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
Alec waited for the icy water to begin flooding his lungs, but the pain never came.
The crushing pressure of the vines looped around his body faded until nothing was left but the dull burn of their pull. Drifting blindly in the cold dark, he felt a distant sense of betrayal as his mind failed to kick back into gear and start thinking. But his system was so overwhelmed by the toxins that each and every primordial instinct to survive fizzled out one by one. He was floating in the middle of his head, listening to the deafening sound of the trapped inhale and exhale of his ragged breathing. He tried to concentrate on it when all his mind wanted was to dim and fade, but then he realized he could hear other things too.
Out there in the dark was a heart beating.
When he listened closely he could hear lots of them. They were slow but they were steady as a room crowded with wind up clocks. Alec faintly felt his body twist and jerk in agitation. He hated those kinds of machines. Methodically loud contraptions that forced his brain to monitor their ticks and tocks no matter how hard he wanted to ignore it. And this racket was all around and everywhere, hanging in the black above and below him. There was a subtle torture in waiting for each soft lub dub and anticipating the next. Alec’s heart was the loudest of all of them, quicker too, thudding in his chest so hard it felt like a hammer trying to break through his ribcage.
But something was changing in the void.
The noises in the dark were abruptly gone and replaced with a shrill sensation down his spine as his body painfully struck the ground. Alec began to feel more and more, the grit of sand under his fingertips and a violent shudder as his skin became sensitive to temperature again. He had no idea how it had happened but he was out of the water.
The human voice was barely audible but he knew he was hearing it. First with his head and then with his ears, it blurred through his skull until he understood that someone was asking him questions.
Can you hear me? It‘s me. Alec, can you hear me? I’m gonna get you out of here.”
Reaching out desperately with his mind, he grabbed at the words but his father wasn‘t the man speaking to him. It was his uncle. There was the distinct feel of the vines around him sagging at the touch of something that grazed and burned Alec‘s skin underneath.
Dean was cutting him free.
“Are you still with me, dude?”
Alec tried to nod but he couldn’t. Instead he tried to groan an affirmative and only heard it muffled inside his own head. He could feel the slick grip of the plants on his skin, wrapped in layers around his face, arms and legs. The sickening soft touch made him aware again of the same gentle pressure pressing on his tongue and down his throat.
All that panic he’d been missing out on suddenly made a surprise reappearance.
“Whoa! Easy Alec, don’t fight it! It only makes this shit worse.”
Alec struggled to obey, but still continued to grind his teeth down into the spongy mass filling his mouth. He didn’t even give a shit anymore if the plant was the only reason he was breathing, he kept grating his jaw until he tasted something sweet and sticky begin to leak over his tongue. His chest hitched as the airflow became thinner, his muscles igniting with adrenaline as his body finally decided to join the fight.
“You got to stay still! These bastards are slippery!"
He went motionless again, panting weakly as the air dwindled.
“Hang in there, Alec.”
As he tried to stay calm he started listening again and detected something strange, but not unexpected.
It was that thing in the water. Not the flowers or the vines but the thing that had made them all. There was something enormous sitting at the bottom of the underground lake since probably the last ice age and when big furry elephants were still walking around. The monster that was feeding on tourists and wildlife didn’t even own a heart in the complex mass of its prehistoric biology, but Alec could still hear it anyway. Not really plant or an animal, the keen edge of its consciousness whispered from the pitch black bottom of the lake as Dean plunged the knife through the vines over and over again.
“Only got a couple left.”
With enough layers of slimy plants off his face he could hear himself moan this time. The moan quickly shifted to a stronger cry when the vines tightened even more than they had before. They cinched into his flesh with the needles of its teeth, serrating his skin as they warped and contracted.
“I’m almost there, Alec. I’m almost done.”
The vines were crushing him now, no longer holding him but squeezing until his bones would finally snap and he was liquefied into nothing at all. He realized with a detached interest that it was a natural reaction of a predator being deprived of its hard won food. As Dean continued slashing and sawing through the vines, the dull explosion of the plant’s pain went off again and again in Alec’s brain like nauseating fireworks.
He knew that this beast might not have had the frontal lobe capacity to recite poems, but the fucker definitely had enough wiring to strongly dislike having its appendages hacked off.
Alec blinked when a sticky clump of leaves was peeled from his eyes. All he could see was a blur of the glowing cave above him, the gelatinous crap coating his face making it impossible to see anything at all. He gagged as the thing in his mouth was pulled and then yanked, trailing out of his throat limply like a tube of slick plastic. Rolling over onto his side, Dean pounded Alec’s back as he coughed and choked.
His watering eyes focused on the man leaning over him.
