Authors: Mink & Jink
Rating: PG - Gen
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
It was the funniest thing in the world and the worst thing in the world all at the same time.
Dad always said that you were lucky if you got through life defining disaster by mortgages, marriages, and no bathroom key. In their line of work, being unprepared was the stupidest thing you could be and punch lines were fatal when the cosmos pointed and laughed.
Times like that, he'd say, the most important thing of all was to stay the course.
In focus. On the ground. In touch. Together.
"Sam? You still there?" The voice on the other end crackled in the dead space.
Sam was light years away standing still, knuckles white and throat working soundlessly.
He thought he knew what the end smelled like-- ash and gold hair melted to the ceiling. That should have been the point where nothing else could be lost.
He was wrong.
Sam sighed a little to let the man on the other end know that he was still there.
Getting Dean into the car had been a problem.
He'd fought him. Clipped him in the jaw when he moved too slow to dodge. Sam cursed, knowing he would have to resort to the last thing he wanted to- -superior weight and size. With all of his strength, he'd tackled Dean's resisting form into the sun baked asphalt, forcing him into a police hold, arms wrenched firmly behind his back. Dean said nothing, only heaved and gasped sharply when the plastic cord wound tight around his wrists. His eyes were wild and no longer spoke for him, a thin trickle of saliva running down his chin.
Until then Sam only had few occasions in his life to appreciate his father's tactics--the use of brute force against a weaker being. Few things in the world were enough to subdue his brother. Only this wasn't him. Even the warm, familiar scent of sweat and leather betrayed him.
Hauling him up by the back of his jacket, Sam pushed him roughly into the backseat of the car.
It was at least three days drive from Ohio. By the time he'd crossed the state line into Kansas, Dean began losing words. At first in snatches, cut-off mid thoughts. Nonsense. Then finally silence. In fact, there had been nothing from him since they'd left the welcome sign. Not even so much as a yes or a no.
Sam silently wondered what that meant.
It had started raining in Missouri and it hadn't stopped since. Sam drove through it, with one destination in mind. It would get him through the sleepless days, the endless hours wondering how close he was to any trouble with Dean's shell behind him. The park was the answer. The mirror would bring him back. They'd mark and burn the fun house. Make sure it stayed dead.
It was painful not being able to turn on the radio on the long drive. Sam's hand wandered repeatedly to the knob then faltered, drifting back to the wheel. Tired as he was, under normal circumstances he could take a whole day's driving with the radio on to keep him awake. But he did not know how close he was to danger in the backseat.
Above the incessant tap of rain against the metal roof, Sam listened.
A sudden groan from Dean made him start, a half-strangled noise that died as quickly as it had started. Nervously, Sam glanced behind him.
"You alright?" He asked.
Dean only looked at him, eyes glazed and strange, face stiff and emotionless.
Somewhere between Ohio and Missouri, he'd lost what was left. All that remained were sounds--guttural and disjointed. Heavy breathing grunts and formless explosive shouts that made Sam's heart rise to his throat.
If Dean, from wherever he was, was somehow still fighting this invasion inside his skin, he was losing.
Nevada was at least a day's drive from Ohio. Sam drove straight on through, intending only to rest briefly when necessary. He did not know what rules he was playing by. He only knew his time was running short.
It was two in the afternoon and already Sam's eyes were getting heavy. With a sigh of frustration, Sam let his hand drop from the radio and glided into a empty rest stop. His focus was wavering dangerously. The rain had let up some, from downpour to a chilled mist, making the warm asphalt beneath his feet steam. The tiny cold wet pinpricks woke him up, the fresh air felt good against his sweaty neck. All around him were flatlands, overhead an angry gray sky. Sam watched the erratic bolts of lightening flash like a camera click against the clouds, wind battering the collar of his jacket against his face.
He uncapped his bottle of water and took a swift gulp, quickly remembering Dean in the backseat. His brother hadn't had any water all day. Approaching the car, he saw that Dean was using his bound hands to scrawl something in the fogged up windows. Gibberish that looked too close to something that was supposed to make sense. Sam didn't have it in him to work out if it was madness or the intruder's language.
Conquering his uneasiness, he grasped Dean by the shoulder and thrust the water bottle at him.
Dean was smiling that smile again. The one that wasn't his, his eyes lit up and hyper bright. He held the water bottle dumbly in his bound hands, making no move to bring it to his mouth. Sam took it back and held it to his lips. The water ran from his open slack mouth, turning the front of Dean’s white t-shirt opaque to his flesh.
