When I finished Broken Images, GotTheShining from Supernaturalville asked me if I would consider doing a prequel, telling how Dean got out of the deal. I said I'd think about it, but I didn't know how I would pull it off, as I had no flipping idea how to get Dean out of his contract.
Then last week, I had a bit of an idea, and my wonderful friend, SN sis and beta, Ziggy, helped me flesh it out. (I think I scare her when I say things like - Sarah, I need to pick your brain...lol)
This is the end result. I hope that I have done it justice.
A couple of things: Warning:
Spoilers for the Season 3 episode Malleus Maleficarum (and I really hope I've spelled it right)Warning:
And most importantly - this is NOT a death fic
- I don't do those. I want both boys to be still standing at the end of the war, and I don't want Sam to turn evil either. That's just me - real life can sometimes be so dark, so my soul likes happy endings.
On with the show - hope you like it.
They sat in uncomfortable silence, one staring at the clock, the other staring at the floor, the walls, his hands – anywhere but at his brother. Finally, the silence was shattered by a hoarse, quavering voice. “I just can’t…”
“You have to.”
Dean Winchester dropped his gaze from the clock on the wall in Bobby Singer’s cluttered living room. His green eyes narrowed a little as he sought out his sibling. Sam was seated across the room amidst a sea of books, his laptop open on the low table in front of him. “Sam – Sammy – listen to me, dude.”
“No.” Shaking his head emphatically, Sam shot to his feet and began to pace, his long legs covering the floor in swift, jerky strides. He thrust his hands through his hair, pushing the long bangs away from his eyes. “I gotta…”
Spinning back to the stacks of books lining the walls and resting on every available flat surface, Sam ran his hands over the spines, searching frantically for a way to save his brother from his fate. “Just let me…”
Dean rose slowly from the table where he had been nursing a lukewarm cup of coffee, and reached out a hand, grasping his agitated sibling’s bicep and bringing Sam’s frenetic but futile search to a halt. “Sam – don’t.”
Sam paused, his body as taut as a bowstring. He refused to look into his brother’s face. “Just…”
“No, Sammy.” Dean tugged gently on the captured arm. “Please, man – come sit down. Please.”
Reluctantly, Sam turned, and allowed himself to be led back to the table. He dropped onto the chair Dean pulled out for him, and drew in a painfully short breath, feeling as if the very air had grown too heavy to drag into his lungs. It felt as if there were steel bands wrapped around his chest, getting tighter and tighter with each second that ticked away on the clock. Sam folded his right hand into a fist, wanting to smash the thing – as if smashing the clock would stop time itself, allowing he and his brother to remain in this moment forever. “Just give me some more time. I know I can find – find a way…”
Dean swallowed, and licked his dry lips. He dropped his head, pressed his lips together, and headed over to the sideboard, pulling out a bottle of Jack and two glasses. Standing with his back to his brother, he drew out a tiny phial half full of a clear liquid, and pulled off the cap, shaking a few drops into one of the glasses. Swiftly re-capping the phial, Dean slipped it back into his pocket, poured out a stiff measure of whiskey into each glass, and stepped to the table, sliding one of the glasses to his sibling.
Sam stared at the glass, his eyes losing their focus. One last drink
…he thought bitterly.
“Sammy.” Dean held out his glass, waiting patiently for his brother to pick up his drink.
The young hunter raised his head, and finally looked his sibling in the eyes, for the first time in four hours. His face crumpled, and he quickly looked away, his eyes misting up as he pressed his trembling lips together.
Dean ran a tired hand across his face, and froze as a faint, chilling howl came to his ears. He’d heard the hellhounds for the last two nights, and they had gradually been getting closer. Tonight they were almost up to the boundary of Bobby’s property, and he knew that his year was at an end. “Sammy, come on.”
“There’s still time – we’ve got a few hours…” Sam rolled the glass between his hands and rose to his feet, taking a few steps away from the table before turning back to his brother, holding out his hand in a pleading gesture. “I just – I can’t – I can’t…what if – what if I hide at the side of the crossroads with the Colt – then maybe when the demon comes – I can…”
Dean shook his head sadly as he tossed back his whiskey. He gestured to Sam’s glass, watching carefully as his little brother drained the neat spirit in one long swallow. Dean had seen the slow, downward spiral of his brother’s mood over the last few days, and he knew that Sam was on the verge of doing something stupid in a last, desperate attempt to save him from going to hell. It looked like his last act as protective big brother was going to be to protect Sam from himself.
Sam wiped a shaking hand across his mouth. “Maybe – maybe we could – I don’t know – maybe if we put you in a protective circle – stop the demon from getting to you…” He swayed, blinking rapidly as the room suddenly swam in and out of focus. “We could – we could…” Sam buckled at the knees, dropping the empty whiskey glass as he lost control of his limbs.
Dean sprang forward, catching his brother in his arms as Sam toppled toward the floor. “Easy, Sammy – I gotcha,” he murmured.
The young hunter raised his heavy head, and blinked dazedly at his sibling. “Wha….yu-dooo…” Struggling against the strong arms holding him up, Sam tried to get his leaden body to obey the desperate requests of his mind. “Deeee – wha-yu-doo…” Dean, what did you do? What did you do to me? Damn it, Dean – what the hell did you do!
