Five: Blood At The Root
cries to break the peace of the crickets chirring in
the dark until the door’s lying in pieces on the
floor and the torchlight burns crazy shadows over the
rough walls and the tattered sacks that hang between
that illusion of privacy, of humanity, is ripped away
as they storm through the barn, rough hands and hard
eyes searching, his name spat out as if it turned their
isn’t even time to roll out of his cot before
they find him and lock hands around his wrists, as iron-cold
as the bracelets that mark him and all the rest of the
crowd that swarm up, try and swamp him, hide him in
dragged through them, one elbow cracking hard against
the packed floor, his arm going numb and tears springing
to his eyes. He wriggles, cries out, but he’s
dizzy, the world lurching from one side to the next
as he’s carried, dropped, shoved stumbling over
the yard and the lawns. The light streaming through
the windows of the house flickers by, brief moments
when he can see them in the dark, can make out their
eyes in the shadows and his heart seizes up as he sees
the blood-lust in them.
then he fights harder, so hard his joints ache and his
muscles burn as he squirms and twists and finally manages
to drag one arm loose.
adrenaline’s pounding through him, still, draining
and energizing at the same time, leaving him shaky and
furious and he swings his free arm, curls his fingers
into a fist and lets the iron around his wrist power
the blow. It smashes into a face, nameless and only
vaguely recognized, warmth spurting over his hand.
staggers back, clutching his nose and gurgling curses.
Through the gap in the bodies surrounding him, he gets
a glimpse of another crowd, eyes wide and horrified,
white against dark skin, spilling along their trail.
Voices raise over the growls and imprecations, cry out
in fearful indignation.
head of the cane glitters as it fills his view, the
lion’s head snarling before the night erupts with
stars. He sags to the grass, curls in on himself, wraps
his arms around his head as fists and heavy boots rain
down and turn the world to jagged chaos.
hears shouts, screams, wonders why his own voice doesn’t
join them but clings to the sounds. They mean he’s
still there, to be fought for, to be accused. He knows
that it’s the silence he has to fear, because
when the mob goes quiet it will be over.
the din of blood pounding through his ears he makes
out snatches of what they’re saying, the rattle
and clink of chains a harsh underscore.
girl, just a little…”
niece and he…”
suh, jus’ lissen…”
din gbawe! Nu gbo we ã!
kind of sin, she’s ruined…”
sunnù! Eho, nu gbo…
one punishment…a crime so…”
trickles into his eye, hot and acid and turns the world
red. He blinks, sees grass slither by, feels it coarse
against his bare legs, against his side as the thin
shift rides up his back. They’ve woven chains
through the iron on his wrists, using the length to
drag him along, bouncing and jolting across the immaculate
a moment he thinks he can feel the sun on his face,
turns his head up to it just as he did the morning before
as he carefully trimmed the edges of this same lawn.
the heat of the torches, flaring and sparking as they
gutter in the breeze that stirs the leaves of the cottonwood
trees on the far side of the grounds.
ringing starts up in his ears, sets his teeth on edge
and his stomach flips, rolls greasily. He can taste
the congri they ate at dusk, bitter in the back of his
throat, and swallows hard, pulls at the chains until
the iron chafes through the thin skin of his wrists
and blood trickles down his arms.
tries to kick, tries to gather his feet under him, knows
that if he can just stand he might have a chance and
even life as a runaway, the threat of recapture and
punishment, of maiming and feeling the bite of iron
locked around his throat instead of his wrists, even
that would be better than the cottonwood trees that
are getting closer and closer with every shaky breath
he sucks down.
air’s cold, pluming in front of his face as he
gasps out the names the shaman taught them in their
stables after dark, Ogun, Yemaya, help me!
Hopes the blood on his arms and face is offering enough
for the Orishas, but the moon and stars are lost in
the shadow of the cottonwood as he’s dragged underneath
its spreading branches.
then it’s quiet.
hangs from pale hands, marked with bruises and scrapes,
the world spinning around him as he sways on his knees
and fights to lift his head.
eye swollen shut, the other dark with blood, white gathering
at the corners of his vision, he strains to see and
his heart leaps once as he sees them, standing still
and proud, dark skin almost lost in the shadows as they
surround the tree.
men holding him stir, uneasy in the face of such calm
defiance. His lips twitch in a faint smile, cracking,
fresh heat spilling down his chin.
the back of the crowd, half-hidden behind shoulders
and arms, a face he knows better than his own smiles
back, tremulously, fearfully. Her dark eyes full of
pain shared, so like his own the others used to call
them Mawu-Lisa, the twins who birthed all the gods.
flinch, start to move, instinctive response to the voice
that commands them every day.
