YOU AND ME AND THE THINGS WE HUNT
By: Karen B.
Summary: Time set: Shortly after the episode Heart. Dean takes Sam on a hunt hoping to distract the kid from his pain. Angst/ hurt Sam. Over protective, sweetheart, let me fix you, brutally handsome Dean pov.
'Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.' - Richard Lovelace 1618 - 1657
It was a dark and dreary tree-lined, two-way muddy road. No stop signs. No stop lights. No traffic. No nothing. Slumped against the passenger door was my dark and depressed little brother, three days behind us - a dark and disastrous hunt.
Sam hadn't slept much at all the past few days we'd been stuck out on the road. Oh, his body wanted to sleep, but I could tell his brain wouldn't let him. As if to prove me right he shifted restlessly in his seat, stiff as wood. Kid had only caught thirty minutes here, a few hours there, damn near running on nothing more than stomach acid and reflexes. When he was awake - which was most of the time - he barely said two words. The radio playing was usually the only sound passing between us. That or food and drink – which he also barely touched. I tried to keep conversation going. Mostly me yammering on about dumb shit, asking stupid questions and only getting the occasional, yes, Dean, no, Dean, thank you, Dean, I'm fine, Dean, just need to stop and take a leak, Dean. The clipped words were always spoken to the floorboards, the window, Sam's laptop, a book, or his twisting into knots hands. Sam rarely made eye contact with me. Every time he did accidently catch my eye -his would water up. A few times he'd even crawled into the back seat to avoid my worried stares. I knew why. The guilt and pain of what he had to do to finish our last hunt was working its way through his insides and eating him alive, slowly but surely, like a blood sucking leech.
I glanced down at the untouched tuna sandwich lying on the seat between us – Sam's lunch two states back. He hadn't touched it. The sandwich all warm and squished inside the mini-mart plastic wrap, lettuce wilting and tomato juices turning the wheat bread into red mush. Even if Sam got hungry, my picky bro wouldn't eat the sandwich now. Only thing Sam was doing much of these past few days was brooding in dark silence.
I knew we'd done all that we could do for Madison. We save who we can save. That's all. It sucked, but then the truth usually does.
At the epicenter of Sam's 9.8 earthquake, he knew that too. Just was going to take him a lot longer to figure everything out. Work through the pain. That was Sam. Doctor Phil, Doctor Freud, Doctor friggin' Ruth - all rolled into one, and all on jumbo-sized steroids too boot.
Sam shifted again and sighed, eyes fluttering open, obviously unable to sleep.
"You going to eat that sandwich, bitch?" I asked, trying to draw Sam out of his funk with unnecessary name dropping in the hopes of getting a comeback.
"Help yourself, Dean," he mumbled tiredly.
Smart fish, my brother, he never took the bait on the first cast.
"Think you could tear it open for me, chinchilla head?" I recast my bait. "I'm kind of busy driving here." I concentrated on the double yellow line whizzing past.
Sam was slow to respond. I watched him intently out of the corner of my eye, for the thousandth, millionth, trillionth time in the last five miles and began to wonder if a person's eyes could start bleeding from watching so much.
Sam sighed heavily as he finally sat up in his seat. "Yeah, sure," he muttered, picking up Charlie Tuna, and removing the plastic.
His eyes slid sideways, and I quickly brought my attention back to the road.
Sam sighed again,"You know, Dean, Chinchilla's are rodents that live in the Andes Mountains."
"Whatever," I nodded slightly at the Sandwich. "Starving here, Dill Weed." I baited him further knowing Sam never could resist nibbling at the dangling worm.
"Is a spice that originated in Eastern Europe," Sam defined like he was some sort of school teacher, handing over the sandwich and carelessly tossing the dripping wrapper to the backseat.
"Hey, my car's not a garbage can, douche bag," I said trying not to smile, knowing the kid was hooked. Even in his dark brooding cave, Sam couldn't resist my charms.
Sam sighed, "A feminine device consisting of water mixed with vinegar and…"
"Uh-huh, "I mumbled, trying to sound uninterested as I opened my mouth and took a bite of tuna.
"…used to irrigate a woman's vagina of unpleasant fishy odors," Sam said, straight faced and bored sounding.
"Uhhnnnggg,"gagging hard and quickly rolling down my window, I flung the offending sandwich to the side of the road. "Thanks' for that, and you should know, Smantha."
