Sequel to Removed
Author: Mink & Jink
Rating: R - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Tracking a Skin Walker was relatively easy. Of the few he had encountered, most maintained habitual and recognizable patterns.
It was the killing that was the tricky part.
Animals on every level of the spectrum of intelligence did extraordinary things to stay alive. But only one animal on the planet had the ability to contemplate its own death. Human’s went so far as to even take stock in a heaven and a hell. For all Dean knew, they had made it all up too. Believing so hard that maybe places like that were in some half baked realities outside the fringes of what even he knew.
But Skin Walkers were human too. And they sure as hell believed in that aspect of the afterlife that involved fire and brimstone. Somewhere in their mangled psyche, behind the bloodthirsty half formed animal, there was a man’s heart beating. And the logic of men lead them down quite a few dark paths. They were usually men. Dean wasn’t sure why. He supposed power went to men’s head more than women. Or women didn’t have as deeply honed sense or need for revenge. Whatever the reason, he took in account that the thing he was hunting now, was assuredly male.
It mattered in terms of strength and aggression. Speed and power. Factors that weren’t really conclusive to one sex or the other really, but in what he found, he was given subtle hints. It was stupid stuff but it was there and only ignoring even tiny details could leave one shredded on a wall. Messy eater. Was using where it happened to stop long enough as a bathroom. Compulsively returning to the same spots. He’d seen its return tracks in at least four different variations around the area they were holding Sam. It was frustrated by the lack of access to what had seemed to it an easy target. So he figured he’d give the thing what it wanted. An easy target.
Dean had spread the cedar ash all over his exposed skin so it wouldn’t pick up his scent. Besides making him smell like the burnt inside of a hope chest, it made him virtually invisible to the Walker, who he knew at this moment was furtively edging and skirting the farm, busy following the sound of a lone whistle. He hadn’t told Edwards to whistle out a tune while he patrolled solo around the perimeter, and in fact he thought it would have just the opposite effect it seemed to be having. The Walker had picked up on it almost right away, breaking the shadows only a few yards from where Dean had planted himself, and going down on all fours to sniff out the owner of the cheerful sound.
It was weird, Dean sometimes thought, just how different people went about trying to accomplish the same end. Edwards knew what he was doing. He wouldn’t have stayed alive this long doing if he didn’t. But Dean never much liked to just go ahead and use himself as bait. The bitch of the problem was that the only sure fire way to kill a walker was to confront it and identify it. It was what he and his dad had done the last time. They had spent nearly a month tracking the thing and finding out where it came from. They talked to everyone they could find just to get one small clue about what should have been the easiest thing in the world.
If you told one of these things its name it was game over. Kinda like Ruplestilskin. To become a Walker one had to abolish one's name and that, in spiritual terms, involves things much heavier than documents. To become undone in the eyes of the gods required untold blood and pain. But Dean didn’t have that kind of resource. If you didn’t have the name, that left magic. Not really his thing, but Dean knew how to read and when to light a fire. Yueller had allowed him access to his car to get the items he needed. He found some material in his father's old cache that, when mixed together could do a number on a Walker, but what he really needed was what his brother already inherently knew.
But Yueller wouldn’t give him any access to Sam.
He was forced to wonder what it was about his brother that had really put these guys off. Besides putting them on the FBI ten most wanted list that is. It was something else. Dean had a strong suspicion it had a great deal to do with loyalty. He hadn’t missed that look Yueller had given him when he mentioned Sam’s cut and run out to Stanford.
It must have been all those years in the service. His dad had been the same way when Sam took off. It never occurred to Dean that his dad might have been looking at it purely from the angle of loyalty. Three down to two made the odds just that more dire. It was after all, the reason Dean was here in the first place. He was the new number four.
Three consecutive well placed shots.
Dean stopped short of the corner of the house and stayed very still. He had told them all a few times that bullets weren’t going to do much to their target but make it angry. And the thing was already in a pretty advanced state of rage as it was.
Like most men, being denied its food had made it pissed.
Dean cocked his head and listened. He could hear a low hissing growl, and he could hear Edwards retreating in the snow. Much too slowly for what was after him but Dean gave him an A for effort. He thought for a moment how it wouldn’t be all that bad if Edwards went and gotten himself eaten alive. Dean stood, shaking out the leather pouch filled with components that, left by themselves, were nothing but harmless objects. He shook his head, strange words he’d forced himself to memorize slipping out of order and coming back, all nonsense if not spoken in correct formation.
