Adrenaline, Sam acknowledged, was a truly wonderful thing.
He’d read stories before, of women that had lifted cars and men that had been walking and talking for almost an hour after they took a bullet to the heart simply because they didn’t realise that they were dead. He wondered if, perhaps, that was what was happening to him. It would make some kind of sense that some mix of his injuries and shock had already pushed his body past the point of survival, and Sam – in true Winchester fashion – was just too thick-skulled to realise it.
Still, he hadn’t rolled over and given the universe his belly just yet, and it seemed an almost superhuman feat to find the strength in his arms to begin to move. His legs were beyond the point of useless; one of them was obviously broken, badly so if the bloodstains on the floor were anything to go by, and the other just didn’t seem to work right no matter what Sam did. He stood no chance of making it to his feet and crossing the room that way, so the next logical option was to drag himself.
That was a lot easier said than done.
His leg wasn’t the only thing broken, after all. His right wrist was swollen and darkened with bruises, an odd angle to the curve of it, and every time he shifted his body across the rough floor he sent agonising bolts of pain through his ribs. He wondered how many he’d broken. Dean had broken four on a hunt, once, and he’d (understandably) bitched about it for weeks. Sam figured it was a pretty safe assumption that he’d broken his brother’s record.
Moving was slow and painful and seemed like an almost herculean task, but the glint of light off the silver blade was enough to keep him going. His head refused to stay steady on his neck, and at times it was hard to judge where he should be aiming himself, but he knew enough about injuries to recognise that he was lucky to be even vaguely coherent. Dragging himself across the floor sucked, really sucked, but at least he was doing something. As undignified as his means might be, Sam found some comfort in the fact that he was doing exactly what his brother and father would be doing in his situation – he was finding a way out.
Finally, what seemed like hours after he’d first forced himself to move, Sam’s outstretched arm made contact with the congealing blood staining Cook’s shirt. He grimaced a little in distaste, wiggling his fingers around until they bounced off the sharp edge of the knife, leaving his fingertips burning slightly. He grinned widely, twisting awkwardly to gain the extra leverage required to pull it free from the man’s dead body.
It took effort, and a lot more of it than it should, to pull the weapon free with a sickening slurping noise. The man’s body was cold and already more than a little stiff, and Sam worried about how long he might have been unconscious – it took around three hours for rigor mortis to begin setting in, and from the feel of the body under his hand, he was probably at least another hour past that point.
It should probably disturb him that he could tell.
There was a sudden noise from upstairs, a squeaking of floorboards almost directly above his head, and Sam flinched despite himself. He tipped himself blearily onto his back, panting faintly as his eyes stared up at the basement’s ceiling – tracing the patterns of movement on the floor above. Dust fell loose from the floorboards, and Sam turned his head in a vague effort to protect his eyes, feeling the particles stick to the side of his face that was sticky with his own blood. He caught a flash of black and white, and realised that it was the dalmatian making its way up the stairs. He felt a little abandoned at the sight of it's retreat, but shook the feeling off.
He took a few, long moments to gather himself, glancing around the room surrounding him. There was a dark crevice just a little further to his left, a wide area where the wall underneath the stairs met the same table he’d raided before, creating a shadowed space big enough for him to prop himself up in.
It wasn’t ideal, exactly, but it was better than nothing.
It took him a few more minutes for him to convince his muscles to respond, and it was the thought of his brother that had him flipping onto his stomach.
There was only the slightest chance that Sam would be getting out of this little ordeal alive, and it was an acknowledgement not born of pessimism or fear, but of a clinical assessment of the facts. The truth was, Sam should have been in a hell of a lot more pain than he actually was. More than that, the temperature in the room should have left him shivering and huddling into a ball for warmth. The fact that he was neither writhing in pain nor particularly cold wasn’t a good sign. He knew that.
He also knew that, sooner or later, his family were going to track him down. They were the Winchesters, for goodness sake. It was inevitable that at some point, his father and brother were going to walk head-first into a trap and find nothing but Sam’s dead body as the bait. The likelihood was that they’d walk in knowing it, too, but refusing to stay away in the belief that Sam might still be alive.
Sam couldn’t stomach the thought of either his brother or father walking into this and not walking back out. Especially not because of him.
Which meant that he had to defend himself. He had to take out as many of the hunters as he could before they took him out, or before he succumbed to his injuries – whichever came first. He had to do his best to ensure that, when his father and brother finally found him, they would be faced with as few opponents as possible.
Besides, he was a Winchester, and that meant that he was always going to go down swinging.
It was the Winchester way.
The farmhouse was perfectly innocuous.
A tidy white porch wrapped around the front of it, lined with perfectly trimmed flower beds, and the shiny gold knocker on the front door was in pristine condition. The lawn was short, the paintwork neat, and the whole thing screamed nothing short of Gacy. Dean could almost imagine the neat little rows of bodies buried in the basement, and shuddered at the thought, because if there was one thing that he was certain of it was that, somewhere inside that creepy little house, was his brother.
Once Dominic had made them turn off the highway, it had only taken them an hour or so to track down the house. There’d be a few other properties along the way, and Dean had just been starting to worry that Dominic would never be able to decide between them when 103 Oakview had come into sight and the shifter had gone rigid.
After that, there’d been no two questions about it.
Quite honestly, Dean had been quite content to walk in there all-guns blazing and show the so-called hunters inside a little lesson about justice. Unfortunately for that plan, his dad had refused to let him get into the car without first locking his gun away in the trunk of the car, the keys to which were coincidently tucked away in the neat little pocket featured in the inner lining of his jacket.
The other hunters had insisted in at least a little bit of recon, first.
