Round Robin for The Writers Guild 2009. The sins of the father shouldn't be blamed on the sons, but when dealing with a psychopath rational thinking goes out of the window and the Winchester brothers are left to clean up. Written by Maxandkiz; Vonnie836; Supernaturaldh; Spoilerwolf and ames449
"Come on Sam! Get a move on!" Dean hollered as he banged on the bathroom door. Glancing around the room he spotted a sock lying under the small table by the door. Huffing he stomped over and knelt down and snagged the offending item. Getting to his feet Dean turned and tossed the sock over to his bed. "Score!" he called as the sock landed in his open duffle. Smiling he surveyed the room once more making sure nothing else had escaped his packing. "Bout time Samantha" he huffed when the bathroom door finally opened and Sam walked out surrounded by a cloud of steam.
"Ha, ha" Sam grumbled as he walked over to his bag and started searching for a clean shirt and jeans. "What's the hurry, anyway, Dean? It's not like we have somewhere to be."
"Oh, but we do, little brother." Dean replied holding up his cell for Sam to see. "Got some coordinates while you were doing your hair. We're headed to Osceola, Arizona."
"What's there?" Sam asked as he slid on some boxers and a pair of jeans. Grabbing his shirt he pulled it over his head as he walked back into the bathroom. Retrieving his kit from the sink and scooping up his dirty clothes he strolled over to his bed and stuffed them in his bag.
"Don't know yet. You can figure it out on the way." Dean replied. He shouldered his bag and headed out the door to his baby.
After driving all morning and a good part of the afternoon the boys finally pulled into the town of Osceola. Glancing around, they grimaced at the immaculate lawns and row upon row of eerily similar houses. "Welcome to Stepford" Dean joked as he pushed a little harder on the accelerator. This place was giving him the creeps. Stopping at the stop sign at the end of the street he quickly scanned all three directions and then made a right turn. He drove past a shopping center and several apartment buildings and housing developments before making it into the seedier side of town. Several minutes and turns later Dean spotted a crumbling building with a neon sign blinking "The Hopi Inn". Rolling his eyes at the name he quickly pulled and parked in the first spot he came to and cut the engine. "Be right back, Sammy" he called as he climbed out of the car and hurried inside.
A dinged up, rusty Ford truck pulled into the Hopi Inn parking lot, the only motel for miles. The engine idled as its owner watched the occupants of the dark black Impala. "Oh, this is too perfect!" the man muttered as he glared at the two young hunters as they unloaded the classic Chevy and shuffled into the room at the end of the row. A wicked grin curled up on his lips. "Well, well, well, instead of Winchester and son, I get both his brats. Guess mister smarty pants didn't make it through Stanford after all. Serves'em right, after all the bragging Winchester did." The watcher crowed as he glanced down at an old newspaper clipping in his hand, then, dropped it to the tattered vinyl seat beside him. He smiled. "John Winchester thought he and his brood was so much better than the everyone else. Well, I'll show him. I'll make him pay for what he did to Billy. You just wait and see. He'll be sorry he ever crossed paths with me and mine."
The sunlight glared through the musty motel room curtain as Sam's eyes blinked open. Immediately, his hand rose across his eyes to block out the too bright glow of morning. He sighed loudly and scrubbed his fingers across his crusty lids. He heard Dean sigh even louder from the other bed. Sam waited, hoping his always hungry older brother had forgotten who'd gone for food last…no such luck.
"It's your turn to get breakfast," Dean's pillow muffled voice mumbled from the other bed. "Black coffee," Dean stated flatly as he flopped to his back, his eyes still closed. "And doughnuts…."
Sam sighed tiredly.
"Blueberry…" Dean mumbled, his eyes still firmly shut.
"Do I ever forget what kind of doughnuts you like?" Sam snorted. He moved his long legs from beneath the warm blankets and smacked his feet against the dirty motel carpet. He glanced at his dozing older brother and shook his head. He sniffed his semi clean t-shirt and decided it was good another day. He yanked on his blue jeans, stuffed his un-socked feet into his boot, pulled on his jacket, and snagged the keys from the table. "I'll be right back," he said sleepily.
Dean nuzzled against the pillow and smiled smugly as the motel doorway shut. He dozed on and off for a while, waiting for Sam to return with breakfast. Finally, after about twenty minutes, he jumped to his feet and stumbled to the bathroom. Damn, how long does it take to get a doughnut?
The shower was long, and hot, and woke him up completely. By the time he was done, he was humming Metallica and thinking how glorious it was to be alive. He dressed slowly, and settled himself in front of the laptop, hoping to find something of interest in this town.
After a while, Dean glanced down at his watch. What the hell, where's Sam? The restaurant was within walking distance; it shouldn't have taken him over an hour to get some food? He grabbed his cell phone and pushed speed dial, holding it to his ear. Three rings and Sam's voice came on the line.
"It's me, leave a message."
Dean frowned. Maybe the restaurant was too busy… Maybe there was traffic…a wreck? Maybe he was being paranoid, but an uneasy feeling was stirring in the pit of his stomach, his big brother senses kicking into overdrive. He hung up the phone, without leaving a message, and grabbed his jacket as he moved hastily towards the door.
The walk to the diner took him fifteen minutes. He glanced across the front parking lot to see that it was full of cars and trucks from the highway, early birds getting the breakfast special no doubt.
Where's the 'Pala? He asked himself curiously, his eyes darting from one car to the next.
He moved slowly around the side of the restaurant, his beloved black beauty coming into view. Well, good, at least Sam got here in one peace. He laughed lightly at his nerves and moved steadily toward the car. It was then that he saw the dropped to-go boxes, his eyes following the trail until they fell on the familiar jacket and the too long gangly limbs.
Oh My God.
Fueled by adrenaline, Dean's feet flew beneath him as he sprinted to Sam's side, dropping to his knees beside his little brother.
"Sammy?" Dean whispered, his hands ghosting over Sam's prone body.
Sam moaned and his head moved slightly, "Dean?" he whispered as unfocused eyes blinked slowly open, staring blankly up at his older brother's face.
"Thank god, Sammy, you scared the shit out of me, dude! You okay?" Someone beat the shit out of his brother, his car. "What? Who did this?" Dean rambled angrily as he looked to the banged and dented Impala and the bat rolling against the pavement. "Son of a bitch!" He reached to pull his barely conscious little brother up against his chest. "Sam, who did this?"
Sam winced as his arms curled around his midsection. "Guh…D…d…don't, De…hurts" he gasped as his body heaved for air, his eyes squinting tightly shut.
Dean released his little brother and lowered him gently back against the ground. "Easy Sammy."
Sam whimpered fists clinching, chest hitching, as he curled in tighter on himself.
"Just gon'na take a look", Dean cooed. "Sam, sh….it's okay…easy."
Dean reached for the hem of Sam's tee-shirt, moving the tightly fisted hands away. He pulled the material slowly upward to reveal massive black and blue bruises all across his little brother's stomach.
"Sweet Jesus," Dean grimaced. "Just lie still; its gon'a be okay." I am so kicking somebody's ass.
Dean saw red – Who the hell did this to Sam? He glanced uncomfortably around. Son of a bitch. He placed a hand on the side of Sam's pale face and ran it soothingly through his sweat soaked hair.
Sam's face contorted up in pain as he seemed to struggle to pull in air.
"Easy Sammy I got'cha."
Dean's heart raced as he pulled out his cell phone, his fingers quickly punching 911.