"You're welcome, Dean," Sam sighed and left it at that, still all hunched up and letting his head thump dejectedly against the window.
I glanced briefly at him, so much for the art of name calling as a deterrent. Bait swallowed, Sam wouldn't strike again anytime soon. I held in a sigh of my own, deciding to stay sitting on the fence for now. Let Sam go on avoiding what I knew we'd have to talk about sooner or later. Madison.
Instead, I went back to watching the road and humming along to Rage in a Cage.
Sam blew out a slow, annoyed breath.
I smiled and said nothing. He hated my humming, but it was at least another distraction. One I could win at knowing Sam wouldn't retaliate. He wasn't much of a singer –humming or otherwise. I hummed louder, cutting through the silence, and shutting down my need to ride little brother's ass, and babble on with worthless words of advice - though I wanted too. Almost did a few times, but there was no line I could feed him. There was nothing that would patch yet another break in my baby brother's big heart.
The song changed, Bad Company's, Bad Company. I stopped humming, instead, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel as we drove on desperately trying to ignore the sleepless zombie riding shotgun next to me and only half-keeping my eyes on the road.
Sam cleared his throat and straightened in his seat, obviously and painfully aware of my scrutiny."I'm fine, Dean," he mumbled, staring straight ahead out the front windshield.
I didn't say a word. He didn't look fine, all slick-haired and pale and unusually calm. His emotions, at least for the moment, put on ice. But I knew how taxed he was. Knew the pain inside was darting through his very core. Sam was at his emotional limit. Kid never did do anything in halves. Sam didn't hunt in halves, and Sam didn't research in halves and Sam didn't love in halves and Sam sure as hell didn't hurt in halves either. And right now the hurt inside of Sam was snowballing into Everest-size.
If our roles were reversed I'd probably be the same. Our lives are not always so clear cut. Kill the fugly monster. The things we hunt weren't always claw racking, soul snatching, bloodthirsty sons of bitches.
Madison was a normal chick with a normal life, until that normal life was stolen from her -without consent. Hell, without her even knowing at first. She was smart. She was beautiful and graceful. She was Sam's type. And he cared for her a lot more than he wanted to say. Little brother's not like me. He can't just hop into bed with anyone. 'Hey-ho lets go for a roll'… just wasn't Sam's style. He just can't have a good time, take his pleasure, and be gone. Five different women in one week was so not his thing.
Soft snoring filled the interior.
Shocked, I practically wrenched my head off shooting Sam a full-on look. "Damn." I rubbed the back of my neck. Finally, Sam was asleep, his head lolling at an awkward angle against the seat and mouth hanging loosely open. "That a boy," I whispered, turning back to the road, both hands back on the wheel.
Baby brother was going to have one hell of a stiff neck when he woke up. I knew a bit about how that might feel, stretching my own neck side to side. I winced slowing to a stop in the middle of the deserted road and lowered the radio, debating if I wanted to risk waking him to adjust him into a more comfortable position. I wished he would have taken my offer and let me be the one to shoot her. I shivered hard, knowing once Sammy decided he was doing something he did it. There wasn't any backing out.
I couldn't offer Sam much to try and ease his pain. The very first thing I'd offered, he'd refused- whiskey. The second, he agreed to - a job - any job. Kid didn't even bother to ask where, when, who, why or how.
I smiled as Sam started to drool from the side of his mouth. In less than ten minutes he'd be all Beethoven sloppy and wet. That dog couldn't hold a candle to Sammy slobber. Sam's snoring increased. He was finally and totally out. Knowing the moment I touched him, his eyes would fly open, I regrettably decided sleep trumped a stiff neck and left Sam in the painful looking, broken-necked position and stepped down on the gas speeding us to our destination.
The sooner we got to hunt and kill something that actually deserved to die… the better off Sam would be.
It came into view as I drove past a dilapidated chain-link fence. An eerie, stone-walled castle standing like a fortress, strong and solid and as out-of- place as anything I'd ever seen before. Was as if a twister had torn it from its very foundations. Right out from under The Queen of England's nose and sucked it up into the sky and hurled the fortress across oceans and time. Until the monstrosity fell from the sky, finding a new home among the little pink houses, schoolyards, and twenty-four hour Walgreen's of Mansfield Ohio. Maybe the castle had landed on a witch. That would explain the creepy feel I got just looking at the place.
