Title: Just a Shadow of Myself
Author: Disasteriffic Kaz
Info: Dean has vanished and a shadow portrait is the only lead Sam and Bobby have to follow. Post 3x10 "DaLDoM and Tagged to "Stone Cold Crazy" the usual hurt/limp/awesome!Sam/Dean with a dash of awesome!Bobby for taste.
Author's note: Last chapter already, I know BUT I wanted to keep it short because I'm moving on to the Reader's Special Reward stories. :D So enjoy!
Do please Review once you've read. :D Every comment and vote of support helps keep me writing. Not to mention if I've pooched anything, someone can always tell me. :P
Beta'd by the always awesome JaniceC678 :D – Friend and Muse's co-conspirator.
**Follow me on Facebook as "Disasteriffic Kaz" for frequent fic updates or just to chat!
"Sam!" Dean shouted and then growled because what was the point in yelling for him when Sam couldn't hear him. He heard something else above the water; it was a woman's voice raised in a laugh. Dean broke into a run, somehow knowing that it couldn't be good. "Sammy?" It didn't matter he knew his brother couldn't hear him, he couldn't stop calling for him. It was a little surreal running and not hearing his boots slap into the stone floor under him or his voice echo when he shouted. It made him feel as though he were deaf. Dean skidded to a stop at a sudden drop off, almost going over and windmilled his arms to stay standing.
"Shit!" Dean stepped back and saw he was in the entrance to the sewers proper. Twenty or so yards down from him was a small grate in the high ceiling letting the last of the daylight filter down into the tunnel. Dean's breath froze in his lungs. Beneath that light lay the still figure of his brother, facedown. The spirit of an old woman stood beyond him, laughing, while a half-formed, translucent shadow portrait began to form above Sam's back, spinning slowly in the air.
Dean jumped off the ledge to the floor below, noting absently that he was standing with one foot in Sam's duffel and the other in his shotgun. His fingers itched to grab the shotgun, instead he ran for his brother and the ghost.
"HEY! Get away from him!" Dean roared at the old woman's spirit.
"You!" She looked up at him with wide eyes, and then her face hardened into a sneer. "You're too late. He's mine too, now!"
"The hell he is, bitch!" Dean dropped next to his brother's head. Sam lay face down in the water running along the center of the tunnel, his dark hair floating in a halo around his head, and fear choked the breath from Dean's lungs. "Sam!" Dean shouted desperately, even knowing as he did so that Sam couldn't hear him. He had a sudden flash from earlier in the day when he had touched his brother's head outside; Sam had reacted strongly and nearly fallen down in a daze. In a moment of inspiration, Dean thrust both his hands into Sam's head with all the panic and terror he felt roaring through him. "SAM!"
Sam's body convulsed as a wave of chaotic emotion not his own rushed through his mind, and his head came up out of the water on a choking gasp. He rolled to the side as consciousness flooded back to him, and his head felt like it was splitting in two as the disorienting sensation continued. Yet…over the top of the pain was the overwhelming sense that his brother was there with him.
"D…Dean?" Sam coughed, breathing raggedly on his back and absolutely positive that his big brother was beside him.
Dean leaned back on his heels and sucked in his own breath, wiping a hand over his face and the stray, panicked tear that had escaped him as he watched Sam panting for breath on the floor in front of him. The newly forming shadow portrait in the air above them burst apart in a shower of light and vanished.
"NO!" Josephine screamed loud and long. Her fury blew through the tunnel, and Dean watched frost spring up and spread along the floor and walls and over Sam's sopping clothes, even freezing the droplets of water on his face.
Dean stood and advanced angrily on her. "You touch him again and I swear I will end you. I'll find a way!"
"He's mine!" Josephine screamed at him.
"No! He's mine, bitch!" Dean threw aside everything his Dad had ever taught him about not hitting women and threw a punch into her face. His hand passed through her snarling grin, but just when he thought nothing would happen, she dispersed in a cloud of smoke. "Whoa. Sam." He spun back and knelt beside his little brother who had yet to open his eyes or move beyond rolling over. He was still breathing heavily and coughing water. "Come on, buddy. You gotta get up."
