Sequel to Removed
Author: Mink & Jink
Rating: R - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
If Dean had learned anything in his twenty seven years it was that life boiled down two things; failure and getting over it.
He knew the mechanics of yielding. When to play along. When to follow. When to put the shield down. Giving up, Dean knew, was rarely final. It was more a matter of balancing the odds. While he still breathed, he could wait and see. He'd done it before. Waited out humility, fear and anything else that could be thrown at him.
He could even grin before he cracked.
Days passed and he got accustomed to their routine. He was good at routine. By the second day he knew he wasn’t being drugged as heavily as he had been. All he felt was tired and sluggish. Like he was forever out of just enough sleep. By the third day he timed that the bare bulb of his room came on every morning at exactly 4:30AM.
It was always Edwards that came to the door now. He had asked about Johnson but had gotten a split lip and a small speech about questions. Dean surmised that they’d either put the old guy somewhere else on his big farm or they had ended him so they wouldn’t have to hear him complain about their presence anymore. Sitting in the dark, he watched his digital watch cycle slowly to the magical number that would start his day. He wondered what would have happened to the old rancher if Dean had just stayed away. If he had followed his better instincts when he had had the chance. As almost a joke, they hadn’t touched his phone. After his first vigorous pat down, the thing was given right back to him like some charming keepsake they were kind enough to hand back unharmed.
It had been a full week and he still hadn’t taken one bite of their food. Hadn’t taken one sip of their water.
Eventually, they felt the need to express concern. The Captain folded his hands on the round table in the study one evening and spoke to him in a voice that Dean knew better than to trust.
"Edwards here told me you're having a problem with the food and water."
Dean said nothing.
"You may speak."
"A tube down your throat ain't exactly part of a balanced breakfast, sir."
The Captain's smile was brief. He even caught Edwards' smirk from behind him.
"That right? Look son, you been out on your own too long. Never had to compromise or take what was given."
"If I may, sir?" Trying to keep the heat out of his voice, Dean swallowed though it hurt like hell. "I think I know a thing or two about compromise."
Dean waited for the back of Keen's hand to connect with his head but it never came. Even his old man would have cuffed him one for that dripping piece of sarcasm but their focus seemed somewhere other than his smart lip. The Captain sat back in his chair and lit a cigarette.
"I am a doctor, Dean. Medical Corp. I've trained the best. I've seen POW's die, force-fed or no. I've treated men who fail to comply with assigned nutrition regimens. We give you water and we expect you to drink it. We give you food and we expect you to eat. That is part of your training."
He stood up, blowing smoke in Dean's face.
"From now on, Edwards will measure and weigh you once a day until you have reached what we ascertain an acceptable range. He will also administer a vitamin supplement via injection."
The Lieutenant saluted. "Keep your coat nice and shiny." He patted Dean on the head again.
"You gotta be yankin' my chain." Dean muttered, flinching at Edwards' touch.
"You best start believing, son." Yueller said.
Dean glared at him, beginning to breathe faster. A hand came down on the hard surface of the desk, the Captain leaning forward, inches from his face.
"This is real and this is now and we are definitely not kidding."
Dean stared at the tray as it was brought in.
The agreement to just eat the shit so Edwards would leave him alone was close. It was right there on his lips but it just wouldn’t come. On the sixth night, his stomach had hurt so badly all he could do was lay awake and brace himself. Grit his teeth and suffer it as he would any wound. Focus. Breathe.
The hunger he'd known in childhood. The gnawing belly of living on the road, hours on nothing but a handful of peanuts. That was nothing like this. His brother would have just eaten their food without a word. He would have avoided all the rest of it and swallowed his protestations just so he could have control over that one small part of the entire thing. But for Dean, this went way beyond pride and a slice of control. This was about power.
He looked up as the light flickered on. Right on time.
