Season Two

Episode Two: The Beast Within

By Thru Terry's Eyes & Tree

Part One

 

“Yours??” John choked as Zack finally broke down, head hanging, shoulders shaking, tears as well as blood now splattering his jeans. “What yours?” John snarled. “You don’t have any family, you bastard! Everyone knows that!”

Zack laughed and the sound burned Sam’s ears. “Well, guess again, John!” He coughed, bloody saliva dripping from his mouth as he sneered in disgust. “You think you’re the only man in this that has anything to protect? To lose?” Zack laughed again, shaking his head. “God…I tried so hard to keep them out of this…” It was as though he was talking to himself. “For them not to know what I... I just wanted to keep them safe!” He burst out, lunging against the ropes that held him.

Sam jerked back involuntarily, glancing quickly at John, not altogether sure this wasn’t some kind of trick considering Zack’s current track record for betrayal.

John could have been formed from stone he stood so rigid and still, only his eyes moved, narrowing as he stared at Zack. A chill iced his blood as he listened to Zack mumble to himself, rocking against his bindings, making the chair creak rhythmically.

John grabbed the chair behind him and yanked it closer, seating himself so that his knees almost touched Zack’s. He stretched out a hand and caught Zack’s chin, forcing the other man’s head up to meet John’s cold eyes.

“You talk to me …” John growled, deep in his throat. “Talk to me now. Justify this. What you did to my family, to Dean!” I dare you, his tone implied. “Or I swear to God, I will kill you where you sit.”

John sensed more than saw Sam come up to stand next to him, saw his son’s fingers curl over the grip of his gun, keeping it at ready. The intensity and anger that had been rolling off his youngest son since the previous day startled him, but didn’t surprise him. He knew that Sam was as worried and focused on finding Dean as he was.

Zack rolled his eyes at John, snorting. “I have a family, John. Surprise! I chose not to make them a part of this, to keep them hidden, a secret. Is that so shocking, knowing what we deal with? What our lives are like?”

“You’re lying“ John interrupted flatly, wanting it to be a lie. Needing it to be.

I’m not lying!” Zack yelled in John’s face, spittle flying. “Is it so damned hard to believe that someone else could have people they love besides you? People they would do anything to protect?” Zack’s eyes moved to Sam. “I have a son and daughter! We don’t see each other often. Their mother and I separated, but we still kept in touch. She died…” Zack’s eyes closed and his head dropped as John suddenly released him, sitting back.

Sam and John exchanged looks, faces tight.

Zack fought to get himself under control. “All this time,” he gasped. “They never knew about any of this and no one knew about them. I thought they’d be safe…I didn’t want them growing up in this world, didn’t want them to end up like your -“ Zack cut himself off with a snap, eyes shooting to John in a panic.

John stiffened, face darkening.

Sam dropped a hand on his shoulder. “Dad -“ he murmured warningly.

John shook him off like a fly. “You son of a bitch!” he exclaimed grabbing Zack by the shirtfront and dragging him up chair and all. “How DARE you judge me! You think I wanted this for my family? For my sons - ?“

Sam pulled at him. “Dad! Please! This isn’t helping!”

John felt the desperation in Sam’s grip, fighting his anger.

“It was Haris!” Zack cried. “He found them, dammit! My daughter called and said Daniel was acting crazy, had been arrested for assault and was under psychiatric evaluation.” Zack felt John slowly lowering the chair back to the ground. “I rushed out there. God, he was possessed, John.” Zack’s face twisted in pain at the memory, the horror of that moment of discovery. “I knew the minute I saw him…”

Anguished noise poured out of him, his head falling back as he struggled against the ropes that held him. “He did that to my boy…the sweetest kid God ever put on the earth. He’d never hurt anyone. Never! And now -“ Zack’s head snapped up and he cried out, eyes blazing. “Haris came to me, told me what he’d done. What he was gonna do if I didn’t help him! Kill Daniel, Amelia, her husband…their baby…my grandchild!” He spat his next words in a blast of fury, straight in John’s face. “They’re my family, John! What was I supposed to do? What would you have done?” He cackled dementedly. “You’d put a bullet through my head right now if you thought it’d save Dean. Hell, you’d do anything.” He hissed, leaning closer, head twisted at an angle. “What makes you so different from me?”

