightly. "Are you sure this is the right one? I couldn't find any records for a Martin Sutter in the county files. I'd hate to dig up the wrong guy."
"This is where the groundskeeper said all the bodies were found." He shrugged, thrusting the shovel into the ground and tearing out a chunk of grass and soil. "All of them sprawled right over this grave, going as far back as he can remember."
He picked a spot a few feet from Dean and started digging as well. "And no one thought that was a little weird?"
"Apparently." Dean grunted as a particularly large clump released, roots draping over the side of the shovel. "You read the news articles too. Heart attacks galore and no sign of anyone else near the grave. The only question was what were they all doing here alone at night." He paused, the shovel planted deep in the dirt. "What's the matter? We went over all of this in the motel earlier, remember?"
"I know. It's just... I don't know. Now that we're here something doesn't feel right." He could feel Dean's gaze on him, but wouldn't look up to meet it, didn't want to see the expression that might be lurking there.
That did make him look up. "That's it? Just 'huh?'"
"You want something else? Let's torch this sucker and then you can tell me all about your hinky feelings."
Sam had to smile at his brother's straightforward attitude. It was such a huge part of Dean's character that he had no idea why he was surprised by it anymore. "Sounds good to me."
"Then quit yakking and help me dig." He shot a quick grin in Sam's direction, his eyebrows quirking up and down once. "Don't think I can't see your plan, lazy ass. You're not sticking me with all of the heavy lifting."
Tempted to toss his shovel of dirt at his brother instead of on the growing pile to his right, he snorted. "That's me all right. I'll be sitting over there drinking a latte. Let me know when we're ready for the lighter fluid." His brother simply laughed and kept on digging.
They worked in a companionable silence as the normal sounds of the night mixed with their quickened breaths. The light from the three quarter waning moon shifted the shadows from the trees and headstones around them as it crossed the sky. Dean had dumped his jacket and flannel shirt not ten minutes into their dig and Sam had followed suit a few shovelfuls later. Despite the typical Missouri winter chill, sweat dripped down his temples to splash onto his t-shirt, mixing with the perspiration from his chest. The muscles of his back held a pleasant warmth, the burn of honest exertion and work. His lips quirked up a tiny bit. Honest work? Was that what he was calling digging up graves now?
His gaze flew to his brother's, reverie broken. "What?" The heavy puff of visible air coming from Dean's mouth answered for him. A shiver worked down his spine, the sudden drop in temperature making its way through his clothes and freezing the sweat on his back. "Crap. We're nowhere near the coffin."
Dean hopped out of the three foot deep hole and exchanged his shovel for the loaded shotgun. "Keep digging. I'll hold it off." He scanned the area, one hand making a small pile of rock salt filled shells on the grass next to his bag, the other holding the shotgun at the ready. "I guess this really is the right guy."
"Hold it off, he says," Sam repeated, doubling his efforts. "There's too much earth here, man. You can't hold it off that long."
"Just keep digging." The order was accompanied by a blast of the shotgun.
He could hear Dean mutter to himself over the sound of dirt plopping. The feeling of wrongness reinstated itself in his gut, twisting it into knots. Sparing a glance at Dean, he saw the spirit appear to his brother's left only to scatter into mist when the shotgun spat rock salt at it again. "I told you this was a bad idea."
Two more shells slammed their way into the barrels. "Yeah, well, you were fresh out of better ones earlier."
Sam's mouth tightened as the shotgun sang out, but he never stopped the shovel's movement. "And since when has a spirit been bound to its own grave? That's not exactly normal."
"Can we save the philosophical discussion until after -" blam went the rock salt "- we kill the bad ghost?"
Knowing the rebuke was Dean's way of telling him to stay on track, he bit his lip on the next obvious question - what did they do when they ran out of shells? Because at the rate Dean was using them up, he'd be long out before Sam managed to get to the coffin. Dean wouldn't have an answer to that one either.
The sound of the shotgun clattering into the grass yanked Sam's attention up from the growing dirt pile to see Dean flying through the air, his weapon lying twenty feet away. "Dean." He dropped the shovel and scrambled out of the hole, hands reaching for the shotgun. The ghost turned to look at him and he froze for a split second. It was male, its clothing and facial hair making it look more like it had died in 1856 and not 1956 as its marker claimed. It turned away with a look of contempt on its patrician features then shimmered out of sight. His brother grunted when he slammed against the back of a headstone, face wincing in pain as he slid down its length to the ground. "Dean!"