He could see it, the lithe, rail-thin body deceptively frail, limbs too elongated and uneven. A half-formed wretch sewn together by some careless God. Teeth too big for its head jutted from its bloodied maw, it's awkward limbs racing on all fours, cutting through the snow like a hot knife to butter. When he rounded the corner, the thing paused in its pursuit. It sensed his movement, straining in vain to catch his scent.
That didn't mean it couldn't see or hear.
Whether Dean had been deemed prey, predator or poisonous, the thing didn't seem to care. Large liquid yellow eyes regarded him curiously. Its body seemed stuck, horribly half way between the man and the beast. A wolf from what Dean could tell. Edwards was gone, disappeared into the tree line.
“Hi...” Dean said as it settled back down, leaning forward on its strangely long and twisted forepaws. “Um, George?”
The name thing was always worth a try.
It tore towards him, snow and the dirt that lay under it flying into the air with its brutal assault. Dean backed up only one step and held up the leather pouch high over his head. Rosary. Crucifix. Garlic. A four freakin’ leaf clover. In the end it was all the same mojo just taken on a different shape.
Dean watched its black claws distend as it reared up into a leap.
The only downside was that he found Navajo a lot more difficult to pronounce than Latin.
Dean dragged the heavy body into the barn and dropped it with a sigh.
He frowned. A Skin Walker following them all the way out here? The hunt bothered him. Not the mechanics of it, or the final vicious end to it, or even having the thing morph back into the man it had been before its final death throes. None of that was anything to lose sleep over.
He crouched down next to the naked body, bare but for the wolf pelt it wore to mark the animal it had chosen to become. There was something sloppy about the way his keepers went about things. As tight and structured as they were, there was something missing in their methods that set them up for something as weird as this to go down. Torching a burial cave was pretty extreme. In fact, Dean was a little surprised that this monster wasn’t the only thing that came out of the woodwork that wanted their blood. There were just certain things you didn’t mess with no matter what it was that you wanted dead. It was as if they contained no respect for anything about the hunt. Everything outside of the scope of their goals seemed to hold no meaning whatsoever.
Dean had told them to stay out of sight. Their presence and scents would only distract the thing from what and where he wanted it to go. Besides Edwards, Dean was all alone out here. And Edwards, it was safe to say, wasn’t coming out until the coast was clear. That guy, Dean reckoned, was only really good at one thing and that was being told what to do.
Leaving the steaming body behind, Dean ducked back further into the barn and made his way down the wall. While he had the time, he might as well use it.
If Yueller wouldn’t cut him any, he’d make his own visiting hours.
Moving as quietly as he could he checked for cameras but didn’t find any.
That didn’t mean they weren’t there, but if they had gone through as much trouble for his brother as they had for him, Dean was fairly certain a camera would be in a more or less obvious area.
The lack of surveillance made him a little nervous.
Not for himself but for his brother. They were treating him like some kind of after thought. Some kind of liability that required occasional maintenance and little else. If they thought Sam was expendable, Dean would let them know just how completely wrong they were. Keeping his flashlight off, he finished his check for small red lights and slowly approached the holding pen. The last time he’d seen Sam, he was lying on his side in the dark, and about all Dean knew was that he was still breathing. As he came closer he saw that he wasn't slumped over on his side anymore but sitting up on his knees against the front panel of the metal bars. They had blind folded and gagged him, but his wrists had been tied haphazardly with oily thin rope and lashed to the bars at a level that forced him to kneel.
It was torture, plain and simple. You didn't need spikes or branding irons. Being forced into one position for long periods, what it did to your muscle and bone, your blood ceasing to flow, the barest movement of your dead limbs turned agonizing, was enough. Holding his breath, his footfall was heavy as he made his way through the old soggy hay-strewn floor.
Sam turned his head sharply in his direction, his hands suddenly pulling and jerking from where they were.
Having come closer, Dean realized that Sam hadn’t been tied to the cage at all, but had somehow gotten himself entangled with the mass of rope in the cage’s rusty bars. He had been stuck like that because no one was coming by and checking in on him. Dean wondered if they even bothered to look in on him once a day.
“Hey, hey, it’s me.”
Sam froze, his chest heaving as he strained to listen.
“It’s me, it’s okay.”
Unable to talk, Sam made a weak hopeful sound, pulling at his hands.