Sam sighed, using the cuff of his jacket to wipe his brother’s mouth and chin. He looked back at the thing inside Dean, he looked square into the green eyes it was using as its own.
“Don’t get too comfortable in there buddy.” Sam said in a low voice.
Dean blinked and it reminded Sam of the glazed way a reptile performed the gesture without thought.
“I’m letting you know now.” His grip tightened too hard on the damp front of his brother’s T-shirt.
The thing that looked like Dean simply regarded him blankly, drool mixing with what was left of the water running from the corner of its mouth.
“You can’t have him.”
The blank look shifted slightly back into that bizarre smile and Sam wished he hadn’t said anything at all. As he started up the car once again he glanced back in the rearview at whatever it was that had chosen his brother to squat in. All he knew was one thing.
That fucker wasn’t going to be staying there very much longer.
The desert had changed since last he'd seen it. In the vast ocean of sand and rock, colors were surreal and vibrant. The blue of the sky, the reddish mineral tinge of the Earth, even the whiteness of the clouds all appeared to him like something out of a vision.
But today the sky was gray. Rain had come with the pearl gray blanket of clouds and the colors were gone, the landscape washed out and lifeless. Sam shuddered at the eerie tint the world had taken, like some bad omen, and drove faster.
A desperate sound from Dean in the backseat made him twist around frantically.
What was residing in his brother was looking out the window with something like fear in its stolen eyes. It was looking at a road sign.
Come one, come all….
As he drove the empty route Sam's bleary eyes searched the skyline for the familiar rusted spires of the Ferris wheel, his heart racing with each faded sign he passed. They were close. He could taste the end.
The fourth sign came and faded in the rear view. Very near now. Sam scanned the distance ahead, the grim line of his mouth slowly gathering into a frown. Had he taken a wrong turn? No, that was impossible. Sam strained his eyes farther ahead on the horizon, searching.
In the distance a cluster of white vehicles stood out like teeth against the empty sky.
Sam blinked. Frantic, he pushed the pedal to the floor, stirring huge clouds of dust across the windshield.
"Fuck." He breathed.
A half dozen bulldozers sat in a sloppy row. Wrecking cranes and trailers scattered randomly. Neon reflective construction signs and plastic guard tape were everywhere. Heart in his throat, he screeched to a halt, unwilling to accept what lay before him.
Things had fallen apart before. He'd worked with broken pieces, drawn maps from thin air, sifted answers from ashes. None of them were talking to him now. It was gone. All of it. There was nothing left of the place but a pile of splinters.
Behind him, Dean's shoulders shook with amusement.
Sam swung burning eyes on his brother's face, fury at the mouth twisted upward in a displaced, vulgar smirk. Chest heaving, he felt his fist clench, knuckles hard and white. It took all he had not to send it crashing into the triumphant sneer, draw blood again and again from the thing looking out from the inside of Dean's mind. But the blood did not belong to it. Sam's body began to shake, rage like a steel wire within him stretched taut and fragile.
He did the only thing he could--he exploded.
Unchecked his voice scraped raw and aching in his throat, three days of hope verged on madness, of exhaustion and of rage. He screamed until he was spent and panting against the seat. He forced himself to look into the back seat.
Dean, eyes catatonic, gleamed straight out at him.
"Don’t fucking look at me." Sam croaked hoarsely, breathing ragged. "Just...god, please."
Several deep breaths later, he regained what remained of his composure. The heat threatened to spill from his eyes but he steeled himself. Hands shaking, he reached for his cel. Dialing with shaking fingers he braced himself for the expectant voice on the other end.
He needed hope more than truth but knew it wasn't coming.
"The elder said you'd call." Empathy from the man's gravelly throat echoed in Sam's head like the distant thunder. "He wanted me to tell you the whole damn site's been condemned. I'm sorry but whatever you are looking for ain't there no more."
Sam focused very hard on his breathing, on keeping his vision clear.
"You still there? Sam?"
The chuckle came before he could stop it. Sam swallowed hard before it could morph into anything else. The Navajo man sighed deeply and Sam heard the distant click of a Zippo, the fizz of a lit cigarette. Then came the facts.
"Check the papers. Last week a kid shot and killed a store clerk before turning the gun on himself. His friends say they were down at that park just the night before it happened. Took a look into that mirror I reckon. “
The thud of his heart was deafening against the warm plastic of the phone. The old man continued in a softer voice.
