Title: Out of the Fire
Spoilers: No Rest for the Wicked
Summary: Five years after the events in No Rest for the Wicked, Dean awakens to a changed world. He finds himself reluctantly joined with a group of freedom fighters who have one goal – destroy the tyrannical reign of Sam Winchester no matter the cost.
Word Count: 9,097
A/N: This is probably the closest I'll ever get to apocafic. Thanks to meg_tdj for the beta.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.
"He's awake! Hold him down!"
Dean's eyes snapped open. All around him were shapes and shadows, dancing underneath a blaring white light, pressing him down on a dirty table like he was some asylum reject. The initial shock and disorientation lasted only a split second before his training kicked into high gear. Dean pushed against his assailants and kicked out, nailing one in the groin. He laughed as the guy doubled over, but didn't bask in the enjoyment for very long. Not about to let an opportunity pass, Dean flipped his body and dove toward the opening the man had left behind.
He never saw the blow coming.
Dean reeled as something blunt hit him on the back of his head. His vision skewed, and he felt a wave of nausea as little black dots floated in front of his eyes. He wasn't sure if he lost consciousness or not, but as the black spots cleared, he realized he was back on the table, his hands firmly chained down by his sides.
Chains? He shook his fists. His last memory of chains…
"Hey!" Dean fought against the restraints, trying to keep his feelings of panic at bay. His gaze locked onto a guy, large and pumped, who looked like Hercules' ugly twin brother. "Yo, Rambo!" Dean shouted, yanking at the chains. "Overcompensating much?"
The man, who clearly was the leader, eyed him once before snapping his fingers at another guy watching from the side. "Gag him."
Before Dean had the chance to finish, some brute shoved an oily rag into his mouth. Dean gagged, his nostrils burning from the scent. It smelled like bad fish.
He jerked his arms and legs against the chains, struggling to figure out how to get free and spit out the damn gag. He couldn't remember how he got here or when or just who the hell these people were. All he remembered was dying and Hell.
And Sam. As the Hell Hounds had ripped him to shreds, he had seen a few brief flashes of Ruby wielding something against Sam, but that was it. He couldn't remember anything after that. He'd been dead. Dead, hot, and trapped.
His panicked gaze darted around the room. His first thought was that Sam was okay and had found a way to bring him back, but as he panned the faces in the small crowd, he didn't see Sam anywhere.
He had to believe that Sam survived the confrontation with Lilith. He had to hold onto the hope that Sammy was out there, still fighting and winning.
Then he thought maybe they were demons or Lilith's people, but when he saw one of the men take out a Bible and another one take out the holy water, he knew immediately what was happening. He was going to get exorcized.
Dean shouted to them, but only his muffled grunts made it through the gag. They continued despite his muffled protests, one guy chanting some psalms from the Bible while the other began an exorcism from a small book that reminded Dean of his dad's journal, only worse for wear. As they performed the ritual, the full reality of the situation hit him.
He honestly didn't know where he was. He didn't know when he was. He could have been trapped in Hell for centuries, beaten and worn with each passing year, until there was nothing left. He might not be him anymore.
Dean didn't want to think about that. He just had to find Sam or Bobby or someone.
Two others started splashing him with holy water.
Dean half expected it to work. He cringed each time the water hit his skin, but to his surprise, nothing happened. He shook his head, keeping the droplets out of his eyes.
His captors seemed just as surprised. Yet, they finished their exorcism without pausing, without stopping to question him or torture him. When they were done, they closed the books and stared at him, almost with pity.
He would have loved to clock them all right then.
"He's clean," the leader said. "Give it to him."
Dean tensed as he saw the men converging on him. Again, he pushed against the shackles, jerking at the chains, and hoped for a weak link. He ignored the pain as the metal cut into his flesh and kept yanking at the restraints over and over, until his eyes widened at the sight of an attractive young woman holding a small cup.
Crap, they were going to have him chug down some rufied up potion.
Dean started thrashing the table as the men came to hold him down. He figured the more he moved, the harder it would be for them to pour that junk down his throat. Unfortunately, the men were too many, and they managed to lock him into place. The leader came up to him next, followed by the woman, and hovered over him.
"I can't take any chances that you're one of the men he's changed." The man reached over and removed the gag. As soon as it was gone, Dean spit at the man's face, but the guy wasn't fazed a bit. "I should have expected that from you," he said as he wiped his chin. "This won't take long. It'll be over soon."
"I swear to God, as soon as I'm free I'm gonna—"
The liquid was like acid in his mouth. It burned, spiking little pinpricks of pain across his tongue and gums until he felt them blister and peel. Dean buckled at the sting, gagging as he tried to spit the fire out of his mouth. But the bastard held his head in place, keeping his mouth open, as the woman poured every last drop down his tortured throat.
Tears streamed down his face from the power of the pain. He felt his body spasm and release. As he breathed out, he noticed the men had finally let go, even if he remained shackled to the table. The leader towered over him, running his hand over one of the chains.
Dean forced a smile. "Man, I'm not into that kind of kink."
"Funny." The man clamped the shackle harder; Dean winced. "Did he send you here?"
He squeezed harder. "Don't play with me."
"Does it look like I'm friggin' playing?" Dean coughed and cleared his throat, trying to steady his hoarse voice. His wrist throbbed from the pressure, but he wasn't about to let some psycho get his kicks off his pain. "You got a problem with me, talk straight."
