Title: Planation Dominion
Rating: T. I don't usually use profanity in a story, but Dean goes his own way, so there is occasional swearing in this story.
Category: Second season case file.
Summary: A simple salt and burn proves to be anything but simple, and Sam and Dean will be tested to the limits of their endurance.
Author's Note: I wrote most of this a long while ago, but couldn't bring myself to finish as the boys became more estranged. This is for people who loved the show way back in Season 2 when the Winchesters would do anything for each other. Thanks to Susan, as always, for her wonderful beta work, and most of all for encouraging me to finish. It wouldn't have happened without you! This story is complete, and a chapter will be posted every few days as my beta finishes her editing and sends them to me.
To those who have followed me here from White Collar – I hope you will try this story, but never fear, Peter and Neal are never far from my thoughts and my next White Collar story is progressing nicely.
Disclaimer: Don't own it. If I did, we'd still be in Season 2
Dean opened his eyes to the dark. It took him a moment to realise that his eyelids had refused his command and stayed stubbornly glued shut, cemented by a viscous adhesive that experience suggested was blood. He scrubbed at them clumsily, the smooth slide of fresh gore on top contrasting vividly with the gummy tackiness of clotted lumps underneath.
Success in freeing his eyes did not bring the revelation for which he'd hoped. Either he was blind or his surroundings were pitch black, unrelieved by even the faintest glimmer of light.
His tentative enquiry echoed outward and was quickly absorbed by the darkness. He strained to hear a response, a breath, a movement of any sort that would inform him of his brother's location.
"Sammy?" Unspoken worry dripped audibly from his frustrated shout. "Come on, answer me!" The eerie silence that met his desperate command sent tension roiling through him in shuddering waves. "God dammit!" He allowed anger to displace his fear, shoving it down with practiced efficiency.
Sam should be here. Dean knew they were supposed to be together even if he couldn't quite remember what they'd been doing or where they were. He rolled over onto his knees, preparatory to exploring his surroundings, but the sudden shaft of white-hot agony that stabbed through his back arrested the movement, robbing him of the breath necessary to articulate the imprecations that swarmed to his mind.
"Well, crap," he eventually hissed. It appeared that he'd been involved in some sort of fight. That wasn't exactly a newsflash. He had a vague memory of sailing through the air to hit...he wasn't sure what, but that was almost a weekly occurrence, so he could be confused.
Physical pain was a well-known adversary, one he could subdue as necessary, and now his concerns were not for himself. Automatically, he catalogued his injuries, hearing his father's strictures on a warrior having to know his own weaknesses in order to compensate for them. There was nothing that would impair his fighting ability too drastically: a couple of ribs cracked and, by the way his shirt stuck crustily to his back, the skin was broken too. His head was still bleeding, just under the hairline, but it was hard diagnosing concussion in the dark,since none of the usual vision tests worked, so he decided arbitrarily that it wouldn't be a problem. Neither would the multitude of other bruises and scrapes. He wouldn't let them.
He reached out blindly with his hands, gritting his teeth as another wave of pain surged through him. He had to search the area even though he was almost certain Sam wasn't there. His brother's absence resonated through him, and the emptiness to the room was almost tangible. The dank, stale atmosphere, coupled with the cool, damp earth under his hands, strongly suggested he was in a cellar and, as he searched, the dimensions of the space became clearer.
Dean's questing fingers swept over beetle carcasses, worm castings and small, squishy things he didn't want to identify. But he didn't pause in his search until he brushed against something hard.
"Sam?" His heart lurched for an instant before recognition set in. He'd handled too many bones in his life to mistake the feel of a skeleton. NotSam notSam notSam. There was no way Sam could have been reduced to a pile of bones in the short time Dean had been unconscious. NotSam notSam notSam.
The moldering odor of death clung only faintly to the skull under his hand.
Urgency impelling him onward, he completed his search, reaching two conclusions. The cellar would almost certainly become his tomb unless the spindly wooden steps led up to a satisfactory exit, but more importantly, Sam wasn't here.
It never occurred to Dean that he might be the one missing, and Sam might be searching frantically for him. He knew with absolute certainty that his younger brother was in danger, and that conviction sent fear spiraling out from the center of his being, flooding through him until it tingled in his fingertips.
Sometimes he wondered why they bothered going out on the road looking for trouble since it inevitably seemed to find them and, when it did, it made a beeline for his kid brother. Whether it was the 'shining' that pasted a large "Here I am, kick me now" sign on Sam or some other attribute that attracted them, Dean didn't care, as long as he was there to intercept and destroy anything trying to hurt his brother. Protecting Sam was his job, his responsibility, and the knowledge that he was currently failing in that duty knifed across his heart with a pain that was more agonising that anything his body had ever been called upon to withstand.
