Sequel to Removed
Author: Mink & Jink
Rating: R - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
A humming, so deep and powerful Dean felt it in his chest as it rose and thundered around them.
Shifting with difficulty onto his back, at first he could not tell its source, whether the strange steady vibrations came from the ground below him or fell down like rain from above. It was like standing directly under a bank of those immense 100 foot tall ground power towers, the keen whine and buzz of electricity palpable on the air itself. The atmosphere was swirling with chaos he could not see. The vacant black eyes of Noqoìlpi were fixed on his brother sitting pale across the fire.
Sam's smile had died when the conjured sun shrank back into its confine, the drawn elements of the game winking out one by one back to where the god had summoned them forth. The fire’s flames had stretched and tipped to a bright blue, sending ghastly shadows shuddering in every direction. Most gods are children in that they have a glutton for reward and do not abide failure.
They also did not need to play fair.
Dean did not know the language so he could not place the precise words but in his mind he knew the wind's fury and the potent glare of unnatural sunlight that cut the night sky like a knife seemed to say one thing:
In a violent flash of movement that startled them both, the cloaked god shot up from its seat on the floor and vanished, the soft deer skin garment falling in a heap on the ground. Not a sound was made. For what seemed like a long time, Dean wondered if Sam could hear his own ragged breathing too.
The wager was over. Sam had won. He waited for a searing holy light to engulf his eyes and liquefy him anyway. He waited for the sand to scratch and scrape his raw skin like a thousand relentless teeth. Nothing happened. Dean swallowed, fighting back the grit on his tongue.
Exhausted, he closed his eyes and slowly--very slowly--let himself smile.
"You did it, Sammy?" He breathed.
Sam was very quiet. He wasn't moving at all.
Dean turned his head towards the fire, blinking up at the stock still image of his brother. Sam's body had gone completely rigid, eyes fixed and staring. Dean rolled over weakly, pushing himself up onto his knees. Panic sent him stumbling closer, catching himself on the nearby rocks. His brother's throat was working, joints twitching spasmodically. His mouth was half open, small desperate noises coming from him as though he were trying to take in air.
"Aw, no." Dean whispered, genuinely terrified.
Someone else was calling the shots.
He tried shouting his brother's name again, seizing his shoulder frantically and smacking at his brother's face in the unnatural flicker of light. Sam’s skin was draining of all color, lips blanched and faintly bluish in the abnormal sheen of the faltering blaze. His hair was dark with sweat.
"No. No. No. You sonofabitch." The weak murmur in Dean's throat rose to a desperate growl as he watched his brother's limbs begin to shake convulsively. The possession was happening again. Though he hadn't witnessed it the first time, he knew.
The humming grew, expanded until it was a sounding boom thrumming through the dead air. It shook the ground around them, rattled the small rocks. An earthquake? A violent gasp and Sam's body went slack, slumping forward. Automatically Dean moved to bear his weight before he hit the ground.
"Woah, Sam, easy, I gotcha." Dean clung to his brother.
The limp body in his arms was panting but the terrible vibrations had stilled. With a guttural voice Sam's mouth moved. Startled, Dean shoved him back to look at him. Sam's eyes had changed. His brother’s face had contorted to pure hatred, eyes narrowing and focusing on Dean’s, the natural whites roiling and filling with the same pigment of bleached sky that held its precious stone.
"Nice to see you again too." Dean said.
Dean’s mind reeled with about half a dozen exorcisms that he thought he might know fairly well. Some of them almost by heart. His fists worked on Sam’s sleeves knowing that none of that was going to be good enough. He pulled the stone out from the lifeless open hand that lay in Sam’s lap. This was the stupid thing had been the cause of it all.
“It’s yours.” Dean whispered. “Just take it. Take it and go.”
It was the sudden sliding sound of metal and the ready ring of loaded rifles that really gave him pause.
“Step away from them now, boy.”
Breath caught in his throat, Dean swung around in the tangled push pull of the wind. The voice that came through the noise of nature and the beings that twisted and wound their ways through it. The voice was loud and clear. A strong authoritative tone Dean had learned to react to whether he really wanted to or not.
It figured these guys would show up now.