too deep to be her voice, but he sees his sister’s
lips move, shape the denial, and they still, his family,
by blood spilt together in the fields if not shared.
aside, or I’ll see you all whipped.”
whispers it this time, no, and it’s still that
low, resonant growl that pins them there, backs to the
tree and won’t let them obey anything else.
flashes gold in the corner of his eye, the lion’s
head that’s snarling in bruises on his cheek and
he twitches away as far as he can as the tall figure
strides to the front of the quiescent mob, stops beside
him, too close.
boy committed a crime. Justice must be done.”
suh. He wouldn'a do what ya say. No way.”
else this time, a faceless call from the back of the
crowd and the overseer stiffens at his side. He sees
knuckles turn white around the lion’s head.
doubt my word? You call me a liar?”
suh. Someone told ya false.”
a pause, so long he finally dares to look up again,
aside. Or you can join him on the bough.”
he can see them shift, can hear the way that growl is
losing its power and he sees a few of them glance up
at the branch, rope-scarred and waiting.
he can’t find it in himself to forgive them as
they drift away, one at a time until only a single,
slight figure is left.
tree trunk is wider than her shoulders as she presses
into it, the overseer taking four long strides to crowd
her against the rough bark. He gestures at the men holding
the chains and they drag him forward again, a rope tossed
over the branch, quickly fashioned into a noose and
he can’t believe it, suddenly, wills himself to
wake up from the nightmare.
leaves of the cottonwood are still, the crowds, dark
and pale, all motionless below as the rope burns his
* * * *
branches sketched across the sky, tiny buds painted
red as the rising sun caught the rain water soaking
trees looked as though they’d been dipped in blood.
blinked, frowned at the morbid thought.
Dean. Creepy much?
car rocked steadily beneath him, the low hum of the
tires enticing him to shuffle further down in the seat.
He gave in with a weary sigh, rolling his head along
the back, leather warm against the short hair on the
nape of his neck and felt his brother’s glance
skate over him.
jaw tightened on the angry snarl that crawled under
his skin, the fist that was tucked down between his
thigh and the door curling tighter until his nails dug
into his palm.
quiet huff was almost lost in the sound of the engine,
and Dean’s anger evaporated as quickly as it had
formed. He loosened his fist deliberately, one finger
at a time, staring through the window as the sun came
up behind them and threw shadows out along the road
hit Damascus in another hour or so.”
brow smeared sweat across the glass as he nodded, frowned
again and reached up to swipe at the mark with his sleeve.
pretty early. I figured we could get some breakfast;
maybe see what we can find out before we head to a motel?”
he muttered, carefully noncommittal. He could almost
hear his brother’s teeth grinding together and
chewed at his lip, biting back the reprimand he was
too used to giving. You’ll wear them down
to stumps, Sammy. We’ll have to pull them all
out and get you a set of dentures, call you Granddad.
He almost smiled at the thought, from a time when “Sammy”
didn’t earn him a scowl and a slam of whatever
door was handy.
his shoulders stiffly, he stretched his legs out until
his boots bumped into the wall of the foot well.
shot a look across the car, took in his brother’s
eyes, tight and pinched, the way his hands tightened
around the wheel as if he could strangle the spirit
that had tossed the older man down two flights of stairs
a couple of days ago.
fact that the spirit had been aiming for Sam until Dean
shoved his brother violently out of its reach and taken
the brunt of its attack himself hadn’t exactly
helped make the experience any easier for either of
he answered softly. “I’m fine. Scratch that,
I’m starving. Breakfast sounds good.”
younger man smiled briefly, face lighting up, the tension
around his eyes easing and Dean felt his own shoulders
relax in unconscious echo. He stretched out a hand to
the radio, grinned a little as his brother snorted and
slapped it away.
his lips together in a pout, the hunter settled back
into the seat, head cocked a little to one side as Sam
flicked through his collection of CDs and finally slipped
one into the player with a smirk.
groaned as a cheerful, light guitar solo rang out and
clamped his hands over his ears.
I swear I never woulda fitted the damn thing if I’d
known you’d play this in my baby!”
whine was drowned out as his brother warbled along to
the vocals, a persistent half-tone out of tune and three
beats behind, lips split in a grin the older man couldn’t
help but mimic.
you call me your baby; sometimes you call me your man.
You can call me anything you want to, babe, but just
call me anytime that you can.”
twisted, hiding a wince in his arm as bruised muscles
protested the stretch, and reached into the back seat
for his jacket, wrapping the leather around his head
and curling into the corner with a grumble. Hidden,
he grinned outright as Sam laughed and the engine roared
a little louder and the music played on unaccompanied.