"You and I both know he doesn't let his people go. You either escaped, or you're one of them."
The dude had to be talking about Hell.
"What? You think I'm some demon? I'm no demon." Though, Dean had to admit he wasn't even convinced by his own plea. "Your little exorcism proved that."
"You seem surprised."
"Last I heard, I was roasting the Colonel style. Extra crispy."
The man frowned and narrowed his eyes. "You've been behind enemy lines for five years."
"Five years? Seriously?" Dean tried to wrap that concept around his head. He couldn't remember anything about Hell other than he'd been both hot and cold, in pain and numb. He couldn't imagine being in Hell for five years and not remember anything but a bad scene out of a Hellraiser movie. "Look, I think I'd remember being toasty for five years."
"You honestly don't remember, do you?" The man cocked his head and studied him in a way that made Dean want to squirm. "The demons run this world."
Dean stared at him. That wasn't what he'd wanted to hear.
"There are only a few of us left, hidden, tucked away in secluded sacred safe havens." His eyes grew hard, intense, in a way that Dean often recalled seeing in his father in the middle of a hunt. "You understand I have to take precautions."
"You expect me to believe all that bull your shoveling?"
"He must have had extreme control over you if you can't remember," the man said, his voice almost sad. "Though, it was expected."
"Man, I don't know what you've been smokin', but it's seriously messed with your head."
The stranger studied him closely. "We do the best we can with what the Lord has given us."
Oh, lovely. That was fantastic. Dean needed to get away from this crazy religious cult and find Sam. With a grunt, he lifted one of his arms as high as it would go and jingled the chains. "Why don't you show me some of that godly mercy, and let me go?"
He laughed. "Why would I do that? I can't risk having you run back to your master and give away our location."
"Master? Do I look like a cabana boy?"
"Maybe you'll talk to someone else."
Dean laughed. "Not gonna happen."
The man waved his hand, calling one of his lackeys to the table. The leader whispered something in his ear, which resulted in a sharp nod from the other before he scurried out of the room.
Dean hit the table with his head in aggravation. If he were to believe that the whole word went apocalypto while he had a reservation downstairs, then he had to assume Sam had lost the good fight. Sam wouldn't have let the demons take over. He would have fought them with every last breath. And with his obsessive determination that rivaled their dad's, Dean knew that the only way these sons of bitches would have won is if Sam had gone down, but gone down swinging.
Dean swallowed hard. He'd really screwed up this time.
"Send him in."
Dean craned his neck to see the messenger boy had returned. Sweat trickled down from his forehead into his eyes, stinging him, and blurring his vision. Yet despite the blur, he noticed the messenger boy had entered with someone Dean hadn't expected.
Bobby paused at the door, and aside from a quick glance in Dean's direction, he kept his attention focused on the man of the hour.
"He's clean?" Bobby asked.
"We gave him the sap. That should stave off any demonic influence that might have been cast over him." He glared at Dean and then Bobby, a warning tone entering his voice. "But he stays cuffed until we're sure he isn't a spy."
Bobby nodded. He grabbed a chair and pulled it over to the table, essentially switching spots with the man that had been running the show for the past hour.
Dean felt odd, like he was trapped in this foggy land where everything was similar but different. He was glad to finally see a familiar face, something that helped ground him, someone to get a message to Sam, but at the same time he had no idea why Bobby would be mixed up with a group like this.
He felt like he was living some crazy nightmare.
Bobby gave him that hard, thoughtful look that always made Dean feel two inches tall. "That really you?" he asked.
"No, it's the friggin' toothfairy. Of course it's me." He stopped and lowered his voice when Bobby sent him a hard glare. "Bobby, what the hell's going on?"
"A lot's gone down since you left."
"Really? Cause I'd never have guessed." Dean turned his head, trying to get a better assessment of the room. Rambo was watching them like a hawk, while his lackeys fussed over some old rusted out radios or cleaned the barrels of a few sawed-off shotguns.
Then there was Bobby. He was the same old Bobby he'd always known, but he looked decades older, like he carried the scars of a lifetime in his weary face, more than anything he'd carried before, and certainly more than the supposed five years Dean had been in Hell.
None of that mattered right now. Dean had more important things on his mind.
He licked his dry lips and raised his head, scouring the room one more time, but came up empty. Frowning, he turned back to Bobby. "Where's Sam?"
A brief wave of regret and sadness washed over Bobby's face. It vanished almost as quickly as it had come, but his silence told Dean enough. He knew something awful had happened to his little brother.
"Dammit." He swallowed hard, struggling to keep his voice from cracking. "Did he die?"
Confusion flickered in Bobby's eyes. Dean's frown deepened. For a second, he was convinced Bobby thought he was insane. He heard a snort from the man in the back.
Bobby turned his head to the leader. "Will ya let us talk?"
He lingered for a minute, giving Dean a long hard glare, but finally nodded, stepping back to give the two of them some space. Bobby slid the chair a little closer, but not too close, Dean realized. Any comfort from Bobby's presence evaporated.
Dean hesitated, his gaze flickering back to the man a few steps behind them. Then, he lowered his voice again, trying to make sure it didn't break. "Did I come back wrong?" he asked.
Bobby kept his face as hard as stone, but he couldn't hide the emotion from his eyes. He turned his head and wiped his face, finding a spot on the wall and staring at it for the time being.