“You didn't really think we'd hand all this right over to you did ya son?"
Dean blinked up at the camouflaged men that had done their best to form a semi-circle with their diminished ranks that made them only two...
Yueller and Keens both had their rifles trained on Sam, the entity burning so hot inside that it was throwing out random searing flares of azure light. The sporadic flashes igniting the fire, sending it roaring up into the night sky like someone was tossing hand fulls of raw gun powder onto it.
"Thought you guys were done here!" Dean heard himself say.
"We’ve waited and shined up a lot of nonsense to reach this point." Yueller explained with not just a little bit of pride. “Didn’t have to even fool Him this time either. All we had to do was wait long enough for everything to come together just right.”
“Couldn’t come with just guns though now.” Keens nodded, holding up a small leather pouch that hung around his neck. “Some things you can only get way way way out there, by men that don’t want to give it up unless you get a little more than persuasive.”
The thought of one more person dying at the point of one of their polished new rifles about doubled Dean over sick again.
Keens and the Captain were both carefully aiming their weapons. They knew better than to forget what it meant to have a loaded firearm even when the man opposite you had none. Right there before them was an immortal trapped in living flesh. Its protection lost by the immediacy of the Navajo window standing wide eyed on the horizon, staring blankly into the center of the planet. They could do it now. They could put a factory made bullet from some machine out west right through a demigod that had lived for centuries. It could be killed. It would be dead and their years of running and hiding from its wrath would be over.
But why wasn’t the thing making another one of its grand exits? Why wasn’t it just going poof like it had every other time it came close to being threatened?
Dean suddenly thought about all the symbols he’d carefully traced around the campsite. The plants he’d burned. The rites he’d whispered. His frantic attention was pulled back into the present with a stifled sound of pain as Sam fell down onto his knees, a strange wailing coming from his throat that wasn’t his. Jesus fucking Christ. Dean had done everything for them but pull the fucking trigger.
He didn’t even think about it.
His body just started moving all on its own accord despite what ever injuries it had sustained. Dean made contact with Keens first, surprising the man who was concentrating intently on the danger that was writhing just a few yards away on the other side of the fire. The explosive sound of the gun’s discharge up into the sky made him think it was too late to get to Yueller before he did what he came here to do.
Swinging around with the heavy end of the heavy rifle in his hands, Dean saw the trigger squeeze and release just as he brought the blunt end of the firearm up under the Captain’s jaw. The tall man’s entire body was jarred violently backwards into the sprawl of the scramble of prickly ground brush that Keens had collapsed into. Trying to catch his breath, Dean turned to see where the bullet had met its mark. He knew he’d see a small entry wound right on his brother’s chest that would prove this entire thing had really reached the conclusion he’d been trying so hard to circumvent. For a moment Dean was frozen in place, staring at his brother as he struggled up onto his knees. Sam’s return gaze was confused by the proximity of the fire.
Dean wasn’t sure how he got to Sam’s side, his limbs moving on pure adrenaline and not much else.
"Jesus Sammy,” Dean moved his hands through his brother’s clothing searching for hot wet blood and torn flesh. “Tell me you're okay.”
Sam didn’t answer him, his body oddly still in Dean’s grip. In the palm of Sam's shaking hand, Dean saw the spent bullet the Captain had tried to send into his heart. But it had never made its mark. Noqoìlpi had stopped it somehow. Caught it like some Superman comic book trick. The bullet was dropped down into the dust, Sam absently rubbing his chest where it should have left a crater like hole and not much else. Dean was forced to touch the unharmed spot, to make it real and convince himself that there weren’t any more illusions hiding behind anything else that he was seeing. He knew now wasn’t the greatest time to put much trust in face value. Dean finally turned his attention away from the hands that were shaking over his own towards whatever Sam had fixated on through the flames of the fire.
With a small sigh, Dean prepared himself. Yueller and Keens. What was there to do with them now? A shake of hands? A truce? Pistols to the head and some shallow graves? Maybe a nice long laugh at what this whole mess had turned out like. Clenching his fists, Dean forced himself to a stand knowing that any kind of conclusion he could think of was just as bizarrely possible.
But there was something there.
