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Devastation and Reform 12/15

March 27th, 2008 (07:30 pm)

 

A/N: This chapter is a bit slower...but it's some necessary transition that will build to a final climax. There's not much more to go in this fic. Hopefully it's not too redundant :)  Previous chapters here.

-o-

Chapter Twelve

The hospital stairwells were winding and monotone. The levels all looked the same—a plain, drab shade of unhealthy beige that made Sam want to hurl more than he already did.

He might have actually thrown up, but he didn't stop long enough to find out. He stumbled down the stairs at a desperate gait, desperate to escape. If he didn't get out now, he might never get out, and if he didn't save Dean, he was pretty sure no one would.

He took the stairs as fast as he dared, trying not to trip over his own shoelaces as he took them two at a time with his long legs. Normally it wouldn't be a problem, but he felt exhausted in his condition, and his head felt so disconnected that he was amazed each time his foot hit the step and he didn't go tumbling head over heels the rest of the way down.

It seemed to take forever, a continual spiral of nondescript corridors until he finally saw the most beautiful thing he'd seen in days.

A lit up, red Exit sign.

Once outside, Sam finally let himself stop, taking shallow and rapid breaths in the cool night air. His head was spinning wildly, his vision dim around the edges and his chest tight enough to make him feel sick.

Leaning hard against the wall, Sam felt his legs give out, and he sunk to the ground.

Panting, he let his head rest against the wall of the hospital. Maybe it had been too early—the doctor did say he needed more bed rest.

But the doctor also wanted to lock him up in a psych ward until he rolled on his brother. Since that wasn't an option, breaking out was all he had left.

He sat there, gasping, trying to get his breathing under control for a moment more. He had to move—and quickly. It wasn't likely that the staff would take it well that he'd flown the coup on them. Sighing, he pushed himself to his feet. He needed to put as much distance between himself and the hospital as possible.

Giving a nervous glance, he began to limp forward. His side ached a little and it was hard to catch his breath, and everything was so fuzzy—the painkillers no doubt. The drugs were also probably the only reason he wasn't doubled over in pain. The farther he got before they wore off the better, because if the pain was bad now, he couldn’t bring himself to imagine his injuries without the numbness of painkillers.

As it was, he could move with a loping gait, his steps gentle to shield his upper body from excessive movement. Sticking to the shadows, he hedged along the edges of the building, blurring into the backdrop as he passed by the ambulance bay and into the city.

-o-

When Dean had been seven, Sam was three, and they had stayed in a motel in some town in Arizona. Dean couldn’t remember the name of the town or even which school he’d gone to, but he could remember the expansive desert that seemed to stretch out behind the motel, all the grains of sand adding up and stretching toward the horizon in a sea as vast as the ocean Dean remembered from living in Florida.

There hadn’t been a lot to do there, but in rundown motels, there was never a lot to do. Occasionally he found a video game in the motel lobby, but at the age of seven, his acts of subterfuge were meager at best, and his father didn’t want them to leave the room.

The TV reception was crappy, and the AC was on the fritz, which made Sammy whiny and sweaty, which was never a good combination. Dean didn’t know what job his dad was working, but he wasn’t around a lot, and even John had thought that seven and three was too young to leave them alone.

So they were often left under the benevolent if absentminded care of their elderly motel owner. She was a widow, and she smelled vaguely like coffee and baby wipes. Old as she was, wrinkles were the least of her concerns, and she wobbled when she walked. The apartment she lived in looked just like the one they were renting, except for the decorations, of course.

Dean expected her to have things—lots of things, and he understood why they were always in disarray and dusty. Housekeeping had to be hard on her fragile bones, and she looked as wispy as one of the ghosts in his father’s books.

But more than any of that, she had cats. Lots of cats. They were always coming and going, and Dean sometimes wondered where they disappeared to—the desert was wide and hot and uninhabitable. She had cats on her furniture, cats at her door, even cats in cages that she couldn’t manage to latch anymore.

It was the cages that caught Dean’s interest. She kept a small row of them behind the motel, under the shade of the small overhang, which barely blotted out the rays of the sun. It was the closest thing to a playground he could find in walking distance, so it would be good enough.

After exhausting their possibilities as climbing rocks, he realized that they were like mini-prisons. At first he enjoyed baiting the cats to them, placing bits of cat food inside to lure them in, before shutting the door in triumph.

It just made the cats mad, however, and they hissed and scratched too much to be fun to play with after that. Cops and robbers was fun, he supposed, but he had to be able to get close enough to interrogate his feline suspects.