John let go his grip so suddenly Zack and the chair tumbled backwards with a thud. He towered over Zack, fists balled, contempt in is eyes. “He promised you they’d be safe if you betrayed us-" John sneered. “And you believed him?“

Zack locked eyes with John. “I had to, you self righteous son of a bitch! I didn’t have any choice!

John moved forward but Sam grabbed him once again and put himself between John and Zack.

“No!” He pushed against John. “Calm down! We need him to help find Dean!”

John glared at Sam for a moment and then suddenly twisted away and slammed through the door into the next room, leaving San gaping after him.

“Sam -" Zack began, still on his back. Sam heaved the chair upright once again and kicked it.

“Shut up!” he snapped, watching the still swinging door.

 

* * * *

 

John stormed through the door into the small kitchen, leaving it swinging wildly behind him.

The furious pressure that had been building inside him demanded release. In desperation he grabbed one of the chairs and swung it into the wall, splintering it into kindling.

Damn him! John swore internally. He punched the wall with the side of his fist, unsure what filled him with more anger, the unwanted knowledge Zack had confessed to them or the inference that he and John were not so different.

He couldn’t stop the thoughts that tumbled through his mind. What would he have done to spare Sam and Dean from this life? To give them the normality that Sam hungered for and Dean had no concept of.

It was a moot point. Their destinies were bound up in seeing this through to the end. Sam and Dean were a part of it, integral players in a game none of them really knew how to play. What lengths would he have gone to then, if he’d had a choice? What lengths was he willing to go to now?

Dean’s life was on the line, God only knew what that bastard Haris, was doing to him. What he planned on doing to Sam, if he got his hands on him. He was dealing with the same wrenching decision Zack had dealt with. And try as he might, John couldn’t deny the truth of Zack’s words. If he could have saved Mary…saved them all from the never ending nightmare of what their lives had become…

John slammed his fist into the wall once again, swearing angrily. He sucked in a lungful of air and spun on his heel, back across the room and straight-arming through the door, jerking his knife from the sheath as he did so.

 

* * * *


Sam stood as John burst back into the room, looking even angrier than before if such a thing were possible. He pulled his knife, the flashing blade bouncing light into Zack’s eyes as John crossed to him.

“No!” Zack cried out, instinctively flinching back, as John’s knife rose, then slashed downward.

“Dad! No!” Sam yelped, leaping forward.

Zack’s arms fell limply forward as the pressure from the ropes holding him was abruptly released. Stunned but wary, Zack looked up, rubbing the raw flesh on his wrists and forearms.

“What are you doing?” he asked hesitantly, jerking back again as John slammed the knife into the post beside Zack’s chair and stood there for a moment, staring into the area behind Zack before drawing breath and speaking in a low, intense voice.

“Are they keeping Dean at the old army base?”

Zack licked dry lips, glancing up at Sam nervously, then reluctantly at the back of John’s head.

“I…I don’t know.” Stiffening as John turned to stare at him, hand still curled around the knife grip. “I swear, John! God, I swear!”

Zack started to rise, but Sam stepped forward, lifting his gun, stopping him. “They probably are!” He exclaimed. “Haris is mobilizing, but as far as I know he’s still using that for his base.” Zack used his shirtsleeve to wipe blood from his face, eyes on the floor. “I’m sorry, John.” And he meant it. “I wish I knew for sure -“

John released the knife and turned back toward Zack. “Help us,” he said. “Help us get Dean back. He doesn’t deserve this.”

