"Hey, Dean. Dean!"
Dean sighed, inwardly. Sam, again, and his freaky early morning tendencies. Well, Dean had a monster headache grinding around in his skull, and he was not getting out of bed until the sun was up. Not this morning.
Christ! He didn't even remember drinking that much.
"Dean. Wake the fuck up."
Sounded pissy, too. Better than 'emo' though, there'd been a lot of emo lately. Not that it wasn't understandable, but still. Kind of frustrating. He opened one eye, blearily, and discovered that it wasn't pissy, it was worried.
"Turn the lights on," he mumbled. "Whassa matter with you?" Someone else was shouting, and Dean squinted, his head throbbing. "Whozat?"
"C'mon, Dean, focus." Sammy's eyebrows were all drawn down and scrunching his face up like they used to when he was six and thinking too hard about something.
"Could focus better if you turned on the lights," Dean groused, and then realized that it wasn't a mattress under his back. Concrete. Cold concrete. Sam's hand slipped under his back and was helping him sit up. Dean swore he could feel something crunch behind his eyes.
"All I've got is a flashlight. You all right?"
"Head hurts," Dean grunted. Okay. Concrete, a flashlight, dark, and someone was still yelling somewhere relatively close by. "Fuck's going on here, Sammy?"
"I'm not – sure," Sam said, and Dean knew just where to listen to hear the little hitch of worry that he knew would be there and that didn't bode well. Sam didn't like not knowing things. It was what made him a compulsive researcher, and while Dean never lost a chance to make fun of him for it, it also had probably gotten them through a number of hunts they wouldn't have survived otherwise. "I just…woke up. A few minutes ago." And he didn't sound like he had a spiked ball rolling around in his brain. Lucky bastard. "How does your head hurt?"
"No, I mean what does it hurt like. Splitting, or behind your eyes, or in your temples, or-"
Shit. Dean really did not want to know how Sam knew so much about headaches. Or, well, he knew, but he didn't want to know. "Uh. Eyes. Sort of. Mostly everywhere. It's sort of…spiky. Any ideas how we got here?"
"No clue. Drugged, maybe?" Sam sat back and then stood up, looking around. "It seems like – maybe a warehouse. Something big, dark, and empty."
"Let me out! Goddammit, someone!"
"Oh yeah," and the sharp twist of Sam's mouth was just grim, "There are a bunch of other people in here too."
"Aw, shit," said Dean, because that just made things much, much worse. 'People,' Sam said, which meant 'civilians' which meant that it wasn't just themselves they had to look out for.
He noticed that Sam was still standing over him, fists clenching and unclenching. He looked like he wanted to crawl out of his skin. "Hey," Dean said warily, "Mind helping a guy up?" Sam blinked, like he'd forgotten Dean was there, and reached down.
"Yeah. Sorry. You don't think this is – you know, apocalyptic?"
"Don't see any angels and demons. Maybe this is just…shitty luck."
"Sounds funny to say it, but…I hope so." Sam's grin was quick and edgy. He looked antsy, Dean decided. Kind of like some kind of –
Aw, Dean. Don't go down that road.
The headache was starting to subside, at least, and his eyes were adjusting to the dark. It wasn't that black, really, just kind of…dim, though Dean still felt the urge to get in his head and scratch his own brains out.
Huh. Probably too soon.
"Well." He rubbed his hands together. "Feel like saving the day?"
"Sure, Batman," said Sam, though he still looked uneasy. Dean found a grin.
"You realize that totally makes you Robin, right?"
Sam flicked the flashlight on. "Jason Todd or Dick Grayson?" he tossed over his shoulder, and then raised his voice. "All right! Everybody listen up! Gather over here in one place!"
Damn, his little brother had a good pair of lungs. He could see a few people, most of them turning from milling around in confusion and squinting in the brightness of the flashlight. Dean kept his own eyes half closed to maintain his night vision. "Jesus. How many are there?"