"Hey, I deserve the truth here."
"You've been with 'em for a good five years," Bobby said. "We dunno how much damage they did."
"Them?" Dean started to feel uneasy again as it began to dawn on him what they were implying. He narrowed his eyes. "Where's Sam?"
"I think that's enough," the leader said. "He's obviously not going to cooperate."
"What the hell? This is some kind of interrogation?" Dean sent an accusing glare at Bobby, feeling the stick of betrayal in his chest. "You're just here to get info outta me?"
Bobby refused to make eye contact.
Dean stared, unable to believe what he was seeing. That wasn't the Bobby he knew. None of this was right.
"Let's chain him in the corner," the leader said, motioning to the opposite wall. "I want him secure where I can see him, but I want him out of ear shot. I can't risk him reporting back."
"You crazy son of a bitch." Dean jerked at the restraints. "I don't work for no demons!"
The leader stepped to the table and towered over him. "It's not the demons I'm talking about."
Dean let out a nervous laugh. "Right, this is where you tell me it's much, much worse?"
The man remained stone faced. "Come, now. Stop playing this game," he said. "You know what I mean. I'm not going to let you jeopardize everything we've worked for, whether you are a victim or not."
The determination in his face, in his voice, cut through Dean until he was left with nothing but a chilling coldness. Dean swallowed it down, trying to keep that shaky panic deep inside, and kept his defiant glare. "Right, and what would that be?"
"He would have never let you go, which means when he comes, we'll be ready for him." Finally, a proud smile slipped across the man's face. "And then the terrible reign of Sam Winchester will finally come to end."
His brother was the Antichrist. Perfect.
Dean sat in the corner with his arms extended over his head and chained to the wall. From where he was sitting, he could see the group huddled in the corner, Bobby included, planning some kind of defense or offense over a small, beat up coffee table. This was one of the few times he wished he could read lips, or at least had Sam the Wonder Boy by his side to come up with some wacky alternative.
He bowed his head, struck by a wave of sadness as he remembered a random memory of the two of them in the Impala, driving around, arguing like they always did. There was no way he was going to accept Sam had gone dark side. He'd made a promise before Dean had gone to the Pit. It was up to Sam to honor their day by fighting true. But then he remembered how desperate Sam had been right before the skank had revealed herself, and he felt some of his resolve weaken.
Dean knew he had to see his brother. He had to find Sammy and confront him. If he had gone postal, this was the only way to get him back.
He shook the chains and glared at the group. "Hey, I'm burning up here! How about a fan or something?"
They continued to ignore him, poring over their little secret club plans. Dean couldn't just sit here and do nothing. He had to get out of there.
After pausing to take a deep breath, Dean shifted his body weight, turned his torso to the side, and moved his chained arms closer together. He winced from the pain and cursed silently, biting his lip to keep his mouth shut. He knew he could only stay this way for a few minutes before he had to slump back down, but it was more than enough to help him fiddle with his shackles. Then he started again.
Dean had been working for several minutes when he saw Bobby walking towards him. Dean quickly twisted around and plopped himself on the floor to mirror his original position. Bobby paused, glass in hand, and gave him an odd, suspicious look. Dean felt like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar, but to his surprise, there was no biting insult from Bobby. He just stood there, studying him, before he finally held out the glass of water.
"I'm a little tied up right now," Dean said.
"Just drink it, smartass."
Dean strained his neck and took a few large gulps of water as Bobby held the glass. The water was lukewarm and a little cloudy, but right now, it tasted better than beer. Dean eagerly finished the glass, finally feeling some of the burn from his parched mouth fade away.
He exhaled and sighed, lightly rocking his head back to hit the wall, and closed his eyes. The water didn't do anything to cool the rest of the burning in his body nor ease the fire that prickled under his skin. Dean would just have to take what he could get.
He could still feel Bobby's eyes on him, watching him, and despite himself, Dean let out a chuckle. "So, this is where you come back to play good cop?" he asked.
"I'm worried about you, Dean."
Dean sat up and stared at Bobby. "Right, because I've been an evil minion for the past five years."
"Three?" Dean laughed. "Can't even get your stories straight now."
Bobby slammed the glass onto the floor causing Dean to jump. He leaned forward, his voice low but firm. "If you'd shut your trap for a minute, then maybe you'd learn somethin'."
Dean calmed himself long enough to nod. "Tell me this is just one big trip."
"Wish I could."
"What the hell happened?"
"He snapped. He just plain snapped." Bobby sighed. "He lost it while looking for you. I tried to stop him, but he's as pigheaded as you and your daddy, if not worse. He shut me out."
"So, that's it? You didn't even try?"
Bobby's face darkened. "I'm not the idiot that sold his soul in the first place."
Dean grimaced and looked down. "I really screwed up bad."
"That's an understatement."
Dean looked up at Bobby. "I don't remember any of it."
"He's been workin' some powerful mojo. Stuff not even cults or covens will touch. We don't have a clue what he did to your head for all that time."
Dean tried to wrap his mind around everything Bobby was telling him. Why couldn't he remember? He couldn't imagine Sam getting that out of control. Sammy was a good person. Or maybe Dean just had mastered being in denial for so long that he couldn't come to terms with it.
"How long?" Dean asked.