Leonard Steel guzzled from the whiskey bottle gripped in his right hand, the fingers of his left twisting tightly around the tattered newspaper clipping, a wicked grin curling to his lips. He stared at the two hunters from his hidden position across the parking lot.
He was pleased with himself. He'd managed to get the jump on the kid; it had been way too easy. The tall teenager had gone down to his knees with the first strategic blow. Leonard had wanted to finish him off, right then and there, wanted to end him, but where's the fun in that?
Thank god he'd listened to his instincts and gotten back out of sight. He'd barely gotten into hiding before the older brother had appeared. Damn it! Could have given the kid a few more wacks with the bat! He cackled at the thought. He had been very patient, and that patience had finally paid off big. He'd sent John's boys the coordinates, hoping they would come, and well, he smiled, they hadn't disappointed.
For over two weeks Leonard had been watching, following, and stalking the Winchester brothers. He knew their habits, their routines. One of them would always leave, go out for food, and then, sometimes they'd leave together for hours at a time. Every now and then they wore suits, other day's regular clothing. No doubt they were trying to figure out the last case he'd sent them on, good thing it had been a real haunting, or they would have wondered why they were even there. Once the ghost was salt and burned, the brother's had moved on, looking for the next hunt, just like clockwork. All Leonard had to do was tell them where to go. He grinned wickedly. Pity they didn't know John Winchester hadn't sent them the last two sets of coordinates, nope, he hadn't done a thing.
His first choice was the young one, the one John always bragged on. It had been kind of difficult to get the kid alone; his damn older brother seemingly following him everywhere he went. But today, well, it had just been his lucky day, and he had seized the opportunity. He sighed, his hot breath floating up around him as a crowd started to gather around the Winchesters. He took another swig of the warm liquor; the whiskey numbing his thoughts and making his life just a little bit easier to take.
It had been three years ago this week, three long, lonely years. He still remembered like it was yesterday. It was a group hunt with his older brother Billy, Pastor Jim and Caleb and some hunter he didn't know, a man named John Winchester. They went full force after two Chupacabras down in west Texas.
He vaguely recalled Caleb being knocked unconscious as they both fought to get away from the creatures. He had been overpowered, flung back by one monster – his body slamming against the jagged rock, his arm broken badly in the fall. He could still feel the thick blood streaming down his face and the pain searing through his skull upon impact with the ground. Then his memories are skewed, blurry, hazy images that he cannot seem to grasp. John and Billy storming after the creatures while Pastor Jim's hand gripped tightly to his shoulder, and the pain that burned him to the core.
He gulped down some more of the tepid booze and swiped the back of his hand across his lips. The shivers ran up and down his spine as his mind relived the moment his brother was taken away from him, murdered, killed. He could still hear Billy's screams as he was dragged off into the night; the horrid ripping sounds as his body was torn to shreds – - and that's where Leonard Steel's memory ended.
He hadn't heard the shots from Pastor Jim and John Winchester's rifles as they fought to save his brother. He didn't remember his massive head injury, or being carried out of the woods across John Winchesters tired shoulders. He wasn't privy to the grave decision the two hunters had made to leave Billy behind in order to save his and Caleb's lives. No, all that time was gone, as were his months in the hospital and multiple psychiatric wards. Those years rolled into a blank void of nothingness filled with medication, needles, and delusions.
The crazy man snorted, his face contorting into a manic, wild-eyed look. He'd give them a few days grace and then, he'd send them more coordinates, a new location closer to his final end game. He hoped that they would come, that they would figure out the link between the fake trail he was laying and Sam being attacked. They were pretty smart, but he was smarter, and he wanted them to know. He swigged at the almost empty bottle. He'd worked too hard for this, for this revenge, and he wanted to revel in the knowledge of their pain and suffering before he killed them both.
His fingers quivered on the tattered newspaper clipping; his eyes glowering down at the headline – "Man Found Clawed to Death near El Paso, Texas". My big brother. He swallowed down his anger and yanked the whiskey bottle back up against his lips, the last of the warm liquid burning down his throat. He grinned wickedly as he watched the bright red lights of the ambulance as it pulled up beside the brothers, the swift motions of the paramedics as they moved to help the kid. He smiled, and let he empty bottle slide slowly from his clinched fingers, as it dropped harshly to the ground. Yep – somebody's going to pay for what happened to my Billy!
Dean led Sam into their room and shut the door, dragging Sam over to the bed and maneuvering him so that he was seated on the edge of the mattress. "I'm not going to bed, Dean," the younger man said weakly.
Dean, for the most part, ignored him. He tossed his jacket onto the back of the chair, and kneeled down on the floor and removed Sam's boots, much to Sam's squawking about not being an invalid. "Shut your cake hole and lie down for a bit."
Sam just stared at him incredulously. "You're an ass, you know that?" But he levered himself down onto the bed with a groan. Had to admit, the pain shot, from the hospital, was making him slightly drowsy.
Dean just smiled at him. "But the girls love to smack my ass around."
Sam just rolled his eyes, turning away from his brother and pulling the cover up to his neck. "Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, Casanova."
Now it was Dean's turn to roll his eyes. "You're just jealous."
Sam snorted, and then covered his mouth when he yawned. "Dream on."
Dean just shook his head and moved to the table where that laptop rested quietly. He sat down and pulled the computer towards him and booted it up, waiting for the screen to load.
He glanced over to the far bed and hid a smile at the soft snores that came from the lump under all the blankets and the mop of dark hair that peaked out from under the covers. "It's like having a toddler all over again." He mumbled affectionately to himself, focusing his attention to the computer when the screen finally loaded.
He stared at the screen intently. Someone had attacked Sam and the Impala, broken three of Sam's ribs, mangled up his beloved car. He needed to know if there had been other incidences like Sam's case or not, was this some kind of supernatural thing or worst yet, human. Whatever it was, he was sure of one thing, whoever did it was certainly gon'a pay.
Late afternoon gave way to evening, and Sam still slept soundly in his bed, kicking at the blankets lazily every so often, to which Dean grumbled when he had to pick the blankets off the floor for the third time and drape them back over Sam, who didn't even twitch.
Dean hadn't had any luck – there hadn't been any assault cases or charges in the last year in this backwater town. Crime rate was fairly low too, with the last thing reported damaged was Mrs. Billing's mailbox when one of the neighborhood kids ran into it when playing street hockey.
Rubbing his forehead where a headache had begun to form, Dean picked up his phone and checked the time. 7:27 pm. His stomach growled just thinking about food and it had been hours since both of them had had a decent meal.
Glancing over to the other bed, Dean could just make out the tousled dark hair beneath the mound of blankets. The soft snores hadn't stopped since early afternoon and Dean planned to keep it that way for just a little longer.
Writing a quick note about where he was going in case the Sasquatch did wake up, Dean grabbed his jacket and stepped outside, quietly closing the door behind him.
The diner was quiet, only a few patrons in there as Dean made his order and sat in one of the nearby booths and waited, fingers beating out the rhythm of "Smoke on the Water" on the table, his foot tapping to the tune in his head. He glanced around, taking in the drunken man at the other end of the bar. Is he staring at me?
The man looked quickly down, fiddled with his cell phone, and swallowed down his half empty glass.
Dean watched curiously as the guy moved quickly toward the door. People are just so freak'n weird.
"Sir – your order." The stout waitress pushed a greasy bag into Dean's hands.
Dean glanced down at the bag, then up at the doorway, but the man was gone. He looked at the waitress giving her a small smile before heading out the door toward the motel.
He was just crossing the street with the motel two blocks away when he felt his phone vibrate in his coat pocket. Cursing, he shifted the bag into his other hand and pulled out his cell phone and flipped it open. He frowned at the text message.
