There wasn’t much light to be found in the parking lot of the Gas & Grocery, which forced Dean to waste a free hand on a flash light. He knew the layout of the trunk like the back of his hand. Problem was, some of the layout had sharp edges and, without the light, it would take him far too long to grab what he needed without losing a finger.
The gaping pit in his stomach had been somewhat filled when he realized that something was going on here beyond his own paranoia, but the relief had only been temporary. Now it was back in full force, gnawing away at him, telling him to move his ass double-time.
But there was no way he was leaving to burn anyone’s bones before he felt better about the safety of the living that were left behind. A couple of boxes of table salt were not going to cut it with this spirit. These people needed real supplies.
Finally, he decided he had all he could carry, switched off the flashlight and tossed it back in the trunk. After hefting a big sack of rock salt over his shoulder and snatching up several sawed-offs he had propped up against the back bumper, he managed to slam the lid shut, but just barely. He was pretty well weighted down with weapons and could barely raise his arm above his head. He was overdoing it, truth be told.
“Shipped off to Purgatory with a lock pick, pocket knife, pistol, spray bottle of borax, and a bone,” he muttered to himself. It had become his personal mantra whenever he felt like that crazy guy from those Police Academy movies. The one who always went strapped with at least a dozen guns. Nuts or not, this way he would always be prepared.
Dean’s fingers were just about to slip under the metal handle on the glassed-in front door of the market to pull it open when he felt it, or perhaps ‘sensed it’ was a better way to phrase it. There was nothing tangible this time like another extreme drop in temperature, but he knew all the same. Every hair on the back of his neck told him she was back again, and feeling vengeful against the man who’d twice hit her with iron shot.
The walk from the gas pumps where the Impala was parked and the front door of the store wasn’t far. It was around a hundred feet give or take; just a few steps for a grown man. He was nearly home free when all the shit hit the fan in 3-D. The story of his life.
Dean dropped his right shoulder, hoping the bag of salt he was holding would fall off to the side. Then he planned to drop one of the sawed-offs, swing around and fill the bitch full of rock salt with the other. It was going to be one of his slicker moves.
Now he understood why he’d had such a feeling of dread, because it didn’t work out that way at all. No cool action movie scene for him this time.
The damn sack snagged on the strap of the ammo bag he was carrying, he overbalanced, started juggling the sawed-offs like a circus clown, and that’s when Annabelle grabbed him up by the scruff of his collar like he was nothing more than another one of her many snot-nosed kids.
He was less clear on what happened next. For a period of time, he wasn’t entirely sure where he was or why he was there, to be quite honest.
The next time he was somewhat aware of his surroundings, he was laid out flat on his back on a cold linoleum floor with Sam and someone else hovering over him. He had a feeling he knew who the other person was, but his identity was dancing somewhere on the edge of his consciousness, just out of grasp.
He had yet another head injury.
He may not be able to add two and two right now, but he’d had his eggs scrambled enough times to know that these symptoms weren’t something even a severe case of amnesia could erase from his memory.
He opened his mouth and managed to slur out a reasonable version of his brother’s name.
“Dean,” Sam sighed back at him. “Hold on, man. You’re okay. You just hit your head really hard, but we’ll get you some help.”
One look in Sam’s eyes told him his brother was on the verge of freaking, which meant he was far from ‘okay’. So, what else was wrong? Had he been shot? Stabbed? Gnawed on by a werewolf? Hell if he knew. He tried to do a quick inventory of all major systems, but damn if everything didn’t hurt.
“What’s wrong with me?” he asked, giving up on figuring this one out on his own.
Oh God, he was getting that look. The mournful ‘the world’s gone to shit’ gape of horror that little Sammy Winchester patented at age three when he spilled his juice. Dean was dying. That expression was the proof.
“Sam.” He tried to put as much big brother authority into his tone as possible. Now and again it still worked; at least he liked to think it did. In any event, he did get his answer, only not from Sam. He got it from a chunky kid with a ponytail.
Ronald, maybe? No, that wasn’t it.
“You’re bleeding real bad and you’ve definitely got some broken bones,” not-Ronald informed him breathlessly. “And there’s a big ole piece of metal stickin’ out of your side; might be stuck in your liver or something. We’re scared to take it out and the phones won’t work.”
‘Joey.’ hat was his name. Yeah, that felt right.
The gas station. The little girl. The damn turbocharged ghost.
“Ghost, Sam.” Please tell me you haven’t left us with our asses hanging out here.