Ignoring the 'Danger. Under renovation. Do not enter' sign, I pulled the Impala down a muddy, gravel pitted drive behind the mammoth structure and parked Baby in the shadows. Leaning forward over the steering wheel, I drew my eyes upward to the gabled peaks and tower. Place was built of solid stone. All boarded up and looking like the cover of a horror novel, dark and gothic and Dracula creepy.
The prison was not only a Hollywood movie director's paradise, but a supernatural hunter's one as well. Hundreds of deaths happened here, both accidental, natural, and intended. The tales and lore and haunted sightings surrounding the Mansfield Ohio State Reformatory were endless. Built in 1886, we could be dealing with dozens of angry spirits. From the research I'd done during one of the brief times Sam was laid out in the backseat, an untold number of prisoners and staff had died here while the prison was a working one. But since it's closing nothing horrible had happened. All the ghosts here were harmless, wimpy even. They just screwed with people, liked to slam cell doors, apparitions floating around poking at people, pushing them, whispering in their ears, appearing and disappearing, cold spots and lights flickering on and off. It was just enough paranormal crap to give the place a name and give me the simple distraction I needed for Sammy.
I shut off the car's engine, and Sam immediately stirred beside me.
"Ah, gaw," Sam muttered, "My neck." He blew out a few heaving breaths.
My brow furrowed, suddenly feeling guilty for not at least tucking something under his head. I turned to face him. "You okay?"
Sam straightened himself out sluggishly. "Fine," he said quickly, his face going blank and hiding his raw feelings behind droopy hazel eyes as he rubbed the back of his stiff neck.
I resisted the urge to put a gentle hand to his shoulder. "Right." I pulled the keys from the ignition and stuffed them in my pocket, going back to staring out the window."So you ready to bust up this party?" I changed the question to one I knew Sam would answer.
"What is this place?" Sam let his hand fall away from his neck, peering out the windshield.
I sighed. Couldn't the kid just answer a simple question? "Haunted prison," I stated, turning to face him.
Sam frowned at the building. "Looks more like the place where they filmed that movie The Shawshank Redemption." He opened the glove box to nab a flashlight.
"Actually," I muttered. "Part of the movie was filmed here, along with one of my personal favorites, Tango and Cash," I said, proud of my research.
Sam seemed overly interested in checking and rechecking the battery life on the flashlight. Still avoiding direct eye contact with me. I bit my lip; he was trying so hard to replace the sad look on his face with his serious, 'business as usual 'one. I hated to tell Sam that wasn't working for me. If I couldn't ease my brother's guilty pain, assing him up was always the next best thing.
"Dude?" I snapped, eyeballing Sam and shaking my head in disgust. His clothes were rumpled and baggy, his hair too long. "You're seriously not going to crash this party dressed like a reject from a boy-band are you?"
That drew Sam's attention away from the flicking flashlight.
I flashed him a cheesy smile. "Or maybe you're going for that punk-Goth look," I said noticing the black circles rimming his eyes like girls makeup.
Sam huffed, shoving the flashlight in his jacket pocket. "Look, Dean…"
"Let's do this."I quickly exited the car and headed for the trunk knowing anything starting with 'look, Dean' never ended well.
I opened the trunk, my mouth going dry when my gaze landed right on the gun that had instantly killed Madison. The gun my brother had pulled the trigger on.
Sam's car door opened then closed, gravel crunching beneath his boots as he headed my way.
"Crap." Like the wind, I ducked inside the trunk and slipped the gun toward the back, under an old army gunny sack just as Sam came to stand by me.
Sam sucked in a breath, eyes going straight to the spot I'd just hidden the gun. His respiration picked up and his back stiffened, unshed tears forming in his eyes. Damn kid was always too smart for his own good.
Pretending not to notice, I grabbed the weapon's bag, the EMF reader, and the camcorder. "Here, bitch boy," I shoved everything, but the EMF reader at him, slamming the trunk shut with finality.
We looked at each other. Sam had a sickened, shakiness about him that gave me second thoughts. Baby brother was in no shape for working a job, even a bullshit job like this one.
I reached a hand out to him. "Sammy, if you want, you could wait in the-"
"I'm perfectly fine, Dean," Sam snapped, escaping my reach and eagerly heading off across the lawn.