There on the white screen, was another set of coordinates.
Dean's mind suddenly put the pieces together, like a puzzle falling into place. "Sonofabitch," he hissed.
Sam Winchester fidgeted nervously in his seat trying to think of a way to stop his big brother from making a colossal mistake. He worriedly glanced at Dean before shifting his gaze to the barren landscape out his window as the Impala barreled down the deserted dirt road. Scattered brush and rocks along with the occasional tree flew by the passenger window at a dizzying speed making the young hunter's already queasy stomach roll. Closing his eyes Sam took several deep breaths in an attempt to quell the nausea. He couldn't afford to be sick now. Suddenly he was slammed against the door as the black beauty swerved to the left and skidded to a stop. He swallowed back the rising bile and opened up his eyes. Rubbing his shoulder Sam turned to glare at his brother as the older man leapt out of the car and rushed around to the trunk. "Here goes nothing" Sam thought as he climbed out of the classic Chevy and quickly shuffled to the back.
Dean thrust the key into the lock and threw the trunk lid up. Taking hold of the false bottom he yanked it up leaning it on an old ax handle. Grabbing his favorite shot gun he turned to race after his prey swearing as a hand on his jacket stopped him in his tracks. "Let go!" he growled pinning his brother with an angry glare.
"No, Dean" Sam calmly said as he clutched his brother's jacket even tighter. "Now's not the time to go off half cocked."
"It's the perfect time, Sam!" Dean hollered as he twisted easily out of his brother's hold. "The bastard's been playing with us; leading us on one wild goose chase after another! And to top it off, he's managed to hurt the two most important things in my life!"
"Dean, calm down. You don't go into a hunt angry. You know that." Sam softly reminded reaching for his brother once more. "Besides, the Impala and I are both fine now."
"Sure you are Sammy. You always look a little green and prop up on my baby's bumper when you're fine." Dean fired back with a frown as he studied his brother's pale features. "I knew I should've left you back at the motel. You're not in any shape to be out here. You just got out the hospital."
"If you had left without me, I would have just hotwired a car and followed you out here and you know it." Sam pointed out. "I'm not about to let you go after this guy alone, Dean. It's too dangerous."
"Then grab a weapon and let's get this party started." Dean grumbled. He tapped his foot impatiently as Sam quickly filled a duffle before picking up a handgun and closing the trunk. Snatching the bag away from his little brother Dean tossed the strap over his shoulder. "Let's go." He ordered. The two hunters silently walked across the road and disappeared into the night.
After half an hour of walking through the constantly cooling desert night, Dean at last slowed down. He was still angry at whoever was leading them on, but his thoughts suddenly went back to the fact that his brother had just left the hospital. Turning around, he realized Sam was lagging behind by several steps.
"You okay back there?" He called out.
"Yeah, just a little slower than usual, don't worry 'bout me." The younger man kept his voice casual, even though Dean could tell he was hurting.
He waited until Sam caught up with him then continued at a slower pace. The last thing he needed was to aggravate his injuries. Damn, why did the kid have to be so stubborn and insist on coming with him? He was sure he could have handled whoever sent them the coordinates on his own without a problem.
"It can't be too much further." Sam's voice broke through his brother's thoughts. Pulling the map out of his coat pocket, he studied it for just a moment, "We should be only about five minutes from the coordinates."
"Well, I guess we're at a disadvantage, we don't know what we're looking for and it's really dark tonight. Couldn't have been clear? No, it had to be cloudy."
"Hey, look at the bright side." The younger Winchester grinned, "It could be worse, could be raining right now."
Dean waved him off and continued to walk, keeping his flash light pointed to the ground in front of him. Yeah right, rain, with their luck, it would be a torrential one at that. Let's hope it wouldn't come to that.
Without warning Sam stopped and pointed his own flashlight on ahead, "Look at that, a cabin, in the middle of nowhere?"
By now the older man had noticed it also and fastened his steps towards the building. Arriving, he attempted to open the door, but found it locked. Without hesitation he pulled the small case of lock picks he always carried with him out of his back pocket and kneeled down. Putting his own flash light in his coat pocket, he waved at his brother, who by now had caught up with him and ordered, "Point the light so I can see the lock. This should be easy."
"Are you sure we should do this. It has to be a trap." Sam voiced his doubts.
"I'm counting on it Sammy, I'm counting on it." Dean smirked then quietly pushed the door open.
Getting back on his feet, he started to walk into the dark cabin. Feeling his way along the wall, he almost fell over his own feet, when the room lit up with a sudden brightness. Startled he turned, finding his brother standing with his hand still on the light switch and a smug grin on his face.
"Dammit Sam, we're trying to be inconspicuous here." The older man scolded.
"I figured, whoever wanted us here, already knows we are here anyway, so why not at least be able to see?"
"Got a point there!" Dean agreed.
Looking around the room, they found it very sparsely furnished. Only one chair was standing in the corner and a mattress was lying against the wall. The next room was a small windowless bathroom. On the other side was an open kitchen that also was empty. Letting their eyes glide over the room one more time, both of them noticed the same thing at the same time – the only window was boarded up.
Exchanging a glance, both men ran for the door, just to find it slammed shut right in front of their noses. At the same time there was crazy laughter coming from the other side of the door.
Dean threw himself against the wooden barrier several times but found that even though it seemed to give just a little with each of his attempts, it didn't open. Finally giving up, he called out, "Who are you and what do you want?"
The manic laughter repeated, "Doesn't matter," a gruff voice spat out, "What's important is that I've got you and your brother right where I want you. You got to understand, this cabin is rigged with explosives. All I have to do is push the little button in my hand and boom; you'll both be blown to bits." Again there was a laugh, this time even more out of control sounding then before.
Dean looked at his little brother with worry in his eyes, this situation had really gotten out of hand quickly and he was to blame for it. Sam had warned him not to go off half-cocked, the same warning that their father had given out so many times in the past. He still could hear the elder Winchester's words, "You have to prepare well before you get into a hunt. Know who your enemy is and how to kill it. Never go out there half-cocked." And he did exactly that and now they were in trouble, Sammy was in trouble.
Again the voice spoke, "I'm not an animal, so I'll give you a chance. You've got ten seconds before I blow this joint. One…two…"
Both brothers desperately looked around for a way out, in the end it was Sam who screamed, "Bathtub…"
Not waiting for a response, he pushed his brother into the direction of the bathroom, getting him to run without faltering. Hearing the bam of the explosion, he gave Dean a final thrust into the tub, then jumped on top of him, just as he felt the wave of the blast hit.
Dean came to with a groan on his lips, trying to reorient himself to reality. He was lying on a smooth surface, surrounded by equally smooth walls. With a start his memories returned. The cabin, they got locked in, then the taunting voice from outside, Sam pushing him. He remembered running and another hard push to his back and then there was an explosion.
"Sammy…!" Trying to sit up, he felt the weight on top of him for the first time, "Sammy, you alright."
At first there was no response, causing the older brother to panic, only after calling out for his sibling once more, did he finally get a response.
"Yeah, how you're doing kiddo?" Dean asked with some anxiety at hearing the slur in his brother's voice.
"Like a cabin fell on me!" The answer came out clearer, making the protective Winchester feel somewhat better.
"I think that's exactly what happened. Can you move?" Dean's voice was laced with sheer concern.
Instead of an answer, he felt some of the weight shift off him before there was a moan.
"It's alright, I think it was enough, I can get out from under you now."