He retraced his path to the steps, tactile exploration allowing him to form a mental impression of a ladder with rungs a foot long and two inches wide. He climbed up with some caution, counting the twelve rungs until he reached a small platform at the top, maybe a foot deep. He longed for a spark of light, the smallest gleam to enable him to assess the obstacle in front. He was beginning to loathe the unrelieved blackness with a passion that he usually reserved for the denizens who inhabited it.
He could trace the outline of an opening, and there was even a latch, but no amount of jiggling would persuade the solid piece of wood to open. There was no keyhole, so Dean's best guess was that a deadbolt on the other side was keeping it firmly closed.
"Sammy!" he bellowed, drumming his fists against the door in an effort to make as much noise as possible, then, resting his head against the rough surface, he tried to listen past his own thundering pulse, holding his breath in anticipation of a response.
Unable to make out his own hands an inch from his nose, sound had become paramount, his only source of communication, and every nerve in his body was poised, tense with the need to hear his brother's voice, willing it to happen. But the silence remained as absolute as the dark.
"Sam." The name emerged as a whisper of entreaty commingled with despair, his brother's absence haunting him, burning an aching hole in his soul.
Blood trickled down his forehead again, and he wiped it away absently, the movement breaking his reverie. There was no time for indulging in sentiment. He had to figure out his next move, which meant that, first, he needed to recall what happened. He should be able to remember how it began, the moment should be clear-cut and defined, but he had only a vague sense of passing time.
The darkness swirled around him, and this time he didn't fight it but fed it to the black rage inside, allowing it to penetrate the recesses of his memory. They were in the South - Georgia.
Dean latched onto that slight nugget of information like a starving tiger grabbing the tail of its prey. It was a start, and from there he could follow it, geographically or chronologically, to infer Sam's whereabouts.
His muscles twitched, demanding action and, in obedience to that itching need, he slid down the ladder back to the ground, taking six strides to the far side of the cellar and pacing back again, the repetitive motion offering some relief. He did his best thinking bouncing ideas off Sam. The effortless exchange of facts, theories, sarcasm, and teasing generated a momentum of its own, spinning his brain into a higher gear.
Now he could only hope that an impatient stomp across a space barely large enough to boot a demon would kickstart his clouded thoughts. The darkness at least was a blank background allowing him to superimpose on it the images his mind threw up. He could almost see his brother in Nondescript Motel, Podunksville, sitting on the bed, one long leg twisted underneath him, the other draped over the edge to the floor, staring intensely at the laptop in front of him.
Sam tilted the screen momentarily toward Dean so his brother could catch a glimpse of the large plantation house with classical architecture. "Solemnity, Georgia," he summarised freely. "A mother, her three children and an elderly relative were all killed. The father has been arrested for the murders and is being held in a mental hospital, since it appears he's lost his marbles."
"Ya think?" was Dean's only comment, leaning back on his own bed.
Sam ignored the sarcasm with practiced ease. "Then here they refer to 'the mansion's tragic past,' so, with a bit of digging, I've found several other violent incidents. In '61, the eldest son went berserk and killed his whole family. In the 1940's, there seems to be some sort of accident on the lake where there was one survivor. I think there were almost certainly more episodes, but I can't pin down the specifics right now. However, I'm willing to bet that it all dates back to 1862. When the Civil War was revving up in the area, there was an attempted slave rebellion that was brutally put down."
"So some poor bastard of a slave sees his whole family get wasted. He's holding a grudge and getting his revenge by offing any new residents of the plantation." Dean waved his hand in a gesture that indicated that it was a familiar, but sad, story.
Sam lifted a shoulder in tentative agreement. "It's a working theory," he concurred cautiously.
"So we find where he's buried, salt and roast the poor son of a bitch. Case closed."
Sam was now staring at him skeptically. "When is it ever that easy?"
His older brother rolled over on his side to regard him more directly. "Is that Sammy the Psychic speaking, or my brother, the pessimist?"
Sam grabbed the first missile than came to hand, a pair of bundled, sweat-stained socks that he'd removed as he reclined on the bed, and flung them in his brother's direction. He didn't bother to follow their trajectory, knowing they wouldn't hit their target unless permitted to do so, but it was a fitting expression of his irritation.
"Hey, I'm just asking," Dean protested innocently.