I’m the one to see it through, at three o’clock
in the morning I’ll be there for you.”
smile tightened at the promise in the words, the leather
suddenly stifling and he fought free of it, pressed
his head against the window, trying not to let his brother
see the shift in his mood as he watched the trees blur
by on the other side of the glass.
on the other side.
rolled his shoulders, remembered the way the girl the
spirit had latched on to had looked at him when they’d
first turned up on her doorstep, the way want had
glittered in her eyes as he unlocked the Impala’s
door for her and turned to disgust as they
tumbled out of the cleansed house, battered and bleeding,
way she’d curled one delicate lip when he suggested
going for a drive that last night and shrugged one tantalizingly
bared shoulder, smile remote and automatic. Cold.
wondered if Sam still wished for Jessica, if he still
dreamed of her the way he used to.
sign flashed by, the name familiar from the pages of
research his brother had shoved at him.
Alabama. Five people turned up dead on the edge of town.
Cops think it’s some kind of serial killer. The
way they were killed, beaten to death and dumped under
this one tree… vengeful spirit maybe. ”
he’d suggested that maybe, just this once, the
cops had it right, Sam had just looked at him and tapped
one long finger on the pages he’d barely even
photos. They had exactly the same injuries,
Dean. Same bruise patterns, same ligature marks on their
necks. Exactly the same. No one could
do that. No one human. ”
cottonwood trees gave way to houses, red and blue roofs
stark against the washed-out sky, only the faintest
traces of night still darkening the horizon ahead of
them. In the seat beside him, Sam muttered a low curse
as they cruised down the street; the No Vacancy
sign half-visible in the shadows in the window of the
reached up, rubbed at the livid bruise on his cheekbone,
murmured a reply to his brother’s sullen, idle
let’s just find somewhere to eat, okay? Check
out isn’t for another couple’ve hours.”
snorted softly, tipping his head sideways against the
glanced at him, faint irritation in his scowl matching
the question. Dean shrugged.
were the one who was all gung-ho for this hunt, Sam.
We’ll get a room next town over if we have to.
Just take it easy, okay?”
younger man looked at him for a long moment and finally
Looked like the diner back down the street was open.”
black classic swung into the empty parking slots lining
the sides of the main street, silencing with a rumble
that echoed in the town and turned the heads of the
smirked, basking in the attention as he opened the door
and shoved to his feet, the dull ache lingering in his
ribs and shoulder easing. A quiet chuckle drifted over
the roof of the car, his brother’s head shaking
in the corner of his vision.
set off for the diner, a familiar shadow falling into
place at his shoulder with a yawn as they crossed the
street. The hunter in him flicked a glance left and
right, up and down the main drag of the small town.
Twin rows of houses stretched to the edge of the forest,
most small, patchy grass stretching from peeling clapboard
and sagging porches to the sidewalk. Scattered among
them were larger properties, freshly whitewashed, wide
columns lining shaded verandas.
eyes narrowed and he slowed, stopped in the middle of
You tryin' to get run over?”
older man slanted a look up at his brother, gestured
at the deserted road.
the Delorean comes into town, I think we’ll be
okay Sam. You notice anything about this place?”
frowned, followed his gaze back to the houses and Dean
felt him shift as he saw it.
ribbons, tied around the cottonwood trees in the yards
of the larger houses.
think that’s for our vics?”
hesitated, turned and looked back down the street behind
vics. Five houses with ribbons.”
of a coincidence, Sammy."
check addresses when we get inside.”
we got a ghost that’s, what, some kind of equal
shrugged, followed the shorter man as Dean strode towards
the diner again, patting his growling stomach absently.
He squinted in the morning sun, the brightening light
making his eyes water, ducking his head to let his bangs
shade them a little. He blinked at the backs of his
brother’s legs, not really seeing them.
really seeing anything but the gut-wrenching sight of
Dean disappearing into the stairwell with a yelp while
he sprawled on the floor.
kept hidden the bruise on his arm where Dean’s
shove had sent him crashing into the edge of a small
table, seeing enough guilt and hurt in his brother’s
eyes lately to make the thought of adding to it turn
he’d dragged the older man out of the church at
Stull and they’d watched it disappear with their
father still inside, Dean’s stare had been more
carefully guarded than ever, the walls behind it shored
up with hunt after hunt. He torched spirits, beheaded
vampires with a reckless desperation that was only matched
by the fervor with which he kept the younger man safe.
was only in the downtime between hunts that the masks
ever slipped, that he saw the raw ache his brother was
hiding. Sam had searched, poured over every ancient
tome he could, the echo of the days he’d spent
trying to find a way to save Dean from the demon possessing
him trailing goose bumps down his spine.
bell in the diner rang jauntily, bringing him back to
the present with a jolt as his brother shouldered through
the door. The Winchesters hesitated just inside the
large room, packed with tables and dark-wood booths
lining the walls.
a seat guys. I’ll be with you in a sec,”
the harried waitress called to them, peering through
a cloud of steam behind a large, battered coffee machine.
eased past his brother as Dean leered at her, weaving
between the tables to a booth at the back of the room.
