When Worlds Collide
Author's Note: I don't actually have TV at my house - haven't for years. There are only a handful of shows I have even a passing familiarity with and only two, Supernatural and NCIS, that I actually follow. (Not counting BBC's Sherlock, which is taking for freaking EVER to resolve the Reichenbach Fall cliffhanger!) I love reading everyone's fanfiction and I really enjoy the crossover stories, but I've noticed that all SPN-NCIS crossovers eventually go AU for at least one, if not both, shows. I thought it would be fun to try to write a crossover that stayed canon for both series.
This does not mean there will be no supernatural in the part of the story written from an NCIS point of view. McGee firmly believes that "ghosts aren't real" ("Hit and Run"), but Abby has premonitory dreams ("Bete Noire"; "Twilight"); Ziva's Mossad training allows for the unexplained ("Chimera"); Kate Todd ("Kill Ari, pts 1 and 2") and Mike Franks ("Pyramid") both walked through their own murder investigations; and Gibbs' gut is never wrong (many episodes). But I'm going to stay true to canon as much as I possibly can and try to write only that which you could conceivably see on-screen.
I'm setting this season ten-ish for NCIS and season eight-ish for Supernatural, no specific timeline but just to be on the safe side, expect spoilers for all aired episodes of both series. To start, I'm planning to alternate point-of-view between the two shows, starting with an NCIS chapter and following with a Supernatural chapter. Later, they will probably get to where they share chapters. Will feature mainly Dean and Sam on the SPN side, but Cas (if he turns up okay soon), Charlie, Garth, Kevin and his mom and even Benny might make appearances. For NCIS, this will be a team fic even though the first chapter is just going to be Tony.
Okay, long note done now. I hope that if you survived this far, you'll give my story a shot, and thanks for reading!
RATED: T (But nothing you wouldn't see on one show or the other.)
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing, but if The Powers That Be are feeling generous, I'll take Dean. :)
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
Chapter One: Meet The Outlaws
The first thing that Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo became aware of, when he regained consciousness, was dust. He could smell it and feel it under his hands and taste it in the back of his throat.
That quickly led to his second realization, which was that he was desperately thirsty. He moved feebly, still not truly aware of his surroundings, and discovered two more things. He was bound and he was in pain. After that he lay very still for a very long time, controlling his breathing and waiting out the pounding agony that spiked through his head, like someone trying to drive a pickax through his skull from the inside. When at last the pain died down and the flashing lights behind his eyelids settled, he opened his eyes, slowly and cautiously, and took stock of his surroundings.
It wasn't an encouraging exercise.
He lay on his back, spread-eagled on the moldy old mattress of a rusty iron bed. His shoes were gone and his wrists and stockinged feet were handcuffed to the bedposts. He still had his belt and, therefore, he still had the knife hidden in his belt buckle, but his cell phone and his guns (both his sidearm and his clutch piece) were gone.
The bed he lay on was in a room in what appeared to be a long-abandoned farmhouse. The ceiling was cracked and water stained, with chunks of plaster fallen here and there, exposing the bare laths underneath. Strips of ancient wallpaper hung from the walls, generations of spiderwebs filled the corners and dust lay thick everywhere. There was a window in the room, but from where he lay his view was restricted to a swath of mist-shrouded mountain ridge and a strip of blue sky.
The sun slanted down into the room, casting substantial shadows but not long ones. So either mid morning or mid afternoon. He was in the country somewhere. There were no sounds of civilization at all, not even traffic in the far distance or airplanes passing overhead. Somewhere close by a bird was singing. It looked like a beautiful spring day outside and Tony really didn't want to die.
He'd been following a suspected terrorist, he remembered, but the surveillance had become a trap. He shuddered at the memory of being surrounded, three-to-one. Big men, with big weapons and preternaturally black eyes, an image he put down to head trauma.
If he could find something solid and slender, he could try picking the locks on the handcuffs. There was a spring poking him through the rotting fabric of the mattress that he thought might do, but he wasn't able to contort enough to reach it. The attempt left him nearly blacked out again and gasping his way through flashing lights and new spikes of pain in his head.
In the end, there was really nothing he could do but lay back, breathe through the pain once more, and hope like hell that Gibbs was looking for him.