Dean's head whipped up at the sound of Bobby's voice and he sighed heavily; relieved. "Thank God. You're gonna be ok, Sammy." He put a hand out to his brother's neck and then drew it back, dropping his head. "Can't say the same for me."
Bobby tore the little sitting room apart looking for the mechanism for the wall. He'd tried to pull Dean's shadow portrait from its new home with no success. Whatever the old woman's ghost had done, it wasn't moving. He couldn't even dent the frame, let alone remove it from the wall. He'd turned his fury on the room instead. He snarled angrily and kicked at a little end table.
He grinned as it went over sideways, and the wall across from him started to move with a low rumble. "'Bout damn time." Bobby slipped sideways through the gap before it opened fully as a sense of impending danger swept over him. Sam needed him. He knew it, and there was no way he was going to fail Dean twice in one day. He emerged into a long hall, more of a tunnel, and jogged down it. He shined his light to the floor and did a double take as he saw clear drag marks. They had to have been made by Sam. "Sam!" Bobby yelled as started jogging faster down the hall. He slid to a stop at a ledge and heard coughing. He looked over down what had to be a sewer tunnel and saw Sam lying on his back on the floor coughing and gasping air in and out.
"Sam!" Bobby sat and jumped to the floor below, stumbling on Sam's bag and shotgun and ran to him, dropping beside the boy. "Sam? Come on." Bobby pulled him up against his shoulder and scowled as he found him ice cold and covered in a layer of frost. "Talk to me. You alright?"
"Bobby." Sam shivered against him and finally got his eyes open. "D-Dean was h-here…f-felt him."
"Ok." Bobby rubbed his free hand up and down Sam's arm, trying to warm him while he shined his flashlight up and down the tunnel. "How'd you get down here?"
"G-ghost." Sam's teeth chattered. "T-tried to k-kill me…make m-me a por…portrait." He looked up at Bobby intently. "Dean s-saved me."
"I believe you, son. You stand?" Bobby asked him worriedly. His worry rose another notch when Sam didn't answer right away. "Sam?"
Sam heard Bobby as though from a distance as that 'other' feeling stole over him again and his head started to pound.
"That's it, Sammy." Dean whispered from where he knelt beside his brother and Bobby. He had the tips of the fingers of one hand just touching Sam's head. "You hear me? You gotta hear me, Sammy. She's down here. I know it. I can friggin' feel it. She's here."
"She's d-down here, Bobby," Sam said after a moment. He wrapped his hands around Bobby's arm. "H-help me up."
"We'll get you warm." Bobby lifted Sam to his feet and held on to him as his right leg collapsed. "I'll come back…"
"No. N-not leaving," Sam said fiercely. "We g-gotta find her. Now." He knew without a doubt that if she could find a way to kill his brother now, she would do it. They had pissed her off and now Dean had robbed her of Sam. She was going to want payback. He pulled himself upright with Bobby's arm, shuddering at the feel of his cold-stiff, wet clothes against his skin.
Bobby scowled but knew that look well enough. Short of knocking Sam down and carrying him out, they weren't leaving. "Stay here for a sec." He leaned Sam up against the wall and waited to make sure he'd stay there then he ran back and picked up Sam's bag, slinging it over his shoulder, and grabbed his shotgun. Bobby went back and found Sam as he'd left him; leaning on the wall and trying not to shake himself apart with the chill. "Here."
Sam wrapped stiff fingers around the stock of the sawed-off shotgun and nodded to Bobby. "Thanks."
"Don't thank me yet." Bobby rolled his eyes and pulled Sam away from the wall, letting him lean heavily on one arm. "I get you killed down here, Dean's gonna haunt my ass."
Sam gave a weak chuckle, imagining he could see his big brother nodding along beside them.
Dean was nodding as he hovered at Sam's elbow. "Damn right I would, Bobby." Dean could do nothing but watch as Sam winced, cringed and sucked in a breath with each step he took on his bad leg. It was killing him. "Promise, dude. Soon as we get out of this, you can spend a week reorganizing Bobby's library from the couch." He groaned as his stomach rumbled imperiously and cramped. "Holy crap. I'm gonna start carrying jerky."
"That way…I think," Sam said and pointed ahead where the tunnel split. "G-go left."