Dean wiggled his way out from underneath his giant little brother, his ribs protesting the movement, letting him know they were at least bruised, if not cracked or broken. He also felt the moisture running down the side of his face, indicating he must have hit his head when Sam pushed him into the tub. At least he was in one piece; this was nothing he couldn't deal with. His concern increased though, when he heard Sam cry out in pain. Now that he was no longer on his stomach, he had pulled the flash light out of his coat pocket and let it show him the dilemma they've gotten themselves into.
They really had gotten lucky, as none of the heavy pieces had fallen directly on top of them. There actually were two support beams, which had come down and were now crisscrossing from the floor to the wall beside the tub, blocking any bigger and heavier rubble from touching them. Only smaller section, which he now fairly easily pushed to the side, had made there way through. But he could also see the reason for his brother's pain. Some of the wood had splintered and a large piece was sticking out of the right side of Sam's back, a large amount to blood soaking his clothes. The other thing he noticed was one of the large beams had crushed his left ankle, still trapping it against the tub. The almost disjointed position the younger man was lying in right now would have been funny, if the situation wouldn't have been so grave.
"Damn kid, why didn't you say something?" He scolded.
"Wouldn't have made a difference. "Sam said his voice strained with suppressed pain.
"Guess not." Dean hated it, when the kid was right. He hated it even more, when his brother got hurt while saving him.
There was another moan from the younger man, before his eyes glassed over and his lids started to droop.
Dread overcame the older man and he reached out, padding the Sam's cheek. "Come on Sammy, stay with me, can't go to sleep now."
"J'st for a min'te, 'm t'red."
"No, not even for a minute, you've got to help me here, I'm hurting and I can't do this by myself." Dean knew it wasn't fair to play on his own injuries, but it was the only way Sam would cooperate.
Instantly the younger man's eyes popped open, still glassy hazels, but, he looked much more alert then before.
Sam's vision was slightly blurry; he looked at Dean, seeing the blood on his older brother's face. "You're bleeding."
"Hit my head, might have a slight concussion." The other hunter responded, "I'll be okay, right now we need to get your leg free, so…" He stopped, suddenly hearing debris being moved away.
They were out in nowhere, so there was only one possible explanation. Pulling his weapon out of the back of his pants, he listened at the taunting voice coming through the rubble.
"This time you can't get away from me. John Winchester will at last get to feel what it means to loose his family."
Sam's pale face frowned in confusion.
"Who the hell are you?" Dean yelled, anger fueling his desire to kill this son of a bitch.
"Names Steel, Leonard Steel."
And the manic laughter echoed in the darkness.
Dean stilled, straining his ears to listen. Oh, this guy was going down. He rolled his shoulder from under Sam's armpit, and lowered him carefully onto the floor, leaning him back against the wall. Sam used his hands to shift back a little, his right leg stretched out in front of him, his ankle twisted oddly to the side.
"Dean…?" Sam's worried whisper had him meeting his eyes. His forehead was furrowed tightly, pain clearly visible underneath the anxiety.
"I know, Sam," Dean answered, his mind racing. They had to get the hell out of there before Steel found them, but with Sam's ankle… Dean let out a frustrated breath. "We are so screwed." He had no idea what to do. He needed to draw the guy away from his brother, take him out, and get his Sam to a hospital. He didn't think Steel would make it that easy.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm gon'a gank him," Dean replied simply.
Sam looked appalled at his statement. "He's human," he hissed.
"He also just tried to blow us up, Sam," Dean snapped. "I don't think pleading humanity is going to win him a get out of jail free card." Not this time. Steel was determined to kill them, and there was no reasoning with him; he was too far gone, too deep in the need for revenge.
"Dean, we can't kill him."
Dean had strong rules about hunting and what they should hunt, but his only interest was getting Sam and himself out of this mess in one piece; Steel wasn't going to allow that – not without one hell of a fight. Dean didn't like it, but he'd do what he had to.
"Then what do you suggest? Ask him nicely to let us live?" The deadpan wasn't well received by his younger sibling.
Sam's expression was irritated. "I don't know, but we can't just…" His brow was deeply lined as he wrestled with the magnitude of their situation. "We just… We can't just…" he wrinkled his nose, his voice dropping to whisper, "gank him."
Dean understood his brother's hesitance, he really did, but he didn't see another option here.
"Well, if you have a better idea, by all means we'll try that, but this guy is a real Cuckoo's Nest, Sammy. I don't think reasoning with him is gon'a help. Besides, if by some minor miracle we actually do make it out of here, do you really think he's going to let us just disappear into the sunset?" Steel had found them once – granted he'd been clever about it – but Dean wouldn't risk the crazy bastard hunting them down again. It was kill or be killed, and survival took precedence over morals – this time. Dean wouldn't allow him to hurt his brother again.
"We hunt monsters, Dean, not people."
Dean rubbed a weary hand over his eyes. Sam saw thing things so black and white sometimes.
"Yeah, because Steel is such an upstanding member of society – you know, aside from the homicidal streak."
A noise drew Dean's attention, ending the conversation abruptly. He flicked his head over his shoulder, stilling instantly. Steel was moving through the house, and he was closing in on them. Quickly, he turned his flashlight off. The blast had knocked all the lights out and Dean didn't want to alert Steel to their hiding place. The element of surprise was the only thing they had going for them.
Darkness shrouded the room completely and the bathroom suddenly felt tiny, like the walls were closing in. Dean didn't like fighting on unfamiliar turf, especially when that turf had been created by a complete fruitcake. It was making him edgy.
"You still got your gun?" Dean asked quietly. He'd lost his own weapon somewhere between the living room and diving into the tub, and while he didn't want to leave Sam unprotected, he needed to face this guy with more than attitude. He needed to put him down quick and fast.
"Yeah, but Dean you can't face this guy alone." There was a pleading quality to Sam's tone.
"We can't just hide out in the bathroom forever, Sam. You need a hospital."
He couldn't see his brother's face in the dark, but Dean didn't need to; he could picture the conflicted expression Sam was probably wearing right now. He knew he was right when he brother shifted suddenly, trying to rise. Dean reached out blindly and found his brother's arm, tightening his fingers on his shoulder.
"Sit still, Sammy." He was worried about his brother causing more damage to his ankle – never mind the injuries he couldn't see. His brother was still recovering from his attack, and god knows what damage the blast had done.
"I can stand, Dean. I can help." Sam's protested words were laced with exhaustion, his voice breaking a little as tried to reassure him.
"Your ankle looks like Kathy Bates went a round with it." Dean scrubbed a hand over his face. "The hole in your side ain't much better. I can't take care of Steel and watch your ass too." It was cruel to say, and Dean hated himself for doing it, but he couldn't concentrate while he was worrying about his brother. "You'll slow me down." He winced, practically feeling the hurt gaze he knew his brother was shooting at through the inky darkness.
There was a long pause and Dean was sure he had pushed Sam too far. Sam didn't say a word, but Dean felt his hand snag his jacket before cold metal was pressed into his palm. Curling his fingers around his brother's gun, Dean slowly cranked the safety back, wincing at the loud clicking sound it made.
"Be careful," Sam murmured tightly
"I always am, Sammy."
Straightening from his crouch, Dean raised his free hand in front of him, feeling his way to the door. He'd draw the son of a bitch away from his brother and then kick his ass into the middle of next week. Dean suspected he'd even enjoy the experience.
Step by tentative step, Dean moved up the hallway, walking as softly as he could over the sea of fallout, his eyes growing slowly accustomed to the dark as he moved. Something banged to his left. Dean's heart twitched a staccato beat beneath his ribs as he spun around, the gun following. There was silence for a moment, and nothing moved again.