“What I had to do, Sammy. Knockout drops in your whiskey.” Sighing gently, Dean lowered his sibling to the floor, cradling Sam’s head in his lap. “I can’t let you follow me, dude.”
“Noooo,” Sam whispered, his hands clutching at his brother’s shirt as a creeping numbness invaded his body. His lax fingers slid from the cotton fabric, flailing weakly as he tried to regain his hold. No, Dean – no – don’t – don’t leave me – please – got to save you…
Dean read the desperate pleading in his little brother’s wide hazel eyes. He cupped a hand against Sam’s face, holding the lolling head still as he gazed down at his only family. The family he was now leaving behind to fend for himself. His heart clenched, and his lips trembled. “Sammy – it’s too late. You tried. Hell, I know you tried everything, and so did Bobby. But there’s no way out. There never was.”No, no, no, no, no…
Sam tried to force the words past his pale, flaccid lips. Letting out a faint mewl of protest, he struggled to sit up, to reach for his brother, to hold on with all his strength to the only person he had left. Desperation trembled through his long frame. His limbs flopped uselessly, and he twitched in his brother’s grasp, the veins standing out on his neck as he tried to force his body to move. Sam’s breath rasped in his throat, tiny beads of sweat forming on his face as he threw all of his fading energy into one last attempt to hold on.
“No, no, no – Sammy, don’t – God, please don’t do this. You’ll hurt yourself…” Dean protested softly.
Sam ignored his brother’s pleas, holding his breath as he sent frantic messages from his brain to his dead limbs. His face slowly turned an alarming shade of red, and his fingers twitched weakly, but the drug was too strong. Tears born of frustration and crushing grief flowed from his stricken eyes.
Dean scooped his brother into his arms, holding Sam tightly to his chest. Sam’s head lolled onto his shoulder, and for a moment Dean was overcome with a cold horror as his memories of holding his dying brother at Cold Oak a year ago flooded his mind. But then he felt his sibling’s warm breath puff against his neck, and he buried his face in the wavy dark hair. “Sammy, don’t. Don’t fight me on this. You have to let me go, kiddo.”
With each outward breath against his neck, Dean heard a tiny, broken whimper, and his heart shattered. He began to rock his baby brother, the tears springing to his eyes and flowing down his cheeks to dampen Sam’s shaggy hair. “Sammy…oh, God…”No, Dean, don’t leave me – please – don’t leave me – I can’t do this alone
… Sam’s unresponsive body held his desperate mind prisoner. His blurry gaze was fixed on the wall behind Dean’s head, and he watched the clock, its hands ticking inexorably toward midnight. Sam’s breathing grew ragged as his vision greyed at the edges. I need you – please – please – don’t
Pulling his head back a little, Dean pressed his cheek against his brother’s. Their tears mingled, trickling down their handsome faces. Sam’s desperate, broken cries were becoming barely audible as he sank further into the grip of the powerful knockout drug. Dean raised a hand to stroke his brother’s hair. “Sammy, I need you – to listen to me. I don’t want you to blame yourself for this, okay? I did this – I did it willingly, ‘cause I couldn’t – I couldn’t just let – let you die.”
Sam’s vision darkened. No, Dean – you have to fight – you can’t just give in – I need you – I need you…
Dean held his brother tightly as he heard Sam’s breathing slowly even out. “Don’t hate me, okay? Don’t hate me. And don’t hate yourself. Live, Sammy – live for me.”I can’t – I can’t live – not without you – why can’t you understand that…
“I wanted you to have a normal life. I wanted you to have the house, the wife, the kids – the whole nine yards. I never wanted this for you – never.” A sob broke from Dean’s pale lips, but he was beyond caring. He could hear the faint snarls of the hellhounds prowling the perimeter of the wards Bobby had set, and he knew his last night was almost over. It was time – time to tell his brother a last goodbye, and go to his fate. Gently, he pulled back, cradling Sam’s head in one hand as he gazed into his sibling’s tear streaked face.
Trying desperately to focus on his brother, Sam screamed inside as his eyelids slowly drifted closed. Don’t do this, Dean – don’t – God, please – don’t let them take him – please – I’ll do anything…
Dean slowly lowered his brother back onto the floor, cradling Sam’s head in his lap for the last time. He reached out, and brushed the back of his hand lightly across his sibling’s cheeks, wiping away the tears that continued to flow from under the closed eyelids. “You – you were always the best part of me. You were always the reason I kept going. As long as I had you, there was something to fight for, you know?” Dean’s eyes blurred, his tears flowing unchecked down his lightly freckled face to splash onto Sam’s cheek. His fingers weaved slowly through his little brother’s unruly hair. “You’re my legacy, Sammy. If there’s one good thing that I’ve done in my life, it was raising you. When Dad put you in my arms the night of the fire, I swore then that I’d protect you – with my life. And I always have – I always have. That’s why – that’s why I couldn’t just let you die. Don’t you see, Sammy? I had no other choice – you had to live, little brother. I had to save you.”
Sam’s heart thudded against his chest as his pulse sped up. He screamed again, deep in his own mind, losing all reason in his desperate fight to reach out to his beloved big brother one more time. Dean, please – I love you – please don’t leave me – please, please – Dean – Dean …DEEEEEEAAAAAANNNNNN….