"Why left?" Bobby stopped them and shined the light back and forth down both tunnels, seeing no difference. Dean also waited curiously for Sam's answer.
"Just a f-feeling." Sam shrugged.
"Good enough for me." Dean nodded and went ahead of them down the left tunnel, following the walls in the dark with his altered sight.
Bobby looked over at Sam's pale face and sighed. "Left it is." He started them moving again, turning into the left tunnel. "Sam, you should know…Dean's portrait…" He broke off as he felt Sam jolt under his arm. "She took it back. It's on the wall in that cellar…parlor thing. I couldn't get it off again."
Sam took a steadying breath. "All we h-have to do is f-find her."
"We'll get her, Sam, and we'll get Dean back." Bobby said it fiercely. He was done playing around with this bitch. His boys had been through enough the last two days, and he could tell Sam was only keeping himself conscious through sheer force of will.
Sam wrapped his arms around his chest as they walked, grateful for Bobby keeping him standing. He ran a hand down his face, wiping away water and frost crystals from his hair. They turned a curve in the tunnel and stopped as Bobby's light showed a heavy, iron door blocking the way.
Dean stepped through the iron door and into another small chamber like the parlor above. He gave a full body shudder at the odd sensation of crossing through the iron, thankful it hadn't stopped him. This one was pitch black and even his altered sight was having trouble seeing anything but where the walls were. He eased into the room and knew he wasn't alone.
"I know you're in here you crazy old bitch," Dean growled into the darkness. "Show yourself." He watched a small ball of light begin to form in the center of the room and grinned. "That's it. Let's go for round two. I'm definitely not done screwin' up your day yet."
"Naughty boys." Josephine's voice growled through the little room. "Should have turned you both the first night."
"Why didn't you?" Dean circled her slowly appearing figure. He passed a hand through the edges of her body here and there as he passed, making her scream her frustration as he interrupted her ability to manifest. Something about whatever she had turned him into made him ghost kryptonite. This he could have fun with. "Or are you just that twisted? Like playing with your food."
"I do not eat…"
"Oh, save it, Casper." Dean snarled and kicked a leg through hers, making them vanish as she screamed again. "All those portraits aren't just trophies. Making us makes you stronger. You're feeding on the souls of the dead like some twisted ass vampire."
"Shut up." Josephine's face appeared and she aimed a murderous glare at him.
"Can't feed on me though, can ya', sweetheart?" Dean grinned darkly at her as he circled. He cocked his head slightly, hearing a bang from the direction of the door; Sam and Bobby were coming. He just needed to keep her occupied so she left them alone. "Bet that's just burning your ass, ain't it?"
"You're different." Her voice ground out angrily as she followed him with her eyes while he paced around her. Then she smiled. "But you're still mine. I have you."
Dean snorted. "Whatever happens, you won't get to keep me." He thumped his chest with a grim smile. "My soul's already got a date for the dance. Sorry." He swished a hand through one of her arms, chuckling as it dissipated and she howled her fury.
"It's an overf-flow door." Sam nodded to a small wheel inset in the wall beside it. "T-turn that. Should open."
"Ok." Bobby leaned him up against the wall and handed him his own shotgun. "Keep the light on the door."
Sam nodded as he took it, pushing his own under his arm and raising Bobby's. He couldn't stop the wavering of the light as he shook with cold. He decided he didn't care what condition Dean was in when they got him back; he was getting dibs on the first hot shower, and Dean could whine about it, because, no matter what, Sam was not walking out of that sewer without his brother.
Bobby had to lean in to turning the small wheel. It was rusted with age and resisted movement at first. "Balls. Move, you old piece of crap!" he growled and put his shoulders into it. Once he'd given it two protesting turns it moved more freely and he spun it as fast as he could. The door beside him began rolling slowly into the wall and he spun the wheel faster.
Sam aimed the flashlight into the widening crack and stared in surprise. "Bobby, she's here!"
"Good," Bobby grunted and kept spinning the wheel. "Have her…toasted and roasted in…no time."