Bobby shrugged. "We figure you were in Hell or wherever for 'bout two years before he found a way to bring you back. Not sure how, but it was too late by then. He'd already gotten involved in some pretty heavy dark crap before he broke you out. Ever since then, he's kept you on a tight leash."
Dean forced a small smile. "He's always been a bit of a control freak."
"Try ruthless dictator." Bobby waited for the smile to vanish from Dean's face before he continued. "This is no joke, Dean. Sam went and got himself involved with some powerful demons. He wasn't gonna stop 'til he got ya back, and when he did it was too late. You're either with him or against him, doesn't matter who or what you are."
Dean frowned. "What're you saying?"
"I'm saying this goes beyond just random psychic visions. Sam's got himself an army. He's knocked out all the competition and wiped out most of us hunters. It don't stop there, either. Anything he sees as a threat to his 'order' gets taken out before they know it."
"He's killing people?"
Bobby gave him a pointed look. "You even listening?"
Dean shook his head. "He wouldn't be killing innocent people. Not Sammy."
"He messed you up good."
"Look, okay. I know Sam can get a little intense about things from time to time, but he'd only ever do something a little crazy if he was trying to help people."
"He thinks he is helping people. What part ain't you gettin'?" Bobby stepped a bit closer, towering over Dean. "He killed Ellen. Her girl. A buddy of mine down from Wayside. Countless more. Those he doesn't control get killed. It's all black and white."
Dean stared. None of this made any sense.
"Believe it," Bobby said, as if reading his mind. "This ain't a joke."
"And you're saying I just sat around and did nothing? That I'd let him do all that?"
"What have I just been sayin'? He's mastered mind control, you dumbass." Bobby sighed. "You've been under his spell for 'bout three years now. He could have had you believin' you were a goat, and you would've happily gone with it."
"That's crazy talk."
"And you can't remember a damn thing now." Bobby nodded as Dean's face fell. "Do I have to spell it out for ya?"
Dean fell silent. He didn't want to believe what Bobby was telling him. He just couldn't accept things had gotten that bad. If only he could remember or had some kind of proof, something he could see or touch to help him make sense of it. For all he knew, Bobby and his crew had been the ones to go dark side and were messing with his head.
Or maybe that was Sammy's Jedi powers talking.
"That stuff your pal forced on me…"
"That's Dan," Bobby said. "He's pretty much the big cheese 'round here."
"Well, Dan needs to work on his bedside manner." He motioned with his chin to the table where Dan had him tied down earlier. "What was that stuff?"
"It keeps us free from the mind control. It'll help break any demonic influence on you." Bobby frowned, his gaze moving up to Dean's shackled hands. Dean balled his fists and smiled. Without hesitating, Bobby reached over and snatched the lock pick out of his hand. "You think I don't know you, boy?"
Dean scowled and shook the chains for emphasis. "Like I could go anywhere without your buddies pouncing me."
"Problem?" Dan approached the two of them, his gaze falling immediately to the lock pick in Bobby's hands. "Predictable."
"Smart," Dean said, correcting him. "Unlike your little play group here. You think this'll stop Sam? The guy has the mind of a steel trap."
Dan arched his eyebrows. "What are you saying?"
"How long is it going to take you to get it through your thick skull I'm not the bad guy here?" He nudged his chin. "Bobby can vouch for me."
Dan looked at Bobby who only sighed. "He's just an idiot." Bobby reached over and grabbed Dean's left wrist and gave it a shake. The shackle easily came undone. Dean tried to hide behind a sheepish grin, but Bobby kept his grip tight as he showed Dan. "Resourceful, but still an idiot."
Dan chuckled. "Am I to understand you're asking to join us?"
Dean shrugged. "Who better than a man from the inside? If anyone can take down Puppetmaster, it's me."
"He's got a point, Dan," Bobby said. "And you gave him the sap."
"If it works on him," Dan commented. "God knows what Winchester did to him over the past three years." He shook his head. "No, I can't chance it. We don't have much time left. Sam Winchester took out the Underground in Sector Four. We're it. I'm not leaving our chances in the hands of his closest confidante."
"So what? You're just going to sit on your asses and hope he doesn't kick them too hard?" Dean snorted. "Screw all this waiting. We go directly to the HQ and attack 'em where it counts."
"You want us to follow your lead into Sam Winchester's heavily guarded fortress?" Dan laughed. "Bobby is right. You are an idiot."
Dean muttered under his breath. He was sick and tired of the freakin' dumb jokes. "Then let me go alone. Nah, hear me out," he added quickly. "If you're right, what's the worst that can happen? I'll just become another mindless zombie without any intel because you guys don't like sharing. Or we go down together and give them one hell of a fight."
He waited, his intense gaze never leaving Dan. He needed for this bozo to believe in him, to give him a chance. Dean had to get to Sam. If he could get to Sam, he knew he could make this nightmare stop. He wasn't going to let this sadistic cycle keep repeating itself.
"Make sure those chains are tight," Dan said to Bobby. "Winchester likely has his forces mobilized to search for him as we speak. He's our ticket. I don't want him going anywhere."
"Come on!" Dean swore, yanking his chained hand and struggling against Bobby with the other. "You're throwing away your one chance!"
Dan didn't answer. He turned his back to Dean and walked back to his group of lackeys at the other side of the room. Just like that, Dean was forgotten, like a fading memory.
