Fic: Never Say Die (12/16)
Title: Never Say Die (12/16)
NEVER SAY DIE
Dean paced the small confines of Bobby's back room, holding the cell phone to his ear while he met Sam's eyes angrily. "They should be here by now," he insisted. "Shit! Voicemail again!" He turned the phone off and rounded on Sam, spreading his hands in a gesture that clearly indicated he expected action right-the-hell-now.
"They're probably still on the road," Sam suggested. His tone was calm, but Dean could see his brother's frown deepening and knew Sam was worried, too. "Maybe they stopped for food and Dad left his phone in the car."
"Maybe. I'm still going after them. You with me?"
Sam nodded. "I'm not letting you go alone."
"Boys," Bobby interrupted from the doorway, "it's not safe out there."
The reminder made Dean hesitate; Bobby was right. The first thing they did when they got back to Bobby's two weeks before was strengthen the protections all around the house and junkyard. Bobby's place was now as thoroughly protected as their cabin had been; the demons would be looking for Sam but he was off the radar as long as they were inside Bobby's house.
Sam shrugged. "It's Dad, Bobby. Are you really gonna tell us not to go?"
Bobby shook his head. "I wouldn't dream of it. But be careful out there."
Dean nodded to let Bobby know he understood the warning, and headed for the door. He wasn't psychic, but he had a bad feeling about this. Dad wouldn't be late. Knowing what they were planning and after everything they'd been through, Dad wouldn't be late. If something went wrong, if they ran out of gas or something, Dad would have called.
Dean was firing up the Impala's engine before Sam reached the car.
Sam slid into the seat beside him and slammed the door. Dean pushed a tape into the stereo, turned up the volume and hit the gas. Dust flew up around the Impala as Dean accelerated toward the road.
"Just like old times," Sam commented.
Dean made an impatient noise. "Ain't you worried, Sam?"
"I agree it's strange that he's late, but..."
"But what?" Dean frowned, taking his eyes off the road to look at his brother.
"Well...he's with Ellen, Dean. Maybe they, you know, started out late."
"You mean maybe they were screwing? No, Sam. Not today." And that was all Dean wanted to say on that subject. Their father's relationship with Ellen weirded him out. It wasn't the thought of his dad having sex. It was Ellen. Hadn't she been married when they met? Wasn't her husband Dad's friend?
John had never tried to stifle Dean's sex life, but he had laid down rules, and made it very clear he was willing to enforce them. Always use a condom. Don't talk about what we do. And never, ever screw another man's wife. Did Dad break his own rule? Why?
"Sam, can't you...what about your psychic thing?" Dean said it more to change the subject than because he had any real hope.
Sam looked uncomfortable. "I've been trying," he admitted.
"What? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I got nothing. Dean, that's why I'm not worried. With all the wardings Bobby drew on the Jeep, I shouldn't be able to find them if they're on the road."
Those wardings meant to keep demons away? Dean thought unhappily. This whole deal with Sam's powers had his head spinning. It was weird enough when it was just the "shining". Now, apparently, Sammy lied to him for a whole year. He'd said it was over. No more weirdo visions. But what he'd done the night Dean's deal came due was way beyond visions. Sam faced down a demon. And he won.
Dean wouldn't allow himself to form the question, but it was there nonetheless. Was Sam some kind of demon? He wasn't possessed, certainly, but if all demons started out as people - as damned souls - then was it possible for a living human to become something that belonged in Hell...or to Hell? A normal human could become something else: they had all seen it in vampires, wendigos and other things.
Dean turned the music up loud enough to drown out his thoughts. Sammy was his brother. He was human. Dean wouldn't allow anything else to be true.
They were almost at the Nebraska border when Dean saw the wreck of the Jeep ahead. He recognised it instantly, despite the damage. And there was damage. Fear clenched Dean's stomach as they drew closer and he slowed the Impala. The Jeep was half-blocking the road. It was upright, but the shattered glass, the damage to the roof and sides made it look as if the Jeep had rolled over. But for that to happen, they must have hit something. Dean could see no sign of another vehicle, nor a point of impact on the Jeep.