Dean let out the breath he'd been holding and started towards the back of the cabin with a little more urgency. The kitchen door was open from his and Sam's earlier exploration and a white beam flashed across the room. Dean ducked into the nearest room off the hallway – one of the bedrooms – as the spot where he had just been stood was bathed in milky light. He pressed his body against the wall inside the room, taking controlled breaths.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are," Steel's gruff voice snarled. "How 'bout's you stop playing hide and seek, boys, and show yourselves."
Dean's lip curled. He wanted nothing more than to shove his weapon somewhere unpleasant on Steel's personage and pull the trigger, but running in all-guns blazing was why they were in this mess in the first place.
Wood crunched underfoot, and Dean knew Steel was moving up the hallway. He rolled his head sideway, glancing up the length of the wall towards the open bedroom door. The flashlight beam was getting brighter. Steel was closing in.
"You know, your Daddy's a goddamn murderer," Steel continued, his voice cold, "and I am sorry as hell that you boys are taking the fall for him, but life's a bitch, ain't it? The sins of the father and all that…"
Dean pushed further into the wall, closing his eyes for a brief second as he tightened his grip on the gun. The guy was so far gone; Dean knew there was no reasoning with him. After what he had done to his brother, and then attempting to blow them up, he wasn't sure he wanted to reason with him anyway.
"And when I send John the pictures of you both lyin' in a pool of your own blood, maybe he'll understand how I felt when he left my brother to die."
Dean pulled his bottom lip between his teeth. His mouth nearly moved before his brain realized Steel was trying to draw him out. He had no idea if him and Sam were still alive. He was erring on the side of caution, and as long as Dean was between Steel and his brother, he'd keep him guessing.
Barely breathing, Dean waited until the light got closer to the open doorway. He closed his eyes briefly, praying that Steel would walk passed the room that he wouldn't stop and look in. If he did, Dean was screwed. There was nowhere to hide, and although he had the advantage of knowing where Steel was, he still didn't want to get into a stand-off in such close quarters. He had no idea what this guy was packing, but considering he had come armed with a bomb, the odds were he wasn't traveling light. Dean wanted to assess the guy before running in blindly. They'd lucked out with the blast. He didn't want to risk more serious injuries this time.
The beam of light became brighter and then silhouetted in the doorway, Dean got his first look at their attacker. He couldn't make out too much, but the flashlight illuminated enough. Steel was tall, but shorter than Dean, his hair was long, reaching his shoulders but he couldn't make out the color. He was clutching the light in one hand, and what looked like a shotgun in the other. Dean pushed further into the wall, holding his breath until he had moved passed the doorway. Then, carefully and quietly, Dean moved from his hiding place.
He put it down to the fact he was concussed and not thinking straight. It was the only reason he could think of for why he had fallen for such a simple ploy. After all, why wouldn't Steel check the room? Dean would have checked every inch of the house, and then rechecked it. But Dean's relief at not being found had blinded him. He stepped out of the room into the hallway, no more than a few steps behind Steel, his eyes locked onto his back, his gun raised, his finger poised on the trigger. For a split second, Dean wasn't sure he could shoot him, wasn't sure he could kill a human in cold blood, no matter what his crime was, but then he remembered finding his brother in the parking lot, beaten to hell, remembered the fact he had tried to blow them up and he knew this was right. His hesitation cost him dearly.
Something slammed into the back of his head.
Pain splintered through his skull, white spots spilling in front of his eyes. Dean slumped onto his knees, confused and disorientated as Steel turned around in front of him. He hadn't hit him… which meant… which meant Steel hadn't come alone. Dean turned his head slightly, glancing over his shoulder. The glint of metal hurtling towards his face was the last thing he saw before lights out.
The first blow was enough to pull Dean from unconscious. His head snapped to the side, his jaw burning. Dean blinked, trying to pry his eyes open, groaning as he managed half-mast slits. He was still in the cabin. It looked like the living room, although it was hard to tell with the amount of debris littering the empty room. He barely managed more than a glance before another blow caught him on the side of the face. Blood sprayed from his mouth at the impact and he could taste iron, coating the back of his throat. He ran his tongue over his teeth, checking they were all still in place before slowly turning back towards his attacker.
His vision was wobbling and the room was lit by a dull camping lamp placed on the floor, but the guy currently rearranging his face wasn't Steel. He was, however, huge. Meaty fists clenched and unclenched at his side as he glared fiercely at Dean. Like Steel, he had long hair that was pulled back into a tie at the nape of his neck, parted in the middle, and he had an untidy beard that covered most of his face. He was clutching a shotgun in his left hand – probably the cause of Dean's headache.
"Nice to have you back with us, Dean."
He slid his gaze to the side as Steel himself stepped out of the shadows. The man looked positively excited about the situation, and that made Dean's fear grow. He kept his expression neutral, not willing to show any weakness. Taking a deep breath, Dean rolled his gaze around the room. He was tied to a chair, the skin of his wrists raw from the coarse fibers. He tested the bindings, keeping his eyes locked on the new guy but there was no give in them and it only irritated his skin even more. Thankfully, there was no sign of his brother in the room.
"Thought you were going to sleep right through the final show." Steel folded his arms over his chest, his lips curling upwards into a smirk.
"Let me guess," Dean said, spitting blood onto the floorboards. "He's the Starsky to your Hutch?" His head felt detached from the rest of his body, and his stomach churned violently. He swallowed hard, trying to quell the nausea that was racing through him.
Steel smiled but it was mirthless. "This is my brother."
Dean snapped his eyes towards beefy guy, his expression confused. "I thought you said your brother was dead." Wasn't that the reason they were here?
Steel's jaw tensed. "Billy is dead, no thanks to your father, but I had two brothers, Dean. Billy was the brains. Travis is the brawn, and he likes to hurt people."
Travis gave him a toothy grin that did nothing to ease Dean's anxiety. He was starting to wonder if he and Sam attracted all the freaks in the States – human and supernatural.
"Now that I can believe," Dean muttered, wincing at the throbbing pain lancing through his skull. Travis didn't look like he had a single brain cell in his head. "You did a piss-poor job with the explosives by the way. Hell, it didn't even mess up my hair."
Steel smirked and moved towards him. Bending over, he leaned on the arms of the chair, his face inches from Dean's.
"Personal space, dude," Dean growled, twisting away from the man as far the ropes would allow him. "Look into the concept, Leonard."
Steel ignored him. "If I'd wanted you and your brother dead, you'd both be nothing but brain matter on the walls. That little fireworks display was just to get your attention." Steel straightened, dusting his hands on his jeans. "Speaking of your brother, where is Sam? We searched the house but either he's the invisible man or he up and ditched you."
Dean schooled his features, but his heart twitched beneath his ribs. Where the hell was his brother? The house wasn't that big and Sam's ankle was a mess.
"Well, let's just say you weren't as careful as you thought." Dean would rather they believed Sam was dead. If his brother had, by some minor miracle, managed to walk out of there, Dean would give him as big a head start as he could.
"Bullshit," Steel said, "I know how close you and Sam are. If he was dead, you'd be ripping my throat out right now."
Dean gave him a shit-eating smile. "I still might."
Steel grunted, amused or incredulous, Dean wasn't sure as Travis's huge fist slammed into his face once more. The bones in his cheek shifted painfully with the strike. Steel hadn't been lying when he said Travis was the brawn; it was like being hit with a truck. He shook his head, clearing his shaky vision, and raised his eyes towards Leonard.