"Bobby," Dean said, turning all his attention on him. "You can't let him do this. You got to listen to me."
"Sorry, but I got my orders."
"Man, what happened to you! You used to have backbone, now you're just a spineless pansy. Ow!" He hissed as Bobby snapped the shackles into place over his one free hand.
"You watch your mouth and just stay put." He squeezed his hand and gave him a stern look. "Don't do anything stupid."
Dean blinked at him. Without another sound, he slumped down into the corner and watched Bobby wander over to Dan and the group. As he sat there, he started to anticipate his next move and tried to bite back a sly smile as he glanced up at the lock pick Bobby had slipped into his hand.
Dean crept along the damp limestone walls of the sewer. He could barely see through the darkness, but he didn't want to rely too heavily on the flashlight he had stashed under his arm. For all he knew, Sam's scouts had every inch of these tunnels covered, and he understood that security would only get worse the closer he got to his "fortress."
Dean snorted at the thought. The religious wackjobs back at the resistance HQ could have come up with a better name for Sam's hotel.
He glanced behind him. So far, it didn't seem like anyone had followed him, but he couldn't be sure. Sooner or later, Dan and his band of merry men would figure out Dean had escaped, and when that happened he knew all hell would break loose. He appreciated Bobby helping him in all this, and when his business with Sam was done, he'd go back and make sure that fearless leader didn't chew Bobby out or worse.
Dean wasn't sure what was going on between Bobby and the groupies, but whatever it was ended up being to Dean's advantage. Bobby was sharp, and he had to know that getting to Sam personally was going to work better than charging at him with some piss-poor army. Otherwise, Bobby wouldn't have left him with a bag full of ammunition and a shotgun among other goodies.
He gave the bag a quick pat and turned the corner. The air stank of rotting food and other waste, making his stomach turn. If anything, he was sick of running through the sewers all the damn time. He wrinkled his nose at the foul smell, but remained focused on following the tunnel toward the heart of the city.
After a few minutes, Dean stopped and took a quick inventory of the tunnels. Satisfied, he pressed his back against the wall, reached into his jacket, and pulled out a tattered map, unfolding it as carefully as possible. Before he started to survey the map, he gave himself a moment to rest his head. Dean wiped the sweat from his face on the back of his jacket sleeve and exhaled. He was just so damn hot.
Dean shook off some of the stray droplets and refocused. He grabbed his flashlight and shoved it between his teeth, biting down as he studied the map.
According to the plans, Sam had men all over the joint. He had his people in the front and back, by the parking garage, in the sewers, and on the rooftop. Hell, he probably had sentries lining the entire block in apartment buildings and offices.
Dean squinted and viewed the map a little closer. He didn't have a clue how he was going to break into the hotel. Normally, he wouldn't care and would just bust in. All this sneaking around just wasn't his style. But if Sam really had lost it and had his mind powers in full swing, Dean wasn't about to become a victim. He just needed a weak spot.
While Dan's group had tried to be hush-hush, Dean had managed to hear a few whispers here and there about their plan. Dan's little underground seemed convinced Sam would be hunting for him, and that would leave the fortress exposed. According to the map, that exposure was by the east side. He just hoped this was the updated map.
Dean folded the map and stuffed it in his jacket. He shut the flashlight off and was about to jump across the tunnel to the other side when he heard a soft clang.
Dean froze and held his breath. Quietly, he ducked behind one of the pipes that pumped the sewage through the underground tunnels. Just beyond the fringes of his vision, he saw a shadow of a sentry making his way up and down the length of the tunnel. Dean remained plastered against the tunnel wall. The last thing he needed was to get picked off in the sewers and get his smelly ass dragged back into Sam's dungeon.
Come on, he thought to himself.
After what seemed like forever, he saw the shadow waver. He waited for the sentry to pass into one of the other tunnels before he poked his head around the corner.
Dean kept following the tunnel, moving faster as he closed in on a manhole that led to the east side of the hotel. He climbed the ladder and pushed at the heavy lid, grunting as he slid it to the side. Carefully, he poked his head into the street, only exposing the top of his head. His gaze locked onto the hotel.
He stifled the urge to whistle as his gaze ran up the side of the hotel to the top. That was a lot of floors. Just what city had Sam claimed as his capital? Couldn't he have picked a nice little cabin?
Dean didn't dwell on it for long. He surveyed the side street, took a quick inventory, and hopped into the adjoining alleyway. He immediately got to work.
Inside the duffle, he found a few pouches of herbs, as well as some tranqs for his gun, and a couple of large flasks. The holy water would keep any demons at bay long enough for him to run – at least he hoped – while the tranqs could take out any of Sam's mind-whammied people. He just needed to get to the penthouse in one piece.
The friggin' penthouse.
Dean shook his head and grabbed for one of the pouches. He had no clue what this stuff was and had never heard of it, but the little tag said something about screwing up electrical equipment. That was all he needed to know.
After a brief hesitation, Dean tossed the herb bundle into his mouth and started to chew. God, it tasted like rotten fish on moldy crackers. He winced and hoped the damn stuff actually did whatever it needed to do to his body to mess up the cameras.
Then, he grabbed the gun, made sure it was loaded, and took a deep breath. If he was a praying man, this was where he'd ask God for some help right about now. But he wasn't, and he wasn't about to start now.
"Here goes nothing," he said under his breath.