Dean parked the Impala and looked at Sam. "Call them," he ordered, reaching for the door. He climbed out of the car, gun in hand. He approached the Jeep cautiously, noting the gasoline still dripping from the tank. He was alert for anything, any sound or movement. One of the front tyres was flat. One door was partially open. There was no sign of blood inside or out and no bodies. That, at least, was good.
He walked around to the rear. If this was an accident, and they'd walked away from it, Dad would have taken the most important things out of the trunk. Dean couldn't get it open.
That was when he saw the scattering of sulphur beneath the Jeep. Dean swore, kneeling to gather the too-familiar dust onto his fingers.
From behind him, Sam called, "No answer. Just voicemail again."
Dean stood, holding up his hand for Sam to see. "Sulphur."
Sam paled. "Shit! Are you sure?"
Dean ignored the question and tried the driver's side door. The door wouldn't open but the window was broken. He covered his hand with his sleeve and cleared away the broken glass before reaching into the Jeep. The keys were still in the ignition.
He pulled the keys out and waved them at Sam. "Still think everything's okay, Jackass?"
"Are they dead?" Bobby asked cautiously.
"We can't be sure," Sam answered. "There was no sign of a fight, no blood. But no trail, either. Either they were taken or they left voluntarily, but - "
"All Dad's stuff was still in the trunk. They didn't just wander off, Sam!" Dean shouted it, anger plain in his face, in every movement of his body.
Sam held up his hands in a "peace" gesture. "It took both of us with crowbars to get the trunk open. If they were under attack, there wouldn't have been time for them to take anything. It's possible someone came by, gave them a ride. But with all the sulphur we found...I don't think that's what happened. I think they were taken."
"By who?" Bobby asked.
"That's obvious, ain't it?" Dean burst out.
Sam disagreed. "We can't assume it's her. What we did in Colorado must have been noticed by every demon out there and Dad's pissed off a lot of them in his day."
"He's not dead," Dean said firmly. "There was no body."
Sam agreed with Dean. If this was just some random demon attack, surely they would be dead? He turned to Bobby. "Bobby, is there any way we can find out if Lilith was there?"
Bobby hesitated. "No. Not unless you want to summon her." His expression made it clear how stupid he thought that plan would be.
Sam didn't need the warning. Summon Lilith? Never. He spread out the map they had retrieved from the Jeep. "When Dad called me this morning, he said he thought Lilith was in south Georgia." He tapped the area on the map. John's marks all over the map: red for omens of demonic presence; blue for incidents he believed were demon activity, showed why he'd come to that conclusion.
Bobby looked at the map. "John always was good at this. Still, Georgia's pretty big. I'll check my sources, see if I can narrow it down."
"Thanks, Bobby," Dean answered quietly.
Sam leaned over the table, covering his face with both hands. He was tired, really, physically tired. "If it's her, we'll know soon enough."
"How do you figure that?" Bobby asked.
Sam stared down at the table top. "Because she wants me. If she has Dad..."
Dean interrupted harshly. "It's called a trap, Sam. I'm not about to let you walk into it the way Dad did."
Sam looked up then, meeting Dean's eyes. Did Dean not understand? If Lilith had Dad...what else could they do? Just leave him there? Casualty of war? Dean would never stand for that, and Sam couldn't do it. No matter his differences with John, he couldn't do it.
"We need a plan," Sam said.
Dean stood up, shoving himself away from the table. "No sacrificing virgins," he said, looking straight at Sam.
Sam felt his stomach turn into lead. Dean wasn't supposed to know...
Bobby looked at Dean as if waiting for the punchline and the blood drained from his face as he realised Dean was deadly serious. "Sacrifice who?" Bobby demanded, looking at Sam.