Coaxing Sammy into the cages had been easier than getting the cats in there, but when Dean closed the cage door, Sam had turned to him in surprise.

He would never forget that—Sam’s grubby fingers clinging through the wires of the cage, the way his eyes looked so big through the opening. He looked so vulnerable in there as he broke into tears and begged Dean to let him out.

Sam’s wails tore across the desert, and for a second, Dean was frozen in place, looking down at his little brother, holed up in the cage meant for an animal. His little face pleading, his eyes wide with tears, and all because his big brother had put him there.

There was a clang and a voice, and Dean jerked, blinking his eyes and realizing he’d been asleep.

Tiredly, he squinted toward the door, surprised to see Henricksen on the outside. Slowly, Dean sat himself up, trying to shake off the vestige of memory, trying not to remember the look of betrayal on Sam’s face.

"Okay," Henricksen said simply.

Dean waited, then raised his eyebrows expectantly. "Okay what?"

"Show me."

"Can we be a little more specific here?"

"You say you can prove it's supernatural or whatever. So show me."

Dean glanced around the small cell. "I can't exactly do it here."

"Where do you need to do it?"

"The warehouse. That's where all the materials are."

"We raided the warehouse. There was nothing there."

"Of course there was nothing there," Dean said in exasperation. "They need to be summoned."

"Right," Henricksen said with a sarcastic nod. "And you can do that?"

"With the right stuff."

"Make a list," Henricksen said, pulling a pad of paper from his pocket. "Check it twice. I'll be back for it in an hour and then we’ll talk about when we’re leaving."

Henricksen tossed a pad and a pen on the bed, before turning and stalking out, locking the cell behind him, while Dean just watched him go.

-o-

The night was long. His first priority was to distance himself from the hospital, which he did mindlessly until the painkillers faded away and the pain was too intense. Then he’d broken into a construction site, changing into his jeans and putting on his shoes in the makeshift office. He made himself a pot of bad coffee, which he drank while he searched half-heartedly through the remnants of yesterday’s paper.

It wasn't hard to find out what had happened to Dean—the information was all over the news. Turned out the shrink had been truthful about a few things—Dean was indeed in FBI custody, wanted on sundry charges ranging from grave desecration to murder. The papers were touting it as a victory for the FBI, a sure sign that all was well in law enforcement, and the media was already buzzing about when a trial date would be set.

Sam had been left completely out of the headlines, only mentioned as an unwitting tagalong to Dean's escapades. His face wasn't in any of the papers and was cropped out of all the photographs on the news. It was adding up, so clearly that even Sam's pain-addled mind could make sense of it. Dean had made a deal, a deal to protect Sam at the expense of his own freedom.

Sam supposed there was something to be grateful for in that. It made his movement around town much easier. In theory, anyway.

He left in the early dawn, setting out into the city feeling jittery and tense. Absently, he headed away from the hospital—the greater the distance, the better he’d feel. It wasn’t easy though. His body more than ached—it hurt—sharp and intense pain that just wouldn’t quit. On top of that, his clothes were a bit problematic. He hadn't even bothered with his shredded shirt, and his jeans were dark and crusty with blood and had a foul odor to them. And he was hungry—no, starving. The coffee had woken him up a little, but had done nothing to quell his need for food. His stomach was nearly cramped with hunger pains. But, more than anything, he just wanted to lie down and sleep.

Exhausted on every level, Sam found himself sinking to a bench along the city street. He just needed a minute to catch his breath.

That's when he saw the headline of today’s paper in the machine. "Killer strikes again: main suspect behind bars; authorities baffled."

Frantically, his exhaustion forgotten, Sam stumbled to the small machine, fumbling through his pockets for change. The next thing he knew, he was planted firmly in the bench, his hands trembling as he tried to read the front page story.

Same M.O. Body mauled in an animalistic fashion with no sign of any animal presence. Same area too. Only this time the main suspect was behind bars and the only known associate was in the hospital.

Or had been in the hospital.

His nerves fraying even more, Sam pushed himself up. Once people caught word he was out of the hospital, he was pretty sure he'd be moved up to the main suspect, which was a complication he didn't need. With this development, he needed to keep a low profile before he accidentally got himself caught. Sitting around half-aware on public streets probably wasn't the way to go about it. He needed to find someplace to regroup, to clean up, to eat.

Better yet, he needed to find Dean, talk to him somehow, and figure out a plan.

Stuffing the newspaper in his back pocket, he pushed himself up and began down the street, trying to be discreet.