Supernatural . . . NCIS . . . Supernatural . . . NCIS . . . Supernatural . . . NCIS
He heard the car coming long before it arrived. It was a muscle car, he could tell that just by the sound of the engine. For one wild, heart-racing moment, he thought maybe it was Gibbs in his '71 Dodge Challenger, but this car was bigger than that. It paused a short distance away and there was a sound of voices and a groaning as of a metal gate being wrenched aside, then a car door slammed and the vehicle pulled up, circled the old house and stopped almost underneath the window of the room where Tony was held prisoner. The car's motor purred like a well-fed cat, the sound reverberating off the nearby hills, and he was hit by a strong pang of longing for his own long-destroyed '66 Ford Mustang.
The car was turned off. Two doors creaked open, then slammed shut. There was another light creak, like a well-oiled hinge, and the indistinct sound of voices. Metal clanked and rattled and he caught the distinct ratchet of a shotgun being loaded. Another door slammed - the trunk lid? Strong, confident steps approached the house, and Tony took a deep breath and tried to prepare himself for whatever was to come.
You can do this, he told himself. You've been tortured by a terrorist. You've been thrown out of an airplane. You kissed a transvestite and you survived the plague. You can survive this.
In a room beyond the room Tony was in, a door to the outside opened and the men came in. Their voices were clearer now and he could make out the occasional word. They were Americans. From the Midwest? Maybe? Kansas by way of Texas and South Dakota with a little bit of everything else thrown in. There were two of them, a light tenor modulating into a rich baritone and a deeper, rougher growl.
". . . check up here?"
One set of steps receded, the other approached, old, wooden floorboards creaking in protest. Tony DiNozzo watched the doorway, tensed, but nothing could have prepared him for the sight of the man who entered, relaxed but alert, gun held in casual readiness.
The air left Tony's lungs as if he'd been punched and he felt the blood drain from his face. The man was a few years younger than Tony, early- to mid-thirties. He stood just over six feet tall, with spiky, golden-brown hair and deep green eyes. He wore ragged blue jeans and a blue and white plaid flannel shirt over a faded black AC/DC tee shirt. And he was handsome. That was one of the things they always said about him. He was handsome and charming and merciless and deadly. And dead.
Immediately, Tony tried to school his features. A fugitive murderer who is off the radar only because he is believed to be dead has no reason to release a federal agent who knows he is not, and every reason in the world to silence him. He could tell, though, that the effort was futile. Dean Winchester was a lot of things, but one thing he was never accused of being was a fool.
Winchester's eyes narrowed as he took in Tony and his predicament. He checked out the rest of the room quickly, glanced out the window, even stooped to look under the bed, leading with his firearm. Then he stood straight, sighed, tucked his weapon into the back of his jeans and gave Tony a rueful grin.
"Sorry, are we interrupting something?"
DiNozzo could do charming and deadly himself, and he returned the smile with one that didn't reach his eyes.
"Not at all. Glad you could join me."
Heavy boots approached and Sam Winchester, Dean's younger, larger, and equally vicious brother came in the room already talking. His voice was the tenor.
"Hey, down in the basement I -" he saw Tony and broke off mid-sentence. "Oh. Oops." He took a minute to regroup and Tony could practically see the wheels turning in his head. When he spoke again his voice was a little too innocent. "Gosh, Bob, there's a guy chained to a bed in here!"
Dean rolled his eyes, spread his hands and gave Tony a helpless shrug. "He got a full ride to Stanford. Can you believe it?" He spoke over his shoulder, addressing his brother. "He's a federal agent, genius. He already recognized me. He knows who we are."
"Oh." Sam lifted one shoulder. "Okay. Awkward."
"Yeah." Dean moved up closer to the head of the bed. "So, what are we looking at here? The aftermath of a bad bust or a good party?"
Tony matched him, casual nonchalance for casual nonchalance. "Unfortunately, it's been a long time since I went to a party that good."
"I hear ya." Dean reached out. Tony flinched away, but Winchester only ran a surprisingly gentle hand over his head, feeling the knot there. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
Tony didn't answer, but Dean didn't seem to expect him to. He simply leaned in and watched the agent's eyes, gauging their ability to focus. He brushed his thumb across Tony's left eye.
"Gonna have a shiner. Know your name?"
For a second Tony balked, but then he thought, what the hell? There was nothing to be gained by lying. If he was going to die, he wanted to at least die under his own name.
"Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo," he said.
"FBI?" Sam asked.
"No. Oh, God no!" Tony responded without even thinking about it and drew chuckles from both brothers. "I'm with NCIS. We're –"
"Navy cops," Dean finished.
"Yeah. You've heard of us?"
"Our dad was a Marine," Sam said. "But then, I guess you already know that."