Sam scowled at Dean.
"What?" Dean snapped. "Did you think I didn't know you got that spell from her? You're not gonna do it, Sam. Not on my watch."
"I never intended to, Dean," Sam said quietly.
"Then why'd you want the spell?"
"For the same reason the government has nukes. If things get bad enough, I mean worse than we can even imagine right now, we might need it."
Dean turned away with an irritated shrug.
Bobby met Sam's eyes steadily. "You get more like your daddy every day, boy."
Sam returned his look. "I'd say thanks, but you don't mean it that way, do you?"
Bobby's expression was grim. "The thing about nukes, Sam, is the threat didn't mean a damned thing until after we dropped two of 'em. Think about that before you make your plan."
Ellen woke with her head full of cotton candy. All she could see was a bright blur. She squeezed her eyes closed against the light and groaned. She felt cold, though she was fully dressed. She rolled on to her side and swallowed back a wave of nausea. Drugs. She had been drugged.
The memories came back in a rush and she sat up, adrenaline flooding her. The room swam and swirled and Ellen clamped one hand over her mouth, struggling not to throw up. She swallowed, hard a few more times then re-opened her eyes.
She was alone. There was no sign of John.
The last thing Ellen remembered was kneeling in the road surrounded by demons. Now she was lying on the lower rack of a set of bunk beds, gazing up at the mesh of the bunk above. The wall on her left was bare brick. She rolled carefully onto her side to get a look at the room. It was long and narrow, bare brick walls and a concrete floor. The ceiling was brick, too, curved like a tunnel. Two unshaded light bulbs dangled from the ceiling. At one end of the room was a door made of metal.
What the hell was this place? Underground, surely. Some kind of prison? But where? More importantly, where was John?
Ellen ran her hands through her hair and found the head injury: a lump on the back of her head, sticky-damp with her blood. Drugs and concussion? Great. Just peachy. She looked for something to clean the wound, without much hope. There was nothing. Four bunk beds, each with blankets and pillows were the only things in the room. There was no water. Not even a bucket to piss in. Would demons care about such needs? She sighed, pushing the thought out of her mind, and slowly sat up so she could remove her shirt.
In the movies, when someone had to rip sheets to make a rope or something it was always easy. Ellen found herself weak, or perhaps the cloth of her shirt was stronger than she thought. She worked at it with her teeth until she had frayed the edge enough to tear it open. When she had a strip of cloth she wrapped it around her hand and patted gingerly at the head wound. It was painful, but there wasn't too much blood.
Only then did it occur to her to try the door. She mentally kicked herself and held onto the bed while she dragged herself to her feet. Her head hurt and she felt dizzy as she forced her body upright. She stumbled across to the wall - just a few steps - and leaned on the brick for support while she approached the door. It was made of steel, with rivets in two vertical lines. The door handle was just a knob. It didn't turn and when Ellen pushed at it the door didn't open. She tried again, pushing with all the strength left to her, but it refused to move. That wasn't really a surprise.
Ellen leaned back against the cool metal, shoving her hands into her pockets. She felt something in one pocket of her jeans and pulled it out. It was a small paper sachet of salt from some fast food joint. She couldn't help smiling. Salt...it would be useful if she had a hundred times as much.
Where are you, John? Are you even alive?
Several hours later, Ellen was going stir crazy. For the first time she heard a sound outside her prison. She moved quickly to stand beside the door with her back to the wall. It was a poor plan, but it was all she had.
The door didn't open, exactly: it slid to one side. Someone stumbled through the opening and fell right in front of her. John! Oh, God... Ellen barely had time to register what happened before the door closed again - whoosh, clang and the clunk of a lock falling into place.
"John!" Ellen went to help him.
John was on all fours on the floor. He raised a hand without looking at her. "Don't!" The single word came out as a growl.
Ellen had been about to touch him. She backed off, puzzled. There was blood on the floor. She couldn't see where it had come from. "John...what happened?"