He dropped into one side, back to the door without even
thinking about it, leaving the opposite side for the
older hunter. Slouching in the deep cushions, he yawned,
narrowed his eyes to slits and gazed blankly at the
didn’t move when Dean slipped into the booth,
slid a mug of coffee over the table to him and sat back
with a sigh.
says the motel’s closed down.”
let his eyes shut completely, reached out and wrapped
his hands around the mug, letting the warmth sink into
a few over in Warrior, ’bout eight miles away.
She reckoned we’d get a room there alright.”
Sam murmured, sipping at his mug, quirking an eyebrow
as he tasted vanilla and creamy froth. He took another,
longer gulp as Dean buried his smile in his own brew,
slurping at it noisily, and wriggled further into the
younger man nodded, rubbing at gritty eyes and hunching
his shoulders until his spine popped. As soon as he’d
stopped moving, the weariness he’d been holding
off suddenly became all-consuming.
grinned outright as he yawned cavernously, curling forward
and folding his head down into his arms as he crossed
them on the table.
me up when breakfast gets here,” he mumbled into
the table top, letting himself drift to the muted sounds
of his brother fidgeting, nails clicking out a rhythm
on the battered Formica, one boot heel thumping a quiet
bass beat on the floor.
spent a lifetime falling asleep to the same lullaby
and it never failed, no matter how rough things got
dozed off, slipped into dreams where fire flickered
in the dark, threw strange shapes on rough walls that
billowed and shifted. He knew he was sleeping but he
couldn’t help the guttural cry that clawed out
of him as hands grabbed his arms, his legs, dragged
him kicking and flailing through the smoke.
ran hot through his blood, curling his hands into fists,
lashing out with elbows and feet. But for everyone that
fell away, there were two, three, four more waiting,
blows raining down on his head and shoulders, one boot
slamming into his kidneys and he arched away, crying
out again as voices snarled at him, low and rough with
the middle of it, he heard something he knew instantly.
hurting and confused he still recognized that voice.
back from a blow that spilt blood down his cheek, he
squinted, searching for his brother as something grabbed
his shoulder and shook him until he blinked at a dark
scrawl that looped across a pale, stained surface.
as his heart thundered at his ribs, the curls cleared,
resolved into shapes he knew.
mumbled something that didn’t make sense, even
to him and peeled his head up from his arms, still folded
across the graffiti-scarred table top.
squeezed his eyes closed, still trying to shake the
dream that clung to his thoughts.
peeled open an eye at that, gazed blearily at his brother
through the slit. “You’re offering to miss
older man tried to look offended, but the worry behind
his pout shone through. “Hey!”
his head slowly, carefully, Sam eased back in his seat,
sniffing at the smell of blueberries and maple syrup.
“Nah. I’m good.”
managed to fumble at his knife and fork, slice off a
bite of the pancake and shovel it into his mouth.
tasted like soggy, burnt cardboard.
snorted, rolled the pancake on top of his stack and
swiped it through the syrup spilling around his plate.
Sam watched in horrified fascination as the hunter chewed
contentedly on half the roll in one mouthful, grinning
at his brother with blue-stained lips.
younger man heaved a sigh, stirred his breakfast around
on his plate and shifted uncomfortably under Dean’s
scrutiny. The diner was quiet, so early in the morning
there were just a few scattered locals sipping moodily
at coffees in the booths lining the walls and it felt
like he was the center of everyone’s attention.
jerked in his seat; belatedly realizing he’d begun
nodding off even as he squirmed under the weight of
so many gazes.
I’ve been calling you for five minutes.”
Sorry, just tired, I guess. Long drive.”
regretted it as soon as he said it, but couldn’t
help his shoulders relaxing as the guilt that flashed
through his brother’s eyes made him drop them.