"I'm not too sure I know anything." With nothing to lose, Tony decided to try a bluff. "You're probably both figments of my imagination. Head injury, you know. Hell, you're not the first crazy thing I've seen today."
"Oh, yeah?" The Winchesters exchanged a speaking glance and Dean's voice was genuinely interested. "Like what?"
"Okay, well, I know this is nuts, but, you ever heard of BEK's?"
"Black-Eyed Kids?" The brothers spoke in perfect unison. It was a little bit more than a little bit creepy.
"Kids," Sam elaborated, "kids with completely black eyes. They approach you late at night and want in your car or your house. Ask for a ride or a drink of water. If you let them in, you die. Those black-eyed kids?"
"Yeah, urban legends. Well, only they weren't kids."
"They who?" Again with the Winchester chorus.
"The, uh, the guys who grabbed me."
"Who were they, do you know?" This time it was Sam doing the talking. "What were they doing? Why do you think they wanted you?"
Tony considered briefly how much he could tell them without breaching national security. The more truth he could weave into his story, the more chance they'd buy it. But he wouldn't be derelict in his duties or betray his country. He'd die first.
"We were tracking a terrorist cell. We have reason to believe they're planning to place a bomb on a Marine base." Actually, it was a Naval installation, but their dad had been in the Corps. Maybe he could engender a little sympathy for his cause. "I was following a guy we thought was a low-level courier. He went down a dead-end alley and disappeared. I still don't know where he was hiding. When I turned around, he and two of his friends were behind me. Just for a second, just before one of them hit me . . . ." Tony paused and shuddered again at the memory. It was just his imagination. He knew that. He was well aware of the phenomenon of stress-induced hallucinations. Still, the image sent a primal horror through him that he could neither explain nor dismiss.
"Their eyes went black?" Dean finished.
"Did you do anything or say anything?" Sam asked. "Make the sign of the cross, maybe? Or pray?"
"Cuss?" Dean suggested.
"Um, I might have said," Tony cleared his throat and averted his gaze, oddly embarrassed, "uh, Christ on a pizza?"
The brothers glanced at one another. Sam nodded and walked out of the room and Tony heard him leave the house.
"Yeah," Dean said, "must have been an hallucination." He dug into a pocket on his flannel and produced a bottle of water. "See? Still sealed. I'm gonna break the seal now, okay?" He got the cap off and raised Tony's head so he could drink, pulling the water away when Tony would have gulped it down. "Careful. Drink it too fast and it'll come right back up." He let the agent slake his thirst, then dug out a set of lock picks. "All right," (he slurred the words, so they came out "a'right"), "I'm gonna get you loose and we'll see if you can sit up now. You can keep that belt knife, just don't try to stick me with it, okay?"
Tony gulped and nodded carefully. They knew he had a knife and they weren't afraid to leave him armed. This was so not good!
Dean moved around the bed, making short work of the handcuffs, and Tony listened to the sounds Sam was making. He heard the screech of metal he'd heard earlier, closing the gate, he guessed, and then the trunk opening and closing again. Sam came back into the outer room, dropped something or some things on the floor, and, with a tell-tale hiss, the scent of spray paint filled the air.
Tagging? Tony thought, puzzled. Then he remembered - the Winchesters were devil worshipers who left their motel rooms plastered with arcane signs and symbols. And he'd just played right into their delusions. Had he made himself a hostage? Or, worse still, a sacrifice to the powers of darkness.
Dean slid an arm under his shoulders and helped him sit up. Every muscle and bone in his body ached and the change in altitude made his head spin. Dean steadied him and peered into his eyes, checking his pupils. He gave him more water. He radiated nothing but kindness and concern.
The Winchesters had never been in NCIS jurisdiction, but Tony remembered the videos that had been all over the TV for weeks. The two of them laughing as they gunned down innocent civilians, mugging for the security cameras.
"There's a pair of shoes over here," Dean said, crossing to the far corner and coming back with Tony's dress shoes. "City shoes. All shiny and uncomfortable looking."
"That's Italian leather. Three-hundred dollars."
"Yeah?" Dean pulled a skeptical face. "I like my Italian cows as sausage, personally." He dropped down next to the bed and put Tony's shoes on for him, dressing him as matter-of-factly as if he were a toddler. "So what's a fed doing wearing three-hundred dollar designer shoes?"
"I always try to channel my inner Bond."
Dean paused to look up at him, quirked an eyebrow. "Which Bond?"