Dean took a good look at him. Sam didn’t look so hot. They weren’t paying the kind of attention to him as they were doing to Dean. He saw no evidence of food or water and his body was slumped forward against his arms as if he had been like that for a very long time. From a distance, it had almost looked like he was praying.
Dean eased the tip of his knife into the heart of the tangled knot and slowly twisted it until it began to loosen. The rope came free from the bars but remained attached to Sam’s wrists. Sam fell backwards awkwardly, his legs numb and useless under him. His hands went up immediately to his mouth pulling at the gag. When it wouldn’t come free he clawed at the blindfold, the ropes around his hands wrapped tightly around his waist, anchoring his hands and not permitting him much mobility.
“Wait, wait...” Dean reached through the bars, the small spaces scraping his skin with their rusty edges. He pulled Sam closer by the shoulder and eased up the tightly bound cloth that had been wound across his eyes. It took several minutes but he managed to get it off.
Sam shook his head, blinking frantically around him.
“Soon Sammy. Soon okay?” Dean whispered so low he could barely hear himself. If they found Dean here they would end his brother’s life just like that and the game really would be over.
For him too.
Sam looked dimly at Dean, his relief slow to come to his face. But his face didn’t look too bad, there were some bruises but those were fading and there was some dried blood on the front of his shirt but who knew whose that was. But there was a weakness there. They hadn’t been feeding him or giving him water on a regular basis.
“Are you hurt?” Dean could hear his father speaking. “Anything broken?”
Sam shook his head.
“Look, I'm sorry but I have to put this back on.” Dean said through gritted teeth, indicating the blindfold. “They can't know I was here.”
They couldn't know he was running around breaking the rules. Rule breaking could only mean one thing in this place. And now that he knew his brother was here he had a feeling it meant that they’d take that heat off of Dean. And all that left was Sam.
“Do you get me?”
Sam slowly nodded.
“I’ll get you out of here okay?”
Dean tugged the blindfold down and tried to ignore his brother's contained panic when it slipped back down tight over his eyes.
“Just hang in there.”
Dean let himself into the house half expecting all three men to be standing there in wait for him. But the foyer was empty.
When he reached the den he found two of them seated on the old furniture. Yueller looked up at him when he entered, Keens didn’t look up from his book and Edwards was missing. Probably still out in those woods waiting for the A-OK. He tossed down the bloody pelt that he’d taken off the Walker. A source and mark of its power.
"It’s in the tool shed.” Dean said blankly. He didn’t add that the tool shed seemed to have been stripped of any and all tools. “Maybe you can stuff it and hang it up here on the wall—“
Yueller held up a hand. “I really wasn’t sure what to expect tonight Dean, but you really came through.”
The man looked genuinely pleased.
Dean shifted in place, the smell of the Walker strong on his hands and clothes, the cedar ash itchy on his skin as it had mixed with his sweat. He wanted to take one of those lukewarm showers and change his clothes. Yueller stood up and crossed to stand before him.
“I think a few privileges are finally in order here. Dean, you now have free access to the ranch."
Dean’s thoughts flashed to the small dark room he had been locked into every night.
“You can go as you please,” Yueller told him. “Within limits of course.”
He already knew why his own prison cell just got a lot bigger.
“In fact, if you were really determined, I’m sure you could get that car of yours started and be out of sight before we could even catch up with you.”
Dean sat down heavily into a chair. He stared down at the splintered wood floor, noticing for the first time that the grains were all mismatched. The entire house seemed to be made up from scraps, different types of wood in varied lengths and sizes.
“But whatever you do, just remember where your brother is.” Yueller looked at him evenly. “Because now when you do something wrong, it won’t be you that gets the warning, it’s gonna be Sam.”
Dean looked up at him.
“And if you leave this place I can promise you,” Yueller added. “He’ll be staying for a real long time right here with us.”
“Careful.” Yueller sat back and reopened his book. “You want your brother to get his rations tonight don’t ya?”
Dean bit back his words and carefully stood, moving slowly because he couldn’t count on himself not doing something really stupid if he didn’t think very hard about each and every step back towards the front door.
“Be back in an hour.” Yueller said offhandedly. “I’d like you to eat with us now.”
Dean had paused with his hand on the latch.
They weren’t joking when they said they had granted him full access to the ranch.
When he had walked out the door he was free to go anywhere he wanted. No one followed him. No one appeared with a loaded weapon. No metal heavy and tight around his wrists. Nothing hindering him in any way. The freedom to roam almost made him light headed. Any building, anything at all. After the endless hours in the restraints and the infinity of the nights in the pitch black of that god damn room, the empty derelict ranch was like freaking Disney World.
