Author: Mink & Jink
Rating: R - Peril - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
It was dawn again when Sam first looked up long enough to notice the dismal seep of light stretching in new patterns across the floor.
For the second time, the sun silently rose on the unseen horizon. With the window wide open he could see the dark blanket of clouds that had muted the day. Being a captive you couldn’t help but notice the slightest change in the details of your four walls. A low rumble of thunder sounded deep from overhead and a flashing stutter of lightening forced Sam to briefly shut his eyes. The bright rectangle of the window remained burned on his retinas, broken by the stark silhouette of his brother’s outstretched arms.
Gordon didn’t hide his yawn.
The book he had been flipping through in his lap was placed tiredly on the table. Sam watched him carefully, wondering how urgent this timetable could possibly be if the guy had time to sit around catching up on Latin phraseology. But he felt as worn out as Gordon looked. Over the past few hours Sam had caught himself dozing as the chemical worked its way through his system, leaving him bleary but awake on the other side.
He tensed when Gordon paused, rocking slightly on his heels as he assessed the state of those under his charge. It was pretty much a given by now that Sam wasn’t going anywhere but Dean as usual tended to be an entirely different story. Wondering why there was any doubt left behind the array of knots Gordon had laced with care, Sam felt the heavy dull throb in his head shift painfully when he turned to observe his brother. Dean still hadn’t woken up. Knowing Gordon wasn’t beyond dosing either of them with something more potent, he waited anxiously for any sign of his brother’s awareness as the cords already cinched into his skin were pulled and tested.
Satisfied that all was well, Gordon sighed as he turned to regard Sam with a small look. His dark gaze flickered back down to the floor where all the symbols had been smeared into arced stretches of pastel powder. Sam swallowed, realizing that Gordon might actually know just a little about what he was doing with those things after all. All the heightened sensitivity and then that weird burst of energy that came from nowhere? Glancing back at the book on the table, he wondered if that was the reason for all the late-night cramming. Gordon might be playing Russian roulette with what he found but that didn’t make the spin of the chamber any less dangerous.
“I’m a light sleeper.”
So it was time for some shut eye.
"Night." Sam muttered.
As soon as Gordon’s footsteps retreated down the corridor, Sam tried to listen to the direction of the hunter’s path as he had done before. But looking down at the ruin of the chalk symbols he knew that his hyper awareness had faded with their shape. Sam turned his attention swiftly to his brother.
“Dean?” Sam whispered. “Hey? Dean!”
If Gordon yanking at a rope around his neck didn’t rouse him, somehow Sam doubted he would be able to. Sam fought the urge to try to rip out of his chair. The awkward slump of Dean’s body didn’t twitch even after raising his voice loud enough to possibly draw Gordon back from wherever he had gone. After a few minutes Sam gave up and considered that maybe it was better that Dean was out of it for as long as possible. Sitting back, he found he didn’t really want to explain what was going on here anyway. The salt line and the chalk would create inevitable questions now that there was some time to kill. Sam would do a lot to keep away the look Dean got in his eyes when he was forced to recognize he didn’t know everything about his own flesh and blood. Sam didn’t want that horrible free fall of the unknown anymore than his brother did.
Ready to settle into the silence by himself, Sam was startled by the sudden garbled stream of words from the window. Like a needle dropped on a record, Dean was unexpectedly awake and speaking. It was incoherent but it was something. Sam dropped his desire for quiet as soon as his brother’s eyes opened.
“Hey,” Sam tried to bring Dean’s disoriented gaze over in his direction. He made an effort to keep the waver out of his voice. “You still alive?”
Still lost in the in between total black out and waking, Dean wearily nodded in response. His back straightened as he reestablished contact with his limbs. Finding some focus, his rapid comprehension of the situation was remarkable considering how long he’d been dead to the world. With a dawning anger, Dean absorbed the sight of his trapped hands in the shiny loops of cord. Immediately tensing, he shoved himself backwards in a violent effort to wrench free. The outrage grinded gears for a moment when he felt the tight loop around his throat. Sam cringed at the rasp of the twine as it rubbed raw on the metal bars. Knowing what he’d done to his own wrists and ankles in the first hours of denial, he waited until Dean’s brief but admirable burst of steam ran out.
“G-Gordon…” Dean growled thickly. “…Gordon!”