He didn’t protest when Dean reached out and snagged
one of the shreds of pancake from his plate.
done?” the older man asked, already digging in
his pocket for his wallet. Sam nodded, swallowing as
his stomach flipped greasily at the ripe, sweet smell
of the berries and syrup.
gonna use the bathroom,” he mumbled, already sliding
from his seat. “I’ll meet you outside.”
brother frowned at him, called after him as he bolted
for the battered door at the back of the diner, vision
blurring, the world lurching around him. It felt like
someone was drilling through the back of his skull,
like he’d swallowed a handful of snakes that were
churning in his stomach, and he staggered to the stalls,
the slam of the door behind him detonating in his head
as he hunched over the toilet and heaved.
he sagged against the graffiti-covered wall, barely
stifling a cry when his back pressed against it and
pain stabbed deep into his kidneys. Flinching away,
curling forward he hissed as he pushed to his feet,
a dull throb building across his lower back.
the hell?” he murmured, wondered briefly, idly
about food poisoning and salmonella, shaking his head
at himself as he shuffled out into the bathroom. He
recognized the sullen ache, knew it for what it was.
a bruise from the hunt, that’s all. I didn’t
notice before. Stiffened up in the car or something.
twisted awkwardly, painfully, in front of the mirror,
gingerly tugging his shirt up, eyes going wide as he
saw the shadow that spread dark across his side. It
curled around to his spine, faded into purple and blue
around the edges of the unmistakable boot print.
not from the hunt.
jolted at the soft call from the other side of the door,
couldn’t remember how to make his tongue form
the words in his throat, Dean, something’s
wrong. That’s not from the hunt.
was fixated, pinned in place by the dark print, staring
helplessly at it, mind circling over and over, coming
back to it again and again.
from the hunt. It’s not.
heard his brother sigh, a soft rustle that sounded like
someone leaning against the door.
Princess. I’ll be at the car while you fix your
choked, found his voice.
was nothing but empty space on the other side of the
door, empty space and the black and blue boot print,
burning on his skin.
not from the hunt.
* * * *
Princess. I’ll be at the car while you fix your
waited for a moment, leaning one shoulder against the
wall beside the door.
was nothing but strained silence on the other side.
his eyes, the hunter shoved away from the wall and walked
back to the table. Digging in his pocket, he tossed
a few bills onto the table, gulped down the dregs of
his cold coffee and rolled up half a pancake, munching
on it as he headed for the door. He ignored the weight
of eyes on him, the other patrons watching him pass.
It was easier to do when he had his brother in his usual
place, two paces behind Dean’s shoulder.
door clicked shut behind him and he shivered once in
the cool air, hunched his shoulders inside his jacket
and strode across the parking lot to the Impala, tucked
into one corner. Edging around the classic, he leaned
against the side, shifted uncomfortably as the bruises
on his back twinged.
quiet street felt empty, almost deserted.
dropped his head, lifted one hand to knead at the tension
riding the back of his neck. A dull throb centered around
the bruise on his cheekbone, thumped behind his eyes,
and he closed them, listened to a car splash past on
the wet road.
pressure behind his eyes had been a steady, slight weight
ever since the desert. Ever since the yellow-eyed version
of Sam had started tearing him apart from the inside
out. He frowned, dragged his hand around his neck, up
over his jaw, his ring scraping against his lips. Leaving
his dad there had felt like claws tearing at his insides
all over again, the desperation to find John a wall
between Sam and he that he couldn’t reach through.
Sometimes, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to.
brother felt like a different person now. Dean knew
that what the Yellow-eyed...Sam had said to them still
haunted his brother.
be like that, Sammy. You might be from a different reality
but we’re the same person deep down.”
it haunted him, left him feeling somehow off-balance.
The shift in their roles didn’t help, the way
Sam just seemed to want to throw himself into the hunt
while all Dean wanted to do was search for a way to
find their dad and fill the hollow that had lodged in
his throat, drown out the echo that always followed
him up out of dreams of choking, dangling helplessly
in the twisted version of his brother’s mental
your brother and run. Now Dean, go!
forced out a long breath between clenched teeth, felt
a muscle in his jaw ticking, one hand curling into a
fist at his side.
cry, punctuated by the glass doors of the diner slamming
open startled him out of his daze, spinning so fast
his aching back spasmed, locked up, sent him lurching
into the car, one hand halfway to the pistol tucked
into his jacket.
bolted across the parking lot, eyes so wild Dean could
read the raw fear in them from where he stood.
Dean,” Sam panted, stumbling as he neared the
Impala and Dean didn’t even think as he limped
stiffly around the car, reaching out for his brother,
catching hold of Sam’s arms and steadying him
as the younger man tripped again and almost went down.
not... from the hunt... it’s not. Dean, it’s
not from the hunt!”
blinked, ducked his head, trying to catch his brother’s
said that, Sam. What’s not from which hunt?”
bruise... it’s not... I don’t know...”
quirked an eyebrow, tried not to feel like he’d
just walked into the middle of a conversation but the
younger man’s near panic was infectious, dragging
along his nerves, making his mouth dry and his hands
what the hell are you talking about?”
turned to him, focused on him, pupils dilated and Dean
winced away from the sour smell of bile on his breath.