“I can’t,” Zack replied hoarsely. “My family…if Haris found out I was helping you –" Zack struggled unsteadily to his feet, shaking his head.

John stretched out one hand to halt Sam’s forward movement, with the other he caught Zack’s arm, closing his eyes briefly. “Please,” John whispered, and only Sam knew what that word cost him. “We’ll protect your family. Keep them safe -"

Zack pulled his arm away, laughing bitterly. “Protect them?” he replied contemptuously. “No offense, John, but you haven’t been able to protect your family from its own curse. How the hell are you gonna protect mine?’

John’s face darkened.

Sam looked up, brows drawing together. “The curse?” he snapped, eye shooting first to John then to Zack, both of whom ignored him. “Zack?” he demanded. “Dad, what curse? Dammit, somebody tell me what you’re talking about!”

Zack and John stared at each other for another long moment. “I’m sorry, John. I am.” Zack hung his head. “For every damned thing, but I can’t help you, not this time, not with my own family at risk.” He lifted his face to meet John’s eyes, man to man, one desperate father to another. “You of all people should be able to understand.”

John sighed and nodded, rubbing his hand across his mouth, fingers scratching over his beard. “Yeah, I know.” He turned away. “Sam -"

Sam, annoyed at having his questions ignored, jerked. “Yessir?”

John tossed Sam the Impala keys. “Take Zack back to town, let him go. Then come straight back. We’re heading for Tennessee.” His voice was tired, desolate.

Sam grabbed John’s arm. “What? You’re letting him go? Just like that?” He cried, outraged. “What about Dean? What’s this curse stuff Zack was talking about - ?” Unwilling to be denied, eyes bouncing angrily between the two battered veterans.

Zack gave Sam a look, his mouth twisted in a sad smile. His eyes moved to John, clearly reading the message his eyes were broadcasting. Zack shook his head, John you damned, stubborn fool…

“I’m just shooting my mouth off, Sam.” Zack said, turning toward the door. “Let’s go.”

Sam tightened his grip on John’s arm. “No! Dad? What did he mean?” he pleaded.

John pulled his arm free. “What’s going on,” he stated, “is that you are gonna take Zack back to town and then get your ass back here as fast as you can so we can go after your brother!” he was more harsh than he wanted to be but he was not having this conversation.

He gave Sam a slight shove which Sam began to resist then gave up with an angry huff of air and a sharp roll of his eyes.

“We’re not done here!” He spat. “Come on!” he growled at Zack, shoving him ahead.

At the door Sam looked back at his father but John had turned away, his fingers curled once again around the handle of the knife he had stabbed into the post, his forehead resting against the end of the grip.

Sam’s mouth tightened, eyes flickering, then he followed Zack out the door.

* * * *

Office at the Abandoned Base


“Just like your brother Dean, if I can’t have you, then no one can. I’ll get that amulet off of you if I have to cut your head off to do it.” Haris growled as his hand began to move.

The knife moved the barest of fractions, a thin line of crimson appearing at the crease of Dean’s neck. The blade was the epitome of sharp, its edge honed to the thinness of a slip of paper. So sharp in fact, that as it cut into his flesh there was no real perception of pain. Had it not been for the warm stickiness of his blood following gravity and pooling in the small divot of his collarbone, Dean might not have even realized he had been cut; not that he cared in the least anymore. Blood and the dull thumping in his chest were the only indicators that he was still alive; everything else that he used to define himself was gone.

Mom had been gone forever, destroyed by a demon that viewed her as nothing more than a gnat to be swatted aside in a quest to obtain his brother so many years ago. In his mind, Dean could remember her vividly. Long blonde hair surrounded her face creating a glow about her even when the only source of illumination was the nightlight at the doorway to his bedroom. Laughing eyes, crystal clear blue that managed to brighten even more when she looked down into his small face as she tickled him unmercifully. Her soft voice, lilting and gentle, soothing away hurts as easily as she read him stories.