“Throttle down, Dean,” Sam said. “It’s just us.”
Catching his breath, his brother took in their surroundings with watering eyes. Finding Sam correct, he redoubled his efforts of escape.
“Can y-you move?” Dean asked.
Sam sighed, his exhaustion coming down in one solid weight on his shoulders.
“Geeze.” Dean didn’t pause in working his right wrist in a steady back and forth motion. “Just askin’.”
He knew that between the two of them, Dean had a better chance at freedom. They had been taught how to get out of just about anything given the right amount of time and persistence. Some involved your head and some took wearing your skin down to a bloody abrasion while you loosened up a rope.
“So?” Dean began conversationally. “What does he want?”
Sam felt himself staring down at the double ring that had been placed around his chair. Stopping his hands from fidgeting on the armrests he met Dean’s groggy gaze hesitantly.
“I don’t know.”
Dean sagged slightly.
Gordon didn’t sleep the day away like Sam had hoped.
A change of shirt and a shave had made the scant few hours he had been missing seem like he’d gone to bed for a full eight on something comfy. Sam inwardly prayed that the silent study would continue but he knew better than to expect miracles. Even huge ones like his brother overcoming his complete inability to keep his damn mouth shut.
“Good to see you again, Dean.”
If Sam imagined a crowded bar and a couple of beers it all seemed almost sociable. Gordon even spared him a smile that made Sam's stomach churn. As forecasted, it all went south fairly fast.
“Gordon, you better hope I never get outta here.”
“Funny you should say that,” Gordon scraped one of the chairs forward to take a seat between them. “Those chances are pretty good.”
“What’s the deal?” Dean questioned with upturned hands. “You get lonely?”
Gordon caught Sam’s guilty look and held it in place.
“Sammy here. I could turn on the heat for a real long time before he starts to fry,” Gordon gave Sam a nod of begrudging respect. “But that kind of work takes more time than I have. I need answers."
“Answers.” Dean repeated blankly.
“By tonight if he’s obliging.” Gordon added.
“Why?” Dean asked. “You got a date?”
“Something like that.”
“Lucky girl,” Dean muttered but then reconsidered and shrugged. “Or whatever.”
There was a different blade in Gordon’s grip. Sam recognized it as one of Dean’s own. A small thin razor that fit tidily under his palm, easily hidden below a sleeve and always whetted fine enough to neatly cut paper. Sam's mouth was moving before he even knew what he was saying.
“Gordon, I-I told you, I don’t know anything, I’m not—“
Dean didn’t make a sound when the knife flashed over him. Not at first. He probably wouldn’t have either if Gordon hadn’t kept drawing the edge around his forearm about as slow as he was able. The nerve endings around the hands were always so much more receptive than other parts of the body. The billions of pinpoints were all bundled up through the skin so densely that even the slightest scratch drew an entire body’s attention. Dean got quiet again before it stopped, Gordon creating another perfect circle. His brother worked his jaw before he got himself back under enough control to summarize what was on his mind.
Wiping the blade clean on Dean’s sleeve, Gordon wet his lips and flipped the weapon back into his palm. Using the knife tip for emphasis he pointed at Sam.
“This'll hurt." Gordon guaranteed him.
Sam hated that he could barely hear his own voice.
Gordon took advantage of Dean’s distraction with the line of blood running down to drip on the thigh of his jeans. It figured a gag was coming sooner or later. Sam watched his go brother livid as the strip of leather was shoved between his teeth. Silently grateful that Dean would have something to bite down on, he almost wanted to tell Gordon that he was on his side for this one.
Dean would probably live a lot longer.
It didn’t go exactly like Sam had pictured.
Gordon was supposed to ask him questions and then retaliate when there was nothing forthcoming deemed worth while. He was supposed to threaten with the knife until Sam stammered out all the details the man had been dying to hear ever since they’d been reacquainted. Sam had formulated several trains of thought that he believed would keep him off his brother for at least a certain amount of time.
But apparently the hunter's motives were purely an elective.
