sequel to: With a Bang and The Aftershocks and Not a Whimper
Rating: SPN/DA Crossover - PG - Gen – AU in the year 2020
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & DA characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Alec POV. Tiny mini-series inside the ripples. The Winchesters go on a camping hunt and Alec is forced to
Loaded down with a duffel and shotguns, Alec was checking for anything he’d missed when he saw Sam coming back his way across the dirt road.
“What are you doing?” Alec held up his hands. “Not a good idea, Sam! I think we should wait until-”
“Until what?” Sam asked. “The water helped and we have to keep going. Bring all that stuff over to the pump. We‘ve got five minutes to do some research.”
Studying Sam’s eyes, Alec wondered if the bio-warfare immunities that Manticore bragged about installing into their X5s were actually ever conceived in any laboratory. Monitoring his father’s normalizing respiration made him consider that perhaps a transgenic’s resistance to chemicals might be something completely natural. Well, as close to natural that simple demon genetics could be.
“I got the journal,” Alec said. “I can read the whole thing real quick if you can help me out with some of the handwriting.”
From the look on his father’s face, he could tell that Sam wasn’t interested in wasting any time now that Dean was officially missing.
“Look towards the back,” Sam fell into a kneel under the water pump and let the stream soak him to the waist. “It’s where most of the flora is listed.”
“I already found it. It says in here that these things aren’t even flowers,” Alec flipped a page. “Says it’s a fungus.”
“Are you sure you got the right plant?”
“Yeah, your dad colored in the sketches, see?” Alec held up the leather bound journal. “It’s the exact same shade of blue and everything. Look, he even put in a cross section of the root system. Was he an artist or something?”
“What? No. So… so how’s it work?“
“Skin contact,” Alec had already figured that one out on his own. Sam for example had been doing fine until he started picking the fungus flowers up and rubbing the damn things all over his face. “It introduces narcotic alkaloids into the bloodstream. You know, like morphine, or opium or heroin.”
“What does it want?”
“Huh?“ Alec was distracted by another picture his grandfather had rendered of a Venus Flytrap. Taking up half a page, it had been carefully labeled with dimensions which would have made it as tall and wide as a bulldozer. “W-What does who want?”
“It’s a fungus,” Alec shrugged. “So I guess it wants dark places and water? These notes don’t say anything else besides that it shows up around here about once a decade and it doesn’t last long. They die out almost as fast as they sprout.”
“So this is just a natural phenomena?” Sam shook wet hair from his eyes and regarded the blooms under the pump warily. “Its intentions are that is has no intentions?”
“I guess,“ Alec snapped the journal closed. “Pretty weird though. If all it does is get you high then why aren’t there a bunch of happy campers laying around being high? It’s like they all put down what they were doing and just… ”
“Walked into the woods,” Sam stood up. “We’ve got to follow that trail, Alec.”
“We’re both going.”
Sam swayed a couple of times before he looked like he was ready to walk in a straight line, and Alec knew his dad wasn’t going to admit it but the man was having some trouble with his eyesight too. Thinking fast, Alec decided to try to get his own way by poising his demand in the guise of a reasonable idea. He’d witnessed Logan perform the trick on Max plenty of times and it worked like an honest to God magic charm.
“Hey, Sam? I just thought of something,” Alec pretended to ponder the sky. “What if Dean comes back this way and none of us are around? He could be hurt. I think one of us should stay here with one of the radios. I’ll go and hit the trail on my own and we’ll keep in contact that way instead of-”
“No,” Sam said firmly. “Lead the way. We got to be fast but don‘t get too far ahead of me. You got it?”
With a sigh, Alec hefted a duffel onto one shoulder and the shotgun over the other. Sticking to the center of the trail, he tried not to look at the blue plants gathered along its edges. It was either his imagination or the things were reeking even worse than they had been before. The notes he’d just read did mention that the things had a fairly short lifespan. Maybe when they began to decay they started spewing the last of their putrid spores into the air. He cast a worried glance over at Sam to reassure himself that his father wasn’t about to succumb to any more groovy acid trips.