But he had one location on his mind that had to be addressed first.
After a search of every building he hadn’t explored during his search for the Walker, he finally located a barn tucked back beyond the silos. With difficulty, he pushed the large metal sliding doors open far enough for him to slip inside.
The car didn’t appear damaged in anyway.
“Hey baby." Dean whispered. She was after all, only the third most important constant in his life.
He opened her up and searched the front seat and flipped down the visors for her keys. He didn’t need them but he wanted to know just exactly how far his leash reached. Apparently not that far. The glove compartment was empty of all his belongings. With a frown, he moved back to the trunk, picking it open with a piece he kept hidden in her upholstery that his keepers had missed. Flipping the faux bottom up he felt himself go cold and sick at the same time. The entire trunk was cleared out.
There was nothing left, not even a vial of holy water.
Slamming the trunk shut he pulled down the back plate. Borrowing the dip stick from a nearby junked tractor, he checked the gas. To his surprise, she wasn’t empty. It wasn’t much was it was enough to get them the hell out of here at a good number of miles per hour.
He checked his watch. Ten more minutes and he’d be late for his dinner date.
Unwilling to test their patience on his very first night of liberation, Dean decided to be early.
By comparison, dinner hour among the three was a pretty friendly affair.
He stared down at the slab of meat on his plate, bleeding pink tinged grease into a pool under the burnt foil of his baked potato. A pat of butter melted slowly on a pile of mushy green peas. Dean swallowed back his urge to vomit. It was the first real food that had been put in front of him without the threat of the tube and he found himself unable to even pick up his fork without his stomach lurching.
They all talked around him. Edwards was praising Dean’s work with the Walker. Yueller laughed at the amount of time Edwards had wasted waiting in the woods. Keens listened and interjected every now and then about the consistencies the creature had with other’s he’d read about. Dean noted that. Read about but not actually seen. Once again, he wondered how much hunting these hunters had actually ever done. What had driven them here in the first place.
When Edwards jostled him with a joke about old Johnson missing the show, he almost couldn’t keep himself in check.
He couldn’t slam his fist down and wait for the hammer when it fell down to crush his insolence. They had turned the game all right around. They had turned it around and flipped it inside out. All the rules had changed. So Dean had to change too. What he almost couldn’t bear was that Yueller was enjoying every moment of it. Watching him sit perfectly still like a good boy at the table, using a fork and knife and a napkin across his lap.
Dean waited until he was addressed so he could speak.
"Not hungry Dean?” Yueller finally asked. "Hunt like that makes a man nigh on ravenous." He speared a dripping piece of his steak.
“If I didn’t know better I’d say your itchin to ask me something,” Yueller tossed his napkin on his near empty plate and leaned back. “What's on your mind Dean?”
“Yes, sir.” Dean swallowed and tightened the grip he had on his knees under the table. “The rations, can I give them to him?”
“Oh,” Yueller picked at what was left of an empty potato skin. “That.”
The table grew quiet.
“Don’t see why not?”
Keens sat forward. “Now Jack, I don’t think that’s a real good idea—“
“Edwards will go with you,” Yueller continued. “Show you what has to be done.”
Dean immediately stood up.
“In a hurry are ya? Well okay, you heard the man. Get going Lieutenant.”
Edwards regretfully left his steak and potato, but got right up and went to the corner to shoulder his rifle. Dean was already out the front door when he heard Edwards hurrying to catch up to his side. Rules were rules and there wasn’t a single game out there that Dean couldn’t play.
The barn was quiet.
If you didn’t know that there was a man trapped and silenced somewhere inside its hollow confines, you would have never guessed. When they reached the enclosure, Sam didn’t move or acknowledge them at all. Dean wondered if he’d fallen into some kind of sleep from food deprivation. He knew what it felt like not to have eaten all day long, he couldn’t predict the agony of days.
"Well, betcha he's hungry at least," Edwards commented mildly. He kicked the metal side of the pen next to Sam's head. "Look alive, sport. It's feedin time!"
Dean swallowed and tried to restrain his anger. Edwards looked up and smiled at him. "Sorry? I know how you feel about your kin."
If Dean saw a tube he was going to choke Edwards with it until the thing snapped into two pieces. Instead, Edwards pulled out a capped bottle of water from his back pocket.