Sam huffed and shoved his hair back out of his face. “Dean, we’re secure, okay. We’re covered. Every door, every window. You don’t need to worry about it. I have to get you out of here, man. The nearest hospital is over an hour away in Knoxville, but Lester said there’s a volunteer fire department a few miles from here. They have a couple of trained EMTs. I’d take you there myself, but we might have to fight our way out and I’m afraid you’ll…”
Dean tried to shake his head and immediately regretted it. It was as if a small nuclear explosion went off behind his eyes and the wave of nausea was difficult to swallow back. Then there was the pain from Sam’s giant paw, which felt like a hundred pound weight pressing against his sternum, holding him down. Yeah, some of those ribs were definitely cracked.
“No, Sam,” he groaned. “We’re not leaving these people here by themselves with a ghost on steroids. You go. Find the bones. I’ll stay here and take care of things.”
Sam’s worried expression of doubt, just served to piss Dean off. What did he care anyway? If he did croak here, Sam would be free to go back to being Joe Normal even sooner than planned.
“Just go! I’m fine,” he snapped.
“Well, you look pretty as a picture.”
When the word ‘picture’ came out sounding exactly like ‘pitcher’ and the odor of fresh Marlboro filled his nostrils, Dean didn’t have to turn his head to see that Lester had joined their little group. Out of habit, he turned his head anyway, and immediately regretted it. He really needed to concentrate on not moving at all for the foreseeable future. It hurt too damn much and he didn’t want to add fuel to Sam’s fire by puking on himself. Too bad the smell of Lester’s cancer sticks weren’t helping with the nausea problem.
Lester was smoking like a chimney. Quite obviously, in all the excitement, he had decided to give a big ‘screw you’ to any laws or ordinances against such things. He was also carrying one of Dean’s sawed-offs. He was gripping it loosely by the stock, but thankfully the barrel was pointed safely at the floor.
“Who said you could carry my gun?”
The old man smirked and lit a fresh smoke off of the butt of the one he’d just finished before dropping it and grinding it out under his boot on the floor. Jesus Christ.
“Way I see it, your head busted through my front door and the rest of you took out an entire display of Fritos and all them TV Genie Bras. Blood all over ‘em. All ruined. Shotgun’s mine.”
Mystery solved. He’d been thrown headfirst through the glass door of the store. That explained a lot. The metal supposedly sticking out of him must have come from one of the displays his body had landed on. On the bright side, he should be thankful that (by some miracle) the door was modern enough to be safety glass. Otherwise, he would have bled to death by now.
“Don’t worry,” Lester said more seriously. “I got you covered now that I know what sorta ammo to use. Joey ’ll ride with your brother. He knows exactly where the grave is. Sure he’s been on his own haunted field trip a time or two. Come on boys, you’uns need to get going.”
Joey, who was still kneeling by Dean, gave a guilty shrug and mumbled something about not knowing it was real before rather ungracefully pushing himself to a stand, hitching his jeans up as he went. Sam, however, didn’t feel obligated to jump to the older man’s orders. He was still kneeling at Dean’s side and he didn’t appear enthusiastic about moving any time soon.
“Can you two give us a minute?” Dean asked as he observed the stubborn set of Sam’s jaw.
He waited until the sound of receding footfalls seemed distant enough to block most of what he had to say.
“What the hell, Sam?” he hissed out, trying to keep his voice as low as possible. “You can stop showboating and lay off the loyal brother act. Go burn the damn bones!”
From wounded, puppy dog eyes to rip-your-head-off rage in 1.5 seconds. That had to be a new land speed record.
“Fuck you, Dean!” Sam barked back at him and there was no possibility anyone in the building didn’t hear it. “There’s no way to win with you, is there?” He lowered his tone to an angry whisper before continuing. “I thought you were dead, that’s a long way from wanting you to be dead. But just keep this shit up…”
“And what, Sam? You’ll leave me for dead… again?” Dean didn’t fully understand why he was saying these things. Sam was merely acting the way a brother should, but it was making him extremely angry.
Sam stood suddenly and pulled out his phone, which seemed pointless, since Dean understood that all the phone lines were on the fritz. Most likely, this was a supernatural lockdown and no calls were getting in or out, by land or by cell.
“Too bad,” his brother said as he held up the phone. “You don’t get to die. I’m not giving you the satisfaction.” Sam’s speech ended in a yelp as he rather comically juggled his phone from hand-to-hand like a hot potato before pulling his fingers away and allowing it to shatter on the hard floor below.
“What the-?” Dean was cut-off when the overhead florescent lights became brighter and began humming loudly before coming to a crescendo with a loud pop, which plunged the store into a thick darkness.