John raised his head to look at her and she saw bruises down one side of his face and blood still trickling from his mouth. One of his eyes was swollen shut. John said, "Pray."
Oh. Of course. He was afraid she was possessed. For a moment Ellen, who had never been much of a churchgoer and was never a Catholic, struggled to recall the Latin. Then it came to her, and she looked straight at him as she recited the prayer. "Pater noster..."
John joined her, holding her gaze as they completed the prayer together. As they reached the end, a look of incredible relief filled John's eyes. "Ellen," he whispered.
She went to him, then, crouching at his side to help him stand. John accepted the help, leaning on her heavily as she hauled him to his feet.
"John, where are we? What happened?"
"It's a house," he began, his voice still rough. "Huh. Mansion, more like. We're pretty deep under it. The place is crawling with demons."
"Are you alright? I mean, did they...?" She guided him to the nearest bed and he collapsed onto it.
"I'm okay. They just..." he wiped blood from his mouth with the back of his hand, "...just worked me over. Kicked me where it hurts most."
"What do they want?" Ellen figured she knew, but she had to ask.
John leaned his head against the metal frame of the bunk. "I don't know. They didn't tell me anything or ask me questions. But I can guess."
Sam. Ellen and John would be bait in a trap for Sam. Ellen nodded, but said nothing. She thought it unlikely that their conversation was being overheard. Electrical devices tended to go haywire around demons, so they probably couldn't use security cameras or electronic listening devices. The walls and door were thick enough to block out most sound from outside, so someone listening at the door would get nothing. Even so, caution seemed best.
Having covered the essential information, Ellen turned her attention to John himself. The blood worried her and there was a stiffness to his movements which suggested he was hurt more badly than he let on. "Let me take a look at you," Ellen suggested.
John nodded, which only confirmed Ellen's fear. She unbuttoned his shirt, pushing his hands away when he tried to help, and directed him to lie on his back. There was no sign of bleeding except at his mouth: that was something. Ellen combed her fingers through his sweat-matted hair, exposing his bruised face. The contusions were deep and purple, mostly on the right side of his face. There was nothing she could do about that. Ice would help, but she had none.
John tried to smile, but it seemed to hurt him and he stopped. "Not so pretty any more?"
Ellen smiled back. "I never loved you for your looks anyway." It was, perhaps, a confession. She touched his cheek gently, feeling the shape of the swelling.
John winced at her touch.
"I think your cheekbone is broken," she told him.
"Could be. Hurts enough."
"Is that the worst?"
He seemed to think about that for a moment. "Ribs are bruised. Not broken." He took her hand in his, moving it to his chest. "Ellen, sweetheart, I'm okay. It was just the warm-up act."
That wasn't reassuring. "You mean they'll do worse next time?" Even as the words left her mouth, Ellen wished she could take them back. Warm-up act. John believed they were going to torture him.
He squeezed her hand. "There's nothing they can do to me. I survived a year in Hell, remember? I'm just glad they didn't hurt you."
"Not yet," she said cynically. She lifted his t-shirt to examine his ribs. "Holy shit. John!"
"Like hell you are!"
"I'll be alright. Just need some rest."
"Fine. Be stubborn, since there's nothing else we can do." Ellen shook her head. "What are our chances of escape?"
"Not good. I couldn't see a way out and we're badly outnumbered. I need...more information."
Ellen shook her head. He meant he needed to see more of the building. But the only way that would happen was...
She jumped at a sound from the door. A slot had opened at the bottom of the door. A hand pushed a plate through the slot. It clanged shut.
"Damn. Guess we're gonna be here a while."
"What is it?" John asked. He must feel worse than she'd thought or he'd be trying to look for himself.
Ellen got up to investigate. "Food. Burgers and fries, juice in cartons." She smiled bitterly. "No water. Damn." No cutlery, either. Even the plate was paper.