“What?” Dean said. “All he gets is water?”
“An average human being can live on nothing but water for eight to ten weeks.” The solider told him like he was reciting something out of a field text book.
“Yeah, but it’s one hell of a down hill trip.” Dean muttered.
“But hey, the Captain said you could give him this." Edwards tossed a packet of powdered supplement on the ground.
Dean scowled as he picked it up.
“You have to bring him to the bathroom too,” Edwards told him. “Over there.”
Over there was one of those rusty horse troughs filled with rain water.
“Fine, whatever, just open it. Sir.”
Dean stood anxiously with the bottle as Edwards wrestled his key into the large lock they had installed onto the holding pen’s side door. He pretended not to watch Edwards carefully. Where he removed the key, how he used it, and where it was replaced.
When the door creaked open, Edwards stood back and cocked his weapon.
“No funny stuff. Just feed 'im and git.”
Dean was already inside, his knees hitting the floor that was just more metal bars barely covered by the rotting hay. Sam was lying still on his back. He turned his head slightly towards Dean when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Hey Sam, hey it's me.”
Dean gently pushed Sam’s head to the side to see how to get the gag off. It was knotted so severely, he didn’t understand how they had been taking it off all week to give him any relief, let alone rations. With difficulty, he finally loosened it, pulling it out from Sam’s mouth and letting it fall around his neck. His brother gulped in air, his mouth bruised from the block of rubber that had been wedged firmly between his teeth.
Dean made to take off the blindfold.
“No.” Edwards spoke up sharply. “Leave it.”
Sam coughed on the water when it came too fast, moaning when his stomach cramped on it. Dean paused, giving him a moment to adjust before he tried again. The water sputtered out of his brother’s mouth before he could swallow, chest hitching in what Dean knew was fear. Sam's muscles were trembling from exhaustion, the cold rattling his teeth.
“Sam?” Dean squeezed his shoulders, trying to get a reaction. "Talk to me."
Dean watched his brother’s throat work but no words came.
“When was the last time you gave him water, sir?” Dean asked, his gaze trained down hard at the floor.
“Not sure,” Edwards said absently, his attention on the scope of his rifle and the men within it. “Couple days ago.”
“Come on Sam,” Dean reached under his arms to sit him up. “We’re gonna take a little walk.”
“Ca-can’t...” Sam breathed.
“Sure you can, you just need to just--” Dean grunted trying to lift and support his brother’s weight at the same time. “...j-just have to—hafta get the circulation going again.”
Edwards watched them, waiting for them to make the short trip to the bathroom they had arranged.
Dean had Sam out of the cage and into the barn when he whispered tensely into his brother’s ear. “Sorry Sammy.”
With a shout, he shoved Sam as hard as he was physically capable in Edwards direction. Edwards automatically raised his rifle up, and tried to back away but it was too late. All of Sam’s dead weight came tumbling down on him.
Dean rushed forward and wrenched the weapon out of his hands, sending down a well placed sharp strike with the butt end of the rifle to his jaw. Ignoring Edwards’s protests and Sam’s confused groans, Dean fished the inside of the Lieutenant’s jacket for that key. Rolling Sam to the side, he linked his arms under Edwards and dragged him as fast as he could to the waiting open cage. He slammed it closed and shoved the key into the lock.
The first real smile he felt in a long time spread across his face.
Sam had rolled over and managed to get to his knees. He was frantically turning his head in every direction, blinded to what had just happened.
“It’s ok Sam,” Dean panted. “It’s ok, we just gotta get out of here..."
The words sounded familiar. A year old, from his brother’s own lips as they rushed from the back of a shattered shop. The same man that lay dazed behind them in a cage had been once again the obstacle. Dean used the knife he’d slipped off the Lieutenant to make a short clean slice up the black fabric that covered his brother’s eyes. He used the same sharp tip to slide through the coiled white rope, freeing Sam’s hands.
“Can you walk?” Dean asked, helping him up to an unsteady stand.
“I--I’ll fucking walk out of here,” Sam’s hoarse voice was barely his own. “W-Which way?”
Dean slipped the rifle up over one shoulder, and his brother's arm over the other. He guided Sam towards the way out, all of his senses on overdrive in case Yueller or Keens started to figure out that maybe Edwards might be taking a little too long.
“So how was it?” Dean attempted conversationally as they made their way through the dark.
“H-How was what?” Sam hissed as he forced his legs to move.