"Dig, damn it."
Sam hesitated. His brother sounded so confident, but then again when did he not when dealing with a spirit? Dean had an uncanny knack for being right, as much as it annoyed the hell out of Sam. About to drop the shotgun and return to the hole, he froze when the spirit reappeared in front of Dean, partially blocking his brother from sight. Its left hand shot out, grasping him by the neck, completely ignoring Dean's hands as they fought to free himself. Sam was sprinting towards them even as the spirit's right hand pressed against his brother's chest, directly over his heart. At the moment of contact, Dean's entire body spasmed, a scream ripping from his throat.
It had never taken so long to cover fifteen feet of ground. He couldn't risk a distance shot with Dean in the line of fire. Splattering his chest with rock salt was one thing, hitting his face full on was something different entirely. He had to get close enough so the salt spray wouldn't spread before passing Dean's body. But the sound of his brother's scream tore into him as it continued without pause. What the hell was that thing doing to him? He skidded to a halt, raised the shotgun and squeezed the trigger all in one smooth movement. Rock salt spat from the end of the barrel and Sam watched each tiny piece fly toward the spirit, time slowing to a crawl as Dean's face twisted in agony, his scream echoing in the frightening silence of the cemetery.
A sudden crash of thunder split the cloudless night, cutting off his brother's horrible cry and punching Sam in the chest. The ghost vanished with the sound, but the rock salt continued its trajectory through the now empty space as time caught up with itself. Sam whirled in a tight circle, eyes searching frantically. Where had it gone? Spirits didn't just up and leave, at least not in his experience. He sidestepped to his brother, eyes still scanning the immediate area. "Dean?" One hand reached for his shoulder as he knelt. "Dean, come on, man. Talk to me."
Only silence met his request. Worry pushed its way past the knowledge that the spirit might come back and he dropped the shotgun at his feet. "Dean." His brother's head was slumped forward, his entire body slack, still. Sam's hands shook as they lifted his head, stomach churning at the heavy, unresponsive weight. He felt along Dean's neck, fingers digging into flesh to search out a pulse. It was there. Too quick, too hard, but it was a pulse. His eyes closed for a long moment as relief dulled the fear. "Wake up, Dean. Come on now. You're not going to let a ghost win, are you?" The teasing words, even shaky as they were, had no affect on the other man. He lightly smacked his brother's cheeks, hoping the added stimulus would bring Dean around, but he didn't so much as twitch. "Screw this," he muttered, checking Dean's pulse once more. Still too fast, still too hard. They could finish the spirit off later with a better plan of attack on the second attempt.
Leaving his brother where he lay crumpled against the headstone, he quickly donned his outer shirt then gathered their supplies, shovels, shotgun, spent shells, and threw them into the duffel. The shovel handles stuck out at the top of the zipper, but he didn't really care. His first priority was to get Dean to safety, nothing else mattered. Lugging the heavy canvas the twenty feet to his brother, he tried one more time. "Dean, wake up. I'm going to have to start calling you Briar Rose soon enough." Even the insult didn't bring him around. He wormed his brother's arms into the sleeves of his shirt, following it quickly with his jacket, knowing the chilling sweat on Dean's body could only be adding to the damage. Pausing briefly, he sighed, breath condensing gently. "Damn. I'm sorry, man. This is probably going to hurt."
With one smooth motion, Sam grasped his brother's left arm, slung it over his shoulder and pulled him up into a fireman's carry. He swayed slightly, waiting for his body to adjust to Dean's added weight. "Dude, you need to lay off the cheeseburgers," he complained, more for the sake of normalcy than any real annoyance. His brother might be shorter, but he'd always been more heavily muscled, the breadth of his shoulders easily surpassing Sam's despite his three additional inches. Gripping Dean's left forearm to keep him balanced, he hefted the duffel with the other. He gave a split second to wonder where the spirit had disappeared to then dismissed it as inconsequential. It could haunt the grave site until hell froze over as far as he was concerned at the moment. He'd send it packing once his brother was okay.
The trip to the Impala took considerably longer on the way back. Dean's dead weight and the bulky duffel turned the earlier burn in his back into a blaze of pain. His quads protested with every step, but he forced them forward anyway. He kept up a litany of complaints to Dean's unconscious ears, all designed to take his mind off of the distance. If they annoyed him into waking up all the better. But by the time Sam had the rear door open and Dean sprawled out on the backseat, there was still no sign he was waking up.