"Connery, of course."
It must have been the right answer, because it earned him another charming grin.
Sam came back in then, bringing the strong smell of spray paint and a bag of rock salt. He went over and poured a line of it across in front of the window, talking as he worked.
"I think we're good now. I closed the gate and put up wards and salt lines."
"You didn't hide Baby?"
"You can't see her - I mean it," the brothers scowled at one another and Tony was impressed, again, with how scary it was that they could have entire dialogues with looks and gestures that he couldn't follow. "You can't see it from the road. I found their tire tracks from when they brought the agent up here and they just parked out front. What now?"
Dean visibly considered. "You said downstairs?"
Sam nodded and held up a device that might have been born a Walkman but now was clearly something else. "In the cellar."
"Right." Dean turned to Tony. "We need to go downstairs and take care of something. I think it's best if you come with us. Think you can manage it? If not, we can carry you."
Tony swallowed, steeled himself. "I can walk."
"Good job. We'll help." He crouched next to the agent and paused, sorting out words. "Look, I know you're pretty freaked out about all this and I know you've got no reason whatsoever to trust us, but, really, you're safe now and everything's going to be okay."
Tony should have let it go. Nodded and played along with them; maybe even summoned a smile. He'd been wondering since they first started being nice to him what would be the switch that would turn these earnest young Good Samaritans into cold-blooded psychopaths. But he was Tony DiNozzo, and some openings just couldn't be passed up.
He looked Dean in the eye and spoke soberly. "We are men of action. Lies do not become us."
Dean just stared for a second, then, pointing at Tony, turned to shoot his brother a delighted grin. "I like him, Sammy! He quotes movies!"
Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head, quietly amused, then gave his brother a disbelieving look when Dean paused to gather up the discarded handcuffs and fasten them around his own wrists like bracelets.
"What? Handcuffs can come in handy." Dean waggled his eyebrow suggestively and grinned a wicked grin. "You never know when you might meet a hot chick who wants to play The Stern Meter Maid and The Naughty Motorist."
Tony grinned and nodded in spite of himself. Sam saw and growled softly. "Great, there's two of you. Maybe you can make a play date later." He stomped out of the room.
Dean pulled Tony to his feet and braced him as they followed more slowly into a larger outer room. "Don't mind my sister, Samantha. She always gets a little bitchy when that time of the month rolls around."
Dean was steadying Tony with his right hand. With his left, he easily caught the sawed-off shotgun Sam tossed to him. Sam had another shotgun, two shovels and the bag of rock salt, and Dean, at least, still had a handgun tucked into the back of his waistband. Sam pulled open a door in the far wall.
"Careful, the stairs are a little rickety," he said and disappeared into the darkness beyond.
As Tony let Dean guide him down the narrow, shaky staircase, he didn't see any way this could end well for him.
Supernatural . . . NCIS . . . Supernatural . . . NCIS . . . Supernatural . . . NCIS
The cellar was a dark hole with a dirt floor, the walls lined with rotting shelves filled with moldy glass jars of prehistoric canned goods. An upstairs room Tony hadn't seen was missing some floorboards and the dust mote-filled shafts of sunlight those holes admitted provided the only illumination. The light seemed to slant more now than it had earlier, suggesting afternoon creeping towards evening.
Sam had the mutant Walkman out and was pacing around the cellar with it. He reached the farthest corner from the stairs and the thing started squealing, lights along the top flashing frantically. Tony shied away, closing his eyes and trying to protect his ears from the onslaught.
"Sam." Dean's quiet voice held a warning.
The noise stopped and Sam's voice, when he spoke, was contrite. "Sorry."
Tony looked up and Sam was standing in the corner of the cellar, holding the now-silent Walkman and looking at him with concern in his eyes.
"There, you reckon?" Dean asked.
Sam nodded, still preoccupied with his examination of Tony. "What about . . . ?"
Now Dean was looking at him too, and he felt like a butterfly pinned to a board in some old lady's parlor. He'd always felt sorry for those poor, damned butterflies.
"Gonna need you to sit down," Dean said, lowering Tony to the earthen floor. "For what it's worth, this is probably the best seat in the house." He crouched down, putting himself on a level with the seated agent. "Okay, so I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess you probably don't believe in ghosts?"
"I'll believe just about anything if you promise not to kill me," Tony said with bare honesty.