I watched him go. All hunched up and emo, slinging the weapon's bag over his shoulder, camcorder strapped to his hand.
Shit. I was sick of hearing him tellm e he was fine. And I was sick of playing Little Drummer Boy – I had no gift to bring, nothing to offer Sam. Nothing I had, inside or out would ease his pain. I just hoped he could handle this simple, low-risk hunt.
"Good move, Dean," I scolded myself and quickly caught up to the long-legged giant, walking alongside the structure.
I stared at the wall of stone, perfect and strong, just like the wall that stood between me and Sam right now, the wall protecting him, holding back the flood, keeping him from his breaking point. Didn't matter how strong the wall was, I knew sooner or later it was coming down. If I had to tear it down with my own hands.
I kept a close eye on Sam as we walked around a corner, shoulder brushing against shoulder. Sam ogled me strangely, but allowed the contact as we came to stand before a large, boarded up window.
"Most people want to bust out of prison, not in," I snickered.
"We are not most people," Sam said sadly.
I couldn't argue with him there, tugging at the plywood. Didn't take long and we entered the prison. Me crawling in through the window first, Sam next, exactly the way I liked it. What I didn't like was the strange thing that happened the second my boots hit the crunchy, glass-covered floor. Was something that hadn't happened to me since I was twelve - goose bumps - I totally got goose bumps. Not from fear. Wasn't that, but from what I could feel - the ghostly energy in this place – it was off the chart, and I didn't need to switch on the EMF to tell me that.
Just behind me, Sam must have felt it too. He immediately went on alert, hitting the on switch to the camcorder and peering at the screen. "Place is a beehive. Infested and orbing like crazy."
I nodded, trying to hide my prideful smile. Underneath all that baby brother emo crap was a hardcore hunter. "Should we alert the Census Bureau?" I elbowed Sam, playfully nudging him aside and stepping through a broken doorway into a long, narrow corridor.
"Funny, ha ha."Sam, now beside me, swept the camera up and down the paint-peeled walls and mold-spotted ceiling. "So, which ghost are we hunting, Dean."
Shrugging, I moved swiftly down the hallway and yelling loudly, "Whichever one wants to show its fugly face first!" I threatened, my voice echoing as I turned on the EMF.
"That's it?" Sam grumbled, pulling the flashlight from his pocket, letting the camcorder hang idol in his right hand. "That's your big plan?" he asked, shining the bright beam on a water stain that looked suspiciously like a Big Mac.
"The biggest plan I've had yet." My stomach rumbled.
"Man, Dean, did any of your research include something other than popcorn movie facts and game show trivia?"
"Dude, I am not an idiot."
Sam rolled his eyes and stormed past me, staring into the camcorder screen, the flashlight in his other hand spotlighting the floor.
I hurried along to catch up as his long legs took him away from me, a little too far, too fast."Sam." I shut off the EMF squealing in my hand jamming it into my pocket."Sammy! Wait. What's the hurry? Where you think you're going?"
"Looking for the party," Sam snipped. "What else."
"The party, yeah, right," I muttered, "Because you are such the party going guy."
The wind moaning from high above stopped us both from further party plans.
Sam shined the beam of light upward. "What the…"
We both craned our necks staring up in awe. It was as if we'd just stepped inside a large, cold cave, the ceiling beyond the play of the flashlight and pitch dark.
"Gosh," Sam said, his echoing voice lost in the vastness of the place.
"This must be the West wing," I said, craning my neck further. "Largest free standing cell block ever built. Six stories of nothing but violence and anger," I gave a low whistle, looking at row after row of the tiny, heavily barred cages. Each of the six levels had a small walk way and a handrail - the only thing keeping anyone from falling over - and from what I'd read, that didn't even work. "A lot of prisoners and guards were thrown over or hung themselves from those metal bars with sheets," I muttered. "We should check out cell number thirteen."
"Because you're that superstitious," Sam rudely shined the beam of light in my face.
"No." Annoyed, I shoved the flashlight roughly aside. "Because one of the prisoners set himself on fire and burned to death in there," I informed seriously.
"Huh?" Sam canted his head.
"You really did do research. Guess I'm not the only geek in the family," he gave a soft chuckle.
"Shudup!" I walked off, glad to see Sam loosening up a bit.