Dean started toward the east side of the hotel. As he exited the alleyway, he noticed a couple of guys standing outside a side door, one smoking while the other took out the trash. He wasn't about to be fooled. After a quick cock of the gun, Dean fired off two shots.
They never saw it coming. Dean hit the first guy square in the chest; he gasped and collapsed. The second guy tried to dodge upon seeing his buddy fall, but Dean was too quick and shot him in the arm. The man staggered, his eyes blaring, but Dean was already charging for the door.
He just hoped they weren't demons, or else he was screwed.
Neither man rose. Dean jumped over them and bolted into the building. At first glance, he thought he was in some kind of boiler room until he soon realized he was in the back of one of the hotel's kitchens. He crouched low behind some of the storage bins, on the lookout for any movement within the kitchen. Knowing Sam, there wouldn't be much activity down here to begin with, unless he was some kind of freak, closet midnight eater.
An image of the Antichrist wolfing down a sub at one in the morning seemed wrong on so many levels, especially if it had anything to do with Sam. With a sigh, he shook the thought of Sam's fate out of his head and withdrew the map to double-check the layout. His next room to hit was the control room. He wasn't sure how long this herbal mojo would last on him or how long the other skanky stuff he had to drink would keep him from Sam's control. Dean knew he had to act fast.
Security was tucked away on the fourth floor. He needed to disable the cameras and make it to the penthouse tout suite. Off to the fourth floor he went.
Dean stuffed the map back into his jacket and snuck through the kitchen, careful not to ram into any of the hanging pans. As he got closer to the door, he crouched low again and did a quick surveillance of the floor.
The dining area was completely empty. That wasn't unexpected given the time of night. Yet, from where Dean was hiding, he could see through the restaurant's glass doors into the lobby.
No one was out by what used to be the front desk. The entire lobby was empty.
Dean frowned. This couldn't be good. There was no way Sam would leave everything open.
"Dammit," he said under his breath. He wasn't going to walk into some trap. There had to be a back stairwell somewhere close by. He couldn't risk exposing his position in the middle of the lobby.
Dean backtracked through the kitchen, weaving in and out of the low-lying counter tops as he searched for a hidden doorway or any other rooms that could allow him to bypass the restaurant and lobby. As he reached the rear storage area, he paused, noticing a door obscured by a few boxes. Once opened, it led to a narrow passage that in turn connected to a small stairway.
He took a quick peek over his shoulder before entering the passageway. Quietly, he climbed the stairs, keeping both a flask and his gun handy. So far, he didn't see any sign of activity in the stairwell, above or below him. There should be someone. If Sam was as good as they said he was, he should have had this place locked like Fort Knox. The fact the place was deserted like a ghost town set Dean on edge.
Just get to security, he told himself.
Dean reached the fourth floor and opened the door a crack, searching the hallway for any signs of movement. When he saw that it was clear, he darted through the opening and started to stalk down the hall.
Just ahead he saw the glow of the surveillance room. He started toward it, remaining focused and alert. All around him, he saw various doors, all appearing locked and all equally silent. He half expected a bunch of demons to pop out of the doors in some melodramatic bloodbath, but the ambush never came.
When he reached the room, he double checked his gun and unscrewed the cap on his flask. After taking a deep breath, he tapped the already open door to peer inside. To his surprise, once again no one was in sight. He wasn't going to argue with that luck. He entered and closed the door behind him.
What Dean finally saw inside made his stomach turn. He stood away from the monitors as to not cause any interference, but from where he was standing, he could see Sam's influence hard at work. One monitor flashed horrible images of a hellish dungeon, people strapped to contraptions that Dean swore were right out of Saw. The people looked half-alive, and the ones that didn't were either dead or completely crazy, driven mad by the pain and fear.
Dean had to turn away from that monitor, but the next one didn't make his feel any better. That room looked like something out of his own personal heaven. The room was decked out with all kinds of rock memorabilia, a personal bar, and some very tasteful posters of some of the loveliest ladies Dean had ever ogled in Playboy.
He frowned, noting a sleek, well-cared-for car showcased in the middle of the room.
"The hell," he mumbled. His baby was being showcased like a prize at a car show.
That wasn't the end of it.
The next monitor was like the Twilight Zone picture of his life. He found himself squirming as he watched a scene right out of some twisted Leave It to Beaver. The room was perfectly crafted with puffy couches and chairs, with a sweet high def TV in the middle, complete with a state of the art entertainment system. Nice little dainty curtains hung over fake windows, and he couldn't help but notice an assortment of photos along a bookcase. He couldn't catch any of the pictures, but he didn't need to get a closer look.
On the couch, he saw her. Lisa was sitting by the arm of the sofa. Her body was stiff, fearful, but her gaze vacant and blank. On the floor, Ben sat listening to a walkman, but he too seemed cut off, like in a dream.
Dean wiped his face. This wasn't what he wanted. Not like this.
Without another thought, Dean stormed over to the monitors. He slammed the flask onto the control panel and waved his hand in front of the monitors, watching one by one as they blinked and fizzled as the supercharged electrical field around him fried the circuits. He held back his pain as the images of Ben and Lisa blinked out of his life, taking all the possibilities with them. But he knew in the end, it would have just been a farce. He didn't want to think about what might have happened over the past three years with his time here.