One more check of his pulse confirmed that it hadn't changed, but the heat coming off Dean's skin surprised a curse from his lips. "Damn it, Dean. How do you keep getting yourself into these situations?" He knew it wasn't really his brother's fault, he just seemed to attract trouble at every turn. "You'd better wake up before we get to the motel. Your ass is too heavy to lug around like that."
He tossed the duffel into the trunk then slid into the driver's seat. The Impala roared to life as if she knew her owner was injured and he took off, not caring if he left a bit of rubber behind. "Just don't tell Dean I stripped a chunk off your tires. And I can't believe I'm starting to talk to a car." He glanced in the rear-view mirror, but could only make out part of Dean's arm where he lay. "You're a bad influence, dude."
The ten minute drive was over before Sam realized they were even close to the motel. He parked in the open spot in front of their door and had it propped open a bare five seconds later. The vehicle's rear door squeaked familiarly as he swung it open, the light from the parking lot spilling into the interior and over Dean's face. Sam nearly sank onto the concrete in relief when his brother's eyes tightened, his face wincing away from the brightness. "That's it, Dean. Help me out. We're at the room. Wake up."
Dean's eyelids fluttered, two vertical lines set deeply between his eyebrows. "Sammy?"
"Yeah. I'm here." He couldn't stop his hand from reaching out and gripping his brother's shoulder. Dean could give him hell for it later.
"You get the license of the truck?"
"The one that flattened me."
"Ha ha. No truck. Just a ghost." He steadied Dean as his brother pushed himself upright. "Take it easy."
Dean flicked a half-hearted glare in his direction. "I've been hammered by a ghost before. That sure didn't feel like a ghost. Was it on supernatural steroids or something?"
"I don't know," he said, letting Dean slide his legs out of the car on his own. "It disappeared after you collapsed and I got us the hell out of there."
"What?" The glare gained heat even through the pained expression. "You didn't finish it off?"
"You were unconscious. I had better things on my mind than the damn spirit." Sam managed to get a hand around Dean's arm as his legs failed to hold his weight and he started an ignominious slide toward the concrete. "Let's get inside. Then you can yell at me all you want." It was a testament to just how bad his brother felt when he didn't shove Sam's supporting arm off during the short walk. He got Dean settled on one of the beds then went back out to grab the duffel full of weapons and secure the Impala. By the time he made it back, his brother had gotten his jacket off and was gingerly feeling the back of his head. "I didn't see any blood earlier."
He looked up, hands lowering to his lap. "Nah, I'm good."
Sam dumped the duffel at the foot of the bed and snorted. "You got thrown twenty feet through the air, slammed into a piece of marble, had a spirit use you as a tuning fork for screaming and spent the last half hour unconscious. Forgive me if I don't take your word for it." During his rant, he'd done his own examination of his brother's admittedly thick skull and found no blood, just a small lump that wasn't really a cause for concern. "How's your chest?"
"Where the ghost touched you. It, uh, it sounded like it hurt." If that wasn't the understatement of the year. He couldn't ever remember hearing his brother scream like that before.
Dean's eyebrows rose in a familiarly innocent way, one he used when downplaying injuries. "It stings a little, but it's not too bad."
He wasn't falling for it this time. "Shirt off. Let's see it."
"Now, Sam, you know I'm not into that."
He resisted the urge to smack his brother upside his injured head and went for logic instead. "Remember Jericho? I had a nasty burn where the Woman in White touched me. What did Dad always say about burns?" Invoking their dead father was low, but if it worked he'd deal with the guilt later.
"Don't mess with them," Dean quoted obediently, already tugging off his outer shirt. He hissed, his face scrunching up at the motion.
Satisfied he'd won the skirmish, he let Dean manage the clothes on his own as he dug in the duffel for the first aid kit. He'd learned a long time ago to give his brother at least the illusion of control when he was injured. It was easier to get him to agree to anything he'd normally see as babying if Sam gave in on the bits he could. Setting the kit on the bed, he knelt at Dean's side to get a better angle at what was sure to be one hell of a burn. Dean gripped the back of his t-shirt and yanked it over his head, only the tiniest of indrawn breaths revealing it cost him anything. Before the cloth settled on the bed, Sam's full attention was focused on Dean's chest, specifically the area directly over his heart, that wrongness settling itself back into his gut. "What the hell is that?"
Author's end notes: I'm not a big fan of using obvious cliffhangers, but this time it was too good to pass up. I hope you enjoyed this first part and I'll see you next week. Thanks for reading!