"One thing I learned a long time ago, you can't make people believe what they don't want to. Or not believe what they do." Dean sounded, for the first time, sad and a little bit bitter. Tony swallowed, wondering if this was the first sign of his mood changing. "Which brings me to my second point, which is that you do believe that Sam and I are blood-thirsty psychopaths."
"Blood-thirsty psychopaths seems a little harsh," Tony hedged.
"We are men of action. Lies do not become us."
"So, you believe we're blood-thirsty psychopaths. Given that, if we ask you to do something that's maybe a bit silly but not dangerous or illegal or immoral, wouldn't it be in your best interests, in the time-honored tradition of 'humor the crazy people', to go along with it?"
Tony froze. The silence in the murky cellar was filled with tension. He felt as if the old house was sitting on his chest, crushing the breath from his scarred lungs. As if the surrounding hills and the sky above and the weight of the very stars in heaven was resting on him.
"What do you want me to do?" he whispered.
Dean Winchester grinned, got the bag of rock salt and walked around him, pouring out an unbroken line of white crystals. "Just sit in the circle and don't come out until we tell you it's safe."
"Sit in the salt circle?"
"Just sit in the salt circle."
"Yep." Dean stood, half turned away but then turned back at the last moment. "Oh, one more thing. If things start flying around the cellar, duck."
Tony considered, trying to figure out their angle and coming up blank. "Sit in the salt circle. Duck. I can do that."
"So, um, do you mind if I ask what you guys are going to be doing while I'm sitting here ducking?"
Dean broke open his shotgun, checked the ammo and snapped it shut again. He shrugged nonchalantly. "Just digging up a grave."
Supernatural . . . NCIS . . . Supernatural . . . NCIS . . . Supernatural . . . NCIS
They took turns, one digging while the other stood guard with a shotgun. They weren't pointing the gun at Tony, nor even at the staircase specifically. It was as if they expected some threat to materialize out of thin air.
The cellar floor was packed hard and their progress slow, judging from the way the pile of dirt beside the grave accumulated. Tony was wondering how deep they were planning to put him when Sam, holding the gun then, suddenly spoke as if reading his mind.
"It's not for you."
"The grave. It's not for you."
Dean stopped digging and leaned on the shovel. "Dude! I thought you understood. We're not digging a grave. We're digging up a grave. We're digging up Jenny Craig."
"Jenny Carver," Sam corrected, with an annoyed little twist to his features.
"That's his bitchface," Dean told Tony cheerfully. "Meh. Jenny Craig. Jenny Carver." He shrugged.
"You're making jokes about a dead girl," Sam pointed out testily.
Dean stopped, sobered and conceded the point with a slight nod. "Jenny Carver," he said. "She's buried here, or at least we think she's buried here."
"You're with NCIS," Sam said. "Does that mean you work out of the Navy Yard?"
"I do," Tony admitted, wondering where this was going.
"Are you familiar with an outlet mall on the north side of old highway 9, just outside of D.C., heading into Maryland?"
"He wears $300 Italian leather shoes," Dean said, amused. "I doubt he shops at outlet malls."
"I think I've driven past it," Tony said. "If it's the one you mean. What about it?"
"'S haunted. Since it opened back in the nineties. Abandoned gas station that was there before it was haunted too. A crying woman in a pink dress, with a red rope or scarf around her neck."
"So . . . you decided to go ghost hunting?"
"Normally, we wouldn't bother." Sam continued the story. "There are literally millions of ghosts, and most of them are harmless. Lost souls, death echoes, atmospheric photographs. If they're not hurting anyone, we leave them alone. There just isn't time to deal with them all."
"When you say, 'deal with them', you mean . . . ?"
"Usually, salt and burn their bones. It breaks their connection to this plane and allows them to move on. Sometimes there's an object they're tied to, or you need to perform some rite or purification ritual. Sometimes you just have to figure out what they want and find a way to give it to them."
"You said normally you wouldn't bother with, um, Jenny. So why are you?"
The Winchesters glanced at one another, doing that whole silent communication thing again, then Dean climbed out of the shallow hole they'd managed and traded Sam his shovel for the shotgun. Sam jumped down and took up the digging and Dean leaned against the wall and continued the explanation.
"About two weeks ago a sixteen-year-old girl went to the mall to look for a dress for her junior prom. It was a big deal, I guess, so they made a family girls' day out thing out of it. The teenager, her mom and sister, couple of aunts, grandma and great-grandma."
"And they saw the ghost," Tony guessed.
"They not only saw it, Great-Grandma recognized it. She said it was her little sister, Jenny Carver, who disappeared in April of 1953 and was never seen again."