As the monitors shorted, Dean felt some relief in that he was doing something. It might not be much, but he'd be damned if he was going to sit around witless in Sam's little twisted fantasy.
That relief was short-lived as he caught one final image on the last monitor. A group of people, looking like a ragtag bunch of bums and losers, engaged a much larger group of fighters. At first, he thought maybe he was watching a clip of an old movie, but when he saw a familiar face among the instigators, he realized what was happening.
Dan and his boys had taken on Sam's army right here in the hotel. He frowned, trying to make sense of just what was happening.
"Little slow on the uptake."
Dean jerked and spun around, aiming his gun at the figure standing in the doorway. She was a pretty young thing, blonde, but with a fire in her eyes Dean just knew couldn't be human.
She rolled her eyes. "Please. Ruby was so last year. I'm the new girl."
Great. Sammy had himself another demon chick.
He inched closer to his flask. She sounded like Ruby. Only this girl was different, and for whatever reason, Dean couldn't see the demon's real face any more. He wrapped his fingers around the neck of the bottle.
"Now, Dean." The flask ripped from his hands and hit the wall with a clank. "Could you be any more obvious?"
"What do you want, bitch?"
"Just to welcome you back." She flashed him a dull smile. "We've missed you."
"Right, I'm sure you're a real sweetheart." He kept the gun steady, even though he knew it would be useless against a demon. "So, we going to do this the easy way or the hard way?"
"They used you, lugnug."
He frowned. "Excuse me?"
"Your little friends." She nodded at the dead monitor. "Please tell me you weren't stupid enough to fall for their tricks?"
He shifted his weight and wiped his sweat soaked forehead. "What're you getting at?"
She snorted. "They let you go. You were supposed to be the distraction, the bait. Let stupid Dean Winchester play the hero and distract the enemy while they sneak in and go for Sam."
Dean didn't want to hear this. Bobby wouldn't do that to him. Bobby was a friend; he was like family. He wouldn't use Dean as bait.
She shook her head. "I know what you're thinking. The betrayal's got to hurt. But look at it this way. They were wrong. Do you think we would be stupid enough to fall for their little plan? No, thanks to you, we've finally managed to wipe this pitiful little resistance off the map."
"Naw, you're lying."
"The cameras don't lie." She shrugged. "Sam didn't have any sentries outside, Dean. He knew you were coming so he called them all off. Sure, he left a couple around to give you something to feel all manly about. It's just he knew where the real threat lay, and took care of it." She smiled sweetly. "But I'm glad we had this little conversation. It's going to make assimilating you back into the group so much easier."
"No way, bitch." He cocked the gun. "Where's Sam?"
"He's upstairs waiting for you."
Dean hesitated. She couldn't be implying he had a free pass. "Just like that?" he asked.
She just shook her head again, giving him a long-suffering look. "Just like that." She stepped aside, unblocking his path. "Everything is going to be fine now. Once that stuff wears off, you'll see. You'll be back to happy, mindless little Dean."
"Yeah, don't count on it." He passed her and made his way to the door. She didn't raise a finger to stop him.
"I wouldn't be so sure," she said.
Dean entered the hallway and ignored the last taunt. He didn't give a damn what games those sons of bitches were playing. He wasn't going to get lost in their friggin' head games. He was going to get to Sam and make him understand. And if not…Dean swallowed hard, remembering everything his dad had told him, and the promises he once made. No, he wasn't going to go there. Sam would listen. Sam had to listen.
Dean would make him listen.
The rush to Sam's penthouse suite was clean and painless. Not a soul came out to engage him and not a demon tried to torment him. He tried not to think about what could be happening to Bobby or the rest of those bastards that had used him. Part of him didn't think they should get what they deserved, especially not Bobby, but he felt like maybe some of them should.
And that burning grew. It was like a fire consuming his body, eating at him piece by piece.
He wondered if the potion was wearing off.
Dean shook away the thought. He didn't want to think about that or any other possibilities.
Determined to get to Sam before he lost his advantage, Dean picked up the pace and charged up the next flight of stairs. Just a couple more flights and then he would try the elevators again, hoping the electrical interference wouldn't jam them this time.
Somewhere below him, he heard the cries of the Underground as Sam's army beat them to a bloody pulp.
Dean couldn't afford to waste any more time. He bolted for an elevator and jumped inside, jamming his finger on the button for the top floor. Beneath him, he heard the elevator car creak and groan, and for a second Dean thought the electrical field issue was going to come back to bite him in the ass. Luckily, it didn't, and the groaning stopped. In the next instant, he was whizzing up to the penthouse floor.
The elevator snapped open, revealing the large double doors that led to Sam's penthouse. He stepped out of the elevator and snuck toward the double doors. As he held his breath, he pressed against the wall, tapping the doors to test them. Of course, they were open. He hadn't expected otherwise. Sam was toying with him, getting some sick pleasure out of this game, and Dean had just about had it with him.
He knew it was now or never.
Dean crept into the room. He fought the urge to whistle again.
He'd assumed that Sam's inner chamber would look like something straight out of some mobster movie, lavish and opulent. He half expected a horde of ladies to pop out from behind long silky curtains, wearing nothing but skimpy thongs and gaudy jewelry.
He paused on that image for a minute, mildly disappointed when it didn't happen.