Sam's vision tunneled suddenly and he threw a hand out against the building he was passing, struggling to find his equilibrium. Thinking would be easier if his head wasn't so fuzzy. Maybe he'd checked out a little too soon.

He straightened himself, shaking away his dizziness. A woman passing by gave him a lingering glance. No, lurching around on city streets looking like death warmed over wasn't the best way to stay out of the public eye.

With a deep breath, he steadied himself, moving out again down the street. He didn't have time for this, didn't have the luxury of recovery. No, he had to fix this.

Finding Dean would be easy enough on one level, but impossible on another. He could easily find where they were keeping Dean, but getting Dean out? That would be a miracle in and of itself. He'd have better luck convincing the FBI to drop all the charges and let him go. And given what little he knew of Henricksen--that wouldn't happen until hell froze over.

One thing was certain: he needed to get out of the public eye and regroup. He needed rest, supplies. He needed to find their last motel room and hope to hell that the FBI had left it mostly intact. He just needed to be patient, wait for a plan, a sign, something. He was no good to Dean if he passed out cold on a city street and got himself hauled back into the hospital, or, worse yet, prison.

First, however, he needed a car. Woozy or not, that was something Sam knew he'd have no trouble with.

-o-

The list was pretty simple.

It didn't have anything on it.

Sure, Dean could have asked for the herbs and candles and all that jazz—but truthfully, Dean couldn't remember half of it, and there was no sense setting up the ritual when he didn't know the words.

So Dean just gave him the address.

To his surprise, Henricksen had accepted it with alacrity and told him to move.

As much as Dean hated to be in prison, he disliked being transported in custody even more. Escape simply wasn't an option, so being that close to the outside world but not being allowed to be a part of it was a bit cruel. More than that, though, he had to go everywhere in handcuffs, which wasn't exactly his favorite way to travel.

Not to mention the fact that it made him more than a little nervous. Since escape was pretty low on his to-do list at the moment, his safety seemed to be his primary concern. And he knew from experience that more cops present was better than very few—they tended to keep each other in check. Dean had already been on the wrong side of a cop's personal vendetta and had nearly gotten a bullet in the head for it.

Baltimore had been an entirely different affair, with an entirely different cop doing the signing out. All in all, he didn't have Henricksen pegged as the rogue type—anything but. But it still left Dean vulnerable, especially since he knew Sam wouldn't be around to break him out, and that was not a feeling Dean relished.

His fears seemed unfounded though. A uniformed cop escorted them both to the door, helping Dean into the car before the Fed dismissed him and climbed in the driver's seat. "You ready?" he asked, looking in the mirror at Dean.

Dean forced a smile. "As I'll ever be."

Twenty minutes later they were at the paper warehouse, which looked unusually deserted in the desert morning. Henricksen helped him out and steered him to the door.

"I took the liberty of closing the place for the day," Henricksen explained. "No sense putting civilians at risk."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Since I'm such a huge threat."

The agent pushed him forward, conveying his annoyance.

At the front door, Henricksen unlocked it, guiding Dean inside. "So," he said. "Where to?"

"Where to what?" Dean asked.

"Where are we likely to meet your friend?"

"Ah, right," Dean said. "The unnamed accomplice that doesn't exist. Try the homicidal spirit you're probably going to need me to vanquish."

Henricksen was not amused. "We're not here to enjoy ourselves."

"No, that's why you arrest innocent people," Dean said with a knowing nod. "I prefer less obtrusive past times like pool or—"

"This is your last chance—"

"The back," Dean replied shortly. Helping this guy wasn't high on his list of things he wanted to do, but it was likely the only chance at leniency he had. It was also the only chance of showing him what was really going on. "That's where this started before, so if I had to guess it would start there again."

With slit eyes, the agent studied Dean a moment before giving him a shove toward the back. Dean tripped ahead, still striving for obedience despite all his desires to the contrary.

Once in the back, Henricksen found a pair of chairs and lined them up next to each other. He motioned for Dean to sit in one, which Dean did. The agent then kneeled behind him, rummaging.

"Dude," Dean said. "I don't really swing like that."

Something metallic cuffed his wrist right above the pair he'd been brought in.

"Two pairs?" Dean asked, almost bemused. "Really?"

Henricksen grunted, closing the cuff around a back spoke of the chair. "Not only do I want you not to be able to use your hands," he explained. "But I don't really want you running anywhere."

"I'm not going to be able to do much while handcuffed," Dean pointed out, tugging restlessly at his bindings.

"That's kind of the point," replied Henricksen.

Dean sighed, shifting his weight. "Then what are we doing here?"