Dean stood up as the locks on the door started to click open. He had rebelled against the injection at first, believing it to be more drugs but he stopped when he felt no change. No warm rush in his head after, no dizziness or numbness.
"Morning, Dean." Edwards said pleasantly as Dean rolled up his sleeve and extended his arm.
He was silent when the swipe of the cold alcohol brushed his inner arm, unflinching when the needle entered his skin. His eyes never left the Lieutenant's face.
"There ya go." Edwards slapped a band-aid over the puncture. "Alright now." He cocked his weapon. "We gonna have a scene today?"
Dean kicked off his boots and without even prodding, stepped onto the scale Edwards set down before him. The Lieutenant nodded, scribbling in his memo.
"Okay." He was unraveling a length of measuring cord. "You know the drill."
Reluctant, Dean tore off his shirt. He could bear the man's fingers on him. Could bear this humiliation. His mind was turned off, tuned in elsewhere.
His brother might not have even started to wonder about him by now. The unanswered calls were easily cast off as his being out in some unreachable wilderness. Some no man’s land that Dean had made it quite clear he wouldn't mind getting lost in. However, Dean wasn’t counting on Sam.
He was counting on himself and what he knew about men that hunt.
There was an air of even more seriousness about the three this morning that wasn’t usually there. Edwards hadn’t even offered him his ‘choice’ for consuming his breakfast and was particularly unforgiving while shoving him into his four-point restraints. It was as if he was in a hurry. Or late for something.
Yueller didn't even wait for him to be seated before he spoke.
“We know it’s only been a week and a half, but we are all very anxious to see you perform in the field.”
Dean nodded without understanding. He started to talk but felt himself stop. Angry at his own compliance he said it anyway, punishment or no punishment at all.
Strangely enough the reprimand didn’t come.
“We... we have a problem.” Yueller explained for the three of them. “Our problems are now your problems Dean.”
Edwards was standing by the door like a good soldier and Keens as ever, was saying nothing. Not because he had some orders not to either. Dean had long since discerned that the guy wasn't a man of many words. The silent hunter sat smoking quietly from a table and watched Dean carefully.
When the uncomfortable lull continued, Dean shrugged and made himself more comfortable in his folding chair.
“How do you figure that?”
“Because something has tracked us to this ranch and it don’t care who the hell is in here with us.”
“Wait, wait wait,” Dean said shaking his head.
Big old strong Captain Yueller suddenly sounded a lot like the people he traveled around the country trying to help. He sounded for the first time uncertain with what he was dealing with.
“Describe this thing to me, what are we talkin' here? Spirit? Pissed off spirit? Corporeal reanim- eh, you know, zombies?”
“We haven’t yet identified it.” Yueller took a seat of his own. “Started after us after we torched the inside of a burial cave out in Anasazi country. Now just can’t seem to shake it. It killed some horses back in Arizona and then some—“
“Killed? What, you mean like mutilations?” Dean’s thoughts turned back to his first night with Johnson. The story he later figured was just some bullshit to make his case look solid. Had he been telling the truth?
“Yes, certain organs removed, teeth extracted, but this isn’t your usual chupacabra chicken and goat bullshite. This thing does people too.”
“Huh.” Dean gave out a low whistle. It hurt his throat but he did it anyway. “You guys went and pissed off something pretty powerful. Out in those Indian caves too did ya?”
“Do you know what it is?” The man demanded in a low voice.
“No idea.” Dean answered.
“No idea, sir.”
Well. He had a few ideas. And in all reality it sounded just like the Yenaldooshi. A fairly angry and persistent one, but a Skin Walker nonetheless. His guess was that cave they burned was real important to some native out there practicing ánt’įįhnii which was basically just witchcraft with a different name. And all you had to know about witchcraft was that it had a yin and yang no matter what its source. But a guy had to go pretty black to turn into a Skin Walker. That kind of power demanded human sacrifice, usually of a family member, and a lot of skill. He’d killed one before when he had been about seventeen with his father out in the canyons of western Utah. Hadn’t been easy or pretty but it had been possible.