Sam's voice was low. "I'm guessing about ten. Twelve including us. What I want to know is how they all got here and who or what is-"
"Hey! Who're you, is this your idea? What kind of joke is this?" A man wearing what looked like a jacket made out of actual tweed was stalking toward them, trying to look outraged but not masking the nervousness in his eyes.
Dean took over easily. "Don't be an idiot, we're stuck here like you are. We're just trying to figure things out, get some idea of what's going on." The rest were all straggling in, and Sam was right. Off by one; there were nine others, plus them, eleven. Eleven people to look out for. Great. "So what, did everyone just wake up here?"
Right on cue, out in the dark, someone screamed.
Dean swore. "Guess there were ten after all," he muttered to Sam, and then loud and clear-
"Oh my god," said a voice from the group of people. "That's my wife!"
"Hold on," said Sam quickly, reaching out, though Dean hadn't been able to tell who that had been even with the flashlight, at least not until he broke away from the little clump of people and took off toward the shadows. "Hold on, shit, stay-!"
Sam swore and shoved the flashlight into Dean's hands. "Stay here and try to keep them from doing anything stupid," Sam said, and he sounded so much more like Sam than he had in weeks that Dean was almost tempted to listen. Almost.
"Don't be an idiot. You're not going out there alone. They'll stay here if they know what's good for them." He looked for tweed-jacket and nodded at him. "Don't let anyone wander off, right? Let's go."
And he set off into the dark, confident that Sam would follow. He held onto the flashlight, though. There hadn't been anymore screams, which would be a good sign for most people. Dean just had visions of ripped out throats – or ripped out larynxes and attached throats – dancing in his head. "Sam?" he said, suddenly, because his brother was weirdly quiet, even for a stalk. "Be careful."
"Obviously, Dean." And that sounded, again, so much like Sam that Dean almost grinned.
At least until he stepped on something squishy and slippery. "Sam," he said, stopping. Sam's flashlight swung down to Dean's feet and illuminated a pool of sticky blood and a chunk of something unrecognizable as belonging to a human.
"Well, that doesn't bode well," said Dean, swallowing hard once. Sam flicked the flashlight back toward the people they'd left behind, and then let it slide in slow zig-zags across the floor from where they were. Dean caught a glimpse of something and stiffened. "The wall, Sammy," he said, simply, and Sam brought the flashlight up to the wall, slowly.
Tacked spread-eagled to the wall was what Dean could only presume was the man who had just run off. It would have been hard to tell, given the fact that his face was a bloody mash and his front had been peeled down like wrapping paper, ribs cracked open and entrails spilling on the floor.
Sam turned the flashlight quickly downward, and took a moment Dean knew meant he was struggling not to retch. "We – shouldn't let anyone else know. They'd just – what the hell does that, Dean?"
"…vengeful spirit? I dunno, I don't like any of this, why are we here in the first-"
"Hey! What's going on over there? Did you guys find something?"
"What are we going to tell them?" Sam asked, his voice rushed. "That he just – vanished? We're shut in here with ele- ten people and a dead body, and eight of them we need to keep from panicking so they have a hope of staying alive-"
Something creeeeaaked somewhere, and then there was a clang like a fucking gong and everybody yelled. Dean wheeled to grab Sam and move away from the corpse, fast, and discovered that his little brother seemed to be trying not to stagger, one hand moving for his forehead and the flashlight slipping out of his hand to the floor.
Shit. Dean did not need this right now. Did not need this like he didn't need an appendectomy. "Sam," he said, tightly, and just like that, Sam righted himself.
"Sorry," he said, wincing, and Dean was sick to death of that word, but now was not the time. "I don't know what –"
"Vision?" Dean said, uneasily, but Sam shook his head with enough vehemence that Dean grabbed his shoulder with a murmured, "Careful, don't shake your geek brain loose."
"Just – hurts. Come on, the people-"
"What the hell's happening?" Someone was yelling from the safety of the cluster – was it really that close? "What was that noise? What the hell kind of joke is this?"