We checked out cell thirteen. Sam gave the place the once over with the camcorder, the beam of his flashlight pointed down illuminating something of great interest.
"Anything? " I asked, bending to pick up a well-read girly magazine off the cold cement floor and flipping through the pages. Waggling my brows, I paused to ogle Miss July – splayed out in all her glory on a white bearskin rug - even in the dim lighting she looked hot.
"Nothing but more peeling, led based paint and a piss encrusted toilet and…Dean," Sam shrieked.
"Yeah, dude?" I looked up into the camera Sam pointed my way and flashed Sam my top-model smile. "The camera loves me," I chirped.
"Man, "Sam tsked in disgust, "Did you just touch my hair all creepy like?"
"That…" I dropped the magazine and my smile, taking the half-step to Sam's side, "Would be so wrong on so many levels." I glanced down at the video screen, but saw nothing.
A blast of cold air suddenly filled the cell and the camcorder's screen turned to white static.
It took less than ten seconds later, for Sam to stow the camcorder, drop the duffle bag from his shoulder, and yank out our rock salt guns. We stood armed and on alert, back- to- back in the center of the tiny cell and waited and waited and waited some more. Nothing happened. All was quiet and the cold spell had passed.
Sam remained rigid at my back, his sawed-off laid over the top of the flashlight as he scanned his half of the cell.
Usually we'd be pinned against a wall by now or have at least fired off a round. I knew, according to my research, these ghosts were a bunch of jokers and slackers, but this was ridiculous. The spirits of the Reformatory were much more hospitable then I'd originally thought. Sam was going to get suspicious on why we were here. My plan to take him on a nice, safe hunt spoiled.
"So, where's this party at, anyway?" Sam lowered his gun, and turned to flash the bright beam of light, once again into my face.
I squinted. "Give me that. " Snatching the flashlight from him, I directed the beam down onto Miss July. She smiled up at me seductively from her bearskin rug. "Not where it should be, bro. Not where it should be." I sorrowfully kicked aside the dirty magazine, stowed my gun, grabbed the weapon's duffle slinging it up to my shoulder and herded Sam out of cell number thirteen's unhinged door.
We toured the joint for another hour. Entering through one broken door after another with nothing more happening, until we entered through doorway number ten and both of us froze at what we saw. A heavy wooden chair sat eerily alone in the center of a large, empty room. The electrical wiring and thick leather arm and ankle straps were unmistakable. We were in the execution chamber.
Sam and I glanced at one another. "Huh," we muttered in concert.
I was the first to step up to the chair, while Sam lingered back. "Old Sparky," I mumbled.
"They used to nickname these things. Gruesome Gertie, Yellow Mama, Old Smokey. This one," I waved a hand over the chair,"Was Old Sparky. The device was first thought up by a dentist, but it was Harold P. Brown, an employee of Thomas Edison, who created the first electric chair. They didn't always work so well. Too low a voltage won't kill a person, to high will set them on fire," I clucked my tongue, imagining the scene. Sure could get one hell of a new hairdo sitting in this hot seat, huh, Sammy?" I glanced over at Sam, who hadn't moved from the doorway, his mouth hanging open. "What now?" I questioned.
Sam didn't say anything, just continued to gawk at me.
I went rigid with worry when he didn't answer. "Sammy, talk to me."
"That's an awful lot of information for someone who hates research as much as you do, Dean," Sam snarked bitchily.
I relaxed and narrowed my eyes at my baby brother. "Really, Sammy, because I can research with the best of them, better even. When and if I feel like it. You're just jealous." I gripped the high back of the chair,"Ahhhhhhhhh," I screeched out loudly, tightening my handhold and jerking as if the thing was zapping me with twenty-thousand volts. "Ahhhh!"I continued to yell, not letting go of Sparky, the weapon's bag swinging to and fro from my shoulder violently.
"Dean!" Sam instinctively ran to my aid going for my hands to pull me free, but then he abruptly stopped himself at the same time I started laughing.
"Had you for a second," I smirked.
Sam heaved a heavy sigh and pressed his lips together tightly.
"Ha! You should have seen your face." I staggered away from the chair, still laughing, and laughing, and laughing some more.
Sam stood dumbfounded staring at me long and hard. "You're stupid," he finally managed to say.