Still, these assumptions were simply speculation. He really had to take a look around and do a little research first. What he didn’t get was just why these guys were so shaken up about it. Maybe this was the thing that had reduced the four down to the three.
Edwards shifted uncomfortably at his station by the door.
"Look,” Dean reasoned, taking note that none of this speak at will talk was getting him into any trouble for a change. “Let me outta these things. Let me take a walk. See if I can find some tracks, see if maybe it’s nesting nearby—“
“If I let you out of here all I’m ever going to see of you again is the next time you show up in the news.”
That was exactly was what was going to happen but Dean didn’t exactly want to broadcast that just yet.
“If you don’t let me out of here and give me a chance, this thing is going to worm its way around this ranch until it finds you.”
His thoughts suddenly went back to Johnson.
“W-Where is the old guy? Where’d you put ‘em?”
"He’s out back in a shed." Yueller said in a strange plain tone of voice. "Got plumbing and everything.”
Dean felt his teeth clench. The old guy was dead. Probably just last night too. That was why they were so worried and that was why using the new dog turned into such a sudden high priority. They wanted to know just how sharp his teeth were.
He held his hands up, rattling the chains hard. “Let me out of here, and I’ll do what I can.”
Yueller shared a look with Mr. Keens before he turned back to Dean.
“There’s something I want to show you first.” He said grimly. “I think it will help you with your work out here.”
Dean thought of heaps of massacred bovines. Strange symbols traced in blood two stories high on barn walls. Crops burned and twisted into odd shapes and patterns. He’d seen and done it all but whatever Yueller thought was so fascinating he’d go right along with it. Whatever it took to get outside and out of these goddamn shackles, Dean would do just about anything the man asked. Because in a few hours, Dean was going to be on his way to the highway and he’d never have to see these bastards again unless it was down the loaded end of a rifle.
In fact, when Dean finally had some spare time on his side again, that’s exactly what he’d be doing. And this time there’d be no one around telling him not to pull the trigger.
The fresh night air hit his face like cool clean water.
He hadn’t realized how the dusty house filled with stuffed animal hides had permeated his clothes, his hair, probably even his skin. He took a few deep breaths, noting the position of the moon in the sky and the scarce wisps of frail fish-bone like clouds that drifted far up overhead.
Dean had to stop moving to listen carefully. The chains covered up all other noise. The farm seemed quiet. A little too quiet for a place that was supposed to be filled with animals, no matter how many were scattered on the miles of grazing land around them. Horses. Barn cats. All the creatures large and small that liked to live off the remainders of others. Mice for the horse feed. Owls for the mice. Foxes for the chickens. Snakes for the eggs.
But he didn’t hear a thing.
“That can’t be good.”
“Been like this since last night.” Edwards whispered before he urged him forward with his rifle once again.
“Any around the shed Johnson was in?” Dean didn’t feel like beating around the already dead bush so to speak.
“You shush up now.” Edwards warned.
Dean walked awkwardly in his binds, heading towards one of the larger barns that sat in the immediate area. There were no lights on. The floods attached high up on the buildings walls were dark. He quickly remembered the last barn he had been in with Edwards and felt his step falter.
Maybe he didn’t want to see what Yueller was so intent on showing him.
The Captain was out there with them, walking ahead with Keens. Both of them just shadows amongst more shadows. They were both armed and walking as quietly as the place seemed to demand. Not that it wasn’t fairly easy to with all this mud. Dean studied it as they made their way. Edwards’ tracks were a snap to spot, Yueller’s and Keen’s were also not so bad even though they wore the same boot, they wore different sizes. But besides theirs Dean didn’t see anything besides the sloppy oblong impressions of rubber boots that he saw Johnson store in his foyer for whenever it was that he ventured outside onto his property.