"You need to calm down," Sam said, his voice rough even as he straightened, and Dean frowned and made a note to check on that. Later. If they were alive later. If Sam was alive later, he reminded himself, Dean had an Angel Guarantee. Not that it would probably make the experience any more pleasant. Yeah, how about they work on both staying alive this time? Sam was still talking, he realized, trying to pitch his tone to be low and calming, but the edge in his voice wasn't only obvious to Dean. Someone moaned, and Dean thought he could hear someone else trying to pray.
"Sam," he said, more harshly than he meant to, "Go check the door. See if there's a lock you can jimmy or something. I'll handle the people."
Dean wasn't even sure why Sam deflated that time, but at least he just nodded and after a moment, shoved the flashlight at Dean. Dean pushed it back. "You'll need it more," he said, gruffly, and his little brother glanced at him just briefly, and then away.
He watched Sam and the light bob off toward the door for a second, frowning, before heading back toward the clump of people, squaring his shoulders. "All right," he said, as confidently as he could manage. "So, what we're going to do is-"
Whatever this thing was, it really had the most impeccable timing. Something growled, out in the dark, and from the sound it was…big.
What he wouldn't have given for a good sawed-off right now.
"Sir!" said a woman's voice, suddenly, and he turned around, trying to see through the dark. With his back to the distracting flashlight beam – and he really hoped Sam was having some luck with that door – it was easier, and people were backing away from two people on the ground anyway. "Sir, something's happening to this young man-"
"Dean?" Called Sam's voice. "You okay?"
"Great, fine!" he yelled back, and moved cautiously toward the woman, who seemed to be trying to ease a man down to the ground. "Okay, what happened, what's the matter…" I'm not a doctor, I'm a hunter! He felt like saying, but now was probably not the time.
"Unnh," said the man, and Dean could see the funny pale sheen of his skin. "Don't feel good. I can…my head…"
"Okay," said Dean, confused. Another psychic? "Do you have any – uh, history of this kind of thing? Or – anything else that would…I dunno, seizures, something?"
"Oh god," moaned the guy, nearly over the end of Dean's sentence, "Oh god…can't you see it? Don't look, oh my god, its – no, no, NO!" His voice rose to a shriek and his whole body jerked like it was going to rise off the floor, and then his hands flew to his face and Dean could see his mouth wide open but no scream coming out, and then something was pouring out of his throat and he could hear the man choking but it took the wet, coppery smell to recognize, and the woman next to him was shrieking and pulling away.
"That's blood," she yelled, "That's blood!"
And it wasn't just his mouth, either, Dean realized with detached horror, it was pouring out of his eyes and his ears and his nose, too, and he didn't even want to know where else. There was nothing he could do, he thought dully, and stepped back, watching the man, who couldn't have been more than – twenty-two, maybe? – struggle and flop like a dying fish and finally go limp in a sticky dark stain on the concrete floor, just visible as a darker patch in the dark.
"He saw something," someone said in a shuddery voice. The woman was still sobbing, hysterical, and Dean didn't even try to comfort her, suddenly feeling dull and disinterested. "He saw something and it was so awful he – that –"
Dean felt a peculiar lassitude slip over him, quite suddenly, and stopped listening.
What was the point? If he died the angels would just bring him back anyway, and all these people were doomed because they were going to lose the apocalypse. He had a pocketknife. Not much good for fighting monsters, but plenty good enough to give these people a little mercy before they died like…that.
Dean blinked. Something was cutting in. He felt like he was stuck in sludge. "Dean? What the hell are you – how long has he been standing like this?"
Dean jerked, and just like that, the world snapped back into place. "What the fuck," he said.
He heard Sam breathe out in relief. Everyone around was staring at them, and oh. He had his pocketknife out. Dean blinked at it. "Sam," he said, carefully, "We are dealing with something bad."
"Yeah," said Sam, almost gently. "I kind of figured that. Wanna put that away? The door…no luck with the door." He looked nervous. And oh fuck. Seeing things. The guy had died seeing things, and Sam was all about seeing things.
"Sam," he said urgently, "Are you o," and his brother turned away and deliberately ignored him. Not a good sign. Definitely not a good sign.