Dean bent down, his lips close to his brother’s ear as he whispered raggedly, “I love you, little brother – I loved you even before you were born. When Mom – when Mom told me – that I was gonna have a little brother all my own – man, I couldn’t wait for you to get here. I was gonna help Mom look after you, and teach you all kinds of stuff – play ball with you like Dad did with me. The first time Mom let me hold you, when you came home from the hospital – I thought my face was gonna split open, I was smiling so big. And you just looked up at me with those puppy dog eyes, for the longest time. You didn’t even cry, not even a little bit. You just looked – I don’t know. Trusting. Like even then, you knew who I was – that I was your big brother, and that I’d never let anything hurt you.”
His big brother’s voice echoed hollowly in his head, as though it was coming from the end of a long, dark tunnel. Sam’s conscious mind darted frantically to and fro, slamming into invisible walls inside his head like a wild animal trying to escape its cage.
“And look at you. You’re smart, you’re a good hunter – you’re a good man, Sam. I’m – God, Sammy, I’m so proud of you. So proud… Leaving you – I – it – …” Dean drew in a deep, shaky breath, and pressed his hand against his brother’s wet cheek. “Live for me, Sammy. Please, kiddo – just live for me.”
Scooping his brother once more into his arms, Dean cradled Sam’s head against his chest, his chin resting in the dark, tousled hair as he sobbed brokenly. Finally, he wiped his face with the back of his hand, and glanced down at Sam’s lean, tanned face. His little brother’s tears had stopped flowing, and he breathed deeply and evenly as his body succumbed to the effects of the knockout drops. Slowly, Dean got to his feet, picked up Sam’s unconscious form off the floor, and laid him gently on the couch.
Turning to leave, the hunter glanced down at the amulet gleaming against his chest, and he slipped it over his head, holding it up to the light for a brief moment. Dean leaned down, and draped the amulet carefully around Sam’s neck. Stepping quickly to the door, he pulled his leather jacket off the rack, and covered his little brother’s torso with the worn garment. Dean brushed his fingers through Sam’s hair one final time, and turned, wiping his face with the back of his hand as he encountered Bobby’s stricken countenance.
Bobby swallowed convulsively, unable to speak as the young hunter came to a halt two feet away. He pulled Dean into a tight hug, his lips trembling, fighting to hold back the tears that threatened to spill into his beard. Finally he released the young man who, with his brother, had been like a son to him, feeling his heart tear in two as he met the wide green eyes.
Dean nodded, sniffled, and raggedly cleared his throat. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at his unconscious brother, and gazed fiercely into Bobby’s faded blue eyes. “You take care of Sammy for me, Bobby. Don’t let him…” A sob broke free of Dean’s quivering lips. “Don’t let him – when this war is over, you make sure he’s done with hunting – you get him out of this life, you hear me? Keep him safe.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Promise me – promise me you’ll keep my kid safe.”
Bobby nodded, unable to speak. He saw Dean flinch, knowing the doomed young hunter was hearing the unearthly snarls of the hellhounds.
Without another word, Dean strode swiftly to the front door, banging it closed behind him as he disappeared into the night. To Bobby, the sound was like a cannon shot to his heart, and he clutched at his chest as he staggered to the couch. He sank down on the low, book-strewn coffee table; oblivious to the volumes he knocked to the floor. His gaze on the comatose young man he’d been given to protect, he rested his elbows on his knees, and let the tears come.
* * * * *
Dean stumbled down the stairs, blinded by tears, and half-fell against the midnight black Impala parked in the drive. He leaned his forehead against its cool metal body, his breath steaming up the window as he struggled for control. Dean’s body trembled violently, and he gagged as he felt the bile rise up in the back of his throat. Twisting to the side, he threw up, the whiskey and acid burning his mouth as he fell to his knees on the dusty ground.
Soft footfalls made him turn his head, and he grimaced, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as he looked into the petite figure’s black eyes. “If you’ve come to – see the show – you’re just – in time, bitch.”
Ruby tilted her head to the side, and her lips twitched in annoyance. “I told you before, Dean – stop calling me a bitch.” She held out a hand, and helped the tall hunter to his feet.
“What do you want, Ruby?” Dean sneered at the demon. “It’s a little late for any favours.” Turning on his heel, he began to walk down the long, weed-lined drive.
The petite blonde demon kept pace with the doomed hunter. “Not too late, Dean. Not too late to grant one.”
Dean slammed to a halt and spun around, his sinewy hand clamping around the girl’s throat. “I’m not in the mood for your double-talk crap, so just save it!” he snarled, thrusting her away.
Ruby staggered a few steps sideways, and rubbed a hand across her throat as she scowled at the hunter’s retreating back. “Wait,” she croaked.
“Dean, wait!” Sprinting down the drive, Ruby caught Dean’s sleeve, spinning the green-eyed man around to face her. “I lied, okay? I can save you from the deal.”
“No more lies, Ruby. I’m kinda on a schedule here, in case you haven’t noticed.” Dean jerked a thumb over his shoulder as a savage howl drifted through the trees. “Besides, you already told me you only told Sam there was a way out of this so you could get close to him. You know, that whole motivation speech you gave me?”
Ruby nodded slowly. “I know what I said. But – I only said that so you’d be desperate enough to help me get Sam ready to fight this war.”
Dean scowled at the girl, and pulled his arm out of her grip. “Screw you, bitch!” He resumed his walk, only to fall flat on his face as he was shoved violently from behind. Dean strained against the force pinning him to the ground, the veins in his neck standing out as he tried to push himself to his knees. Ruby walked slowly around the prostrate hunter, halting a few inches from his head. The toe of her boot nudged his temple, and he growled low in his throat in rage.