As screams of horror and surprise went up around the room, Dean felt panic begin to claw at his airway. He couldn’t see, could barely move, couldn’t feel his pistol at the small of his back and didn’t know where the hell else it could be. He patted himself down frantically and mostly came back with hands sticky with blood, but the knife at his waist was still there, that was something.
After pulling it free of the sheath, he held it out in front of him like a shield and used the other hand to pull himself up by a nearby shelf so that his back was propped against the cinderblock wall behind him. He was able to get some leverage by bringing up one knee and pushing with that leg, but there was something seriously wrong with the other. It was definitely broken. That much he knew. Dean was a man well versed in the different varieties of pain. The only question here was, how bad? He almost didn’t want to know, considering it was the same leg he had previously busted in Bobby’s junkyard. There had to be a limit to how many times one limb could be busted and still function.
By the time he had gotten himself into a mostly upright sitting position, the light from a flashlight had illuminated the darkness. That one small beam of light had an amazing calming effect on the civilians and Dean had to admit it went a long way with him too. In the pitch black, the store had grown to many times its actual size and everyone in it had seemed to be impossibly far away.
Now that the cave-like darkness was lit first by one flashlight and then several more, and soon after followed by some candles and an oil lamp, the store was once again fairly small. No one person was more than a dozen yards away from any other at the most. It was freaky how that illusion worked. He was a pro at blocking the memories, but he did recall that during the very few times they did leave him alone in Hell, the experience was eerily similar and that was a place he really did not need to revisit right now.
“Dean, you look like hell. Put the knife down.”
It was Sam who spoke, hitting closer to the truth than he realized. He had a hand closed around the wrist of the hand he was using to hold the blade up in front of him.
Dean didn’t realize he was still doing that. Another freak-out moment, this day was just chock full of them. His brother sounded exasperated and tired, but the anger from several minutes earlier seemed to have faded.
“Give me the knife,” he demanded in a calm and even tone. The tone you use with crazy people.
Dean bristled a bit at that. He wasn’t losing his only weapon. “Lemme go, Sam. I’ll put it away. Just let go of my wrist.” He would jerk away, but he wasn’t sure he had the strength or that he wouldn’t accidentally stab one or both of them in the process.
Sam sighed impatiently, but released his grip so Dean could lower the knife and slide it back in the sheath. He was feeling exactly like one of those patients in a mental ward who had to be watched with any sharp implements, but tried to cover his discomfort.
“Where’s my gun?” he asked.
With carefully blank features, Sam reached into the waistband of his jeans and pulled out the pearl grip pistol. He turned it around and grasped it by the barrel as if to hand it over, but paused before doing so, his brow heavily creased with worry. “You’re in really rough shape. You need blood. I know you need surgery. You need help, man, not a gun.”
Dean held out his hand silently, waiting for the weapon to be placed in his outstretched palm. Sam was right, but that was beside the point. Fact was, he wasn’t going to get help until the bones were burned and the lockdown was over. Sam was overthinking this. It was what it was and it sucked. The sooner he accepted it and moved his ass in the right direction, the better.
After a long moment, Sam shook his head and handed over the pistol with a sad half-smile. “You look like crap, dude.”
Dean didn’t argue. He felt like crap and like a guy with split personalities, because, at the moment, concerned-brother Sam wasn’t making him want to lash out in rage. Five minutes from now, he just may have to struggle not to break his nose for similar behavior. Of course Sam can’t stand to be near him, he’s a raving psycho with PMS.
“Just do the job first,” he cautioned his brother seriously. “Don’t worry about me until it’s done. Promise me.”
Sam flared his nostrils and huffed. He was mad again. That didn’t take long.
“Don’t be stupid, Dean! Nobody’s impressed with your martyr act.”
“It’s not about that. Just listen-” It was too late. Sam didn’t understand and wouldn’t let him explain.
Among so many other failings, Dean had left Cas behind in Purgatory. It was only fair that an innocent child gets bumped to the head of the line here and he gets left behind. It didn’t make him a hero, didn’t even begin to budge the scales, and he couldn’t live with anything less. But, his brother practically jumped to his feet, jerking his coat sleeve out of Dean’s grasping hand.
“Sam,” he tried again, but he was pointedly ignored as Sam went about rechecking all the doors and windows to make sure the lines still held, and once again held basic Ghost 101 and shotgun safety with Lester and Mike. Clearly, he was preparing to take Joey and hit the road, and Dean doubted he was going to have any influence over what happened out there.
Read the Finale