Instead, he was left with a room that was cold and empty. The walls were plain. Sure, a couple of paintings broke up the monotony here and there, but the paintings themselves were bland and still, just gray snapshots of winter or abstract objects. Sam had a TV, and though it was shiny and new, it barely looked used. In fact, the furniture was so clean that Dean suspected plastic coverings were hidden in the closets.
As he walked through the main room, he kept looking back, expecting Sam to pop out at any time, or bring his little lady friend with him. Neither did show.
Dean snuck along the far wall, making his way to the open bedroom. He took a quick peek inside, and when he realized it was empty, he slipped into the bedroom.
He found more of the same – bland white walls, a perfectly made bed, and an oppressive empty feeling that permeated the room, one strong enough to make him feel like the hollowness was eating him alive. His attention turned to Sam's dresser.
All across the surface, Dean saw various freaky occult objects, most of which he'd never even seen before. He saw a small cauldron, a black altar, and some weird symbols carved into the wood, not to mention the fetishes and amulets he had lined up and down the length of the side. If that wasn't freaky enough, everything was perfectly ordered and aligned. Dean felt he'd walked into some macabre museum where every artifact had been counted and catalogued, before being displayed in just the right way in order to remain untouched for the rest of eternity.
The rest of the room was no better.
Dean paused in front of a perfectly centered journal that rested in the middle of a coffee table. As he leafed through, he felt his fingers grow cold. It was just like Dad's journal, only the Jeffrey Dahmer version.
"Damn, he's got issues." Dean shut the book. "Just what have you gotten into, Sam?"
"Apparently, I don't have time for much of anything else."
When Dean spun around, Sam was standing behind him, but instead of looking into the eyes of his brother, he found himself staring at something vapid and empty. It was almost as if Sam wasn't even really there, and he was left to tangle with a haunted shadow.
Dean swallowed hard. "I hear megalomania's a real drag."
Sam didn't laugh. "This isn't a joke, Dean. I'm not sure how much time I have, so listen and listen well."
While Sam wouldn't break, Dean found himself unable to keep from laughing. "You think some sympathy speech is going to make it all better? You think I'm just gonna go, aw, poor Sammy. He didn't mean to do it. He's just so misunderstood." Dean narrowed his eyes. "I don't think so. I'm not letting you mess with my head again."
"You promised me," he said. "You promised me you wouldn't tap into the demonic crap. You promised me you wouldn't keep feeding into this damn unending cycle. You promised to keep on fighting like Dad had taught us. What happened, Sammy? What happened to doing the right thing? Huh? What happened to--"
"Dean, I couldn't save you."
Dean froze. "What?"
"I couldn't save you from the Pit. I never brought you back."
Dean didn't know what to say. He didn't understand what Sam was trying to tell him. Of course he was back. He was standing right there, in the middle of Sam's whacked-out hotel-turned-fortress. If he wasn't here, he could only be one other place.
Dean frowned. "You telling me…I'm still in Hell?"
Sam's hard face finally broke, a sad, sympathetic pained look taking its place. He sighed and nodded once, his voice dropping to nearly a whisper. "Yeah."
"What kind of freakin' game is this?"
"It's no game." Sam took a step forward, but Dean stepped back, keeping his wary gaze locked onto his brother. "I tried," Sam explained. "I tried to summon you back, but there must be blocks in place for people in Hell. I keep trying to find a way, but this was the best I could do."
Dean shook his head. "No, this ain't real."
"You're right. It's not. The best I can guess is that you're in your own personal hell, living different scenarios over and over."
"And just what does that accomplish?!"
"I don't know," Sam said. "Maybe to strip away all your hope? Your humanity? I don't know."
Dean shook his head. He couldn't accept that. Everything was so real. He wasn't burning in the Pit. He was here. He was going to save Sammy.
"You have to believe me, Dean. I've tried for so long. Bobby and I, we finally found a way to connect to you. But I don't know how long it'll last. I don't know how long I can force myself into your nightmares." The expression on his face opened, pleading. "I don't even know if I'll remember this or if you will. Just hold on. We're going to find a way."
Dean shook his head again and wiped the sweat from his face and neck. He was burning in Hell. He'd never left. He didn't even know how long he'd been there. He didn't know anything. He couldn't remember anything.
Then, he heard them. There were cries, awful cries, faint and distant, but strong enough to rattle his insides. Only this time, they weren't the cries of the Underground, of Dan and his men. They were the cries of the damned, of those liked him, of those that would eventually become as twisted and cruel as their masters. They reached out to him, some mournful, some laughing at him. He remembered that sound.
"Dean?" Sam's face darkened, a spark of fear entering his eyes. "What is it?"
"I hear them." He looked around, wide-eyed, hearing the cries coming closer and closer. "I'm still in Hell."
"Dean, don't. Stay with me. I don't know if I can reach you again."
"There's no way out," Dean said, hearing his voice crack. He dropped the tranquilizer gun to the floor. "It's just going to keep happening over and over."
"No. Dean! No." Sam started forward and reached out to grab him. "Don't give up hope. We'll get you out."
But it was too late. Dean could already hear the marching thundering close behind him, the sadistic laughter of the demons that had come back to torture him.
Sam and his penthouse fortress started to fall away, crumbling like a demolished building, piece by piece, until he was left with a sweltering, gaping nothingness of sulfur and burning coal.
And as he fell into the pit of despair, he cried out once more for Sam, knowing that his eternal torment would only start again.