“Now that I have your complete attention,” the demon murmured dryly. “I was wrong – I was wrong about Sam.”
“What – do you – mean – wrong,” Dean gritted.
Ruby shrugged, and eased the pressure of her demonic grip. “I was wrong about him being able to carry on the fight alone.” She pursed her lips, and released the gasping hunter. “He needs you, Dean.”
“What?” Sitting up, Dean rubbed at his chest.
“He needs you.” Ruby shrugged, and then her eyes narrowed as she followed the movement of Dean’s hand across his chest. “Where’s the amulet?”
Dean glanced down at his torso, and looked up again, a frown on his handsome face. “I gave it to Sammy.”
“Get it back! Now!” The demon hauled Dean to his feet and roughly shoved him toward the distant house. “Go! There isn’t much time!”
* * * * *
Bobby shot to his feet as the door was slammed back on its hinges, and a pale, wild-eyed Dean sprang into the room. “What the hell….”
Dean hurried to his unconscious brother’s side, and slipped the black cord holding his amulet from around Sam’s neck. He held it up to the light, and turned to the stunned demon hunter, shrugging helplessly. “Bobby…”
“Dean – what the hell?”
“Ruby – she’s outside. She says there’s a way to help me out of the deal – but – I needed the amulet.”
Bobby ran a hand across his chin as he contemplated the agitated young hunter. “Dean – she’s lied before.”
“Yeah, I know, but…” Dean held out a hand palm up in a pleading gesture. “It’s worth a try, right? I mean – what can she do to me that’s worse than going to the pit, right?” Dean let out a shaky, slightly hysterical laugh, and quickly ran a hand across his mouth.
Bobby shook his head doubtfully. He eyed the amulet, and then glanced at Sam, and finally took off his ever-present baseball cap, tossing it across the room. Running his fingers through his thinning hair, he stared at the night sky beyond the open front door, imagining the red eyes and slavering jaws of the hellhounds waiting in the darkness. Finally he nodded, and gestured to the lanky form on the couch. “What about Sam?”
Dean swallowed convulsively as he looked at his sibling. Sam’s face was pale, dotted with tiny shimmering pearls of sweat, and a faint frown creased his brow, as though even in a drugged sleep, his nightmares still pursued him. “No – don’t tell him. Hell, you won’t be able to wake him for a couple of hours anyway. I gave him enough of that stuff so I could get well away before I… Leave him be – just in case…” Dean trailed off, his worried gaze shifting between his sibling and the darkness beyond the door.
“Just in case it doesn’t work,” Bobby concluded. “Okay. I’ll stay here with him – but Dean – you call me if – you know…”
The young hunter nodded as he moved jerkily toward the porch. “If it works – yeah. I will.”
Bobby followed Dean out to the porch, and wrapped his hand around the rail as he stared down at the demon-possessed young woman waiting by the side of the Impala. She gazed dispassionately back at him, her face a cold mask, before turning her attention to Dean.
“No, we’ll take the car,” Ruby waved a hand at the gleaming black Chevy as Dean made as if to walk back down the drive. “There’s not much time left, Dean. We have to move.”
Dean gave one short, jerky nod, and half turned toward the porch. He watched as Bobby dug the Impala’s keys out of his pocket and threw them down to him. Snatching the keys out of midair, he slid behind the wheel, grimacing a little as the demon took his brother’s place on the passenger seat. For a brief moment, a wave of resentment rose in Dean’s throat, threatening to choke him. No one but Sammy should ride shotgun
, he thought to himself. Quickly pushing the feelings down, he brought the Chevy to life, and steered her down the potholed drive toward an uncertain fate.
Bobby watched the taillights disappear, and swallowed nervously, hardly daring to hope. He scrubbed his hands across his face, and retreated back into the house, softly closing the door behind him. Checking on Sam on his way through to the kitchen, he set about making a pot of strong coffee, knowing that he wouldn’t be getting any sleep this night – and maybe for a few nights to come. Slowly he walked to the kitchen doorway, leaned one shoulder against the doorjamb, and watched the sleeping young hunter with worried eyes. He didn’t know just what would happen when Sam finally woke up to face a world without his big brother. Bobby felt his eyes burning, and impatiently dashed the back of his hand across his face. Hardly daring to hope that Ruby was telling the truth, in case they were disappointed, Bobby turned from the living room and fell to watching the coffee pot as it slowly came to the boil. It was going to be a long night – for all of them.
* * * * *
His hands gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles were white. Dean concentrated on the stretch of narrow dirt road revealed by the Chevy’s headlights, not bothering to answer Ruby’s terse instructions of “turn left” or “turn right”, but merely obeying her directions. Gradually, a strange sense of déjà vu came over him as he recognised the surrounding countryside. Dean swallowed, almost choking on the lump in his throat as the crossroads finally came into view. “No freakin’ way,” he muttered darkly, bringing the Chevy to a sliding halt.
Ruby checked the deserted roads before stepping from the car. She walked to the edge of the road where it joined the crossroads, and rested a hand on her slender hip as she waited for Dean to join her. Ruby pulled out a small piece of parchment from her pocket, flicked her thumb gently over its tattered edge, and tapped her foot against the gravel.