There were seven people left, plus them, and Dean thought of that song, ten little Indians… "All right," Sam was saying, "We're going to need to – spread out. There'll be other exits, not just the one. A window, anything. And – look for things that are iron, or…yeah. Things that are iron. Go in – uh, two pairs and a group of three. I think everyone understands to be careful, keep an eye out for the people you're with…"
"Are you kidding?" Dean hissed. "Splitting up? That's like – the number one horror movie mistake."
Sam shrugged, helplessly. "I don't think it matters," he said, and Dean didn't like the bleak note in his voice. "You were all together over here, and…that," He pointed at the young man. "—still happened. Whatever this is, we just need to get out of here as quickly as possible, before anyone else gets hurt."
Dean could hear it in the back of his brother's voice. Someone didn't think that they were getting out in one piece. Well, someone had to be the optimist. "Well," said Dean, deliberately cheerfully, and that felt weird. "Better get moving."
Something was skittering under the floor. Or in the walls. Or overhead. Or somewhere. Dean was pretty sure it wasn't supposed to work that way, but it sounded like – not like rats. More like gigantic spiders scuttling and crawling and Jesus, Dean hated spiders. Eight legged fuckers.
So far, finding anything iron had been a bust. The warehouse went back far. There were a bunch of empty shelves now, and they were wandering through them with no exits visible, and Dean could tell Sam was just listening for the sound of the next person dying. Trouble was, the first one hadn't made any sound.
And they still didn't know what was going on. "This doesn't fit together," Sam was muttering, "It doesn't make any sense…"
"Maybe it's something new," Dean said, and Sam shot him a look.
"Since when have we ever come across something really new?"
"Since the apocalypse, maybe?" Oh, shit. Wait. Dean practically watched Sam stiffen and pull in all his tentative emotional contact feelers and turn into a statue. Good job, Dean.
"Yeah," Sam said, simply. "Right." There was a long silence, and then his brother added, "Dean. The flashlight's going out."
Dean looked. The beam was definitely dimmer, now. Thinner, lit up less.
Dammit and a basket of-
A gunshot. And another. And then a scream. Sam moved first, breaking into a run, the beam of the flashlight jumping and wavering as his legs covered the ground rapidly, and they skidded to a halt. It was a guy in flannel and skinny jeans, and he flinched back from the flashlight beam. He was holding a pistol, his hands shaking as he pointed it at the ground.
There were two dead bodies sprawled on the ground in front of him. Dean didn't recognize the guy, but the girl had been wearing a flower skirt, and the pale skin on the backs of her thighs shone in the half dark where it had ridden up. Dean swallowed.
Sam was standing stock still. "What the hell did you do?" Dean snarled.
"There's no hope," the man said, "I just…I get it. It's better. Better for them. Oh god. I thought I saw…their faces, their faces were awful. It's better. Mom," he said, and Dean knew what was going to happen before it did and Sam jerked forward with a noise like choking, but the gun came up and went off, and flannel-and-skinny-jeans' head jerked, his body going slackly to the floor.
"Where the hell did he get the gun?" Sam murmured in the ensuing silence, and Dean just shook his head.
"Found it somewhere in here?"
He was thinking about earlier, and the way he'd just lost hope and been thinking about…
There were running footsteps coming, and Dean thought briefly about trying to hide the bodies, but there was no use. Sam was squinting again, shaking his head like he was trying to get rid of something.
I thought I saw…their faces were awful.
"Sammy?" Dean said carefully. "Is something-"
"I'm fine," Sam said, a little too quickly, and he lifted his head and smiled, and Dean hoped he imagined the way his eyes looked white all around the edge. "Really." Dean sighed, and grimaced, and wished post-apocalyptic-Sammy would accept worry. Dean thought he needed it more than the old one.
Just then, the other two pairs burst on the scene. "Oh my god," said the man in tweed, "What – did you-?" He raised his eyes, horrified, to Sam and Dean, and Sam just stared back and didn't say anything. Dean had expected a vehement denial.
"No," he said, "That guy – killed the other two and them himself." He paused, counted. Three. "Where's…someone's missing."