dude,” he muttered, started hustling his brother
to the passenger door. Sam dug his feet in, brought
Dean stumbling to a halt and twisted his arms in the
older man’s hold until his hands caught at Dean’s
bruise on my back, Dean.”
spoke clearly, precisely and something about it set
the hunter’s teeth on edge, made his hackles rise.
about the bruise on your damn back, Sam? You’re
not the one who got thrown down the stairs, remember?”
huffed, let go of his arms to tug at fistfuls of his
hair in palpable frustration.
not from the hunt, Dean.”
where the hell else is it from, Sam?”
tight and clipped with more than a little frustration
of his own, Dean finally managed to fold his brother
into the car, hurrying around the hood and yanking open
the driver’s door. Sam’s whisper stopped
him in his tracks, halfway into the seat.
think it’s from my dream.”
had a dream about...” Sam trailed off, shook his
head. “Doesn’t matter. I got kicked in the
dream, and there’s a bruise on my back right where
gaped, dropped heavily the rest of the way into the
seat. The younger man stared at him, wide-eyed.
that’s just crazy, Sam.”
know!” Sam almost yelled, thumping one hand against
the dash, the other reaching around to skim over his
back. Dean watched him, saw the way his eyes crinkled
at the corners, lips thinning as he shifted in the seat.
it was probably just a bruise from the poltergeist,
pitched his voice low, soothing, acting on instinct
older than the distance between them. His brother was
scared and hurting, and Dean couldn’t do anything
other than try and make it alright.
freaky mind just worked it into some random dream about
getting the crap kicked out of you. Which is, admittedly,
kinda twisted, but the dream didn’t give you a
wasn’t there last night.”
chewed back the retort that simmered in his mind, stuffed
down the irrational irritation with his brother’s
you got pretty beat up by that ’geist. Between
that and patching me up, driving here. You probably
just didn’t notice one more bruise.”
glared at him through his bangs, folded his arms across
his chest, jaw set tight, and Dean almost growled.
on, Sam. Think about it for a second. Which is more
likely, huh? That you didn’t notice a bruise because
you were already hurting and a little preoccupied with
picking me up off the floor, or that you had a dream
that somehow managed to kick your ass? Even in our world,
that’s just buckets of crazy.”
younger man didn’t answer, just sat there glowering
at him, arms still... he looked closer, saw the way
his brother’s fingers dug into his biceps, the
way his elbows were pulled against his ribs. Arms still
wrapped around him, like they were all that was holding
him together, like they were the only defense he had
against the world. Against Dean.
did this—we—get so screwed to hell?
deflated at the thought, reached out awkwardly for Sam’s
shoulder, curling his fingers around it.
just find a motel, okay? Get some sleep,” he murmured,
felt his brother twitch under his hand and forced the
irritation and disbelief out of his face. He smiled
gently when Sam finally nodded, pulled back and twisted
the key in the barrel, shrugging out of his coat as
the engine roared to life. Tossing it at his brother,
he grinned as Sam huffed, untangling himself from the
leather, one flailing arm catching the older man in
the side. Dean “oofed,” winced and rubbed
at his ribs, flicking a mock glare at his brother as
he turned onto the street.
just ignored him, slumping down against the door, long
legs sprawled out under the dash as he tugged the jacket
up to his shoulders. Dean rolled his eyes, watched the
road and quipped out of the corner of his mouth, “Dude,
are you snuggling?”
huffed and the older man smirked, flicked on the radio,
static muted under the thrum of the tires as he spun
through snatches of stations, settled on a whispery,
crackly rendition of Freebird and beat out
a rhythm against the steering wheel with his thumbs
all the way to Colquitt.
* * * *
shaking his arm woke him from an uneasy doze. Sam blinked
at foggy glass under his head, peered sleepily at a
vague suggestion of cracked asphalt though the white.
him Dean snorted, the hand still gripping his arm gently
turning to a fist that thumped him lightly.
frowned, shook his head a little, trying to clear the
haze out of his mind.
delightful Star Motel, Colquitt, Georgia.”
could almost feel the eyeroll.
me know when you’ve graduated beyond words of
one syllable, huh Sam? We’re in room eight.”
hunched forward in his seat, massaging his brow and
trying to work the kinks out of his back. He heard a
door creak open, felt a brief rush of cold air across
his bare arms and shivered, tipping his head back to
finally look outside.
long, low roof stretched away on either side, dark gray
tiles shading a narrow porch that ran the length of
the building. Faded blue paint peeled away from the
doors, a corroded number “8” crooked on
the door in front of the car. Thin clouds muted the
sun, turned the bleak building oppressive, almost ominous
and Sam sighed, elbowed his door open with a groan that
almost matched the screech of the hinges. A shadow passed
over his boots, his bag thumping to the ground beside
his legs and he rolled his gaze sideways, saw his brother
bouncing a key in one hand, one duffel slung over his
shoulder, the other dangling at his side as he strode
to the room.
forward, the younger man snatched at the handle of his
bag, almost face planted before stumbling to his feet,
the old motel tilting dizzily around him for a moment.
