A/N: Set Season Seven. I have this weird idea that the bad guys were happily setting traps to take the Winchesters out—destroy them somehow. I'm not sure where the idea came from, but it's stuck in my head now. Some spoilers for the season. Rated T for a little language. Thank you all for reading!
When Hell Comes Calling
It's raining. That soft rain that seems to soak through things faster than larger drops, more than mist, less than real rain, and I am soaked. The worst part is my feet, they are so wet I have small puddles in my shoes and with each step a little squish of water squirts up between my toes. I hate having wet feet. I really don't care how much water hits the rest of me, but my feet—it drives me crazy.
Dean is stalking ahead of me. We are, at least in theory, on a hunt. I think it's more just an excuse to be free of the world for a day or two. I was surprised when he suggested we check out the rumors of a ghost that was lurking in an out of the way mining ghost town. Someone had mentioned it in the café we stopped at last night. I never thought Dean would pay any attention to it. It practically amounts to camping, which it so not like my brother I was stunned for several seconds, but after catching the look in his eyes, I agreed without a second thought.
I am terrified for Dean. He is shattering around the edges. This year—these last years—have been nothing but loss and heartache for him and I haven't been much help lately. He is so angry, so hurt. I was surprised when he showed up with Castiel—I know Dean has never forgiven him for what he did to me. One thing about Dean, though, is he will do what needs to be done—at least when it comes to me. Even after all this time, after all that happened, he is still doing that, taking care of me. I am doing my best to return the favor, but I feel weak and useless. My Soulless Self likes to remind me how weak I really am.
"Sam!" Dean's voice makes me glance up. The forest has given way and there is the town in front of us, the buildings gray with age and disuse, the signs hanging crookedly or missing. On one building there is an old advertisement for beer, even though it is faded it is colorful and the happy dog sitting beside his master brings a smile to my face. I can't help it. There is something about that dog. "Hey!" Dean snaps.
"Sorry, I was looking at the sign," I say quickly. I know he is worried that I am slipping away again. "With the dog." I point at it. "Remember that one that used to live at Grandma Opal's?"
Dean frowns for an instant then a slow grin spreads over his face. "She named it Flopsy. That huge Newfoundland dog answering to Flopsy." Dean laughs and it's a real laugh. There haven't been many of those lately. "And he would come running when she put the milk out for the cats."
"I'm pretty sure he thought he was a cat," I say as we step onto the main street.
"A cat that weighed as much as a car." Dean says still chuckling. "Where are we going?"
"The general store is where the 'incidents' are reported."
"Incidents?" Dean frowns. "People have been watching too much reality TV. Incidents." He shakes his head, leading the way towards the building that's marked "Merchandise".
The rain stops as we get closer to the building. Some people might take that as a sign of something, and maybe at one time, a million years ago, we would have as well. After the last few years, we've let a lot of the smaller things slide to the back of our minds. Maybe that's not a good idea.
Dean was up the stairs and into the building as I reached the bottom step, by the time I was on the boardwalk outside he was almost across the large room that made up the main floor of the store. When I walked into the building, he was examining something painted on the wall.
"What the hell is this?" he asked the room at large, then moved to get a better look.
I was halfway there when it happened.
There was no warning, no sound, no sense of time slowing so the action took longer. No, none of that. One moment I was looking at Dean as he examined the wall and the next second I was on the floor, my body throbbing with pain. It tore through the heart of me, pulsing beneath my skin, tearing at my mind like the tiny creatures of Hell had torn at me. There had been thousands of them sometimes—in the cage—thousands pulling and tearing, the pain beyond endurance, and yet it continued. I could hear myself making an odd noise, like a choking hiccup. No, it was all a dream, I never left Hell. I reached out desperately, as I had a hundred times only to have the flesh burned from my arms, my hand left a charred stump only to begin again, over and over—thousand times, maybe more. I lost count.
This time it was different. I reached out and a strong solid hand latches onto mine hard enough to hurt, but it is the pain of a panicked brother holding on too tight, not the stranglehold of death. "Sam! Sammy!" My brother's voice reinforced the reality. The pain was Hell-bad, but I was firmly on the earth. "What?" Dean asked desperately.
I can't speak, I'm trying but my voice is gone and only the odd choking hiccup comes out.
"Oh god," Dean says. "What do I do?" It isn't a question aimed at me. It is Dean working through what needs to be done. A moment of panic, and then he focuses. It's been that way our whole life and, if anything, the last few years have strengthened that in him. "I'm going to try to move you," he says, the desperate note still there, but underneath is calm—or maybe it's the other way around, the calm is onto the panic. Either way, he is in control.
He shifts, getting his legs ready for the power lift to help me up. As soon as he starts to move my weight, the pain rachets up enough to make me scream. It sears through my mind and down through my body bubbling under the skin. I am still screaming, I can't help it.