"No, no. I mean she's here!" Sam slid forward on the wall and aimed the shotgun at Josephine's ghost through the opening door. She opened her mouth in a scream, and then, as Sam watched, she seemed to burst apart. He frowned as her figure exploded in a cloud as though dispersed with salt or iron, and Sam gasped in a sharp breath in shock as he saw the unmistakable phantom image of his brother's face in that smoke for just a moment. "Dean." Sam's heart clenched hard in his chest.
"Alright." Bobby went quickly to Sam and took his shotgun back, stepping in to the small room. "Where'd she go?"
"Dean." Sam pulled his own shotgun back out and used the wall to hold himself up and follow Bobby inside the small room. "Don't ask me how, but…it was Dean."
"Sammy, you're not lookin' so good," Dean said softly while he watched his brother come slowly into the room and lean heavily against the wall. It didn't escape him that Sam was doing his best to avoid putting any weight on his right leg. He knew punctured muscle would heal quickly if given a couple days or slow and painfully if abused. He sighed, wishing he could tell Sam to sit the hell down, because slow and painful was obviously in his future.
Bobby scowled looking down at the floor and paced the perimeter of a five foot depression in the center. A handmade, purple lace quilt lay over top of it. "Well, this looks promising." He bent and picked up the corner, flipping it aside. "Yahtzee." Josephine's bones had been hidden beneath the quilt. They had lain undisturbed for over two decades her skeletal arms were still crossed peacefully over her chest.
"So she just c-came down here and died?" Sam clenched his teeth together to stop them chattering.
"Or someone brought her down here." Bobby shrugged. "Don't suppose it matters really." He pulled Sam's bag around off his shoulder and took out the can of salt. "Either way this crazy old bat's personal art gallery ain't gettin' any more additions." He opened the can and started pouring a thick layer of salt over the bones.
"Bobby," Sam eased into the room another step with his right shoulder against the wall and had to close his eyes for a moment against the pain in his thigh and the sudden fear. "Do we know this will work? What if forcing her to move on doesn't…what if Dean doesn't come back?"
"He will," Bobby said surely and knelt to the bag to find the lighter fluid. "She's the one holdin' him where he is."
"I'm coming back, little brother." Dean stood in front of Sam and stared into his pain-filled, hazel eyes when he opened them. "You're not losing me ahead of time. I promise."
Sam looked back up and gasped. "Bobby!" He raised the shotgun and fired a salt round into the old woman as she materialized behind the older Hunter.
"Shit!" Dean gasped and staggered back as the rock salt passed through him. He rubbed a hand over his chest and looked down expecting to be wounded, staring in surprise when he wasn't. He turned a disgusted look to his brother. "'Least that didn't hurt as much as the last time you shot me with my own damn gun." It had stung going through him, but he smiled as Josephine was blasted to shreds again.
"Thanks, Sam." Bobby grinned up at him and poured lighter fluid over the salt-covered bones.
Sam fought the need to pass out. Between exhaustion, his wounds, nearly being drowned…he figured he had maybe thirty seconds left in him and silently begged Bobby to hurry the hell up and light Josephine already. He watched Bobby light and drop a book of matches, following the glowing trail into the impromptu grave and let his eyes close finally. "Dean?" Sam felt himself falling, heard Bobby gasp, and then there were strong arms catching him and holding him up and a familiar shoulder for his heavy head to drop onto with the smell of gun oil and leather in his nose that screamed 'home'. Sam gave a weary sob of relief as they both went to their knees.
"Easy. I've gotcha, Sammy." Dean murmured to his brother and slid his arms more firmly around him as he caught him and went to the ground, savoring the ability to actually touch again. He felt the hitch in Sam's breathing that matched his own. "Easy."
Bobby watched across the flames as Dean simply materialized in front of his brother and caught the younger man as he collapsed. He blinked furiously with his heart in his throat and gave Dean a nod that spoke volumes when he met his eyes over Sam's head.
Dean felt Sam shudder as his body heat warmed him, and he pulled him in closer. The sensation of reforming had been disorienting to say the least, but the moment he'd appeared, he'd shoved it aside to help Sam. The warm puffs of breath into his neck were all that kept him from reliving Cold Oak as they knelt together on the floor. He gripped Sam tighter for a minute, and he wasn't above admitting, to himself at least, that this once he didn't mind skirting the chick-flick line.