Tony took a minute to let that sink in. "So, how does that lead to the two of you digging up this lovely, tropical cellar?"
"They posted the story online," Sam said. "Said that Jenny was mouthing the words 'find me', and begged someone to help them out. Dean has a big soft spot for anybody missing siblings -"
That earned him a scowl and a muttered "shaddup" from his big brother, but Sam just gave him an affectionate look and continued.
"We had a little time, so we decided to see what we could do."
"Back in the fifties," Dean said, "there was an all-night truck stop on the land where the outlet mall is now. Jenny Carver was working there as a waitress when she took out the trash one night and never came back in. She was seventeen. There were no witnesses, no clues, nothing. She was just gone without a trace."
"I still don't see how that led you here."
"Right. Have you ever heard of Abner Littlefield?"
"Littlefield." Tony scrunched his brow in thought. "The serial killer? Mid-sixties? He had, was it nineteen kills? All young women and girls. He strangled them."
"He was arrested in '65, went to the electric chair in '71. Nineteen kills officially," Dean said. "We think it was at least twenty. Remember how he killed his victims? He strangled them with a red tapestry cord. Jenny Carver fit his profile, and her ghost has a red cord around her neck."
"But didn't Abner Littlefield live in Manassas? And he buried his victims under his garage. Are we in Manassas?"
"You're very perceptive," Sam said. "We're not in Mannassas. As far as the law knew, Littlefield started killing in '57, after he got out of the army. When Jenny Carver disappeared, he was still a teenager and he lived right here with his senile, elderly grandmother."
Tony thought it through. If you accepted the ghost part, the rest of it fit. "So what's with the salt circle and the ducking then?"
"Precaution," Dean answered. "We're actually not expecting trouble, for a change. Jenny's never been violent and she wants to be found. Still, ghosts can get a bit wonky when you uncover their bones and it never hurts to err on the side of caution, especially with you already being walking wounded."
"Dean." Sam's voice deepened on the word.
His brother went over, looked down into the hole they'd been digging. "Yahtzee." He came back over to Tony. "I think it's safe. C'mon. I'd like you to see this."
Tony let himself be hoisted to his feet again, swayed slightly and clung to Dean Winchester for support. Under the guise of needing the other man's help, he leaned in, closed his hand around the grip of the gun in Dean's waistband, pulled it free, stuck it in Dean's chest and pulled the trigger.
The click click click of the hammer falling on empty chambers was louder, in Tony's head, than he thought the actual gunshots would have been.
"Oh, shit!" Tony's head was spinning, his heart racing in his ears and he felt the blood draining from his face. Still, he squared his shoulders and stood as straight as he could, determined to face the end of the world like a man.
Dean took the gun from his unresisting fingers and tucked it back into his waistband. "Feel better?" He peered into Tony's face. "Okay, maybe not. You're not gonna upchuck are you? Please don't. And if you gotta, aim for Sam, okay? Seriously. These are my only boots."
"The gun was empty," Tony said stupidly, shock making him numb.
"Well, yeah," Dean said reasonably. "I couldn't let you grab a loaded one. You'd shoot me."
"You knew I was going to go for your weapon."
"Be an awfully sucky Bond if you didn't. C'mon. You're okay. Just breathe. Don't hyperventilate. We don't have any paper bags. You'd have to breathe into one of Sam's socks and, believe me, none of us want him taking those giant clodhoppers off."
Dean waited patiently, supporting Tony while the agent's racing pulse slowed and he got his breathing back under control. When he was marginally calm again, Dean once more tugged him towards the waiting grave. "C'mon, like I said. I think you should see this."
As they came up to the grave, Tony fully expected to be shoved in, shot and summarily buried. A glance at the younger Winchester's face suggested that Sam would be happy to do just that. Instead, though, Dean merely continued to support him. Sam jumped out, then turned back to shine a light down in the hole. The bone was stained almost to the same color as the surrounding earth, but Tony had no trouble picking out the human skull.
After a silence that seemed to go on for decades but probably lasted about two minutes, Tony asked, "so what happens now?"
Sam shrugged. "Now we report it to the authorities so Jenny can get a proper burial and rest in peace."
Dean straightened his shoulders and turned to Tony.
"Officer, as concerned citizens, my brother and I would like to report that we have found human remains in that hole right there." He looked to Sam. "How's that."
Sam spared his brother a sardonic half grin. "Works for me." He glared at Tony. "Well?"