"That all you got?" Dean said insolently, despite the blood weaving down his face, dripping off the end of chin.
"Oh, we've got a few more surprises planned for you, Dean," Steel replied, his tone ominous.
Dean raised his brow a fraction; it was much as his bruised face would allow. "Surprises? And it's not even my birthday."
"You never stop mouthing off, do you?" Steel growled, irritation breaking through his smug facade.
Dean smiled, despite the fierce aching in his jaw. "Most people find it adorable."
Steel glared at him. "Well, we'll see how much you're laughing in a moment. Travis, go have another scout around, see if you can find the other one. I'll entertain our guest." His tone was ominous and Dean tensed, preparing for whatever Steel was going to throw at him next. "Travis…" Leonard snarled when his brother didn't move. "That's a goddamn order."
Travis sighed deeply, reluctance in his face but he did as he was asked. Steel watched his brother leave before he turned his back to Dean and crouched down. Dean tugged desperately at the ropes once more, ignoring the blood trickling down his wrists. He didn't know where Sam was, but he figured his brother couldn't have gotten too far, and Travis wasn't a kitten. Sam was strong and a capable fighter, but in his current condition he was no match for him.
"Your brother's a real Chatty Cathy," Dean said, pulling on the ropes harder, his eyes locked on his captors back as he continued to rummage in the bag at his feet. From his position, Dean couldn't see what the man was looking for, and he wasn't sure if that was blessing or a curse. For now, it didn't matter. He just needed to distract Steel long enough to get free and save his brother from Travis.
Leonard turned to glance over his shoulder, his eyes hard, and Dean stilled his struggles.
"Travis was never the same after we lost Billy. Just another thing your Daddy destroyed." Steel turned back around, continuing with his task.
"I don't know what the hell happened on that hunt, man, and I'm sorry that your brother was killed, but I can guarantee my Dad did everything he could to protect him."
Something snapped in Steel. He spun around, rising out of his crouch, his eyes wild. He crossed the floor in two steps, seizing Dean by his shirt.
"Your father is the reason we're here!" he snarled, shaking him. "I tried to find him, but when your Daddy doesn't want to be found…" He shifted his shoulders. "Well, there ain't no finding him. But he might crawl out his hole to avenge the death of his sons." He roughly released Dean, the chair teetering on the two back legs before stabilizing once more. Dean swallowed hard, watching Leonard pace the floor with furious steps. "John killed him, let him die, and that… well, that's unforgivable, Dean." His lips curled downwards with disdain.
"You think Billy would want you to become a murderer for him?" Dean tried reasoning once more. He doubted Leonard would listen, but he had to be sure he couldn't be saved. He had to be sure that when he killed Leonard, it was with the knowledge that he had done everything he could. Because one way or another, Dean was getting out of these ropes, and he was going to walk out of here in one piece with his brother. If he had to go through Leonard to do that… well, that was a price he was willing to pay.
"I think Billy would want me to avenge him." Steel crouched down once more, pulling something out the bag. When he turned back around he was clutching a rolled up piece of black cloth in his hands. Laying it on the floor, he unfurled it slowly, his gaze locked on Dean's face, his expression malicious.
Dean met his eyes defiantly before glancing at what lay in the cloth. There were several knives, all different sizes and shapes. Ice settled in Dean's stomach. He wasn't scared of pain, he'd had his fair share of it over the years, but this was different. This was premeditated, and, judging from the look in Steel's eyes, it wasn't going to be quick either.
"Quite a collection you've got there," Dean said, allowing a mirthless smile to grow.
Steel picked a long handled knife at random, pulling it loose from the binding holding it in the cloth and twisted it between his fingers as he stalked slowly towards Dean.
"You ever hunted a Chupacabra, Dean?"
"Can't say I have," Dean replied, his gaze on the blade in Steel's hand. He shifted further back into the chair as the crazy man paced back and forth in front of him.
"They're mean sons of bitches. Red eyes and an appetite that makes Hannibal Lecter look like he's got an eating disorder." He licked his lips, his eyes haunted. "They suck the life outta you – literally. Drain you of all your blood, much like a vamp, only chupacabras don't leave anything behind, if you catch my drift. Flesh, bones… Everything." He swallowed hard, a wave of emotion washing over him. Dean would have felt sorry for the guy if he wasn't trying to kill him.
"I'm sorry about what happened to your brother, but this isn't going to bring him back, and trust me, you aren't gon'a feel better afterwards."
Steel stopped pacing and turned slowly to Dean. "Let's test that theory, shall we?" He ran a finger along the edge of the blade, his smile sadistic. "Tell me, Dean, what's your pain threshold like?"
Sam's ankle was throbbing. He clenched his jaw against the pain, sucking a breath in through his teeth. His head was fuzzy and his broken ribs were aching, but Sam pushed all of it aside, straining to listen. His brother had gone to find Leonard Steel alone and that was worrying Sam. The cabin was still and far too quiet. The silence was unnerving. Sam hated not having his brother's back, hated leaving him to face Steel without him, but Sam also understood Dean's reasoning for leaving him behind. He would slow him down, but Steel wasn't a rookie, and that had Sam's apprehension growing as the seconds ticked by.
The silence was shattered suddenly. There was blow, followed by a grunt and a bang. Sam knew instantly the noise had come from his brother. His stomach turned inside out as he heard a muted voice – Steel – and an unfamiliar voice that Sam didn't recognize reply to him.
So Steel hadn't come alone… that definitely made things a little more difficult.
Using the wall to lean on, Sam carefully climbed to his feet, wincing as he put pressure on the injured limb. It throbbed fiercely, and his leg buckled underneath his tall frame. He nearly hit the deck, but managed to shift his stance and find traction in his left leg as a flashlight beam illuminated the hallway outside the bathroom.
Sam pressed into the wall, his left hand splayed against the plasterboard, barely breathing as the two men moved across the doorway. He almost gasped as he caught sight of his brother. Dean was being dragged by one of the men, his back against the stranger's torso, his head tucked onto his own chest, his arms dangling limply. Sam wanted to rush to his brother's aid, but he knew that was suicide. Getting himself caught wouldn't help Dean.
They passed the door way, the taller man grunting at the weight of Dean as he pulled him towards the living room. Sam needed a plan, but the house was a fortress. He had to try, for Dean's sake.
Once they had moved up the hallway, Sam limped towards the open door, leaning heavily on the wall. He craned his neck and glimpsed their retreating figures as they entered the living room. He knew he didn't have much time, and he prayed his ankle would hold long enough.
Trying not to place too much weight on the injured limb, he moved as quickly as he could, using the wall to support him, wincing as electric agony shot through his leg. He kept his gaze between the door behind him and the end of the hallway. Sam knew the two men had come into the house via the back, and the only entrance he and Dean had seen was the kitchen door. He had no idea if it would still be open, but Sam had to do something. He needed weapons, and he needed help. If he could split the two guys up, maybe he could take them out. If they came at him together Sam was screwed. He couldn't move fast enough to be efficient.
He halted suddenly, movement behind him making his heart splutter. No one came out of the room, however. Picking up the pace a little, ignoring the trembling in his right leg, he moved over the scattered debris as quickly as he could manage and made it to the kitchen without incident.
His ankle throbbing, Sam leaned heavily on the dusty counter, lowering his head on to his chest as he sucked in deep breaths, trying to push through the pain. His head was spinning like a cyclone. The walk down the corridor had been nothing short of agony, and he wanted desperately to sit down. That wasn't an option, Sam knew that, and knew he had to keep moving – somehow. Sam had no idea how the hell he was going to fight these guys; he was hurting so badly it was taking all of his energy to remain on his feet.