Saying no as loud as he was able hadn’t done much. The maddening boundary of begging wasn’t left unused either. When Sam degenerated into mindless cursing he started to see stars at how viciously he strained against his binds. The heavy wood chair rocked twice under his struggles but still didn’t grant him the use of his hands. Gordon didn’t even look in his direction as he touched the edge of the blade again and again over his brother’s skin. The cuts he made were shallow and even. In a strange way, they reminded Sam of the collection of knots Gordon had made. Perfectly spaced and matching in length, the lines started to appear like something ritual and ornamental running from wrist to elbow. As superficial as the slashes were, they bled well enough.
It didn't appear as though he was showing any signs of stopping, though. Dean's breathing had grown labored behind the gag, his movements no more than a mild jerk to the excruciating slice of the blade.
"Hey!" Sam shouted, surprised when Gordon actually turned around calmly to look at him. "W-What happened to the next round of twenty questions?"
"We'll get to that," Gordon promised, gesturing behind him with a toss of his head. “I was just wondering what it would take.”
Sam didn’t understand.
“What are you talking about?”
Gordon’s voice took on a distant curious quality to it. Like an artist considering one more stroke of paint. Like a huntsman wondering if a few more moments would move the target into the absolute center of the crosshairs. Sam knew it was the air of a man that liked to do things properly.
“To get that look off your brother’s face.”
Dean had stopped watching and had leaned his head back against the bars. His skin was pale and pearly with sweat. Sam watched him trying to even his breathing. It was what he had done himself when he wasn’t sure when the pain was going to stop. He didn’t want to say anything more. He didn’t want to disrupt his brother’s attempts to remove himself as far away from the agony as he could. If you did it right you could detach yourself entirely. If you were perfect you could objectively observe what was happening to you without experiencing any of it all. Gripping the damp wood under his hands, Sam listened to Dean’s muffled whimper and knew Dean was a long ways away from perfection.
Gordon bent low to whisper in Sam’s ear.
“Ok. Now I'm ready."
When the man took his seat again, he seemed to be geared up for something he’d set aside. Something reserved and exceptional to be saved. With a certain eagerness, he pulled up the bag that contained the books. The knife was put away.
"Some of these signs are meant for the real bad stuff,” Gordon murmured as he bent down, the chalk hissing along the ground. “The kind of things that crawl red and raw straight outta hell.”
Sam sent a nervous look in his brother’s direction. Jaw grinding over the leather in his mouth, Dean didn’t look anything but in pain and pissed off.
“But those signs haven't had much effect,” Gordon explained. “In fact, it’s like I can see it bouncing right off you. Like it doesn’t quite take.”
“Go me.” Sam mumbled.
The hunter ignored him.
“Now these on the other hand…” Gordon nodded down at the first of three circles he had yet to amplify into something more complex. “A few of these seem to sink in right where you can feel it. At least a little. Sometimes a lot.”
“What are they?” Sam asked with real curiosity.
Since when did signs made to manipulate demons ever have an effect on him? He drew and touched things like that everyday and he’d never felt a thing.
“They weren’t easy to find,” Gordon said. “But a couple hundred years ago some monk out in Italy thought it would be a good idea to make wards for the imbued.”
“Imbued?” Sam frowned, trying to not to notice Dean’s uneasy shift in his binds. “What-what does that mean?”
“You know, I’m still not quite sure,” Gordon admitted. “But it’s an interesting term to use don’t you think? It comes up on every other page of that dusty book. My old Italian is pretty bad but I think that dead monk was on to something.”
Sam blinked down in confusion when Gordon held up a jumble of metal and shook it noisily a few times. Recognizing them as the car and skeleton keys that his brother kept on his person like most people would harbor the deed to their house, he moved apprehensively when the collection was pushed over into the chalk ring.
“Do you know what else I read?” Gordon had begun the first slash of ornamentation on the center mark he had created. “The other word that old monk used over and over was ‘human shadow’.”
Sam was staring down at nothing hard but he could feel his brother listening to every word.
“It got me thinking," Gordon said not without some amusement. "Maybe you mostly are human? In fact, I think you might be something I’ve never heard of before.”
“Gordon...” Sam tensed as the second line was drawn down over the symbol. “It doesn’t work like that. I’m not tied in. I don’t have any connection with—“
Sam froze as the air rippled up around him.