Dean prised his hands from the wheel, and opened the door, staring out at the dark landscape. He closed his eyes, heaved a shaky sigh, and got out, closing the door behind him. The familiar creak and groan of the Chevy’s door sounded loud in the stillness. “Is this your idea of a joke?” he demanded hotly, flinging out a hand toward the intersecting dirt roads.
The demon’s black eyes glittered menacingly in the bright glow of the headlights. “It has to be here.” She gestured impatiently, holding out the piece of parchment. “You have to return to the same place where you made the deal.”
The doomed hunter spun on his heel as a low, savage snarl came to his ears. His keen eyesight picked out a pair of feral, red eyes glowing in the dark a little way down the road, and he gulped, feeling a thin trickle of cold sweat work its way down his spine. “Fine,” he muttered, reaching out to take the ancient piece of paper, squinting at the words he could just make out on its yellowed surface. “What is this?”
“That is what will activate the amulet,” Ruby explained.
“Is this Latin?” Dean could feel the first stirrings of panic as he studied the parchment. A shudder ran through his tall frame as a growl sounded from behind the Chevy, and he whipped his head around, trying to see past the glare of the headlights.
“It’s Latin – ancient Latin. From around the Fifth century BC.” Ruby glanced over at the shadows stirring by a broken down fence at the side of the crossroads. She turned back to the tall young hunter.
“Activate the amulet? What the hell do you…” Dean broke off as a frenzied barking erupted from the shadows. “Holy crap!” Almost dropping the parchment onto the stony ground, he stumbled back a few paces, right into the centre of the crossroads where a year ago this night, he had buried the tin containing his photograph in order to summon the demon.
“That amulet is powerful protection, but it has to be activated. The incantation will cause the power to be unbound, protecting the wearer from evil.”
“Protection from evil? But…”
“You don’t think a demon coming to take your soul is evil?” Ruby glanced down at her watch, and then transferred her gaze back at the approaching hellhounds. She could see three of them circling in the dark, their flame coloured eyes on the tall hunter standing nervously in the dead centre of the crossroads. Tongues lolled over slavering jaws, razor sharp teeth and claws ready to rend the puny human from neck to navel.
Dean shook his head, his jaw outthrust stubbornly. “You gotta give me more than that.”
Ruby sighed. “Fine. The incantation combined with the power of the amulet binds your soul – to God.”
“To…” Dean’s jaw dropped, and he stared at the blonde woman in shock. “It…”
“And if your soul is bound to God, then no demon can touch it. The contract becomes void.” The demon stared into the hunter’s wide green eyes. “Say something, Dean.”
“I…” Dean cleared his throat. “What price will…”
“What price will God exact? Not as much as a demon, that’s for sure. Fight the good fight – and isn’t that what you’ve always tried to do?” Ruby gestured impatiently to the piece of parchment. “Read it.”
“What about Sam? If I do this – what will happen to Sam? The crossroads demon said if I try to weasel out…”
Ruby hissed in annoyance. “Do you think I’d be doing this if there was a risk to Sam? Read it!”
Dean cleared his throat once more, casting an anxious glance at the moving shadows. His voice faltered as he read the first line of the ancient incantation, and he stopped, drawing in a deep, shuddering breath before starting again.
The demon paced along the edge of the pool of light cast by the Chevy’s headlights, listening to the halting cadence of Dean’s deep voice as he recited the ancient text. A chill wind sprang up, lifting her long blonde hair and blowing it around her head like a gauzy veil. Ruby spun on her heel, baring her teeth as she saw the tall dark figure standing a few feet away, its eyes glowing like hot coals.
* * * * *
The ticking of the clock on the living room wall was becoming torture to the burly demon hunter’s ears. Bobby snarled silently at the damning timepiece, and downed the last of his lukewarm coffee in one long swallow. Running a hand across his face, he heaved a deep sigh and perched on the low table in front of the couch. He stretched out a hand, resting it gently on Sam’s forehead.
The unconscious young hunter didn’t stir as Bobby checked his temperature. He remained as still as death itself, his chest rising and falling with each slow, deep breath. Tiny beads of sweat formed on his lean face and tricked slowly down his neck.
Bobby sighed again, and glanced at the traitorous clock as he headed to the kitchen to make another pot of coffee. It had been three hours since Dean had left with the demon Ruby, and there had been no word. Bobby knew the deadline was midnight, and as his eyes were drawn to the clock once again, he noticed that it was ten minutes past the hour. He chewed on his lower lip as he threw the coffee grounds into the pot with an impatient jerk of his wrist. “Come on – whoever the hell’s listening – why don’t you cut these boys some slack, huh? How much more do they have to give?”
* * * * *
The wind howled, snatching away Dean’s words as soon as they left his lips. He shuffled his feet, shifting his centre of gravity as he leaned against the roaring gale and held tightly to the brittle parchment fluttering in his hands.
“You think you’re going to win?” The voice was like water hissing over hot stones.
Ruby narrowed her eyes as she reached for her knife. “I know you won’t.”
The unidentified demon raised a hand, and the hellhounds barked vociferously. “I drop my hand, and he dies. Nothing you can do to stop that. His soul is mine, bought and paid for.”
The blonde haired demon threw back her head, her chin thrust out defiantly as her eyes glittered. “Not yet, it’s not.”