Solemnity wasn't worth the appellation of a town. It was barely a village and it owed its existence to the glory days of the plantation. Now it was fading to a uniform gray of decay and disuse.
There was no motel, but a chipped and fading sign indicated a small boarding house over the Post Office and, under the guise of university students conducting historical research, they signed in under the incurious direction of the proprietor.
They had split up to delve further into the background of the plantation and its tragic history - Sam took the Impala, with his brother's reluctant consent, to the nearest town with a historical society, while Dean had the more enviable task of pumping the locals for information over a cold beer. That had proved to be a bust, since the suspicious, yet dull-eyed residents of the bar demonstrated a parochial paranoia of strangers that was stronger than their desire to gossip, so Dean had returned to their room and occupied himself with an inventory of their arsenal.
Sam returned many hours later with the gleam of scholarly satisfaction in his eyes and reams of information on all activities concerning the plantation - with the notable exception of the slave rebellion. Whether the records had been lost in the grim chaos that ensued or a deliberate conspiracy of silence had blanketed the events, nothing remained except one stark court record that stated, "While the ringleader remains at large, eight leaders of the recent bloody insurrection were hanged this morning."
There were no further references to this enigmatic leader or even to where any of the bodies were buried.
"It doesn't seem like simple possession either. There were deaths in the grounds and everywhere in the house and by almost every method conceivable - drowning, stabbing, shooting, a broken neck from falling down the stairs. Most spirits replay the events of their own deaths, force a macabre reenactment. This is..." Sam searched for the right word, "...random. I don't like it. There's no pattern to the chronology either; the gaps between deaths range from thirty to eleven years."
Sam paced restlessly, pausing only once in frustration to slap one of the pieces of paper he'd stuck to the wall. "Spirits are about repeated patterns, but here there's nothing. Time, place, victims - there's nothing predictable."
"So, it's not as anal as your average Casper," Dean shrugged unconcernedly. "Doesn't mean we can't kick its freaky ass." He racked the slide of the Glock he'd finished cleaning and threw it to one side as he waggled his eyebrows in illustration of anticipation.
"Dean, we have no clue what we're up against." Sam threw his arms up in exasperation. "Which means we have no idea what would be effective against it."
Dean disassembled the shotgun he had picked up with an ease and speed which would have a marine sergeant drooling in envy. Caution was not a natural trait to him, but he'd learnt to trust his brother's instincts. "Do you think more research would give us answers?" he asked, willing to make the concession.
He read the answer immediately in his brother's body language. Sam was an open book, his emotions printed on each page in bold letters, and, to the older brother who'd learnt to interpret his cries in the cradle, every twitch of that expressive face spoke volumes. Now the evasive gaze, pensive scowl and the restless shuffle of long limbs broadcast a clear negative, but Sam didn't want to confess the limits of his beloved research.
With what he thought of as admirable big-brother restraint, Dean didn't force the articulation of that answer, checking the barrel of the gun before snapping it shut.
Sam fought a spirited rearguard action by positing the likelihood of an African or voodoo connection to the spirit, but it hadn't taken much persuasion on Dean's part to convince his brother that a preliminary daylight reconnaissance would have to substitute for a complete understanding of their potential adversary.
The next morning, the last echoes of the Impala's muted roar faded into the absolute silence as Dean improvised a parking space on the brown, foot-long grass that had probably comprised the elegant front lawn, complete with croquet set and mint juleps, during the ante-bellum years. There was now only a hint of its former glory as the paint peeled off the corinthian columns that lined the front facade of the building.
Dean carried their duffel bag over one shoulder, its weight belied by the ease of his movements. The variety of weapons inside compensated for their lack of a specific countermeasure for what awaited them. He also hefted a shotgun in his right hand with deceptive casualness. Sam had lost his taste for that weapon and currently only held the EMF meter and a vial of holy water.
Police tape adhering to the splintered front doors was a jolting anachronism and a vivid reminder that tragedy had chased all the occupants of this mansion, nipping their heels all the way to the present. At a nod from his brother, Sam gingerly reached out to test the latch, surprised when the door yielded slightly in response to his gentle push. He shifted to a more defensive position; then, at Dean's signal, he exerted enough pressure to swing the heavy wood back. His older brother, as always, preceded him through the opening.
There was a uniformity to all abandoned buildings, whether they were hovels or mansions, an emptiness that had nothing to do with the quantity of their contents but derived from the ambiance of neglect, the absence of a caring hand that permeated the space. This forlorn dereliction neutralized the grandeur of the large staircase that curved dustily down to the echoing entranceway, and Dean was unimpressed by the faded upholstery of the furniture as his eyes followed the direction the shotgun pointed as he examined the area carefully, every sense alert for the first sign of trouble.