“Funny what the men in charge will do even when they won’t dare say they might believe in a thing. Commissioner finally had that place scheduled for demolition three days ago."
"What about the mirror?" Panic stymied the words in Sam's throat "I don't care, plastic tape isn't gonna stop me, I gotta find that--"
"That mirror is gone, son." Surprising gentleness from the rumbling raw throat. "Even if you did find it, there would be nothing left inside."
Sam snorted in disbelief, thoughts frantic and half formed in his head, tongue unable to keep up.
"No. N-no, there's..." Sam's chest heaved, his words like rapid fire. "...there's got to be some other way...that thing it's....it's moved on before!"
The wise man's voice stopped him short.
"The elder said you would wonder about that too."
All things had a source.
The old man had told him that he did not know what he would find or if he would find anything at all. That discouraged Sam about as much as the darkness before him. If a thread of his brother could be found in any particle in these ancient walls, he would find it.
This was not a show cave. It had never been owned, marked or open to the public. The garish sunlight from outside whispered in faint traces on the rocks at the edge of the cavern's gaping mouth. The darkness at the mouth of the rock formation felt like the end of the world.
Sam saw darkness more as a sensation than environment. He knew how to treat it and he knew how to use it. More importantly, he knew how others could use it. The worst thing he could find was nothing at all. If not his brother, he would find the thing that had done this to him.
I'll warn you, son. No men go there. Government don't know about it. Even our people have all but forgotten it. Bring your radio. Bring your light. And even if you think nothing will come of it, I suggest that you pray.
Sam knocked the end of his flickering flashlight against his palm until the beam of bright white light steadied , flooding the pitch blackness before him. It was cool here among the jagged rocks at the mouth of the cave, hidden away from the piercing sun.
Pressing one hand against the jagged limestone wall he tested the ground. The uneven surface shaped by erosion and the earth's unrest. He felt slight moisture on his fingertips. Alien and wrong in a cave that should be nothing but red dry dust and a den for scorpions. He remembered the old Navajo’s comparison to the deadly insect to what had taken his brother and half smiled. Nature had its own mirrors as well it seemed. Gently he led Dean by the arm beside him.
"Ground's a little iffy here. Careful." He said, more for himself than for his brother.
Dean's body shuddered and twitched, letting himself be pulled into the dark. Sam suppressed his own shudder. If Dean's body rejected the thing that inhabited it, he didn't want to know what would be on his hands. He listened to Dean's breathing in the dark, uneven and strange.
"Hey Dean," he said, swallowing to calm himself. "What say after we're done we head East?"
Dean made a low gurgling as though he were on the verge of speaking.
"C'mon don't be like that?" Sam joked lightly. "New England? Nice and cold. Blue and gold."
Dean's arm was limp and useless in his grip.
Flesh-colored wet stalactites hung from the ceiling like gruesome chandeliers, freezing water dripping onto his shoulders. Here it seemed was an entirely different world under the ground, strange as another planet from the outside. The water-shaped smooth rock formations bubbled and dipped, looking like old wax candles.
It should have been a landmark, a place sanctified for worship. But the elder had said none of his people ever went there, not even for water, and never to pray. It was where the thing that had swallowed his brother whole had first dwelled. Maybe even born here down deep in the cold dank dark following the river of water when it formed so long ago.
He continued silent and alert down the lopsided tunnel, treading carefully down, watching for footfalls or dips in the ground's formation. Centuries of untouched formations. Stone made sculpture by water and time--
The sudden appearance of a man in the sweep of his flashlight made his breath catch in his throat. It took several heart pounding moments to figure out just who the man was.
It was Sam.
Sam’s reflection anyway.
Curious, he directed the beam of his light up the cavern walls, mouth slightly open in the wonder of what caught in its bright glare. The cave was filled with quartz. Entire smooth sheets of it like the one that had startled Sam and large protruding shapes, sharp and glittering above them. The pathway narrowed, jutting spears of stone gleaming with dull fire against the high beam of his flashlight. He walked closer to the sheet of quartz that had he’d spotted first, feeling the protective totem that hung against his chest begin to go hot.
It was here, hiding in the safety of its birthplace.
“Found you.” Sam whispered in the dark.
The surface of the sheer stone seemed to momentarily shimmer, waver like a pebble tossed into still waters. It looked almost like... agitation.
Sam felt himself smile as he unshouldered his pack.
He had work to do.
to be concluded...
Very behind on comments, will catch up soon! :(