“The map says this ridge empties out by a river,” Sam looked pale but his eyes were the right color. “I think that’s the way we should go.”
Alec did what he was told and lead the way.
A shifting forest path of towering pines and granite boulders all started to look the same after a while. Alec’s innate sense of direction and the map brought them back onto the overgrown trail more than once. And when that failed, the blue fungus was a better compass to follow than any means they had on hand anyway.
The air got cooler but Alec’s clothes got damp with sweat.
After several hours had passed they arrived at the edge of the ridge, the way abruptly turning steep and slippery, thick with trees that hid the sight of the roaring river flowing somewhere below. But under the scent of the conifers and mud, Alec could detect another distinct scent hanging in the chilly humid air. He knew exactly where the smell was coming from long before Sam announced what was marked on the terrain map directly ahead.
The smell was dank, wet, clammy, and all the things a good little fungus liked the most.
It was a cave.
Alec studied the black slit that made the entrance to the hole in the ground. Half hidden by roots growing through the rock and flanked by more blue flowers, it would be easy to walk right by it and never notice it was there. The opening was so small that Alec knew he’d have to get on his hands and knees and push his gear ahead just to squeeze in. And there was no telling how far back it went or how deep it got either.
“There’s a network of caverns that go up and down the river for a few miles,” Sam folded the map closed. “The larger caves are further south, but these-”
“Aren’t comfortable enough for the tourists?”
“Suppose not,” Sam kicked at the churned soil under their boots. “Lots of tracks around here.”
“Looks like a lot of people have gone in there,” Alec gnawed at the inside of his mouth. “Must be a lot bigger on the inside than it looks, huh?”
Sam tested a flashlight before tossing it to Alec. Pulling out one for himself, Sam leaned down to shine the beam into the cave. A gush of frigid air breathed into their faces as the stark light revealed the narrow passage. Alec could see that it got wider a few yards in but not much else besides that. Unzipping his bag, he got prepared to leave behind what he didn’t need and keep what he did. He was about to bring up the usefulness of the shotguns when he caught a flash of something just a few feet into the trees on the forest floor.
Realizing what it was, he dropped his bag to the ground.
“Alec?” Sam was right behind him, cautious and alert. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Kneeling down slowly, Alec crawled forward to brush away the dirt and leaves that were covering the glint of metal. It was the mother of pearl handled pistol that his uncle carried with him everywhere. Picking up the weapon, Alec felt a rush of the fear that he‘d been trying real hard to keep under control ever since they found the abandoned Chevy.
“I guess he came this way,” Alec glanced back at the cave. “A-At least we know we’re on the right track, right?” The grip on the gun tightened until his hand started to shake.
“Alec, it’ll be okay. We’re gonna find him.”
“We should have never split up.”
“No, it’s not.”
An automatic and urgent need to get up and properly stand at attention like he’d been trained overwhelmed him. Kneeling in the dirt while his father waited for an answer suddenly felt like every time he had ever had to face a superior and explain how he’d failed. The sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach went into a sickening freefall as he also realized his brain and body still expected a punishment for such failure. But instead of physical torture, or the dark and silent agony of confinement, Alec was sure his father’s regret for ever having trust in him would be far worse.
“It’s not okay, Sam. It’s just not.”
“I don’t understand.”
Alec squeezed his eyes shut, the soft questioning touch on his shoulder making his jaw clench and teeth grind. This situation was completely due to Alec’s idiotic oversight. Every time he’d ever hunted alone with Dean he always made sure to keep his uncle in his line of sight. He made sure the odds were in their favor no matter how odd their odds tended to be. The misery at failing his family in this ridiculously simple task of protection shot through him, queasy and horrible like the endless injections the medics administered to the disobedient in the locked wards of PSY-OPS.
“Alec?” Sam’s voice mirrored Alec's distress. “Please?”
“Dean’s a normal person,” Alec said quietly. “And normal people aren’t like us. They’re weak. It‘s my duty to make sure… my unit depends on my ability to…”
Sam's silence encouraged him to continue.