Whatever it was that was lurking around this ranch, it was doing it very carefully. Or selectively. Johnson had mentioned the cattle but now that it had turned its attention to the human beings that now walked the wide empty spaces, it seemed to know that some of them could do it some harm. It seemed to realize that men with guns were to be taken down in a different way entirely.
It all supported his Skin Walker theory as the Walkers were in all actuality, just men. Men who had twisted themselves into the guise of an animal to rend flesh and bone at their will, but men just the same. If Yueller got anxious enough to take these goddamn binds off, Dean had a real chance. He’d probably have to leave the car behind, but he could easily out maneuver these guys by going the opposite direction of the access road and just traveling east until he hit that other state two laner he remembered on his map. It might take him more than a day or so, but he could do it, he could make it—
“In here.” Yueller had stopped in front of the barn, swinging one of the large doors open for them to enter.
Dean peered into its dark interior and didn’t move forward when prompted to by the firearm nudging between his shoulder blades.
“Go on.” Yueller said. “Best tracks we have came in through this way.”
With a short sigh, Dean stepped into the barn, the ground up scent of earth and manure, fertilizer and compost. The air was filled to the brim with the wet decay of hay and the stale used leather of bridle and harness left to rot. He was stepping carefully on wooden planks now, looking down in the meager flash light Edwards was providing, he could see traces of something’s passage. On two feet but not moving like any man. Walking around what he had found so he wouldn’t destroy any of it, he reached up and took the flashlight from Edwards before thinking he should have asked.
No one said anything so he just carried on.
The thing, whatever it was, had skirted the edges of the barn, keeping to the darkest corners. It had paused at an over flowing tin water trough filled with sheets of wavering green algae. He noted the still soaked wood from when and how the creature had taken its fill and sloshed the trough’s contents onto the weathered and porous floor. With the climate and the size of the marks, the thing had been here only a few hours earlier.
“Well,” Dean concluded as he flashed the light above them around the loft just incase he’d get lucky and catch its eye shine. “It seems you have a pest problem. Sirs.”
“I want you to kill it.” Yueller ordered.
“Sure.” Dean shrugged. “But are you guys really gonna tell me that you’ve never come across a Skin Walker before?”
He took their silence as a negative.
“Fine.” Dean declared. “I’ll need a shot gun, some cedar powder ash, let’s see, oh yeah, these goddamn cuffs off and—“
“Not yet.” Yueller said. “That’s not really what I brought you here to show you.”
The beam of their flashlights hovered on the floor in a sickly pools of weak light.
“Unless it’s an actual photograph of the thing, I don’t need it.” Dean explained. “I know what this is, I’ve seen them before—“
“Just follow me.”
This barn had been used for horses at one time and not too long ago.
The scent of them lingered. The heady smell of their coats and stalls. The sharp clean scent of their feed and the crisp cold troughs filled with fresh water. The troughs were nothing but rust now, but the farm’s former life was still evident in the remains of its busy past.
They traveled down past the empty stalls and out onto the other side where the horses had probably been left to wander unhindered under the barn’s roof. It was a large empty space, the soft dirt floor covered in moldy straws of hay, the opposite barn doors shut tight, making the vast space seem too quiet and closed in. Keens flicked his light on finally and swept it around until it hit the corner.
Dean blinked at it.
It looked like some kind of holding pen. The kind you set up for a particularly wily horse for transport, or to isolate a problem animal away from the others. It looked as old and run down as the rest of the place. Dean walked towards it, his own weaker flashlight picking up its length and width, barely enough room for an average sized horse or any kind of livestock, but these things weren’t built to keep anything in them for very long.
It was right about then that he saw the body inside of it.
Why would they do this, take him here to show the old Johson's remains. Dean stumbled forward in his restraints, his gut twisting at what he expected to find when he got close up to the enclosure. Johnson mangled and dead, or mangled and maybe even hanging by a thread. But when his numb fingers finally gripped the rough rust of the flat metal bars, he finally realized what he was looking at.