"You're stupider, man. You know better than to touch someone who's being juiced," I laughed twice as loud as before.
"I—"Sam shook his head obviously flustered.
"Got you, bro," I snickered. "I got you so good."
"That's not funny, Dean."
"Sure it is," I swiped the snot running from my nose. "April Fools."
"It's not April, you jerk."
"Come, on, Sammy. Who doesn't enjoy a good joke?" I walked around the perimeter of the chair touching it here and there and pretending to buzz myself a few more times.
"Stop that!" Sam scolded."Obviously I don't." He shoved his hands to his hips looking like a haggard, old schoolmarm. "Fake electrocution, Dean? Seriously? Not a good joke."
"No, no it's not a good joke," I said happily. "It's a great joke." I drew my shoulders back, standing straight and tall and shot Sam a prideful smile.
Sam didn't say anymore, just bit into his lower lip and stared at the chair as his eyes started to tear up.
I started to feel bad but didn't let on. "Bet this thing gave one hell of an erotic massage in its day," I mused, waggling my brows at Sam.
"Really?" Sam huffed and stamped an angry foot.
"Oh, Sammy." I was just trying to make the kid smile."Come here." I opened my arms wide. "Want a hug?"
"Shut up, bitch."Sam turned on his heels to exit the room.
"Hey! That's my word." I headed him off, barring him from leaving with a palm pressed to his chest. "You can't steal my word."
"If you can fake electrocution, I can steal your word."
"Fine, but I'm the leader of this parade, you follow my lead."
"Fine." Sam stepped aside, waving me ahead of him with flourish.
"Fine." I adjusted the duffle and stormed past.
Okay, so it was a little mean and I started to feel a little guilty, but the results were worth it. It wasn't the greatest way to distract Sam or subtle by any means, but it was all I had, since the ghosts of this place were probably all passed out at some drunken fraternity party. Besides, I'd pranked Sam worse than that in the past. I needed him to relax a bit. He was too edgy and though I understood his pain through-and-through, I somehow needed to pull him out the other side. If lame jokes and even lamer ghost hunts was the only way to do that - so be it.
We silently pressed on. Sam stomping all pissy-prissy, like a girl, behind me.
We headed down a narrow, winding, metal staircase toward the creepy basement. This time Sam went first. I didn't let him; he'd elbowed past me before I could stop him, gripping tight to the handrail and muttering something about big brothers and bullshit.
I signed, allowing the rebellious snot his leeway, being sure to keep close and guard Sam's back and his next move, pointing the flashlight's beam to the next step. Baby brother looked wobbly kneed and really beat. Didn't need him falling or being pushed down a flight of metal stairs and adding another crack in his ass or-
"Did you hear that?" Sam stopped short, halfway down the staircase, drawing his salt gun.
"Hear what?" I nearly toppled into him.
"Someone just whispered in my ear." Sam glanced over his shoulder at me. "Did you?"
"Do I look like I did?" I frowned. "What'd they say?"
A blast of cold air passed by us and I quickly pulled my sawed-off as well, but just as quickly the cold was gone; everything going back to being quiet and creepy like before.
Sam shrugged and turned heading down.
"Wait a minute."I grabbed his forearm and drew him around to face me. His muscles flexed under my hand, but he didn't pull away. "Sam, what'd the voice say?"
Sam crushed his lower lip with his teeth and his eyes turned watery like he was going to cry. It pissed me off. Were these schoolyard ghosts messing with him?
"Dude," I demanded angrily.
Sam shook his head. "I don't know, was too soft. Couldn't make the word out."
"Uh-huh." I held onto his arm a second longer. Two seconds longer, three seconds, four, five…ten. Still I got no answer. "Sam." Eyebrows raised, I locked eyes with him- a heated laser glare - the kind dad always blasted our way when he wanted us to shut up and obey.
Sam glared back, his eyes hard and icy. I'd seen that look before. Dad's glare rarely ever worked on Sammy, he wasn't about to tell me a thing.
"Just watch your step." I gave in, letting go his arm and pointed the white beam of light in front of him as we continued downward.
Four steps away from ground zero, the cold was back and someone, or more likely something, pushed me from behind. "Son of a-"
I tried to catch myself, juggling my gun and flashlight like a circus clown, but missed a step. Everything happened all at once. The weapon's bag slipped off my shoulder and my flashlight went sailing over the rail and I bowled into Sam, full bodily. He went tumbling headfirst down the steps and landed, sprawl-legged and belly down at the bottom.