Yet there was no warning, no gradual escalation of launched objects or even the faintest manifestation of a spectral presence. The EMF meter that had remained stubbornly silent flared to life with a blazing scream, but even before the sound could register, Dean was swept up by an invisible force and hurled through the air. He had time to appreciate the liberation of flying while thinking, "oh crap, this is going to hurt" before slamming with stunning violence against a cabinet. He wasn't gratified to discover he was correct in anticipating the pain, but the sound of his brother's voice crying out his name drove him to struggle to his feet, obeying the instinctive need to stand between Sam and whatever was causing the fear that threaded icily through that one syllable. But, while still on one knee, he was seized again like a rag doll tossed in the jaws of a dog or a mouse batted between the paws of a malicious cat. The soaring sensation ended in an impact that he heard rather than felt. He crumpled bonelessly to the floor, but as the room dimmed into darkness and swirled him away into a vortex of emptiness, he could still hear his brother.
The memory of that pain-drenched, panicked scream impelled Dean across the room and up the ladder before he'd consciously decided to move. The driving need to find Sam would admit no barrier; nothing could thwart that compulsion, the door was already history in his mind. He attacked it as he would an enemy, as he would anything that stood between him and his brother.
Adrenaline overrode exhaustion and pain as fear indistinguishable from fury slithered through his body. He fed the force of his rage by unleashing all the frustrations of the past year that he'd kept harnessed and buried for so long. Fists and feet beat out a vicious tattoo and, as far as he was even aware of it, he relished the clean physical pain.
A steady stream of creative invective focused his strength. He couldn't have said how long he battered at the door, but potential success was signaled by an increasing rattle, a telling give between the frame and the wood. The outside bolt was loosening. The hammering and shouting reverberated round the small space, and he reveled in the noise as it helped block out the memory of his brother's screams.
However, before the destruction of the lock was completed, an injudicious demonstration of Newton's third law of motion sent him reeling backwards, tumbling down the steps. Feeling himself falling, he automatically tucked and rolled, minimizing damage, but still the shock of impact on his already bruised body stunned him momentarily. His breath was harsh in his throat as he struggled to draw air into suddenly recalcitrant lungs, and streaks of light chased across his vision, although they offered no illumination in the eddying darkness.
The dampness of the ground beneath him started to seep through his clothes, and the chill leached away the heat of his fury,leaving only implacable purpose. Questing fingers soon found the object he sought, and with the unlikely tool of a skull grasped in his hand, he scrambled back up the ladder, though at a slower speed than he had descended.
He carefully felt for the position that would afford him the maximum leverage, then, using both hands, he slammed the skull as hard as possible against the barrier. The door shuddered, and Dean resumed a methodical pounding. He didn't allow himself to think beyond the immediate goal of destroying the wood in front of him, and he didn't even notice when he fell into the rhythm that he'd last heard in his brother's pain-filled voice.
The skull was disintegrating, and his hands were bruised, blistered, and bleeding, but they proved hardier than the lock - which eventually yielded with surprising abruptness, sending Dean staggering through the opening. Only the fact that his eyes were accustomed to total darkness allowed him to appreciate the faintest hint of light that teased at his retinas. It wasn't enough to reveal details of his surroundings, but it was sufficient to reassure him that he wasn't blind. It also hid the copper smears his questing fingers deposited on the stones as he passed.
Both the brothers had studied the layout of the plantation, and Dean made the correlation between the cellar and corridor he was now exploring and the servants' quarters on the map. He wasn't sure how he had made the transition from the main house to the periphery of the buildings or, now he came to think about it, how he'd been stripped so efficiently of all his weapons. This wasn't typical behaviour for a poltergeist or any other spirit they'd encountered, and renewed concern for Sam brought a cold fist of fear to his gut.
His brother's name shuddered in his throat, but he swallowed it back. He needed to locate Sam, to hear him say something, anything, to drown out the echo of his agonized scream that still reverberated through Dean's ears, but advertising his liberated presence would be counterproductive considering the embarrassing ease with which he'd been sidelined the first time round.
He emerged from the underground tunnel into clear, clean starlight. The moon was absent, and with little light pollution to block its glory, the streak of the Milky Way blazed across the sky, and to Dean's light-starved eyes it was brighter than a sun-drenched morning. It illuminated the threatening hulk of the mansion,which he eyed contemplatively, juggling the possibilities for ingress. With no weapons and not even an improvised plan for dealing with the evil that possessed the plantation, he wasn't looking for another confrontation. He just wanted to grab his brother and get the hell out of Dodge. Once Sam was safe, they would regroup, but, for now, discretion had to replace his more typically reckless style of incursion.