The guy in the back dropped his head, looking embarrassed and scared. "I…lost Margaret. That's…that was her name. Margaret. One minute she was there and then she…wasn't." He took a deep breath, and it sounded like sobbing.
Five little Indians, Dean thought grimly, and scowled. "I hate that song," he muttered, and then raised his voice. "Okay, so…splitting up. Not such a good idea. There's got to be an exit somewhere, maybe at the end of all this. So maybe if we just keep moving…"
"What is this?" asked tweed-man, too sharply. "What's going on? Who's killing these people? This isn't-"
"Skip the disbelief stage," Sam said, roughly, "I think we've already passed that. Come on, you heard him. Move. We've got to find an exit. I'll lead the way, Dean, you take up the back?"
Dean half opened his mouth to say he'd lead, but took a moment to glance at Sam. Little gestures, he reminded himself, and said, reluctantly, "Okay."
They shuffled into a line – just like grade school, Dean thought, with a little grin, he remembered Sammy shuffling in one of those lines. Sam hated lines like any normal kid. Most of those other kids probably hadn't been demon blood incubators or started the apocalypse, though.
That sounded nasty even in his head.
They trailed along through the dark. It seemed like they'd been walking forever and Dean suddenly had the horrible thought that maybe they were going in circles.
And then the shelves were gone and they were standing in the middle of an open space, and a sliver of light was coming through somewhere just over there-
"An exit!" Cried the be-tweeded man in glee, and rushed forward. Dean grabbed for him, instinct making his spine prickle, but the entire building made that noise like a gong again, and this time he saw it, like a shadow detaching from the walls and snatching Tweedy into the darkness. A shriek of desperation and then with a heavy thump a be-tweeded arm thudded into the concrete with a sickening crack.
The young man who'd been with Margaret bent double, retching loudly. The girl's hands had jumped to her mouth and she seemed frozen, her eyes bugging out of her head. "Run," Dean said, giving her a shove, and then yelled again, "Run!" already moving after her.
She ran two steps before she went down thrashing and screaming. Dean didn't watch to see how it ended, just looked back to find Sam helping the young man up out of the pool of vomit and very nearly hauling him forward toward Dean.
"Fuck," Dean said, "Fuck fuck fuck," and he could hear shrill laughter now, or shrieking that sounded like laughter, or something. Up in the rafters and down under his feet and it reminded him, awfully, of certain things.
"Okay," Sam said, "Okay, we need to think about this. Obviously just running for it doesn't work, but we're not dead. There's a way, something we need to – there's a trick here somewhere. I think I get it. I think maybe I sort of- okay. If we just-"
Dean was so focused on worrying about the way Sam was babbling, his eyes wild in the fading light of the flashlight, and how they had to get out, now, that he didn't realize the last civilian was backing away until too late.
"You're crazy," he said, shrilly, "You're crazy, you're both crazy, what the hell am I doing listening to you, this is probably all your fault-"
"Dean," Sam said, too quietly, and jerked his head up. Dean looked.
He could just make out something crawling along the ceiling.
"-and people are dead, people are dead and you don't even seem to care, what the hell is wrong with you-"
Something that seemed to crouch, something like eyes gleaming, a mouth splitting wide to reveal knifelike teeth.
"Okay," Dean said, "Okay. I hear you. Just…come back this way. Slowly. And shut up," he added.
"No!" He backed up further, directly under the thing on the ceiling. Dean heard Sam make a sound not quite like a whine and his stomach clenched, but he couldn't look back. "No, I won't, I won't, I'm getting out of here right now-" And he turned around and marched two steps, and then stopped as something plopped to the ground.
Dean could guess forty things that it might be. And one that it was, which was bait. "Move!" Dean yelled, and the young man whirled around, his expression gleaming momentarily startled in the flashlight before he was yanked up into the dark with a sharp and startled scream. A moment later a fine mist began to settle on Dean's face, warm and coppery.
"Oh god," said Sam, "Dean-"
Dean's gaze slid down. The golden flashlight beam had been dim for a while. Now it was flickering. His gaze slid up to Sam's face and his brother looked pale and sick.