Dad was gone now too, killed alongside men that had shared his determination to remove evil from the face of the earth. A tough man, not just in physical measures, but in sheer resolve, his father had been a rock in nearly every aspect of his life. Strong arms that tossed a four year old into the air and just as easily caught him on the way back down, had easily borne the weight of a twenty-four year old with a broken leg out of the woods during a thunderstorm. The same grease-blackened hands that had so skillfully worked on engines and transmissions had also placed sutures with surgical precision. Never verbose, when his father talked, a few simple and well chosen words spoke volumes, but never nearly as much as his eyes, especially when he thought no one was watching.

And Sam.

Dean could barely bring himself to admit the truth. What more proof had he needed than the bloodstained knife currently carving into the soft tissue of his neck? Hazy memories meant nothing compared to that stark evidence of his treachery.

The void left behind by the loss of Mom and Dad hurt, was in fact absolutely excruciating, but it couldn’t compare to the agonizing abyss that Sam’s death by his very own hand left in him now. Dean may not have truly believed in God, but he did believe in souls, and his own was now as barren and lifeless as a desert at high noon.

Twenty-four years of being the ever-watchful guardian, teacher, and surrogate parent, but first and foremost, the big brother and he had reduced all that to wasted time with a flick of his demon-possessed hand.

‘Sam! I failed you!’ his conscience wordlessly screamed.

Dean was vaguely aware of the increasing pressure of Haris’ blade on his neck. The force of the demon’s arm pressing down against his trachea was only noticeable because it threatened to cut off his air. Silently, Dean willed the evil bastard to bear down a little harder allowing the knife to sever through cartilage and carotids and bring him the blackness he was prepared to receive.

He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple actually causing the knife to flinch upward briefly before the pressure returned. Dean laid perfectly still, eyes now open and staring upward but not seeing, ears not perceiving anything past the internal voice of recrimination, body not sensing the physical pain or even the hardness of the conference table as it pushed against his bruised joints.

Haris paused, staring at the hunter before him. Were it not for the slow rise and fall of Dean’s chest or the occasional blinking of his blank eyes, the demon might have thought that the long blade had already done its job. But no, he had been careful, never applying any more pressure than it took to achieve the desired result.

Yet, the desired result hadn’t been achieved. Not to Haris. His quarry was still alive, not possessed, and most definitely not under his control. To add to the demon’s frustration, Dean seemed to have “checked out”, not even reacting to the lethal threat that he had employed.

Swearing to himself, Haris suddenly realized his miscalculation. In his haste to get Dean to surrender to him, he chose to batter the young man’s psyche with the implication that his father and brother were dead; assuming the anger and rage would force the young hunter to succumb to the demon within him. At first, Haris thought his plan had worked, but now, as he scanned the empty hazel eyes, he knew that Dean had resigned himself to death beneath the blade.

“Dean?” the demon asked questioningly, seeking to elicit some sort of response, curious if the young man might be shrewd enough to be faking. Haris drew the blade further along Dean’s throat, opening a new wound.

No response. Dean’s eyes remained unfixed.

Enraged, Haris lifted the weapon from Dean’s neck; fresh blood tainted the steel mixing together with the rust colored flakes of dried serum. He was furious that his bluff had been effectively called, leaving him no closer to either subduing the hunter or freeing his trapped offspring. Had he not still needed the elder brother as a potential bargaining chip for a very much alive Sam Winchester, he might have considered actually inflicting the fatal wound.

But that had never been his intent, never his ultimate goal.

Looking down at the figure before him, the horned-faced amulet mocked the demon, mocked his inability to control the situation.

Moving the blade slightly, the demon changed his focus. If he couldn’t physically touch the amulet, which in itself was both surprise and insult, then he would simply cut it from the hunter’s neck. Slipping the tip underneath the edge of the leather cord, Haris pulled sharply upward severing the brown loop. Dean flinched visibly, a deeper part of him reacting to the attack on the amulet as though it had been a violation of his own body.