Tony blinked. "Right. Thanks. That's very civic-minded of you." What in the hell was going on here?
He didn't buy the whole Jenny Carver/ haunted outlet mall nonsense. Most likely, this was one of their own old kills. But why had they dug her up and what game were they playing with him? Before he could even begin to formulate a theory they were interrupted by the sound of a door slamming open upstairs. Footsteps entered and stopped right inside the main room and voices raised in anger. The door to the cellar blasted open and the old house was filled with an unearthly scream that had to be the wind, because nothing living on God's green Earth could possibly make such a noise.
The Winchesters exchanged another of their meaningful looks.
"Sounds like we caught some rats in our trap," Dean said. "Shall we?"
"After you," Sam gestured politely to the stairs.
Dean lowered Tony to sit on the bottom step. "Just wait here. We'll be back in a few minutes." He patted Tony on the shoulder and was gone.
Sam paused beside him, not nearly so pleasant. He pulled himself up to his full height and glowered down at the agent, as intimidating as he could make himself. "Yeah, wait here," he snarled. "Sit. Stay."
Tony stayed put for all of two seconds after Sam disappeared through the door at the top of the stairs. Standing was beyond him, but that didn't mean he couldn't crawl. "Sit," he muttered to himself. "Stay. What do they think I am? A dog? I'm a freaking Federal freaking agent and I am not going to dawdle around in some stupid cellar while," he paused, halfway up the stairs, as the angry voices gave way to desperate screams. "While something bad happens to someone. Or someone happens to something bad. Or whatever."
As he neared the top he could hear a voice under the screaming. It was Sam, he realized, murmuring in Latin, soft and hypnotic. He couldn't hear clearly and he didn't speak the language anyway, though his knowledge of Italian meant he could at least guess at meanings. He filed away the few words he could make out. Omnis incursio, infernalis, in nomine Deus . . . . He was sitting on the top step, just edging the door open, when the chanting ended with amen. He had a brief, fleeting impression of black smoke swirling near the ceiling and for a horrified minute he thought the Winchesters had simply set the old house on fire with him inside. Then the smoke was gone without a trace. A late sun slanted into the room, filling it with light, and he was looking at his three original attackers, unconscious on the floor just inside the door.
Sam caught sight of him first and gave him a fierce version of what his brother had called a "bitchface". "I thought I told you to stay put."
Dean hastened to step between them. "Sam. Easy."
"I won't take it easy. He tried to kill you."
"He's a cop. I'm a fugitive. It's okay, I was ready for it. No harm, no foul. Hey! I'm -"
Without looking at his brother, Sam held his hand up, one finger raised, to forestall what he was about to say. "Do not sing Bon Jovi."
Dean grinned. "You've gotta admit, it's a great song cue."
"You've been helping him and he tried to kill you. Tell me you're not tired of being screwed over by people after you help them."
The older Winchester deflated and when he spoke his voice was gentle and sad. "He's a cop. It's his job. He's just trying to do what he thinks is right, Sammy."
"It's Sam." Sam's shoulders drooped and he sighed. "And I know. So what are we going to do with him?"
"Yeah," Tony put in. "I'd be interested to hear the answer to that one, too."
Sam bitchfaced him. Dean grinned.
"Let's take care of these guys first," he suggested. "If you want to wait there, I'll be back to help you in a minute. If you'd rather ruin that expensive monkey suit by crawling around in the dirt some more, go ahead."
Working together, the Winchester brothers moved the three terrorists into the bedroom where Tony had first woken up. It was Sam who came and got the special agent a few minutes later. Walking slowly, they went together into the room, to find Dean putting the finishing touches on an abstract sculpture of tangled human bodies fastened together with handcuffs. He took the last set of cuffs, closed one cuff around one terrorist's wrist, wrapped the chain two or three times around the bed frame and then snapped the other cuff on a different terrorist's ankle.
Sam dropped Tony off on the edge of the bed and left again and Tony studied Dean Winchester's artwork.
"My God, it looks like a game of drunk Twister."
"I've played that," Dean claimed, "naked, with a set of identical French twins."
Tony stared him down. "I don't believe you."
"God's own truth."
Sam came back dragging an ancient, battered wing chair. The upholstery was ripped and stained, with dark stuffing spilling out the back.
"I found this in one of the other rooms. It's pretty ratty, but it should be sturdy enough to hold you. It'll be more comfortable than sitting on the floor or trying to share the bed with the three stooges, here."