There was blood on his face and dark all around them and now their one light was going out, and Sam was…not good.
"Dean," Sam said, and his voice sounded thick and tight and Dean knew what he was going to say.
"Shut up," he snapped, "We need to-"
The flashlight went out.
Five breaths later, they were still breathing. Dean reached for Sam, groping around in the sudden, consuming darkness until he grabbed his brother's shoulder. He could feel it shaking. "Dean," Sam said, his voice still thick, "Dean, I lied to you."
"Yeah," said Dean, because he didn't want to hear this. Not now. "I know. Now come on-"
"No," Sam said, "Now. I mean. I'm not fine. I'm not really fine at all. They're talking to me. Head – hurts. I get it. I'm not sure – showing me things. Not sure if you or the other one's real."
Dean swallowed. Hard. "The…uh, other one?"
Sam's voice dropped. "Yeah. The other one. I like you better. But I don't think you're very…realistic."
Dean did not want to know what Sam considered 'realistic' in that messed up head of his. They did not have time for this. They had so much not time for this they had negative time for this. "Okay, Sam. Got it. Well, I'm the real one and it's time to go, so we'd better-"
"No," Sam said, "No, it's not that easy, you can't, you can't, you can't-"
"Sam! Do you trust me?" Dean could hear his brother breathing fast and hard, his shoulders rising and falling, tight up by his ears; panic was tightening Dean's own chest. This thing was coming back, they needed out now. His brother was silent and that hurt, but mostly Dean just wished his stupid bigass little brother was still small enough to drag. "Come on, Sam," he tried again. "Trust me."
"…Dean?" Sam's voice sounded small, and scared. Dean wished, not for the first time, that he could stand guard in Sam's head too.
He forced his voice to be more gentle. "Yeah, Sam. Come on. Time to go."
He heard Sam swallow. Something was skittering along the floor. "Dean," Sam said finally, wearily. "Only one person gets out. That's the deal. They told me. You – you go. S'okay."
Dean twitched. Stupid Sam and his stupid self-sacrifice complex!
"Since when do we listen to the things we hunt?" He snapped. Sam snickered.
"Since they offer us deals? All the time."
…he had a point, but Dean wasn't about to concede that. "Do you think I'm going to believe they're just going to let you waltz happily around in here?"
"You could if it makes you feel better." Dean could almost hear Sam's lips twitch there, like he'd said something funny.
Dean decided that he hated Sam's sense of humor, if that was supposed to be funny. "Yeah, well, no dice. I'm not leaving you here to get chewed up. That doesn't work, haven't you figured that out yet?"
"Got a new purpose," Sam said, murmured, really. He sounded like he was going to curl up and go to sleep. No. Curl up and give up. Fuck that. "Warrior of Heaven. Pretty spiffy. Even better than Batman."
"Dude," said Dean, "Nobody's better than Batman." He could hear something growling and more tittering, too close. "And no-bo-dy," He emphasized all three syllables, just to be sure, "Is better than Batman and Robin."
He moved his hand down his brother's arm. "I don't care what bullshit they're trying to feed you." Sounds familiar. Oh wait. Focus. He gripped Sam's wrist. "I don't care what kind of stupid stunt you think you're supposed to pull to – uh – redeem yourself." He tightened his fingers. "Redemption isn't worth much if you're dead, Sam. And I'm your big brother and it's not gonna happen. So. Do you trust me?"
He could almost feel hot breath on his back. "Yes," Sam said, whispered, after too long.
"Then get ready to run," Dean said, "Two people are getting out. No deal. I hate that show anyway. Are you ready?"
"No," said Sam.
"Too bad." Dean adjusted his grip for maximum tugging power, and braced himself. To his relief, he felt Sam move too, a moment later. "On your mark, get set-"
Claws slashed down Dean's back, leaving stripes of pain. He heard Sam cry out and caught him as he stumbled. There was pressure building in his head and he could hear Sam panting in the way that meant he was hurting.