He forced himself to move, pushing off the counter with fierce determination. Sam hobbled across the room, his leg buckling with each step, but he didn't stop. Reaching the back door, he took a deep breath and wondered if his luck would hold out a little longer as he reached for the handle. He twisted it slowly, trying to be quiet, and was surprised as hell when it clicked open. Relief flooded through him as he pulled it open carefully and was hit with a warm breeze. Fresh air had never felt so damn good.
With a backwards glance over his shoulder, Sam moved onto the porch. The moon had slid out from behind the clouds and was casting an eerie, white glow over the desert. Sam scanned the horizon in one glance, immediately noticing a beat-up pick-up truck parked just beyond the cabin. Leaning heavily on the banister, he staggered down the steps of the porch, pulling his bottom lip between his teeth; his eyes squeezed shut until he made the final stair.
His chest heaving, Sam had no idea if he could make the gap between the porch and the car. He didn't think his leg would hold, but he had no choice. Bracing himself, he released his hold on the banister, and tested his ankle. The pain was blinding and he found his hand latching back onto the banister, seeking something solid. He licked his lips, his eyes closing tightly of their own volition as dizziness swept over him.
He opened his eyes carefully, swallowing hard and took a deep breath. He needed to move; his brother was depending upon him. Limping, putting more weight on his left leg than his right, he pushed through the pain, and crossed towards the wagon. It was no more than a few feet, but it might as well have been the Grand Canyon. His leg nearly folded beneath him with every step, but Sam didn't stop moving. Fueled by the thought of his brother alone in the house with a homicidal lunatic, he kept going and finally reached the car, collapsing against the side of it.
The pain was blinding, and his face was clammy with perspiration. Sam only allowed himself a brief moment of respite. Shifting on his left foot, he turned and pulled the truck door open. Sam eased himself into the cab, and pulled the glove compartment open. There was some paperwork and a handful of cassette tapes in there, but no weapons. He dragged a hand over his face, frustration racing through him and dropped his head against the head rest, his chest heaving. This whole thing was a mess. He pulled his cell out of his pocket and glanced at the screen. He still had no signal. Not that Sam had a clue who to call for help anyway. They were in the middle of nowhere; even if he managed to call someone, there wasn't a chance they would get to them before Steel did something permanent.
Sam's musing was abruptly halted. A flashlight beam appeared through the kitchen door, a figure appearing a moment later. Sam froze. The light swept over to the truck and he was suddenly illuminated in white. The man didn't move for a moment, his light locked on Sam's face. And then he snapped out of it. Sam saw the glint of metal before he realized what was going to happen. He dived across the seat, ducking and shielding his head instinctively as the windshield imploded. Glass rained down on him and he curled further into himself, protecting himself from the gun shot. With fumbling hands, he felt blindly for the keys in the ignition, but there were no keys. A second shot ricocheted off the vehicle and Sam flinched even as he reached down for the wiring. Frantically, he tugged at them, found the two wires he needed and twisted them together. Still lying down across the bench seat, he pumped his foot on the accelerator as he slammed the car into gear but nothing happened.
"Come on," he muttered, pumping the peddle harder until the engine finally caught, roaring to life. Pulling himself up with the steering wheel, he came face to face with his attacker.
The man was stood at the hood of the car, his shotgun raised. Sam didn't hesitate. He pushed the gas peddle all the way to the floor. There was a sickening jolt as the truck hit the man. Sam twitched, his gut wrenching as the back wheels rose. He hit the brakes, his hands shaking as he twisted to look behind him. The man was on the ground, illuminated in red from the rear lights. Blood red. It wasn't a monster; it was a person, and Sam had killed him, murdered him. It didn't matter that he'd been trying to blow his head off. He was human. He took a shaky breath and turned forward, blinking sluggishly, not wanting to look at his body any longer and tried to focus on saving his brother.
Sam pushed the car into gear once more, revved the engine and braced himself for the impact as he drove straight for the cabin.
Steel watched his face as he dragged the blade across Dean's forearm, a sadistic glint in his eyes. Dean flinched and ground his jaw together, his lip curling as he met his captors gaze. Blood flowed freely, the cut burning, but Dean didn't give him the satisfaction of letting a single sound pass his lips. Steel cut deeper and Dean tensed as he felt his skin tear and more warm blood escape.
"Son of a bitch," he growled finally, unable to keep his silence.
Steel stepped back and smirked, moving over to the black cloth on the floor once more. He picked up another knife, twisting it in his hand to study the blade.
Rising from his crouch, Steel eyed him harshly. "You want to know what true pain is like, Dean?"
"Not particularly," he snarled. "I'm all about working out your issues, man, but seriously, find another outlet for you're screwed up mind."
Steel snorted and ran the tip of the blade down Dean's left cheek. He pulled back from the madman, wincing as the point pushed deeper into the soft flesh. This guy was going to slice and dice him into frigging chunks.
A gun shot rang out suddenly. Dean started at the sound, fear clamping around his stomach. Steel recoiled as if the shot had hit him, his eyes cutting towards the direction it had come from.
"Sammy…" Dean murmured under his breath. He hoped his brother was alright, he hoped that shot had come from Sam and not Travis. "Please, Leonard, you need to stop this." He didn't want to plead with the man, but he would do whatever was necessary to protect his brother.
Steel's face contorted. "Stop this? But we're having so much fun, Dean."
"I get it, the pain of losing someone you care about, but this won't bring Billy back."
The hunter growled like a feral animal and raised the blade. Dean flinched, closing his eyes, awaiting the blow. It never came. There was a huge crash behind him, the sound of wood and plaster ripping. Dean curled into his body as much as the ropes would allow as the wall behind him splintered, debris raining down. He lowered his head onto his chest, attempting to protect his body as parts of the ceiling fell in.
Then there was silence apart from the throaty growl of an engine. Dean pried one eye open, mentally cataloging all his appendages. Satisfied everything was where it should be, he glanced over his shoulder. The room was flooded with light, and beyond the brightness he could see his brother in the cab of the truck.
Thank God you're alright, Sammy.
Steel seemed to be mesmerized by the surreal scene of the pickup protruding through the wall of the house, and then he was moving for his gun. Sam's gun. The one Dean had been carrying when he'd left Sam in the bathroom. Leonard raised it, squeezing one eye shut as he aimed.
Dean's heart literally stopped in his chest. Sam was sat in the cab, his wide-eyes locked on the gun pointing at him.
Dean didn't hesitate. He got to his feet and launched himself bodily at Steel. His feet bound to the legs of the chair made it difficult for him to move far, but it was enough. He hit the man hard in the chest with as much force as he could muster. Steel yelped at the impact, and Dean braced himself for the pain he knew was going to come. He wasn't disappointed. His entire left side jarred as he slammed into the ground, the chair twisting his body awkwardly. He couldn't help the yell that escaped his lips; he didn't try to prevent it either.
Steel didn't stay down for long, already pushing himself onto his feet. He was shaky, his leg buckling momentarily before he righted himself, but he was already scanning the floor for the gun. Gone was that cocky exterior; Steel actually looked worried… scared, if Dean was being honest. Things weren't going the way he'd planned, and the loss of control was frightening. Dean suspected Steel had worked over this plan for a long time, had thought of every last detail, every possible scenario and envisioned the way this was going to go down scene-by-crazy-scene. He hadn't accounted for the variable factors – him and Sam. Not that Dean had expected his brother to drive a car through the building, but it was definitely one way to distract Steel. He didn't even want to think about where Sam had got the damn truck from; right now he didn't care, he was just grateful as hell that his brother was in one piece.