“ … You wear this, and never take it off!”

Arms restrained, Dean thrashed weakly on the table, inner voice spurring him to resist. Haris laughed at the feeble effort and moved to flick the tarnished charm from its resting place against Dean’s chest with the flat of the blade. As his yellow eyes looked back to Dean’s neck, they narrowed with suspicion. The leather thong was whole once more, no evidence that it had been cut just seconds before.

The demon placed the blade beneath it again. Violently, he yanked the edge upward, separating the cord once more. As he watched intently, the length pulled itself back together, ends seeking each other like quicksilver and blending together without so much as a scar to mark the laceration.

Haris stared in disbelief. Perhaps an enchantment or protective spell had been placed on the seemingly weak piece of leather. How else could the dead bit of animal skin resist the attempt to destroy it? But Haris knew, as certain of the reason as he was that evil walked the earth. The amulet’s power had grown!

‘If only Wren would have been successful in destroying the damn thing before!’ Haris thought to himself angrily.

Attached to its guardian, the amulet was now not only protecting its bearer, but also protecting itself. He should have been surprised, but he wasn’t really, knowing full well the threat that the ancient talisman represented.

“Potestatem obscure lateris nescis!” the demon muttered defiantly.

His plan thwarted, Haris slammed the knife down onto the table just inches from Dean’s ear. The force of the impact was enough to shake the entire surface, even Dean’s body shifted slightly in spite of being pinned by the guard’s muscular arms. Regardless of it all, the young man did not react, eyes remaining blankly cast toward the ceiling.

“I should have known! Giving up? You’re weak, Dean! Just like your father, just like Sam too!” Haris taunted, shaking his head derisively. “How could you have thought to ever protect your brother from me?”

‘Get away from here and protect Sam!’

Something snapped inside Dean’s head. A rubber band of a thought stretched too far and now recoiling back into shape. None of this made sense. Not Zack’s betrayal, not his possession, not the amulet, not the demon’s toying with him, none of it.

In a strange way, his confusion brought clarity. It gave his beleaguered mind something to work on, a distraction from the brain-numbing pain that was still washing over him in a tsunami-sized wave.

“Why me?”

The sudden question startled Haris, stopping him in his tracks and causing him to spin back around to look at Dean.

“Why you what?” the demon responded warily, moving closer.

Dean paused, swallowing hard, his mouth dry.

“Why do you want me? Hasn’t this always been about Sam? About all the other kids like Sam?” he continued. “You’ve been after him since he was six months old and now all of a sudden, I’m the big catch and you sacrifice him?”

“Dean … Dean … Dean!” Haris began, his head shaking from side to side in mocking disbelief. “You? You’re nothing. It was always about Sam. The ritual was nothing more than a way to obtain his powers. But killing him, well, that was your twist on things.”

Haris moved back to stand beside the table, a tilt of his head directing the large sentinel to release his restrictive grip on the hunter. Hair and arms free, Dean turned his face to look up at the yellow-eyed demon. He lowered his arms to his sides, relishing the return of normal blood flow and suddenly forced to acknowledge the sharp ache in his right shoulder from the bullet wound. His muscles tightened reflexively. Nearly insane with grief and self-loathing, he needed this to end, one way or another.

“You’re the one that got carried away, Dean! All you were supposed to do was cut little Sammy enough to provide the blood offering for the ritual. Imagine my surprise when I see my chosen, his neck gaping open, and blood gurgling in his throat as he tried to scream.”

“You, Dean, are nothing more than the consolation prize,” Haris stated, amusement in his voice. “Although in retrospect, perhaps I should have buried all the Winchesters together that day and put an end to your pathetic family once and for all!”

“Yeah, you should have!” Dean snarled as he rolled to his right and off the table.