He grimaced, grabbed at his back as it throbbed fiercely
and hobbled wearily after his brother.
disappeared through the door, left it ajar behind him
and Sam shuffled across the porch, caught himself against
the jamb. Sucking in a breath of cold air, he pushed
away, felt his brother’s eyes on him as the older
man rummaged through his bag, dropped on the closest
bed. A pulse of irritation cut through Sam, weary, unreasoning
anger at the added distance he’d have to haul
his own bag and his jaw locked tight, knuckles white
around the handle of his duffel.
me a favor, Sam.”
low rumble made him start and he tossed back a sullen,
“What?” over his shoulder.
a shower and pull that stick out of your ass.”
bag thudded to the floor beside his boots as he whirled,
hands curling into fists, eyes hot. He deflated as his
brother shot him a tired grin, went back to unpacking,
tucking his knife under his pillow, slipping his Colt
into the drawer of the cabinet between the beds. Scrubbing
a hand through his hair, Sam sighed, taking in the slump
in Dean’s shoulders, the edge of shadows darkening
his skin under his collar.
shrugged, checked the load in a shotgun and propped
it against the wall beside his bed.
sounded a little too much like it had when he was five,
but Sam squashed the flare of anger and crouched, unzipping
his bag. His breath hitched as he twisted and pain stabbed
deep along his spine.
fine,” he bit out, staggered to his feet, caught
sight of Dean watching him across the beds. The older
man huffed, edged around the end of the bed.
me see that.”
his eyes, Sam turned, tugged at his shirt. He heard
Dean whistle, low and heavy with sympathy.
winced as cold air stirred across his lower back, twitched
away with a hiss when Dean pressed one hand against
the hell did you land on?”
his jaw shut, Sam grabbed for his bag, sucking in air
with a gasp as the movement stretched aching, sore muscles,
half relieved, half annoyed when his brother lifted
it to the bed. He slumped down beside it, elbows on
his knees, heard his brother pace away a few strides,
to the table and back again.
didn’t land on anything, Dean. I told you -”
that you dreamed it and it came true.”
not like that’s anything new, Dean!”
looked sideways, saw his brother, silhouetted against
the window, throw his hands out in palpable frustration.
now it’s a vision? Come on, Sam, no way. Your
visions have always been about someone else, right?
Why would that just change now? No.” Sam watched
as the older man started pacing again, hands clenching
at his sides, jaw locked tight. He bit off a sigh, couldn’t
keep the snap of accusation out of his voice.
the only bruise I got from that hunt was when you shoved
me into the bookcase.”
I’m sorry for trying to save your ass a trip down
the stairs, Sam!”
huffed, pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb
and forefinger, frowning hard at his knees. Dean rolled
his eyes, swung around at the end of his short circuit
to face his brother.
Sam, maybe you fell or something and you didn’t
a bootprint, Dean. There weren’t any boots on
rolled his eyes, forced his voice to stay calm and level
in the middle of the frustration pouring from his brother.
maybe the poltergeist threw a boot at you or something.
It’s a little more likely than you… spontaneously
bruising, or whatever.”
wasn’t spontaneous, Dean. It was the dream.”
on, Sam. That’s so thin it’s freakin’
sighed, shoulders drooping.
know,” he murmured, finally peering up at the
older man through his bangs. “It was so real,
so vivid, Dean. It just… it felt like a vision,
I guess. Kinda.”
it’s some new twist on your psychic gig?”
His stomach churned as he spoke, the old fear stirring
bile in the back of his throat now that the burning
anger had subsided. I can’t protect him from
that. I can’t look out for him when there’s
nothing I can fight. He shook the thought off,
stopped pacing, scrubbed one hand over his lips and
sighed between his fingers.
I’m gonna head back into Damascus, see if I can
find any intel on our five vics. Whatever’s going
on has to be something to do with them, and if you’re
right and they’re all descendants of the founders,
there should be records in the library.”
stood, wobbled, grabbed at the wall for balance.
a second, I’ll come with.”
sit down before you fall down.”
as he said it, the younger man twisted and paled, his
free hand lifting to flatten across his lower back.
Catching the movement, Dean frowned, peered more closely
at his brother. Sam was gray, dark circles shadowing
eyes tight with pain and exhaustion as he wavered.
get some rest, okay?”