Snarling, the red-eyed demon brought its arm snapping down, and as one, the hellhounds sprang forward, emitting chilling howls. Ruby drew her knife and launched herself at the smirking entity.
* * * * *
He felt as if his body was mired in setting concrete. Slowly, he swam toward full consciousness, vaguely aware of a growing sense of urgency. There was something he had to do – something important. His sluggish mind refused to co-operate, trying to sink back down into the soft blackness he’d been drifting aimlessly in for what seemed like years.
A sound intruded into his sense of awareness, its sharp, steady tick like a mechanical pulse. He listened to the beat, and gradually a feeling of unease stole over him, slowly building until he felt as if his nerves were about to jump out of his skin. The unease blossomed into full-blown panic as his mind finally identified the mechanical pulse as the ticking of a clock. The events of a few hours previously crashed back into his conscious memory with the force of a tidal wave. Dean – the deadline – he had to find Dean.
Gasping, Sam struggled to sit up, the worn leather jacket sliding to the floor as he moved. His body flopped and flailed like a stranded fish, slipping off the couch and sprawling across the low table. The table tilted onto its side, sending the laptop, half a dozen books, and the distressed young hunter cascading to the floor. Sam let out a soft grunt as he landed on his back, and he rolled weakly onto his stomach, digging his fingers into the carpet as he sluggishly dragged himself away from the couch.
Bobby heard the crash and sprinted out of the kitchen, slamming to a halt momentarily as he saw the only remaining Winchester trying to crawl across the floor, obviously still suffering the effects of the knockout drug. “Sam!” Dropping to his knees, the bearded demon hunter grasped the young man by the shoulders. “Sam, stop. It’s okay – I – I’ve got you.”
Stiffening in shock, Sam turned his head, his glassy, panicked gaze skating over Bobby’s craggy face before returning to the front door. “Nnnnn…”
“Sam, it’s okay. It’s me, Bobby.” Bobby held on tighter as Sam struggled weakly against his firm grip. Bobby pulled the young man upright, wrapping one arm around his shoulders. “Sam – damn it – listen to me!”
“Nnnnn….” Straining to one side, Sam tried to break the elder hunter’s hold. He had to get loose – he had to find Dean and save him. Nothing else mattered. “Deh…”
“Sam!” Bobby wrenched Sam’s struggling form back against his chest, and wrapped both arms around the younger man. “Listen to me – Dean – Dean’s gone.”
Sam’s breath froze in his lungs. His body stilled, and he stared at the damning clock on the wall. The hands showed five minutes after four am. Midnight had come and gone. “Deh…..Deh……” he stuttered brokenly.
“Dean’s gone, Sam.”
Suddenly, Sam wrenched himself away from the bearded hunter. He fell onto his side, dragged himself toward the front door, and clawed at the aged wood, trying to drag his body upright. Sam got to his knees, swayed drunkenly, and half collapsed against the door. He let out a low, keening wail, clutching at his chest as he slid to the floor. Sam curled himself into a foetal position, staring blankly into space as he keened, as if it was his soul, and not his brother’s, that had been ripped from his broken body that night.
Bobby stayed on his knees by the couch, his weathered face crumpled in grief as he watched the stricken young hunter. The soft, heartbroken wails cut through Bobby like a knife. He felt so helpless in the face of such devastation, and he felt the slow bloom of panic seize his heart as he wondered how the hell he was going to help Sam recover.
Finally, the anguished keening stopped, and silence fell, broken only by the slow, loud tick of the infernal clock, and Sam’s faint, ragged breaths. Bobby wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, and shuffled across the floor, closing the gap of a few feet between him and his charge. He reached out a hand, and rested it on one broad shoulder.
Sam stared straight ahead, his mind shutting down. He didn’t feel the hand squeezing his shoulder, or the gravelly but somehow gentle voice murmuring reassurances and calling his name. He felt hollowed out inside, as if he was nothing but an empty shell. Dean was dead, and as far as Sam was concerned, that meant that he was dead too.
Bobby slipped his arms around Sam’s tall frame, struggling to hoist the young man to his feet. He managed to half-carry, half-drag the unresisting young hunter back to the couch, laying Sam down and covering him with Dean’s jacket. Bobby straightened the low table, replaced the books and the laptop, and turned his worried gaze back to the young man. Sam showed no sign that he even knew Bobby was there. Cursing under his breath, Bobby patted Sam’s shoulder, and headed off to the room he’d shared with Dean.
Moving like a tired old man, Bobby gathered up Sam’s gear and transferred it to another room, making up the single bed with fresh sheets and blankets. He figured it would be too hard on the young man to stay in the room he’d so recently shared with his brother. Finally, the room was ready, and Bobby headed back downstairs. He swung into the kitchen, and grabbed a glass, half filling it with neat whiskey before returning to the living room. “Sam, I’ve got…”
Bobby came to a halt, his mouth dropping open. The living room was empty, and Dean’s leather jacket lay in a crumpled heap on the couch. “Sam?” Putting the whiskey glass down on the coffee table, Bobby strode to the bathroom. It was as empty as the living room, as were the bedrooms. The bearded hunter returned to the living room, and walked slowly toward the couch, frowning as he saw the glint of something shiny caught in the folds of the leather jacket. He glanced down at the object, and groaned aloud, slamming a fist into his palm. “Damn it, Sam, no!”