The front door was not his first choice of entry, and he remembered Sam explaining that the slaves had their own entrance to the main house so that they could serve unobtrusively, and guests would be unaware of their presence. It had been in the underground passage, and Dean retraced his steps to find it. Without his lock-picking kit, a silent entry would be impossible, but it was worth a try. The door was easy to locate, and it yielded easily, with only a grudging squeak to announce his arrival. It should have been gratifying, but instead, every Hunter's instinct he possessed screamed that it was a trap.
With a mental shrug, Dean decided that sneaking up on things supernatural was an overrated activity anyway, so he might as well proceed. More ominous, to his mind, was the absolute silence in the building. It hovered invisibly around him, then pressed in, cloying and malicious, sucking the air out of the room and choking his lungs, plucking at the hair on his arms and teasing up goosebumps. While the last thing he wanted to hear was his brother still screaming, the complete absence of sound signified a battle lost with no clues as to Sam's eventual fate, and a wave of ice-cold panic washed through him, coalescing into a hard, jagged lump somewhere in his gut.
As he started to move deeper into the gloom, the sense of deja vu that swept over him was so disorienting he wondered if Sam's visions were genetic, but he soon realised that he'd experienced this sensation before in the more mundane, but still horrifying, world of nightmares. The haunting fear of being unable to find his lost brother had once been a vague and unfocused horror, but had recently been brought to him in glorious Technicolor with stereophonic sound courtesy of the Bender family, and he could still taste the terror and despair, and the gut-wrenching fear that he'd never find him. The memory of childhood games of Marco Polo played in so many green-tinged, grimy motel pools would never be the same.
His fingernails dug into the palms of his hands and, drawing in a shuddery breath, he blanked his mind, forcing all of the disturbing images and terrifying possibilities into a tiny box and locking them down tight. He would find his brother, he had to, because any other outcome was unthinkable.
The darkness was relieved only by shadows, but it was enough for him to explore noiselessly, to slip through the dark as an insubstantial phantom in his own right. The silence accompanied him as he floated from room to room, wrapped in the bubble of soundlessness as if he'd exchanged his earlier blindness for deafness. He again felt the overwhelming urge to call out his brother's name, to pop the suffocating stillness, but he was bound to the silence, coerced by the hope of his brother's safety.
Emerging from the dining room, he became aware that light beckoned from down the hallway, not the constant glow of electricity, but the flickering dance of constrained fire. He knew that the answers he sought would be illuminated in those flames, but now he wasn't so sure that he wanted to know what would be revealed. A desperate need to know overcame the almost diametrically opposed dread of discovery. A drop of sweat ran into his eye and, wiping off his forehead, he winced as he rediscovered the cut decorating his brow. For a procrastinating moment, he allowed himself to feel the exhaustion, pain and fear that suffused his being before banishing them systematically. Weakness was unacceptable if he was to do what was needed.
His approach was soundless, a lifetime of hunting enabling him to ease to the doorway undetected and peer through. The mass of candles that adorned the room cast a soft light over the interior, and what he saw sent relief slamming into him so hard it shattered all pretensions of stoic composure. Yet, almost simultaneously, a subtle and completely opposing sensation of horror crawled uneasily into the recesses of his mind and kept him motionless.
Sam, seemingly unhurt, was lounging in a wingback armchair, holding what Dean's extensive weaponry lore automatically catalogued as a Civil War cavalry saber. He had one hand on the hilt and the other near the end of the blade,and was turning it slightly back and forth so that the reflected glow of the candles rippled oddly over his face.
Dean was the world's expert in all things Sam Winchester. A lifetime of watching over his little brother translated into a lifetime watching him. At more of a subconscious than conscious level, he was aware of every nuance of Sam's body language, every flex of muscle, curve of bone, shift of posture, and gradation of expression, and, despite the obvious visual evidence to the contrary, an insistent voice protested the identification of Sam.
The tableau might have remained frozen indefinitely if it weren't for a sudden shift of light that illuminated something that surprised an involuntary hitch in Dean's breath, the sound impossibly loud in the stagnant silence that bathed the room. In a move so smooth it was almost indiscernible, the man in the chair was abruptly standing facing him, and Dean was staring into alien blue eyes in his brother's familiar face, despair raging through him like a physical pain.
"Dean, we've been waiting for you."
Okay, so NotSam.