Hovering over the sputtering remnants of the fire Dean had built so long ago was something formless but enormous. It was hanging still over the ground outstretched on either side of its core like some fleshy grotesque semblance of wings. Dean’s thoughts were forced to the mangled forms of the Skin Walkers he’d seen, pushed and pulled from the shapes of animals and settled into some unsavory being that settled neither within humanity or the beasts that subsisted at its fringe.
He wasn’t quite sure how he knew, but the thing wasn’t facing them. It was concentrated on the men that had come to slaughter it. The men that had taken Its possession and had tried to perform the same act of cheap chicanery a second time just for their own survival. These men no longer held onto what they had stolen, they were no longer safe in its vicinity. But men like them always had a few tricks up their sleeves to make it out of just about anywhere alive.
Dean dug into his front jean pocket and caught everyone’s attention the only way he knew how. He put two fingers in his mouth and whistled loud and shrill.
He met Yueller’s eyes first when he held up the reacquired blue stone he’d taken from his semi-comatose brother’s fist. Yueller, bless his soul, appeared actually relieved. Every aspect of his composed expression revealed that he truly believed Dean was going to obey; at any moment he would toss the thing to him like the last life preserver on a sinking boat.
The look on the Captain’s face faded when he realized that wasn’t going to be the case at all.
Dean looked at Keens next. As usual, the man was a few steps ahead of his companion. Despite the heat that had started to waft back up with the coming sunlight, Keens face was stark white. The grip on his weapon was stiff and trembling. Dean’s grin turned a little apologetic at the look of stark horror on a face that exuded usually nothing but the most content calm that Dean had ever seen.
Some kind of apology seemed fitting given whatever the hell it was that was about to happen next.
There was a sudden noxious wind when the massive heaving shape suddenly moved. Dean’s arm involuntarily flew up to shield his face from a sudden colossal sound. The air all around him was sucked away, and then pushed back, his ears singing in pain from the rapid rise and drop in pressure. It had been some kind of impact. An impact and a strange noise. Like catching the echo of a collision across miles of flat wide open space. Or the deep thunderous crack and shudder of something massive coming down unseen in a forest. When after a few moments went by and nothing flattened him too, he warily lowered his forearm.
"Do it now!"
Dean had never imagined the desperate sound ringing in Yueller's voice before. It was pleading and without control.
He was not certain how Yueller and Keens had met. He did not know the strengths of the bond between them. But he knew somehow that the devil Keens had known from the start of this hunt that only one of them would be walking away from it.
Keens did not bow his head or look as though there were anything at all he ought to regret. He was looking Yueller dead in the eye when he spoke.
"Sorry Hoss." He said. "But this?" He held up the small leather pouch in his hand. "Good for one ride only."
That was when Yueller started laughing. A low rumble at first which grew to high pitched chortles, screams and guffaws. His great shoulders shook with mad gaiety as he turned to face the god.
Suddenly the roaring laughter warped into harsh coughing. Dean watched as Yueller fell to his knees, gagging when a rush of fine powder blew as though from a bellow out of his mouth. More followed in mass quantities, Yueller's face a sickening purple as he vomited clumps of damp sand from his lungs, strangling and choking. The veins in his neck were like plastic straws through his skin. Dean did not look away, his eyes passive and fixed on the writhing body in the sand. He felt Keens watching on from behind him and wondered why the man was sticking around for the show.
Suddenly sand shot from Yueller's lips like an explosion as he screamed, clutching his middle in agony. Surreal high pitched wheezes were all he could manage now. The front of his shirt was blossoming with dark stain. The internal organs bursting through the layer of skin. More sand flowed from the open wounds, red with Yueller's blood.
Yet Yueller somehow continued to howl like an inhuman thing, tongue protruding from his lips.
It was then that Dean felt the slow chill creep up the back of his neck. The sun's glare had refocused sharply, intent and deadly on the prey of the god. Like an ant through a magnifying glass. His skin was smoking, his hair on fire, the clothes flaking away from his body in smoldering sheets of ash. The skin of his face darkened and Dean was reminded faintly of blistering charcoal. Bit by bit surface flesh flecked off in the wind like old paint, carried away until all that remained was the tar like bubble of searing hot blood beneath. Even the eyes in their sockets had liquefied, dripping down into the sand like clear honey.