“I-I’m here to…” Alec rasped in a breath. “I came to…. to get you because you’re weak and you need help and…”
“You were just in the nick of time too,“ Dean sat Alec up against a rock and checked his eyes one at a time. “Mind if I give you a thank you speech later?”
Alec wheezed in another sweet lungful of beautiful air. Wiping his sleeves across his face, he watched his uncle climb over the rocks to another heap of writhing vines on the shore. Dean wiped his blade clean on his jeans before he picked a spot near what looked like to be the head on the vague outline of a human being.
“S-Sam…it-it got him,” Alec tried to get up and failed. “Is he okay, is he-”
“You sit tight, Alec,” Dean said. “I’ll be done in a sec.”
“Just stay put and don’t go touching the water.”
“Sammy?” With a horrible wet rip, Dean had removed the leaves off of Sam’s face. “I’m taking that thing out of your mouth now, all right?”
Listening to his father gag, Alec spit again and kicked at the clump of severed vines laying limply all around him. The large cave looked just like it had when he’d walked into it. Quiet and thick with the decomposing smell of corpses down there in the murky water-
“Dean I think some of those people…” Alec winced at the feel of his raw throat. “I think some of them are still alive.”
“We’re leaving,” Dean said. “Tell me you can walk, Alec.”
“Yes, sir.” Alec wasn’t actually sure but he thought he might be able to sprout wings and fly if it meant getting the hell out of here. “I-I can’t see real well though.”
“I can see fine,” Dean whipped aside another wad of vine from Sam‘s legs. “You’re gonna be okay, Alec. I‘m gonna get us out of here.”
Alec hadn’t realized he was more than slightly worried about that until his uncle told him he didn’t have to be. And he could see real quick that Dean was going to need help getting Sam to his feet. Coming to his father’s side, he saw that Sam looked about as interested in having a conversation about being blind sided by a mobile fungus as Alec was. So Alec just anchored an arm around his shoulder and started moving them as fast as he could towards the way they’d come.
“No, not that way,” Dean motioned in the opposite direction with his flashlight. “I found another way out.”
Alec nodded and wished he could see his uncle’s pupils in the dim wavering light. It would be nice to know if the guy was operating on all cylinders or was tripping hard enough on fungus acid to walk them all off a subterranean cliff. But Dean’s voice sounded solid, his movements were sure and careful as they hurried around the lake’s edge and towards the other side.
“Dean, what about the other people?” Alec asked.
A sudden blur of motion in the beam of Dean’s flashlight made Alec’s heart skip in his chest. If anyone else present was feeling anything like he was, being dosed by the plants was a lot like being drunk without all the cool fun parts. The rock walls shimmered, the glowing water churned like a vortex and every sound seemed to slither through the air like a living thing.
Even blurs that happened to look like terrified little girls.
Alec was ready to try to ignore it until Dean proved it wasn’t a hallucination by stopping and touching it. It really was a small girl with messy pig tails and she couldn’t have been any older than five years old.
“You did good, honey,” Dean told her as he picked her up. “You hid real good.”
“Who the hell is that?” Alec demanded.
Dean glanced over his shoulder and gave Alec a ghost of a smile in the soft blue light. “She’s the reason I came down here. I followed her and her … well, I followed her and I found her before she got to the water. There are pools like this one all over. I got lost a few times but water always flows in one direction, right?”
Alec thought of the happy family in the photo on that park bulletin and swallowed hard. “D-Dean, the people in the pools might not all be gone, I could still hear something. I could hear hearts beating-”
“That was all that was left of them, Alec,” Sam said quietly from beside him. “It’s too late.”
It was remarkable how bright the sunlight seemed after being down underground for so long. Holding up his arm against the glare of sundown, Alec realized they’d only been down there in the dark for a handful of hours. It had felt like a lot more time had passed than that. Losing track of time was not a sensation he experienced often and it made him feel even more nauseous and off-center than he already did.
“Alec?” Sam asked. “You okay?”
There were hundreds of the flowers withering around the hole of the cave. They weren’t as thick and robust anymore, the petals had become shrunken and dry. Even the fat stalks had weakened and had let the spoiled blooms lay across the ground to rot. The smell was even stronger somehow with all the fresh air. The decay cut through the sweet rot and made the colors in Alec’s eyes swirl tighter into focus.
“Hey?” Sam’s hands were pressing into his shoulders. “We have to get going.”
The gold and violet blending across the sky were a little too vibrant and vivid to be natural. Alec had a sudden and powerful urge to turn back towards the cold mouth of the cave and slip away while he still could. He could blur past their hands and touch that water again, feel the thrum of the creature living below the surface and drink its oblivion down like wine-
A powerful open handed smack across the face brought Alec back down to earth real fast.