His body went rigid in a wash of cold that felt like ice water had been poured over his head. He felt his teeth start to rattle before he realized that the entire room had begun to shake. A fracture ripped up one of the walls in a cloud of dust and opaque brittle glass cracked in the panes. The room blinked out and for a moment he panicked with sudden blindness. But before he could even start to think about kissing his cool composure goodbye, it all abruptly came back. With a few blinks the dim room returned to focus.
But something was wrong.
The constant view Sam had had for the past 24 hours had changed. The wall, door and unreachable hallway beyond were replaced. It took him a moment to realize that what he was looking at was himself. Seated in that sturdy wooden chair and head flung backwards, he was somehow observing his own body from across the room.
Whipping back into his own head with a nauseating speed, he choked on his next inhale, his body having seized into immobility during his brief absence. Flexing his hands to make sure he was actually there, he inhaled again surprised when no discomfort followed. It was when he heard Dean that he finally figured out what was going on.
Wide eyed, he watched his brother’s stifled gasp turn into the harsh groan of pain Dean tried and failed to keep back. Sam looked frantically down at the car keys at his feet. There was usually only one reason to use a uniquely personal item like. It was a possession to cast Sam’s energy in a particular direction. Sam’s awareness hadn’t been sent floating into midair, he had been inside Dean’s head and they were still connected. Whatever that new hex did, Sam was channeling it right into his brother instead. The strange thing about the transference was that with all the whispered agony the symbol promised, Sam didn’t feel anything but its release. It was like being under the flow of turbulent water, pushing and shoving against his skin in its rushed passage.
Gordon glanced back at Dean’s writhing form. “Can you shut it off?”
“No.” Sam breathed.
Dean’s hands were in fists, his body shaking with his rapid heartbeat. Slumping back, Sam knew what it meant to have any of this abomination exposed to his brother. The thought that Dean could know even one fraction of what Sam had locked down into his core made him want to throw up.
His stare slowly went to Gordon.
Sam had directed this tapped fount of energy at him before. Why couldn’t he do it again? His mouth trembled in frustration when he knew he had no idea how he had done any of it in the first place. There was no sign of his own will when it came to feats of the unexplained. All he had managed to accomplish was visceral and unpredictable.
“Do you believe it now?" Gordon forced Dean's head up with the back of his gag and some of his hair. “You can feel it?”
Sam didn’t miss his brother’s gaze shifting over to him and then slipping back down at the salt line. Fighting to concentrate during the onslaught, Dean was looking at the circles in bewilderment. Sam didn’t like how his brother was fixed on it instead of dismissing it like he had earlier. He moved his cramped muscles and avoided the puzzled raw hurt that was starting in his brother’s eyes.
Releasing the back of his head, Gordon grabbed up Dean’s chin instead. "Let me show you another fun trick.”
Dean shook his head weakly but earnestly in strong disinterest.
“Don’t be like that. You’ll like this next one.”
The keys shook on the tiles as the next circle was bisected again and again. Dean growled angrily as it struck, gushing ruthlessly through him and cracking his head back against the bars.
In a quiet rage that Sam felt flare low and hot deep under his pooled calm, he knew what he had to do. This man would not end this experiment until it ran to its conclusion. Sam knew what would put a stop to it but he couldn’t give something he didn’t have.
“Okay,” Sam heard himself say. “You win.”
The final line being drawn stopped, the new mark uncompleted and constrained to its current limit. Dean shuddered in place, his chest hitching with the effort to keep drawing in air. His eyes blinked opened uncertainly at the unexpected respite.
The pleased look on the hunter’s face was almost enough to make Sam take it all back despite the dwindling sound of his brother’s fight to stay alive.
The man had been correct in a way. Sam had come to this town for an unpleasant purpose. But it was to chase the chaos, not to command it. Sam decided to use the truth again. It hadn’t served him very well so far but this time he thought it might.
“The mausoleum,” Sam said. “At the edge of town.”
"What’s in it?”
“The reason I came here.”
Gordon’s content smile couldn’t have been more genuine if he’d tried.
Sam let himself look back over at his brother.
The smoldering symbol hadn’t been smeared just yet. Dean was still feeling whatever brand of terrible it was casting through his skin. Despite the hectic static of damage and confusion, Dean’s faltering gaze was locked on Sam. The sight of it made Sam swiftly look down and away. There was something else there besides humiliated fury and the desperate effort to keep astride the surges of pain.
He felt his own eyes blur.
It looked a lot like fear.