A millisecond later I landed -nice and soft - right on top of Sam's back, laying him out further.
"Oof," he let out a whoosh of air.
Crap. This was my fault. I had been caught off-guard. All my attention had been focused on Sam and now because I wasn't watching every which way, all my weight was squashing the kid. "Crap. " I quickly rolled off of Sam, scrambling to my feet. At least my salt gun was still in hand. Cocked and ready, I aimed at the darkness awaiting another attack that didn't come.
"Bitch," I squawked, glancing down at Sam who was just now starting to sit up. "You okay?"
Sam slowly pushed up with both hands and rolled over onto his back staring up at me. "Dean, what the hell happened?"
"Big Bubba, "I grumbled going to retrieve the duffle sitting on the steps.
"Big who?" Sam sounded half-asleep and hadn't made an attempt at getting up. I gathered the light and the gun that had skittered a few feet away and lay butted up against a concrete wall and headed toward him, shining the light on his face. "Dean."He raised a hand, squinting against the brightness.
"Shit, Sam, you're bleeding." I dropped down into a crouch beside him.
"I'm fine." Sam blinked at me.
Ducking my head I peered into his face. "That's why your cheek is split wide and you're covered in blood."
Sam frowned, reaching up to inspect.
"Here, hold this." I slapped his gun into his right hand. "And this," I snarled, shoving the flashlight into his left.
"My cheek?" Sam looked dazed and confused as he let the flashlight's beam bounce all about the room.
"Don't worry, bro, your dimples are still in place," I chuckled, taking him by the hand and pointing the ray of light on his cheek. "Keep it steady… right there."Unzipping the weapon's bag, I dug around inside.
"Dean, would you tell me what happened?" Sam asked, still sounding in a haze.
"Some generic ghost pushed me. We fell. You landed on your face. I landed on you." I shrugged, finding the first aid kit. "Any other questions?"
Sam went silent, wincing a few times as I dabbed away the blood.
'Sorry, 'I mouthed, wincing in return.
The split on his left cheek was a good one, and though the bleeding had slowed, probably was going to need a few stitches to seal the skin shut. A dirty, prison basement full of unfriendly Casper's was not the time or place for that. Some tape and gauze would have to do for now.
"How's it looking?" Sam finally came up with another question, sounding more with it now.
I smiled at him, applying the last of the tape to hold the square gauze in place. "Not as bad as that time I clocked you with my fist for wearing my Led Zeppelin concert tee shirt," I said, not liking the bloodspot that had already seeped through the white pad. "I still owe you for that one."
"Yeah, well, I only have one cheek left," Sam deadpanned, handing me the flashlight.
"Three," I laughed, "Got a couple on your ass."
Sam rolled his eyes. "That was bad."
"Yeah," I shrugged,"Couldn't help myself." I took the flashlight from him, and held out a helping hand. "Come on."
Ignoring my offer, Sam groaned wobbling up to his feet. "So, what's with this place? What are we really doing here?" More questions. That's my boy.
"It's haunted, Sam." I shined the light in his eyes checking his pupil reaction. "What else,"I said, noting he at least didn't have a concussion, and also noting my idiot proof hunt wasn't going so well.
Sam gave me the 'no shit' look. Not fooled by my sarcasm or my sly doctor routine.
I didn't say anything, this time shining the light in his eyes just because I felt like being a jerk.
Sam smacked the light away. "Look, Dean." He glared at me, right hand on right hip. What was with my brother and his hips?
"Look at what? "I quickly shoved past him moving down yet another long, narrow corridor.
"I know what you're doing." Sam's tone was full of irritation, following me closely, practically glued to my back.
"Yeah, I'm hunting, rascally ghosts," I used my best Elmer Fudd impersonation, swinging the beam into small window after small window of what appeared to be the prison's solitary cells -cigar box-sized, gray-granite rooms with nothing in them, but dirt and spiders. Not even the luxury of a toilet.
"Dean," Sam snapped, grabbing my arm, stopping my search. "I told you, I'm perfectly fine. Don't need you taking me on some girly ghost hunt, babysitting me. I'm not twelve!" Sam glared at me, trying for the dad's laser stare, but his eyes betrayed his words, going all wet and wide.