"You with me, Sam?" Dean asked finally and smirked when Sam just nodded into his shoulder. "You wanna try using your words like the big kids?"
Sam snorted a soft, watery laugh but didn't move even though his thigh was burning in that position. "Bite me," He muttered and heard Bobby laugh beyond them.
Bobby went to them by the light of the fire and clasped a hand tightly around Dean's free shoulder. "Damn good to see you, son," he said gruffly. "You feel alright?" If his hand lingered on Dean's shoulder a little longer than was necessary, no one called him on it.
"Head kinda feels like that morning in Vegas after the all night strip poker game." Dean grinned up at him and shrugged lightly. "Other than that, I'm good."
Sam chuckled and finally made himself lean back so he could actually look at his brother. "Told you not to play strip poker with actual strippers."
Dean gave him a lop-sided smile. "Who says I wanted to win?"
"If we're done with the caring and sharing, how about we get the hell outta this freak show motel?" Bobby knelt and took one of Sam's arms, leaving Dean to grab the other and they got him standing again between them.
"I got him," Dean told Bobby and pulled Sam's arm over his shoulders, sliding his other around his waist with a grimace for the cold, wet shirt. He aimed a glare at Sam. "Dude, you ever pull that lone hero crap again, I WILL kick your ass. What the hell were you thinking?"
Sam looked back just as fiercely, meeting his eyes. "That I had to save you."
"Dammit, Sammy…" Dean closed his mouth on the rant he wanted to give him. The things Sam had said back in the motel room when he thought he was alone rang in his ears and he sighed. This wasn't an argument Sam was ready to let him win.
"Don't ask me not to try, Dean," Sam said softly and looked away. "I can't. I won't."
"Come on." Bobby broke in and slid back under Sam's other arm, heading off the argument before it could happen. He'd heard it before, and, frankly, he was with Sam on this one, and Dean seemed to be the only person incapable of understanding that he deserved to be saved. "He comes up with the flu, you're cleanin' up his snot-rags." He met Dean's surprised glance with raised brows, daring him to carry on the fight.
Dean blew out a breath and rolled his eyes. "You don't catch the flu from getting wet. Aren't you old enough to know that?"
Bobby glared at him as they walked slowly back up the tunnel by the light from his flashlight. "Jackass."
Sam chuckled, tightening his hand in the shoulder of his brother's jacket securely, and then he frowned. "Hey. How did she get you anyway?" Sam looked over at Dean curiously. "Josephine said she had to kill her victims to pop their souls loose. How'd she get you in the bathroom? I didn't see anything."
Dean's face reddened and he looked quickly away. "She, uh…" He cleared his throat.
"She what? Dean?" Sam stared at the side of his face and watched the blush darken as the beginning of a grin spread over his face. "Dude. You were going to the bathroom." Sam closed his eyes and started to laugh despite his pain and exhaustion. "She drowned you in the toilet, didn't she?"
"Shut up," Dean growled and sent a death-glare to Bobby when he started laughing as well. "I can drop your ass right here," He snarled at his chuckling little brother yet hitched his arm higher on his shoulders as Sam sagged. "Bitch."
"Jerk," Sam laughed, weak with relief to have his brother beside him and pissed, right where he belonged. He planned on keeping him there.
"Boys." Bobby rolled his eyes, swallowing back his own laughter.
Dean gladly changed the subject. "Hope you know you're fixing the wiring in my baby." He smirked over at Sam's pale face. "I saw you hotwire her. Not cool, dude. Not cool."
"It's…a car. It didn't mind." Sam smirked and looked over in time to see Dean's disgusted face.
"You had your hands all up in her where they didn't belong, man. She minded!" Dean glared.
"Can't believe you're defending her honor…like I molested the car or something." Sam chuckled and winced as Dean's hand flew up to lightly slap the back of his head.
Bobby snorted and resigned himself to listening to the good-natured bickering for the rest of the day, or at least until Sam passed out, while they adjusted to Dean being back and safe. He aimed his own slap at Dean over top of Sam's head when the older brother gently hip-checked the younger. "Behave." The 'no' delivered in perfect unison told him he was going to need a bottle of whiskey while he was at it as he laughed.
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