Sam’s watch, silver money clip, cell phone, and bracelet were gathered in a neat pile in the centre of the jacket. Cursing vehemently, Bobby sprinted for the door and wrenched it open, leaping out into the cold pre-dawn air. “Sam! Sam, answer me, damn it!”
No answer came from the dark, and Bobby cursed again, hurrying back inside to grab a powerful flashlight. He searched the perimeter of the house, and the junkyard out the back, but failed to find any sign of the young hunter. The bearded hunter scoured every inch of the long drive, looking for tracks in the dirt. He came up empty. Sam had been well trained, and was an expert at muddying his trail so no one could follow. The hunter turned back toward the house, and searched the grounds once more, hoping against hope that Sam had just gone for a walk.
The rising sun was painting the eastern sky with liquid gold when the tired hunter trudged slowly up the stairs to the porch. He clicked off the flashlight, ran a shaking hand across his face, and pushed open the door. His eyes immediately tracked through the house, his shoulders slumping in defeat when he found no sign of the youngest Winchester. Bobby threw the flashlight down on the couch, and sank wearily down beside it, burying his face in his hands.
Suddenly, Sam’s phone shrilled, and the bearded demon hunter jumped in shock. He snatched up the phone, and his eyes widened as he checked the caller ID. Bobby pressed the button and held the phone to his ear. “Dean?”
* * * * *
The first golden rays of the rising sun spilled across the pale, lightly freckled face of the man lying as still as death in the middle of the crossroads. Suddenly, he gasped, jerking into a half-sitting position as consciousness returned in a crashing wave. His hand clutching at the gleaming gold amulet nestled against his chest, Dean looked wildly around him, as he propped himself up with the other hand.
“Son of a bitch!” Getting shakily to his feet, Dean staggered over to the shining black Impala, his legs threatening to give way at every step. Finally he made it the short distance to his beloved car, and he leaned bonelessly against the hood, drinking in the fresh air and the sound of birds singing in the nearby trees.
Slowly, the tremors in his tall frame subsided, and Dean blew out a sigh as he turned to examine the deserted crossroads once more, his mind going over the events of the night. He remembered reading the ancient Latin text, and the demon turning up to claim his soul. And then Ruby had tackled the demon as the hellhounds leapt for him, snarling hideously. Dean quickly checked himself for any wounds, frowning as he came up blank. He had not a scratch, and he rubbed a hand across his face and through his hair as he cast his mind back.
There had been a crackling in the air, like a build up of static electricity, just as he’d finished the incantation. The hellhounds had been leaping for his face, when there was a bright flash, and the hounds rebounded, whimpering as they slunk away. Dean remembered being jolted as though he’d been hit by lightning, and then the sensation that he was falling, and then everything faded to black.
Searching the ground in front of the Impala, the hunter shuddered as he found the tracks of large dogs. “Jeez…” he muttered, shivering in the cool dawn air. A few feet away, something gleamed in the dust, and he bent down, his brows drawn together in a faint frown. His long fingers plucked a knife from the ground, and he laid it across his palm, studying the inscription etched into its razor sharp blade.
Dean recognised the weapon – it was Ruby’s demon-killing knife. Getting to his feet, he looked around. “Ruby?”
Only the birds answered his call. Dean ran a hand through his hair, and gazed thoughtfully at the intricately engraved weapon. He tapped his fingers against his pursed lips, drew in a deep, steadying breath, and blinked rapidly. He was alive. He had made it. Grinning madly, he tucked the knife into his belt.
A chill ghosted down his spine as a sudden thought rose unbidden into his mind. He was okay, but what about Sammy? Quickly, Dean grabbed his cell from his pocket and flipped it open, his fingers rapidly calling up Sam’s number on speed dial. The call picked up on the third ring, and Dean sighed with relief. “Sammy?”“Dean?”
Dean’s blood turned to ice. “Bobby? Bobby – where’s – where’s Sam?”“Dean, he’s…”No, no, no, no, no
…Dean’s mind screamed the denial over and over. “No…” His legs gave way, and the tall hunter crumpled to the dusty ground, the cell held in a death grip. “No…”"Dean – listen to me! Sam – he’s – disappeared. He bailed. I don’t know where he’s gone.”
“What…” Dean shook his head, and swallowed repeatedly. “He’s gone – run off. I don’t know – he just left all his stuff behind and bailed. I’ve been looking for him for the last few hours.”
“But…” The green-eyed hunter bit his lip, tremors wracking his well-built frame. “Why?” he whispered.“Dean – he woke up – and – when he found out you were – he – he just broke. He just broke.”
Dean felt as if his heart had shattered into a million pieces. He had no idea Sam would react this way. “I thought he’d be okay…”“Where are you?”
“Oh, God – what did I do…”“Dean!”
“I – uh…” With a visible effort, Dean brought himself under control and wiped his streaming eyes. “I’m uh – only a couple of hours away. I’m still at the crossroads.”“Get back here pronto. I’ll call a few people I know, get a search under way.”
“We have to find him, Bobby – we have to.”“We’ll find him, Dean. We will.”
Dean flipped his phone closed, and pushed himself to his feet. Stumbling back to the Impala, he slid behind the wheel, noting vaguely that someone had switched off the headlights while he’d been unconscious. He turned the key, and the V8 engine rumbled to life, shattering the quiet of the early morning. Dean quickly steered the Chevy through the crossroads, turned around, and slammed his booted foot on the gas. The gleaming black classic roared as she leapt forward, fishtailing wildly down the gravel road. Dirt and pebbles sprayed out behind the Chevy in twin rooster tails as the tyres bit savagely into the loose surface.