“Thanks,” he rubbed at his jaw.
“Don't mention it,” Sam let his hand linger on Alec’s face in apology. “And if you see me ready to start making daisy chains feel free to reciprocate.”
Dean was already heading up the slope into the forest with the little girl’s arms clinging tightly around his neck. Sam pushed Alec ahead of him and twisted his grip into Alec’s belt.
“I hope you’re toting a real lucky charm with you,” Alec muttered. “Because the odds of us getting out of here without becoming fungus chow are close to nil.”
“Let’s just say it’d be a miracle,” Sam said. “And leave it at that.”
Alec gave one last look at the blue flowers and decided to just start walking through the trees and not stop until he was told. Because if all they required was a bonafide miraculous event for this day to end with his family all alive, then he was willing to have some faith to help things along.
Maybe he’d even say a prayer.
They drove for an hour before they stopped.
Sitting on the roadside picnic table with one of those pre-made gas station sandwiches felt like the closest to vacationing they’d come since the whole thing had started. Alec shared his baloney and cheese with the little girl named Ally. Alec told her A-Names were the best and four-letter A-Names were even cooler. It didn’t take much prodding after that to find out a phone number Dean could call along with the cops so she’d have some family waiting for her.
Alec didn’t like how she kept saying she was going to meet back up with her parents.
He didn’t like how she had no concept of loss whatsoever and how all of that was about to change in an abrupt and terrible 180 degree angle. His own family were all tinged a strange shade of blue but more or less okay. Looking at his hands, all Alec could see of his wounds looked like a bad rash. It hurt like hell but he’d walked away from a lot worse.
And Dean was in the best shape of them all.
“Why didn’t it get to you?” Alec asked. “I was built to let bio-weapons bounce offa me and that stupid fungus still screwed me up in the end.”
“It got to me a little,” Dean said. “I just recognized it for what it was and didn‘t go huffin‘ the crap like everyone else was down at that water pump.”
“Why didn’t you come get us first?” Alec tried to sound pissed off. “We could have gone with you.”
“I knew you guys would catch up with me sooner or later.”
“I still say you’re damn lucky.”
“Maybe,“ Dean winked. “But maybe NOT swimming in the pool-o-death helped a little.”
Yeah, Alec had to admit that walking into the water with a bunch of those things floating around in it was a pretty stupid move on his part. It was a lot like being a loud and tasty fly flailing on a spider web. The vibrations. The small tripwires. All these predatory species made it very easy on themselves to capture food without expending much energy of their own. But it made Alec feel a lot better that Sam had done the exact same stupid thing.
He studied his father seated on the edge of the only other table at the rest stop.
It was closest to the road, the zip of traffic blowing Sam’s jacket and hair around with the toss of falling leaves. And Alec knew suddenly right then and there that his father hadn’t unknowingly walked into anything at all. He had gone in after Alec and gotten himself stuck in there with all the other cocooned bodies. If it hadn’t been for Dean then they both would have-
“So?” Dean sat down next to him and watched Ally pick wildflowers of the normal kind. “What does Manticore training tell you about solving this kind of problem?”
“Well,“ Alec bit into his baloney and shrugged. “They were really big on burning shit to the ground. Kinda like you guys.”
“Can’t argue with results, kid,” Dean said. “But I’m pretty sure we can’t burn a bunch of caves.”
“Your dad’s journal said that the spores don’t live very long. They die out really fast but there was something big down there doing all the eating. I don’t think it’s going to be going anywhere else anytime soon either.” Alec paused. “So we cut off its food source?”
“Bingo.” Dean pulled out his phone and made a face when he still couldn’t get a signal. “When we get a little further out we’ll make sure the All You Can Eat Buffet ends.”
“Report a nasty virus,” Sam had walked up beside them. “It will keep people away from there for a long time. Maybe even years with all the reported disappearances.”
“But…” Alec glanced back at the road. “It’s a public park.”
“Well, now it’ll be like nature intended it to be,” Dean said. “Empty.”
The thought was strangely sad as it was pleasing. Alec wadded up his trash and tossed it in the garbage can and thought about all the gear they’d left behind at the camping site. Without ownership of tents and crappy sleeping bags it made the task of camping a hard one. Seeing a motel with running water in his near future, a smile came to his face before he could stop it from coming.
Ally appeared and held up a small bouquet of flowers for him in a dirty fist.
Alec’s smile faded as he took them and said thank you like he was supposed to. He really hoped his family weren’t planning on any more vacations in a really long time, but if they were he was voting for the cramped and disgusting crowds of a casino town.
In fact, anywhere without any lovely scenery would be just fine with him.
tbc in the Ripples...