“So I-I shouldn’t have let Dean go without me,” he said. “I should have gone with him and made sure that everything was all right.”
Kneeling behind him, Sam pushed his fingers through Alec’s hair and gently tugged at it. “If I had a dime for every time I said that about my brother,” he breathed a laugh. “I uh, I’d have a lot of dimes.”
“You don’t get it.”
“I think I do,” Sam said. “I think you know a lot about the weight of responsibility because you know how easy it is to abuse it.”
“Y-You aren’t mad at me?”
“Alec, you haven’t survived everything you have just because you can put your fist through a brick wall,” Sam said. “Or because you can run fast. Or never miss a bullseye. Or… or any of the things you can do. I want you to understand that.”
Anxiously searching Sam’s face for anger, Alec wanted badly to be able to tell his father that he did understand. But with a growing dread he knew he had absolutely no idea what Sam wanted him to see. And Alec knew whatever dumb look he must have had on his face conveyed his confusion as clearly as if he’d said it out loud. Allowing himself to be helped to his feet, Alec was still waiting for Sam’s dissatisfaction with him to surface along with whichever form of reprimand that would follow. But instead of retribution, Alec was surprised by the graze of a knuckle that ran down his cheek and nudged him in the jaw.
“I don’t expect you to understand that right now,” Sam told him with a small smile. “But you will. One day, I promise you will. Okay?”
Alec blinked hard and fast until he knew it would be okay to talk again without sounding funny. “But-But being perfect doesn’t hurt tho either, huh?” Alec tried smiling. “I mean, without my immunities you’d still be playing with flowers in a puddle of your own drool.”
“Yeah, yeah. Point taken.” Sam pushed him forward. “And you and your eagle eyes get to go into the cave first.”
“Because,” Sam decided fast to confess. “I can’t see very well.”
“I knew it.” Alec frowned. “How bad is it?”
“Anything past a couple feet is blurry.”
“It’s okay,” Sam said. “It’s gonna get real dark in there and I want you to use your head a lot more than your eyes, okay?”
Alec knew that didn’t mean his awesome IQ. And his head hadn’t been working really well out here with all the funky fungi interference, but it still worked when Alec pushed it. He proved his point by experimentally breaking into the thoughts of the only other person present. Sam gave him a sharp pained look as their collective mind was turned upside down and mixed like a blender short circuiting. But just as Alec was about to get a real bitch of a headache, Sam helped Alec extract himself and settle to the relative calm of a shared space that existed between them.
With some guilt, Alec realized he’d been avoiding his fathers thoughts all morning because he was afraid of what he‘d find.
But it was a breathless relief to not find a great black wash of disappointment he thought for sure would be there with his name all over it. In fact, there was nothing there like it. All Alec could feel was unease for what lay ahead. Apprehension for Dean. Worry for all the people who had crawled on their bellies into the maze of these caves.
Alec shone the flashlight in front of him as he moved carefully into the cramped space of the cavern. The images of the missing family with the small children stuttered through his concentration as Sam thought of them, and Alec quickly pushed them aside. He wasn’t going to get distracted now.
“This goes for about 6 yards then turns off to the left,” Alec cocked Dean’s gun. “Stay close.”
There was going to be no messing up this time, because if there was one thing to thank Manticore for, it was that those crazy freaks taught him how to live through most any combat scenario. He was going to do this one by their code. No error. No excuses. No mercy for an opponent that held none for you.
And most importantly, no more stupid rookie mistakes.
As soon as they crawled past the first bend the dark was subtly lit up with a soft blue glow. Shifting the flashlight upwards, Alec caught the first glimpse of a dripping vaulted ceiling covered top to bottom with the bloated bodies of the plants. And it looked like there was no end of them in sight. It was kind of pretty if you were the type that appreciated slimy caves filled with hallucinogenic mold.
“Try not to touch any,” Sam said from behind him. “If you can.”
“Yeah,” Alec sighed. “You too.”