I should help you… research or something.”
you’re exhausted, you’re freaking out. Last
thing you need to be doing is staring at dusty books
all afternoon. Seriously. Sleep, alright?”
crouched, rooted through his bag, finally pulled out
a chemical ice pack and snapped it. He tossed it over
to Sam, watched from the corner of his eye as his brother
fumbled with it before pressing it gingerly against
his back. The younger man sank back onto the bed with
a wince, the lines etched around his eyes crinkling
as he moved. Dean tucked his Colt into the back of his
waistband and snagged the laptop from the table, stuffing
it quickly into its leather satchel. Grabbing the keys,
he bounced them on his palm as he turned back and stopped
dead, smiling at the sight of his brother, tipped sideways
against the headboard, eyes sliding shut.
softly, the hunter shook his head and strode to the
window, drawing the curtains, casting the room into
shadow. Slinging the satchel over his shoulder, he crossed
to the door, glancing back once as he opened it. Sunlight
streamed around him, stretched out across the floor,
but it didn’t quite reach the bed, leaving his
brother just a pale blur in the dark. For a moment,
it seemed like Sam was unreachable, like there were
a thousand miles between them and a shiver crept down
his spine, fear he couldn’t place crawling under
his skin. Swallowing hard, he almost stepped back into
the room, almost drew the Colt from his waistband, a
blind, unreasoning urge to stand between his brother
he breathed, shaking it off, forcing himself to close
the door, unable to stop himself ducking down and pulling
a Sharpie from the satchel, scrawling a small charm
onto the frame. Reassured, he lingered for a second,
fingers skating across the grip of the gun against his
back. Finally he shook himself and turned away, headed
for the car parked two spaces down from their door.
The familiar creak of the door as he hauled it open
and slid in behind the wheel comforted him, the throaty
growl of the engine reassuring, and he sighed, relaxed
into the seat as he pulled away, turning north towards
* * * *
The door clicking shut woke him, hazily, and he blinked
at the dark wood under his nose. He took a moment to
orient himself, tricks he’d learned over a lifetime
of waking up in a strange room that had only taken weeks
to relearn after Stanford. Faintly, he wondered if his
brother even remembered what it was like to know without
even looking where you were, wondered if Dean even cared
that he probably didn’t.
frowned at himself, shook the melancholy off, told himself
it was just the weariness talking. Sniffing back a yawn,
he rolled over away from the door, belatedly realized
the room was dark, the curtains drawn tight against
the sun, and smiled sleepily.
Dean,” he murmured, sliding down into the bed,
cringing once as the bruise on his back pressed against
the mattress. His blood ran cold for a moment and he
swallowed hard against the memory of being helpless,
of iron around his wrists and hands dragging him across
wet grass, fists and boots raining down, thick voices
growling at him, cursing him. His back twinged again,
pain flaring deep and his breath caught, held against
the burn until it faded into a dull throb. He yawned
again, didn’t bother to cover it, just closed
his eyes and waited to sleep.
the dark behind his eyelids, something flashed, moonlight
flickering silver through the clouds, glittering from
a pale, bright blur that slammed into him and he bolted
up with a yell, one arm raised in front of him. Panting,
he stared wildly around the empty room, slowly convinced
himself there really was nothing there and tried to
steady his breathing. He sagged back against the headboard,
licked his lips and ran his hand through his hair, yanking
it back out of his face, his pounding heart settling.
a half laugh, he shook his head.
by a friggin’ dream.”
sounded hollow even to himself. His hand trembled as
he dropped it to his lap and he curled it into a fist,
willed it to stop shaking. Easing round, he gazed at
the window, curtains drawn tight, bright sunlight burning
through the thin cracks around the edges. Squinting
at the shadows, he guessed it was about midday, pushed
out a long breath and pushed himself down in the bed
again, burrowing into the blankets as a chill born of
exhaustion stole through him. He relaxed, breathed out
tiredness and closed his eyes again.
at the dark.
he huffed, flopped over, groaning into his wrist as
his back hit the edge of the mattress.
eyes burned, weariness and frustration running riot
with his emotions and he bit the inside of his lip,
listening to cars outside on the road, the quiet in
the room suddenly feeling empty and lonely. Rolling
his head sideways, he stared at the window, watched
the light shift, a shadow flickering past as someone
walked by outside.
by degrees, the sun crept closer until it spilled across
the edge of the bed, warm on his eyelids as he closed
then the light on his face was cold moonlight and a
silver blur flashing in the dark.
É gbedé…No! He never…
sunnù! Eho, nu gbo… My son! No, it’s
din gbawe! Nu gbo we ã! It’s a lie!
It’s not true!
the episode here