They set the chair close to the bed and Tony moved himself from one to the other, sinking into the musty, dusty chair and trying not to cough himself into a fit.
The brothers left and for a minute, Tony dared to hope that they were really going away, but Dean returned once more, arms loaded down. He dropped his burden on the bed, right on top of the men imprisoned there, and shook out a stained, faded and tattered blanket. He draped it over Tony, tucking it in around him and bringing one corner up to cover the agent's head.
"Snooze-E-Z Inn?" Tony read.
"Yeah, it's stolen property," Dean admitted. "Hey, we're hardened criminals. What do you expect?" He dropped several unopened bottles of water in Tony's lap, along with half a dozen protein bars and a small bottle of generic, over-the-counter pain medication with the security seal intact. "These things are all still unopened. I thought you'd feel a bit better about them that way, but if you need me to, I can open them for you before we go."
"And then what?" Tony asked. "Will you let someone know where I am?"
Dean reached back and picked up a box that had slipped down between two of the terrorists and Tony recognized a cheap cellphone, the kind you can buy at any gas station or convenience store. Dean pulled it out of the box and got it free from the wrapping, tossing the empty box and torn plastic over his shoulder. He put the battery and SIM card in the phone and handed it to Tony.
"We get a ways away from here we'll activate it so you can call for help. If I were you, I'd call someone you know first, especially if you don't have your ID on you. Local yokels are apt to be a bit suspicious of a guy who claims he's a fed and the three dudes he's got chained to a bed are his prisoners. Especially," Dean gave him a killer grin, "when he's wrapped in a stolen blanket."
Tony stared at him, looking into his eyes, trying to find some measure of understanding.
"Why?" he asked, voice soft and serious.
Dean shifted uncomfortably. "Why what?"
"Why are you doing this? Why are you helping me? Why am I not dead already?"
The elder Winchester brother sighed, then brightened. "You want the truth?"
Dean grinned. "You can't handle the truth."
"That was too easy. And I'm serious. I need to know. Please?"
The other man leaned in close and clasped a friendly hand on Tony's shoulder. "You wouldn't believe the truth," he said softly. "If it makes you feel better, you can just think that we're attention whores. Too long out of the spotlight. Hot newscasters never do stories about dead guys. We just really needed our faces back on the nightly news again."
The last sentence was spoken with a sardonic twist of Dean's mouth and with such underlying bitterness that Tony, with his long career in law enforcement, would have staked his entire movie collection on it being a lie.
A horn sounded outside the window.
"Oh, if he's sitting in the driver's seat blowing the horn at me I'm gonna have to kick his ass. If you hear an ass kicking outside the window, don't worry about it. Just business as usual."
"You know we're going to have to come after you?"
Dean paused in the doorway, half turned back with a wry expression and an odd light in his eye. "Here's to happy hunting," he said, and then he was gone.
Tony heard Dean leave the house. He heard him yell at his brother and then the two of them snarking back and forth, bickering about the radio.
"You know the rules, bitch. Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cake hole."
The car's powerful engine roared to life, there was a blast of Metallica at make-your-ears-bleed volume, and then they rolled away. Tony listened as they drove around to the gate, stopped to open it, and left without bothering to close it again behind them. He could hear the motor for a long time after they'd gone, slowly fading away into the distance.
It had occurred to him to wonder, of course, if this was some kind of mind game they were playing with him. One of them could have quietly stayed behind when the other drove away and be waiting even now for him to relax. Or they could just go and leave him sitting there forever, waiting for the phone that would never turn on, for help that would never come.
He examined the supplies they'd left him, but as far as he could tell they really were un-tampered with. His head was still killing him, so he pried open the painkillers and popped three. Then he ate two of the protein bars, washing them down with one of the bottles of water. He was just finishing the second bar when the phone in his lap beeped.
He picked it up and turned it on and was surprised but not shocked to find he had service. With the first real flicker of hope he'd felt all day, he dialed a number he knew by heart. It barely rang once before it was answered.
Gibbs' reply was explosive, pure fury. "Damnit, DiNozzo! Where in the hell are you?"
"Don't really know. Have McGee track this cell."
Gibbs' voice softened and now Tony could hear the concern that had fueled the anger. "Are you all right?"
"Been better. Been worse. You need to get a BOLO out. 1967 Chevy Impala, black, cherry condition."
"Got tags on that? Description of the occupants?"
"Tags are probably Kansas, and you've got pictures of the occupants. It's the Winchesters, boss. They're back. Again."