Dean felt his heart stop.
“You son of a—“
Yueller cleared his throat.
“S-Sammy?” Dean breathed, hardly able to get the words out. “Sam!”
It was his brother’s body, lying in a fallen heap on the barn floor. He didn’t appear as if he’d laid down that way, but had been dropped, his arm twisted oddly at his side, his face turned away from the light.
Frantic, Dean searched the cage’s perimeter with his light for some kind of entry.
“It’s locked.” Yueller said unnecessarily. “Good thing too, I think your Skin Walker was interested in what we kept in here.”
Dean swung towards them. “Y-You said you’d leave him alone!”
“I believe I said that our interest in him is zero.”
Mr. Keens stepped up and using the heavy end of his metal flashlight, pounded on the cage bars loudly three times.
Sam didn’t move.
Dean looked around carefully for any sign of movement from the shadows. That Walker could be standing right in here with them and they’d have no idea. The only thing keeping it from tearing them limb from limb were the loaded weapons they carried. He looked back quickly to his brother and realized with a slow sick dread that he was wearing the clothes he’d last seen him in. When he got onto that bus for California. Dean felt the blood in his face drain and his skin go cold.
"How-How long has he--?”
“Arrived a day just after you.” It was Keens who spoke this time, his words drawn out and languid. “Sure was eager to find out what we done to his brother.”
Yueller laughed a little bit and shook his head. ”Real easy catch, too. Should never work with family Dean." He met Dean's eyes squarely. "Gives ya a weak spot."
Dean felt his heart beating too fast, his grip on the bars turning painful.
“Now,” Yueller continued. “About our pest problem, when you are out of those restraints I want you to remember where your brother is.”
Dean stared hard at his brother’s unmoving body.
“What’s wrong with him?” He heard himself say.
“I want to you remember that if you decide to go running off, or maybe even try to use one of those guns on one of us, that your brother is right here.” Yueller turned his flashlight onto the body in the cage. “Here with us.”
He knew he wouldn’t get far, but the feel of the palm of his hand going up and making nice and hard contact with Yueller’s jaw felt like about the best thing in the entire world. The sound of the man crashing down onto the floor felt like, well Dean imagined it must feel a lot like what those Olympic runners felt when they got to set the ceremonial torch to the giant flame. He was on top of him, his bound hands making a perfect chokehold, pushing down and crushing the softest and most vulnerable section of the throat. It was accomplishment laced with victory topped with sweet—
The butt of a rifle hit him square in the side of his head.
He only knew what it was because large blunt objects were usually the only things that made him see this particular shade of white that included bursting and spinning stars. It came one more time, square in the back, and then he felt a booted kick to the stomach. It took all his air away and left him gasping and unmoving down in the damp rotting hay.
Strangely, it put him almost directly next to and eye level with his brother. If the bars weren’t between them, he could have reached over and shook him.
“Sa-Sammy—“ Dean choked out.
Sam’s body shifted.
Dean let out a wheezing breath and closed his eyes. "Aw, thank Jesus."
“I know--- I know it’s only been just over a week Dean.” Captain Yueller was back on his feet, his hand pressed up under his jaw, his voice now suddenly a little raw. “But I must be frank and say I am extremely disappointed in you.”
Dean rolled onto his side, watching Sam breathe slowly in and out.
“And if our exercises aren’t working, than maybe we—we have been going about this the wrong way.”
“You leave him alone.” Dean growled up into the dark and stutter of flashlights up and all around him.
Yueller crouched down.
“Now what if...” The Captain began slowly,”...what if that was all up to his older brother?”
The lock between his wrists clicked, the pressure encircling his hands was suddenly gone.
Dean held them up, making fists until the blood began to flow like normal, taking the numbness away and replacing it with tingling pain, pin pricks and buzzing static of the return of his circulation.
Sam was alive.
And so help him Dean was going to keep him that way.