The screams had faded away. Replaced by the crackle and loud snap of roasting skin.
Keens was still there, walking slowly backwards away amongst the jutting rocks.
Dean stumbled forward, determined not to let the man slither away with whatever pilfered magic he’d managed this time. He reached him in several strides, a moment of triumph flaring and fading when he felt his hand pass right through the shimmer of Keen’s body.
“No... no...” Dean muttered to himself as Keens took another step back and faded just that much more.
Keens raised a hand in farewell, and cast one regretful look at the pale blue stone he had hoped would vanish right along with him.
“Hope I’ll be seeing you again soon Dean.”
And then just like that...
The wind rushed up, swirling the fine choking dust of the loose sand floor and the man named David Keens was suddenly mixed with the grit and debris of the desert. Coughing and covering his eyes, Dean was not surprised to find no sign left of Keens when the wind died down as quickly as it had stormed. The remains of his Captain finally collapsed like a burning building in the nocturnal sun behind them. Looking around in uncertainty, he felt his heart start to pound in his chest once again. The sky was just starting to stain a sick purple. A wavering line of pink promising the dawn coming up within the hour along with the bloated red sun.
But the rocky desert floor was empty.
Besides the shattered slide of the stone wall behind them and the blackened circle of the smothered fire, there was nothing else to be seen for any direction around. Dean got up unsteadily to his feet, giving his surroundings a good 360 before convincing himself that he didn’t have to start searching individual sage bushes for anything at all.
Sam groaned, using a crumbling mound of rock to steady himself, his own journey to a stand about as graceful as his brother’s had been.
Sighing down at the blue rock in his hand, Dean shrugged and tossed it into the bed of smoking ash within the ring of fire stones. If the old god couldn’t find His talisman there, then this really was no longer their problem.
Brushing his hands clean, he turned his attention over to the crushed duffel and the smashed water bottles whose contents darkened the sand under them. He scanned the miles around them with no aid or transport in sight. Being alive and all was fantastic but Dean was a little bit of a forward thinker when it came to the well being of his own skin. It might have all been over, but it wasn’t exactly over and done with. Speaking of skin, he winced when he finally got a good look at his wrist and hand. Unwilling to examine it any further just yet, he figured the rest of him was probably just as exciting. He felt the thread of his burning adrenaline finally wane and run out. Forcing himself from sagging down to the ground like he wanted to, he cleared his throat and steadied himself knowing he had to at least keep going until they were back on a highway traveling under someone else’s power.
“W-We gotta start walking.” Dean stated as he grimly gauged the swiftly rising sun. “Right now.”
“Don’t worry.” Sam breathed out as he leaned over for a moment against his rock. “We got a ride.”
Deciding to let that cryptic comment slide in favor of checking his brother over for anything he might have missed during his admittedly more distracted first sweep, he found nothing but scratches and bruises. Sam did hiss and draw back when Dean’s hands wandered near his face.
“Head ache?” Dean weakly guessed.
Sam forced a smile that Dean assumed was supposed to be reassuring and not a warning that Sam was about to throw up at any moment. Either way his brother meant it, it was a great thing to see.
He eased a hand under his jacket over a dull pain that had started to become sharp and distracting. It was starting like that all over his body, all the ignored forgotten wounds coming out of the haze and making themselves known with a vengeance. The ground shifted under him as his head rocked off its own equilibrium for a few moments.
"What about you?” Sam asked, his voice fuzzy and slow with his own pain.
"What about me?” Dean managed a pretty good smile that he mostly meant.
“I mean, are you—“
Dean suddenly looked up at the hectic echo of a far off beeping horn. Spotting a plume of dust rising from out of no where, the glint of a dented fender finally revealed itself on the front of an old blue pick up that was half way to being one of the junkers it dutifully towed for a living.
“Told ‘em if there was anything left,” Sam sighed as he rubbed his hands roughly over his bloodshot eyes. “It’d be at dawn.”
“Ah.” Dean nodded.
Looked like their kind of luck didn’t have much to do with luck at all.
to be concluded in 11B: Epilogue *Completed*