His hands gripping the wheel so tightly his fingers turned white, Dean stared out at the deserted road. “I’ll find you, Sammy, I swear to God. I’ll find you, kiddo.” ‘Cause if I don’t, then I don’t know what I’ll do…
* * * * *
Air brakes hissed and squealed, as the semi pulled over to the side of the road. The passenger door was flung open, inviting the dishevelled young man to come in out of the light drizzle and into the warmth of the cabin. The burly driver nodded a greeting. “Where you headed, son?”
The truck driver raised a bushy eyebrow. “Just travellin’?” He pursed his lips, curious about the fact that the tall young stranger wasn’t carrying any luggage – not even a small duffle bag. “You look a little old to be runnin’ away. You in trouble with the law, son?”
The young man turned his head, his haunted gaze resting on the older man for a brief moment. “Just travelling,” he whispered hoarsely.
Swallowing, the driver nodded, and put his rig into gear. He’d never seen such a depth of grief and bleak despair as he’d just seen in the hitchhiker’s shadowed eyes. Wondering what kind of tragedy had befallen the young man; he headed on down the road. “Okay, son – you just let me know when you want to get off, okay?”
Turning back to face the window, the passenger stared blankly at the rain-shrouded countryside. “Doesn’t matter – nothing matters any more,” he murmured softly. Two weeks later
He sat at the end of the alley, in the shadows. His eyes were wild, haunted, gleaming with a touch of madness. His hair stood out at all angles, matted and filthy, a crazy patchwork of spiky strands and half shorn fuzz. He stank of urine, rotting garbage, alcohol and stale sweat.
Uncaring, he rocked back and forth, muttering vaguely about demons and the end of the world. The other homeless people steered clear, fearing the stranger in their midst. One had made the mistake of approaching him, and he had screamed bloody murder until the elderly man had fled, his hands over his ears.
The uniformed cops surveyed the human wreck with distaste. Sighing heavily, the elder man scratched at his jaw as he planned the best way to deal with the guy. “Man, what a mess.”
“Yeah. Well, better get him to a cell for the night. Hope he doesn’t bite – I haven’t had my rabies shot,” the younger cop joked half-heartedly.
“Huh.” The elder cop continued to study the hunched figure at the end of the alley. “You know, he doesn’t look that old to me. Wonder what he’s doin’ here.” He stepped closer. “Hey, buddy,” the cop called softly.
The young cop leaned forward a little. “Jack – what’s he sayin’?”
Jack took another step closer to the rocking man, cocking his head to the side.
“End of the world big – we opened the gates to Hell – my job to save you – we let the demons out – my job – I blew it – failed you – couldn’t save – we can’t win this war – demons are everywhere – end of the world – couldn’t save you…”
“What the hell, Jack?”
“I dunno.” Jack surveyed the filthy young man in confusion. “Hey, buddy?”
“Couldn’t find you – couldn’t save you – my fault – all of it…”
Jack bent down, and lightly touched the powerful forearm. “Hey…”
Suddenly the young man screamed ferociously, his teeth bared like a wild animal. He whipped his arm forward as he shot to his feet, the heel of his hand thudding against the elder cop’s breastbone with almost crushing force. As the man staggered backwards, the vagrant turned his attention to the younger cop.
Springing forward, the tall young man launched a devastatingly fast haymaker, catching the cop on the point of the chin and almost lifting him off his feet. He screamed again as the young cop crumpled bonelessly to the ground, and then he grunted, jerking uncontrollably as he collapsed to the ground.
The elder cop rubbed at his aching chest as he pulled the trigger on the taser once more, subduing the wildly twitching young man into unconsciousness. He wiped a hand across his mouth, and bent over his partner, shaking the young man’s shoulder. “Adrian? Adrian!”
Jack straightened painfully, and flicked on his radio, calling for backup. He kept the taser on the young vagrant, his finger caressing the trigger as he waited for another patrol car. Within minutes the flashing lights of a second squad car splashed across the mouth of the alley. He nodded at the two cops who got out of the car. “Walt. Mitch. Got a live one.”
Walt ambled over to examine the unconscious young prisoner. He ran a hand over his grizzled hair as he listened to his fellow officer’s report, and then he looked at the unconscious man again, noting the powerful physique and the handsome face under its layers of dirt and ragged beard. He pulled at his ear. “Jack – let’s call that Doctor Bartlett – get her boys over here for this guy. I think this one’s out of our league.”
Jack gazed sadly down at the pathetic human wreck. “Yeah, I think you’re right. Poor kid – wonder what made him like this.” Shaking his head, he contacted Dispatch, and requested a call to the nearby mental institution.
Mitch helped a groggy Adrian to his feet and led him back to the first patrol car. Walt remained behind; his faded blue eyes on the young man lying on the floor of the alley. “What happened to you, son?”
Jack shrugged as he shut off the radio, and removed the taser barbs from the unconscious man’s back. “Must have been bad. He kept mumbling about the end of the world, and that he couldn’t save someone – must have been someone important to him.”
Walt nodded. “Well, let’s hope Doctor Bartlett can get through to him.”
“Let’s hope.” The two old friends fell silent, and waited for the ambulance to arrive. Continued in Broken Images.