"Okay, we won't try that," Dean says, his voice calmer by the minute. A cool hand rests on my forehead. Dean, centering me. "Can you hear me at all?"
I am still screaming in agony, but I manage to nod. He needs to know that I am here with him.
"The incidents, were they a haunting or something else?" His voice is conversational, but the iron grip on my hand and the cool hand on my forehead never waiver.
I focus on that cool spot, breathing deep, shoving the agony away. It is still there, still torturing me, but I get my vocal cords under control and stop screaming. "Else?" I manage.
"Has to be. This isn't a haunting and that symbol on the wall is not graffiti."
"What?" I ask.
"It's a circle," Dean answers as if I had asked a far more in depth question. Of course, I had, and he knows it. "Inside the circle are five things that look like an X and seven circles there are some other things that look like squares with wavy lines."
"Pattern?" I am getting a little better control now, even though the pain hasn't stopped, Dean is helping keep me here.
"Yeah, circle then the X then a circle all around the outside. There are four of the square wavy things and
In the center it looks like a bullseye."
A trap, we've been lured into a trap. I remember seeing the symbol in a book on black magic. It's designed to pull someone into Hell. I open my mouth to answer—to tell Dean all that—and something stabs through me with the force of a pile driver. I grasp at Dean with my other hand. I am going to start screaming in a minute. "Burn."
"I know, Sammy, I…" Dean stops as he realizes what I am saying. "I have to get you out first."
"No! Trap!" I shove weakly at him, trying to get my message across. "Save…" Hell is getting its claws into me again. He has to get out before the spell finds him too. "No… Go…"
"No! Damn all, Sam. I am not leaving you. I get you out or we burn together, there is no other option."
"Dean," I plead.
"No fucking way." And just like that it's final. There is no arguing with him when he uses that tone. I recognize it—I have one that is almost identical in every way. "I'll be right back." He pats my chest and leaves. A second later I am screaming again, trying to hold it in for his sake and it's not working.
"Okay, we're ready," he says, taking my hand again. "On three." I nod. "One, two, three!" As he says the last word he lifts, I come up off the floor, even though it feels like my skins has peeled off and has been left on the floorboards. "You have to help, Sammy." He drags my arm over his shoulder.
I take a hesitant step, most of my weight on Dean. He is trying to get out of the building at high speed and the part of my mind that is not being devoured by agony ponders on that. Why is Dean in a hurry? Then it hits me as I realize the heat against my back is not just from whatever supernatural attack I am under. It is very real, the building is burning around us and Dean is trying to get out before it comes down. I can hear him coughing beside me and he stumbles. I somehow stay on my feet and keep us moving forward, and then we are tumbling down the stairs, the smoke billowingover our heads, the cold mud beneath our backs.
It only takes an instant for Dean to react. "Sam? Sammy!"
The agony is only getting worse as the building burns. Whatever lured us there is getting its final revenge, trying to send me back. I know I am screaming, that agonized scream that went on for years in the cage. I can't stop. I am too weak, I can't stop the scream. I can stop anything. I am useless. I can't even reassure my brother that I am not dying.
Of course, maybe I am.
Dean grabs my hand. "You can do this, Sam, fight it."
I have fought it. I've been fighting it. I am so tired of fighting it. I have no strength to do this. I am weak. In fact, the poor battered part of me that survive Hell and my asshole Soulless Self agree on this. I am weak, they say. I start to believe them.
"Sammy, please." Dean sounds so desperate. I am dragged up into a rough hug that penetrates the terror and the pain. I shove those voices away where I can keep them safely locked up.
The building explodes and I am suddenly free of the pain of Hell. I collapse against Dean gasping for air, my arms coming up to comfort him as well.
"I'm okay," I whisper, my voice trembling.
"Yeah," Dean says, I am not sure if he is reassuring me he is okay or that I am okay. It doesn't really matter. "You made it back."
Back? What does he mean by that? It hits me hard when I realize he knew what was happening, where I was going—and he knew what would happen if he'd stayed there too. I open my eyes and pull away. Dean's face is streaked by tears, the smoke still swirling around us. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" Dean shakes his head. "No, I should have known when we heard the gossip." He pauses to look back at the smoldering remains of the trap. "You saved me back there when I fell."
"I did?" I ask, surprised.
"Yeah, Sammy, you did." Dean says, then runs his eyes over me, looking for injuries.
"Not a mark on the outside. Sam?"
"I'm okay." And I believe that, as surprising as it seems. Sitting here in the mud, I realize that right now, right here, I am okay. It's a surprise. I hadn't ever expected to feel that way again.
Of course I was even more surprised to find out that what I have been living with on a day-to-day basis could turn an angel—an angel—into a drooling idiot. It makes me wonder sometimes. I guess I thought I was weak because of those battles—this battle—all of them.
Maybe I wasn't, after all.