"They ain't stupid," John commented.
No, I guess not. But she'd wanted water to clean his wounds, not to bless it. "Do you think it's safe to eat?"
"I couldn't. But if they wanted us dead, they'd have killed us on the road. Should be safe for you."
Very practical. Ellen picked up the plate, fighting a new wave of nausea. Maybe it was a hangover from the drugs, or maybe it was the horror of realising they were going to be prisoners for a long time.
One thing you could say for Lilith, as Dean said afterward: she didn't believe in subtle.
David reached them with the remains of the Jeep in tow just after dark. Bobby didn't think the Jeep was worth fixing, but what it contained - John's arsenal - was definitely worth salvaging. They emptied the trunk and stored everything, temporarily, in Bobby's house.
They were sitting around the table filling David in on everything they had decided when the whole house was rocked by an explosion. It came from the junkyard. Sam leapt to his feet, spilling beer all over one of Bobby's books. A second explosion ripped through the air. Sam looked at Dean and they both took off toward the yard.
They found two old cars burning, flames high, and a woman standing between them. She stood with her feet apart, a long, leather coat billowing around her legs in the wind created by the flames. In the light of the fire, Sam could see her eyes clearly: demonic black.
Sam unscrewed the cap of his hip flask as he skidded to a halt. "Dean," he said quietly.
Dean flashed a quick grin of understanding and left Sam alone with the demon. Sam wasn't worried. Dean would circle the fire and flank her. They didn't even need to talk it through first.
Sam stepped forward into the light of the twin fires.
"Sam Winchester," the demon called. She raised her hands, stretching her arms out to her sides and as she did so the flames rose higher. She tossed her head like a prancing horse and laughed.
Sam stood before her, the flask of holy water hidden at his side. "Lilith sent you," he said, speaking clearly but not shouting.
The demon stared him up and down. "I thought you'd be...older," she said, contempt heavy in her voice.
"I thought you'd be smarter," Sam snapped back. "Deliver your message, bitch."
She dropped her pose and took a step toward him. "Lilith has your daddy and his woman."
Tell me something I don't already know, Sam thought, though it was a relief to have confirmation. "Are they alive?" he demanded.
"For now. If you want to keep it that way, you'll do what she wants."
Sam smiled coldly. "You need to work on your menacing skills." He caught sight of Dean behind her and shook his head very slightly, telling Dean to wait. "But don't waste it on me. Just tell me what she wants."
The demon told him. It was almost exactly what Sam expected. Lilith demanded he deliver himself to her, alone and unarmed. She gave him twenty four hours to reach her at an address in south Georgia.
Sam signalled to Dean with his eyes. "Fine. Now you can be my answer to Lilith."
The demon opened her mouth to reply and Sam flung holy water on her. One vertical slash, one horizontal. He grabbed her as she screamed, as Dean flew at her from the other side.
Dean hooked one arm around her neck, pouring holy water down her front. "Exorcizamus te, omnis spiritus..."
Sam joined him in the chant. They were good at this and it didn't take long at all.
When the woman finished vomiting up black smoke, she collapsed into Sam's arms. He caught her and felt her body tremble. Her breath was hot on his neck.
"Oh, God," she sobbed. "Oh, God."
Sam held her awkwardly, meeting Dean's eyes over her shoulder. "She's alive," he breathed. It was a surprise. He'd become used to performing exorcisms and finding only a dead body left behind. "You're okay now," he said to her.
"Who...who are you?"
He gave her the truth without thinking. "My name is Sam." To Dean he said, "Get Bobby. She'll need a doctor."
Dean took off.
Sam guided the woman toward the house. She was alive. Funny how that didn't feel like a victory.
"You are not just turning yourself over to Lilith," Dean said with finality.
"It doesn't seem like a great plan," David agreed.