Kid wasn't fooling anyone, what he had to do to Madison - crushed his heart.
"Uh-huh." I pulled away and headed back up a flight of uneven stone stairs, knowing he still wasn't ready to open up and talk.
For me, talking meant wrapping my mouth and head around a whiskey bottle. For Sammy, talk meant an up-all-night, Oprah inspired, three pots of extra black coffee, heart-to-heart festival. I wasn't fond of heart-to-hearts, but when Sam was ready to let it out, I would be there for him when he was.
Sam stomped behind me. Slam! Bam! Went each footfall, one-hundred and seventy pounds of brother huffing and puffing and pouting all the way to the third floor - his own brand of fighting down the pain that threatened to devour him. I did some stomping, huffing and puffing and pouting of my own for totally different reasons. My brother was in pain and this stupid hunt wasn't helping.
"Look, Dean, there's obviously a crap load of ghosts here and none seem to be vengeful in anyway. So how do you intend on ridding this place of them all? What's the point? Why the hell are we even here?"
I didn't answer as we reached the top of the steps and started to search what appeared to be the prison's infirmary.
I quickly turned away from Sam, and stowed my gun within easy reach, Sam did the same. We started picking through overturned metal bed frames, mouse-eaten mattresses, old patient folders, paper clips and miscellaneous, useless items not knowing what the hell we were looking for or which one of these ghosts we should be hunting. It didn't matter, Sam needed this, needed the distraction, needed to get right back in the saddle after being dumped off.
Speaking of Sam he was awful quiet now. He'd let that last question drop and hadn't asked another in ten minutes. I whirled around and passed the beam about until I found him. He was in a corner of the room, his back to me, his pocket penlight in hand, shuffling through a busted up file cabinet. Kid really was a trooper, just like dad, I'd give him that. Didn't matter how much pain he was in, physical or emotional, it drove him on and he did the job, even if the job was hokey. I just couldn't allow this to go on. I had to fix things for him, fix Sam, say something, even if that something was lame, and sappy. If he held all that crap in much longer he was going to get physically sick.
I walked up behind him. "Sam, look, man-" I paused, flinching at the sappiness I heard in my voice. I didn't want to come off sounding like a poetry slam session, but that was exactly where this was headed. I cleared my throat, "You know we have to talk about it."
Sam growled like a dog who didn't want his bone taken from him, yet kept right on rummaging, his shoulders and back going stiff as a board.
Go easy, Dean. Basic rule-of-thumb when dealing with an emo Sam, approach with extreme caution. The kid's a flight risk. If he does not want to hear what you are about to say…he's gone like freight train, gone like yesterday, gone like a silver bullet – I shuddered. Damn Bobby and his country songs.
"Sammy, I can't make this better." I inched closer, very, very slowly. "You did everything you could to fix it. To save her."
Sam fidgeted from foot-to-foot, fighting not to give up the bone.
"You can be sad, bro, but you don't get to be guilty. She made the choice, Sam. She was scared of living like that, and you gave her what she needed. You did your job, the best you could, and eased her out of it even though it was the hardest thing for you to do. Sam I'm prou-"
"Hey," Sam interrupted, "Check this out." He pointed his penlight to the ground and squatted, examining something of intense interest lying on the floor near his feet.
I sighed, was typical Sam, shutting down like that.
"Huh." Sam used the sleeve of his jacket to pick up the object as if it was some vital piece of forensic evidence.
"What you got, Detective Spade?" I stepped closer trying to see. "Maltese Falcon?"
Sam hurriedly stood. "Think fast." He shoved the item at me.
Reflexively I gripped it to my chest, my lips curling in disgust realizing quickly what the 'something'was.
I dropped the gooey crusted bedpan back to the floor. "What the hell, man," I screeched, wiping my germy hands on my thighs."You suck."
"And you're full of shit, Dean." Sam gave me the stink-eye, and then did his stomping routine again, bumping into me as he huffed off.
"Crap, I suck, "I muttered, knowing my poetry slam was completely pointless. I stared after Sam as he left the room." Damn." I booted the bedpan across the room in frustration. I was going to have to think about changing the rule-of-thumb from slow and easy to something a lot more aggressive like hypnotism, sleeping pills, or hard-core booze. "Sam, wait up." I trotted after him.
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