His feet hit the floor as he quickly assumed an offensive stance, his right hand now brandishing the demon’s discarded knife. Dean’s eyes flashed back and forth between Haris and the massive black-eyed guard on the far side of the table.

Dean knew there was no way he could possibly take both demon-possessed men. The guard was simply too big and Haris, well, Haris was simply too powerful. Still, when did size and numbers ever really matter to him? He’d never been afraid of dying and was even less so now, convinced that death was still preferable to possession.

For a long moment, no one in the room moved or spoke; Haris remaining just a few feet away, the guard stood unmoving, waiting on his orders, and Dean defiantly held his ground, knife at ready.

“Now Dean, what do you think you’re going to do with that?” the demon asked, breaking the tense silence and taking a small step forward.

“Well, first I’m gonna kick his ass,” Dean began, pointing the tip of the blade at the towering behemoth. “Then, I’m gonna kick yours.”

Haris laughed, “And then what? Supposing for a minute that you actually stand a chance of getting past either one of us, where will you go? There’s nothing left for you out there Dean!”

“Hmm, well, there’s always Paris … Hilton or France. I wouldn’t mind spending time in either one!”

“Dean. Masks again? When will you ever learn? You don’t have to put on the brave little soldier face for Daddy or Sam anymore. They’re gone. Your place is by my side. I’m your family now!” Haris stated.

“Then I’m putting myself up for adoption!” Dean yelled, lunging towards his nemesis, the already bloody blade whipping outward towards the demon’s chest.

Haris arched backward, the edge of Dean’s weapon snagging the fabric of his shirt, tearing it away, but missing flesh by scant millimeters. Surprised by the near-miss but not concerned, the demon spun around to the far side of the table. Placing a hand on the towering sentry, Haris pushed the possessed man forward at Dean.

The hunter rushed ahead, not intent on backing down now. Dean lowered his shoulders, reducing his body to create a smaller target. The guard moved in as well, his momentum carrying him into and past Dean as the young man deftly sidestepped and flung the giant off his hip and into the wall behind him.

Immediately, Dean turned, prepared for the next rush. The guard recovered quickly and came at him again, this time with more caution and calculation. Dean thrust out with the knife but the huge man blocked the attack and countered, swinging his own large fist and catching the young man on the side of the chest.

Dean dropped to one knee, stunned and breathless, the air in his lungs trapped by the constriction of his ribcage from the blow. The guard closed in, towering above the kneeling figure. Dean remained head down, eyes focused on the floor, but sensing the threat above him.

‘Wait … wait … closer … just a little closer …’ his hunter’s instincts sounded off in his mind.

Dean could nearly feel the enormous hands as they reached to grab him. Just as they were about to close about his head and neck, he lunged upward, using his entire body to jam the elongated blade into the man’s chest, twisting it as it plunged in up to the hilt.

The guard staggered backwards, startled that the weapon had found its mark. Dean followed him, his hand still clenching the knife. He tugged, but the blade was firmly wedged deep within the possessed man’s body. Letting go, he hesitantly backed away.

Weaponless, he cast a quick glance at Haris just beyond his shoulder. Looking back toward the guard, he saw the door to the room just a few feet away.

‘Time to go!” he muttered and broke for the doorway.

Immediate freedom was just within his grasp; his hand had closed around the handle when his head was viciously snapped backwards.

Fingers wove through his hair again as the massive guard yanked Dean away from his escape route. Unable to resist, he was easily brought down to the floor. The guard lashed out with a booted foot, catching Dean full in the chest. Air evacuated his lungs once more as his body rolled violently away from the blow.

Through glazed eyes, Dean saw Haris standing above him, yellow orbs glowing to match the sneer on his face.

“Take him out of here!” Haris commanded. “Do as you will, but keep him alive.”

Laughing sadistically, the guard obliged his master, kicking at Dean’s supine form again and again; continuing long after Haris had left the room and long after consciousness left Dean.

 

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