Bobby, Sam was sure, would have voted with them, too, but he was driving the girl to the nearest hospital. It left Sam with only Dean and David to argue with. Or, only Dean, as Sam wasn't that concerned about David's opinion.
"Dean, it's Dad."
"You think I don't know that?"
"I think you're missing the point." Sam sighed. "Don't get me wrong. It's Dad, and I'd want to go after him anyway, but there's another reason we can't let Lilith have him. Remember what we were talking about yesterday? The other children?"
He watched the stubborn anger drain from Dean's face. "Oh, God. Dad knows who they are." He looked at Sam. "I'm still not lettin' you - "
Sam interrupted. "No. If I do as she told me, Lilith will know something's going on. She's expecting a double-cross. Dean, I have an idea. You're gonna hate it, but hear me out, okay?"
Dean looked wary. "Okay."
Sam turned to David. "First tell me about your abilities. You said you're not as powerful as I am. What can you do?"
David answered, "Most of my power is over the mind. I can read emotions, sometimes thoughts. If the person co-operates, I can affect the mind directly and manipulate memories or knowledge. To help someone forget a trauma, for instance. The rest... I have visions of the future and I can see patterns of causality...it's complicated to explain quickly."
"And there's the immortality thing," Dean put in dryly.
"That's not a power, it's a curse. And if your plan involves using that spell, you shouldn't rely on it."
Sam narrowed his eyes at David. "Did someone put it in the newsletter?" But he understood what David meant. If the demon who cursed David was killed, it was possible, even likely, the curse would end. Would that kill David instantly? Or would it only make him mortal again? How could they know?
"No," David answered, "but I can feel how you feel about this plan."
"Which is what, exactly?" Dean demanded. "For those of us who ain't psychic?"
Sam explained his plan.
There was silence in the room. Sam waited for one of them to respond.
Dean stared at him. He drew breath as if to speak, but he said nothing.
Sam looked at David. He returned Sam's look steadily, but remained silent.
Sam shrugged. "Well, say something!"
Dean drew another breath. "Just how many kinds of crazy are you?"
"It does seem..." David began at last, then changed his mind. "Are you certain you can trust this Ruby? Your plan seems to hinge on her co-operation."
"That's what you think is wrong with this plan?" Dean protested.
"Do either of you have a better idea?" Sam asked. "I'm listening."
For a moment, there was silence again. Then David said, "This won't work. Not the plan, Sam. You two."
"What do you mean?" Sam frowned.
"You heard what I said about being able to read feelings. You and your brother need to have an honest conversation and you won't do it with me here. So I'll be in my van." He headed for the door and turned back to them when he reached it. "Don't hold back, boys." The door swung closed behind him.
Sam looked at his brother. "Do you trust me, Dean?"
Dean nodded. "You know I do."
"I trust you. You're my brother, Dean. I know we don't agree on everything but sometimes..." Sam pulled out a chair and sat down, unable to look at Dean while he spoke. "Sometimes you do see these things more clearly than me. If you tell me this is too much, if this is a line I mustn't cross, then I will trust you. Even if it costs us Dad. So tell me, Dean. Be honest."
Dean moved around Sam's chair, forcing Sam to look at him. "No, Sammy. It's a good plan. I hate it, but it's our best shot. But can you do it, Sam? Can you?"
Sam couldn't answer. Yes, he could do it. He could, because he didn't have a choice any more. The very thought turned his stomach and he wasn't certain he wouldn't put a gun to his head after, but he would do it. I am become death, destroyer of worlds. Wasn't that what the man who invented the bomb said? Sam knew how he felt.
"You and Dad, you both think this is all about the numbers," Dean said. "One innocent girl dies, we save maybe thousands of lives. Maybe millions, in the long run. Right?"
"Maybe you're right. Maybe it's worth it to save all those lives." Dean grasped Sam's shoulders, suddenly, gripping him hard enough to hurt. "But it's not worth it if I lose you, Sam! What is this gonna do to you?"
Sam couldn't answer.
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