Henricksen smirked, resting his hand on his gun. "Waiting for your friends to show—see who's helping you, and make a few more arrests to tie this case up."

The sheer stupidity of it made Dean laugh. "You're kidding, right? You think we hang around here until my accomplice or whatever shows up and you'll get a few more notches in your belt?"

"And a few more nails in your coffin," Henricksen concluded. He looked steadily into Dean's eyes. "You're going to go down for a very long time, probably forever, and I just want to be sure that your influence is scoured from the face of this earth if it's the last thing I do."

"You think so," Dean said, his gaze just as steady. "I'll tell you something, though. You don't let me out of these things, and if we don't start the ritual right now, then we're both going down for a very long time."

At this, Henricksen's eyes narrowed, and Dean had to give the guy credit. He knew how to stick to his guns. He knew what he wanted and he was ruthless in his pursuit of that. In other circumstances, they could have been good partners, solid allies.

Under these circumstances, though, Dean wanted knock the guy unconscious before he got them both killed. They were on a stakeout all right, but Dean was pretty sure slapping cuffs on some half-man, half-cat, half-spirit wouldn't actually go too well. He struggled discreetly at the cuffs again; if he could just get loose, they might have a chance.

Then again, Dean had just created a one and a half part being, so maybe he could really use some back up on this one. Where was his trusty sidekick geekboy when he needed him?

Dean swallowed hard and steeled his gaze back at Henricksen. Fast-talking wouldn't do him any good here, he was sure at that. Maybe honesty would be the best policy. Sam always seemed so keen on it.

Henricksen was studying, deeply and detachedly, his gaze considering. "Is that a threat, Winchester?"

"Man, that’s just the truth," Dean told him. "I’m a sitting duck here with these things on, and while I may not be too keen on saving your ass, I really don’t want to sacrifice my own."

Henricksen's smirk was cocky and perturbed—just so typical. Biting back another comment, Dean wasn't sure what to hope for. If the puma showed itself, Henricksen might believe him, but as he was handcuffed to a chair, chances were neither would survive the encounter. If the puma didn't show, then Henricksen would simply have more fodder for the case that Dean was a criminal mastermind.

Dean was a mastermind, no doubt, and probably technically a criminal. But Henricksen wanted to prove it for all the wrong reasons, and Dean felt a little like he was in the middle of a witch trial, for what it was worth.

Henricksen just didn't realize that it wasn't only Dean's future that was at stake, but both of theirs, and a whole hell of a lot more.

-o-

Stealing the car wouldn't be a problem. But first he had to figure out where the hell he was going.

He had a good sense of direction under most circumstances, but he had no bearings. Their investigation had relegated them to only one section of the city, and being unconscious during his trip to the hospital, it was difficult for him to ascertain where that had been in relation to the rest of the places in town. In fact, he couldn't even remember the name of the motel they had stayed at. There were so many motels, all with stupid and corny names and flickering neon lights--all the same in their mediocre quality and cheesy decor and why couldn't Sam just remember?

He tried--he really did--but, it seemed like it had been weeks since he'd driven into town and checked them in. If he thought hard enough, he could almost see it. That wasn't exactly a solid address, but it was good enough for now. All he needed to do was get in the general area and he was pretty sure that the place would stand out with yellow tape adorning their motel room door. He didn't doubt that Henricksen and his crew had found the place and had likely ransacked it looking for incriminating evidence. He could only hope it wasn't under constant surveillance since Dean was in custody and he was supposedly still secure in the hospital.

It was a risk, a big one, but Sam needed his supplies if he had a chance in hell of getting them out of this mess. Besides, he doubted that he could just check into a motel room looking like he did. His best bet was their abandoned room. Best bet or not, it still didn’t mean that getting there would be easy. Especially when Sam was not exactly up to par.

Dean was in police custody though, and that was what mattered.

At least that was what Sam kept telling himself as he broke into the car.

It was the first car he’d seen in a moderately full parking lot. Sam had broken into plenty of cars in his day, so it wasn’t really a question of ability or ethics, but trying to be nonchalant when the entire world was spinning lazily around his head was not exactly the easiest thing.

In the end, he was just glad he managed to drive the whole way there without passing out.

Well, almost the full way there. All too aware of the dangers of stolen cars by a crime scene, he ditched the thing a few miles down the road at an abandoned gas station.

Climbing out of the car and into the sweltering heat, he shielded his eyes and looked down the highway. The horizon shimmered in the heat and Sam could feel the sweat beading on his forehead. Almost immediately, his shoulder ached and Sam realized this was going to be a long walk.

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