That relief was short-lived. Dean found himself looking down the barrel of a loaded gun. Panic raced through him. He tugged frantically at his bindings, but there was no give. Dean knew he was screwed, knew he was a sitting duck, and squeezed his eyes shut waiting for the shot.
Sam watched as his brother slammed into Steel, chair and all, the two men collapsing onto the floor. Things happened quickly. Steel was up on his feet, and within seconds had a gun pointed at Dean's head. Sam reacted instantly. Climbing out of the car, fueled by fear, he staggered over fallen debris, his only thought reaching his brother. His leg gave out, his knee grazing the ground, but he pushed himself back onto his feet, his eyes locked on Dean and Steel. Sam grabbed a splintered piece of wood as he ran and with all the force he could muster, he swung it. Sam didn't hold back; he didn't want Steel getting back up.
There was a sickening sound as it made contact with the side of Steel's face. The man recoiled violently from the blow, his entire body jolting with the impact. Sam didn't give him chance to react. He swung again and this time Steel slumped to his knees before toppling forward, face down onto the ground.
Sam let out shaky breath, letting the wood slip through his fingers. It clattered loudly as it hit the floor, but Sam was already moving towards his brother.
"Hey," Sam said as Dean peeled a cautious eye open.
"Man, am I glad to see you," Dean breathed, casting a glance at the downed body of Leonard Steel. "What is it with you, cars and driving them through houses? You've gotta stop watching action movies."
With fumbling fingers, Sam untied the ropes binding his brother's hands and feet, extraditing him from the chair, and helped him off the floor. Dean wavered a little as he rose, but Sam reached out to steady him.
"You okay?" Sam asked, noticing the sticky blood marring the side of his face, and the ugly cuts on his arms.
"I'm fine, Sam," Dean assured him, waving off his brother's assistance. "What about you?"
Sam shrugged. "I'll live." Dean studied his brother for a long moment, testing the validity of the statement before he lowered his gaze to Leonard, his lips curling. Sam swallowed hard. "Will he? Live, I mean."
Dean cut his eyes towards him, and Sam averted his own gaze under the scrutiny. He knew he'd killed – no, murdered – Travis, but he wasn't sure he could deal with knowing Leonard had died at his hands, too. Dean tilted his head to one side and studied Steel's immobile body.
"The son of a bitch is still breathing, I think." He retrieved Sam's gun from the ground, his eyes locked on Steel and for a moment Sam wasn't sure what his brother was going to do. Finally, after what seemed like an age, he offered the weapon to him. Sam took it and slid it down the back of his jeans, letting out a breath he didn't know he had been holding.
"You know, when he comes round, he's gon'a be pissed as hell," Dean said pointedly. Sam knew what his brother was inadvertently saying; Steel would never let them walk away. He'd continue to hunt them. His thirst for revenge was too great.
"If he comes round," Sam amended quietly. "If."
Dean's brow furrowed. "If?"
Sam sighed. "I hit him pretty hard, Dean."
Silence grew between them. Dean scrubbed a hand down his face, his expression conflicted. "I don't like leaving loose ends."
Sam knew Dean was right, but he couldn't do it. Not like this. Not so calculated. Dean seemed to have the same thought process and changed the subject.
"What happened to Travis?" Dean asked suddenly.
Pulling his bottom lip between his teeth, Sam found he couldn't meet his brother's questioning gaze. He'd had no choice, he knew that. Travis had been trying to kill him, but Sam wished he'd found another way. Guilt lay heavily on him.
"Oh," Dean replied shortly when Sam didn't answer. "How?"
Dean nodded slowly, processing the information. "Yeah, well, I really don't feel bad about that." He paused and gave his brother a meaningful look. "And neither should you. They brought us out here to kill us."
Sam knew Dean was right, but it didn't make it any easier to bear. He'd killed Travis, and no matter what the circumstances were it still didn't feel right. Ignoring his brother's remark, he nodded towards Dean's bloodied arm, already pulling his jacket off. "We should bind that."
Dean lowered his gaze to the wound and watched as Sam wrapped his outer shirt around the limb, tying it off at the crook of his elbow. He flexed his arm, the fingers of his other hand wrapped around the arm above the elbow.
"Come on, let's get the hell out of The Twilight Zone in case Jack Torrance here actually does wake up and discovers we killed another member of his family."
Dean slid his arm around his brother's waist, taking some of the weight off his injured ankle. Sam was profoundly grateful for the support. He'd pushed himself to move on the limb to save his own life and his brother's but now that his adrenaline levels were crashing, he was finding it increasingly difficult to focus on anything other than the pain.
Together they moved towards the front door, stepping over Leonard's downed body. Sam spared a glance at him, his stomach clenching at the sight of his sprawled frame, before letting his brother guide him towards the door.
It was locked still but the blast had caused considerable damage to this part of the house. It took a little persuasion from Dean's foot, but the door gave way, the wood splitting as the hinges ripped from the frame.
"Sammy…" Dean started, frowning as he readjusted his grip on Sam, pulling his arm further around his neck. "I'm sorry."
His brother gave him a wry look. "For not listening to you about this damn hunt."
"Yeah, well, you were pissed. I get that." And on some level, Sam did. His brother was often rash, often acted without thinking, but Sam knew it was because he cared. Dean cared too much, which was the problem. "But I'm not a kid, Dean. You don't need to run in and fight all my battles for me. We should never have come out here so unprepared."
John had drilled into them since they were kids about doing the research, being prepared, gathering the right intel. Dean had ignored that lesson, but Sam was as much to blame. He should have been stronger. He should have forced his brother to see reason. Dean hadn't walked into this fight alone, however, and Sam felt just as culpable.
"I know," Dean responded quietly as they moved down the steps of the porch, the warm desert breeze brushing over his face. "But, hey, next psycho who wants to lure us out to the middle of nowhere to murder us, I swear to god you can do as much research as you want. Hell, I'll even help."
Sam's snort was laced with a groan as they continued to move further away from the cabin. "Dean, you hate research."
"Yeah, but if it keeps our asses from being blown half way across the desert…" Dean sighed and when he spoke again the bantering tone was gone from his voice, replaced by a more sober one. "You know we're gon'a have to do something about Leonard, don't you?"
Sam stiffened. "Dean, we're not killers."
"Yeah, I know, Sam." Dean knew that Steel would continue to search for them. They were good at staying off the radar – they'd had years of practice – but Steel was determined and driven. Dean didn't want to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.
There was a huge rumble from behind them followed by a deafening crashing sound. Instinctively, Dean ducked his head, pulling his brother in front of him as he flicked his gaze over his shoulder. The cabin had collapsed in on itself, the front of the building smashing through the porch were they had been stood moments ago. There was another thunderous bang and Dean flinched at the same time as his brother as the rest of the building folded like a deck of cards. Dust and debris billowed into the dark sky, and then there was an uneasy silence.
"Well, I guess that solves our problem of getting rid of Leonard," Dean said grimly. He had wanted Steel out of the picture, but crushed by a building… Dean cringed and glanced at his brother. Sam's expression was sickened, his eyes locked on the pile of rubble. Steel had been outdone by his own cleverness. Dean guessed it was his own explosives that had made the already unstable building come down. Karma was a bitch.
"I'll tell you this, Sam; we're never going half-cocked into another hunt again."
Sam agreed whole-heartedly with him. They'd survived this time, but luck only got you so far, and Sam wasn't willing to risk their lives again.