Bobby and Jim had made a brief loop of the outer edge of the property, creeping as close as they dared, and had deduced that things inside looked pretty quiet. Of course, that wasn’t exactly a guarantee – for all they knew, there was a whole army of hunters hiding somewhere behind netted curtains and wind chimes.
They knew that Byron and Marie were in there, at least, alongside a third hunter that Jim had spotted through the window of what they were assuming to be the kitchen. Neither of them had seen Sam, but Dean hadn’t really been expecting it to be that easy.
In the end, it seemed that they were going to have to go with Dean’s plan after all – bursting in straight through the front door and hoping that whatever they found on the inside didn’t take them by surprise. Although Dean was willing to admit that, if things actually went their way for once, he’d almost be willing to call it a miracle.
The way things were going, they could do with one of those.
“Okay, then.” John ordered firmly. “I’ll go in first. Jim, you get my back – Donovan, I want you to take Dean straight to Sam. Bobby will cover the two of you.”
Dean knew it wasn’t a coincidence that Bobby, who was without a doubt the best marksman of their group, had been assigned to the role of his bodyguard, but he couldn’t argue. He wanted Bobby there to protect Sam, should something manage to sneak past Dean and the shifter.
“Sounds good.” The young man acknowledged, trying to stop his hands from shaking by his sides. “You gonna give me my gun now, so we can go in there and find Sam?”
“Yeah. Let’s go get our boy back.”
It didn’t surprise Sam that, when the hunters finally returned, it was Marie that led the way.
Whilst Byron was definitely the brawns of the operation, it seemed that the woman was definitely the one to watch for – she’d been the ones calling the shots from the beginning, and Sam wondered if Byron would really be all that much of a challenge if he could just get her out of the way first.
What did surprise him, however, was the sight of Karl trailing miserably behind the two of them.
Sam’s vantage point tucked away in the shadows allowed him the perfect view of the young man’s bowed head, and he figured that it was the hunter’s attempt at trying studiously not to make eye contact with him. In some ways, that was a relief – if Karl was too ashamed to meet his eyes, then Sam might still stand a chance of winning him over.
“I thought you said it was at the bottom of the stairs?” Marie demanded sharply.
Sam barely bought back his instinct to flinch, choosing to focus his attention on keeping his breathing steady and quiet instead. The last thing he wanted was to give away his position – without a working pair of legs or a decent amount of strength in his muscles, it was the only advantage he had left.
Karl’s head flew up in apparent surprise.
“He was!” He defended loudly, head spinning in an almost comical fashion as he took in the sight of the seemingly empty basement. “He was lying right there – where the blood is! Jesus, he was half-dead, there’s no way he managed to get out of here-“
“No,” Marie mused aloud, and the young shifter could picture the manic gleam in her eyes. “I don’t suppose there is. Which means he’s still here somewhere, and Lord, but I can’t wait to get my hands on the little shit. He’s been a waste of time since the moment he first arrived here, and he’s gonna pay for killing Cook the way he did. Nobody gets away with killing a member of my team. Especially not in my house. Split up and find him.”
For the first time since the whole mess had started, Sam was more than a little grateful for the size of the basement. The stairs – as he’d discovered when he’d first started moving – bisected the open-plan room neatly in half, and the concrete foundations meant that it was impossible to see the whole room at once.
Much to his delight, it was Marie that turned in his direction.
He watched her wander slowly closer with baited breath, absently noting that she’d changed her clothes. She was wearing a pale yellow blouse now, with a little daisy on the breast pocket and matching yellow shoes, and Sam stubbornly clung to the image of how those immaculate clothes would look stained in her blood. It was a sadistic thought, perhaps, but he reasoned that she deserved it.
He waited until she was barely a few metres away from him, squinting into the darkness, before he began to prepare himself. He moved slowly, doing his best to avoid drawing her attention straight to him, and he froze for a long moment when her eyes fell almost directly on him. He felt like the proverbial deer in headlights, because if she’d seen him now then everything was over, he’d never have a chance to get close enough to hurt her-
The noise was almost deafening, breaking the silence in such a shocking moment that Sam almost missed his opportunity to launch himself forwards as best as he was able, just barely managing to grab onto Marie’s legs and send her tumbling to the floor whilst she was distracted.
She was shrieking, loudly, and there was no way that Byron and Karl weren’t coming for him with their weapons at the ready, but it didn’t matter, because she was thrashing underneath him and then she wasn’t and Sam finally had concrete proof of how those bloodstains looked on yellow fabric. The knife fell to the floor with a clatter, and Sam watched it go with the distanced observation of someone only seconds away from passing out.
There was a roaring in his ears, loud and terrifying and so, so close, and then there was nothing but darkness.
Breaking the door down was almost anticlimactic, in the end.
There was no deafening explosion of gunshots, or even angry yelling; in fact, there was very little in the way of reaction at all, save for the sound of faint shrieking, because at first glance the house appeared to be empty. The five of them swarmed inside, guns drawn and fingers pressed tight against triggers, moving forwards like a practiced unit.
The noise was coming from the other end of the house, sounding eerily far away, and they moved towards it like moths to a flame.
There was the chance it was another trick, but the shriek was high and feminine and died out with a sudden sharpness that spoke of a noise cut short. Dean held onto the relief in knowing that it wasn’t Sam screaming, because he knew what a death wail sounded like, and that was exactly what he’d just heard.
Their search led them to the kitchen, where someone had conveniently left the door to the basement wide open for them. There was no doubt that was where the noise had come from, and even as they moved forwards, there was a much louder, much more male shout and Jesus that didn’t sound good.
John cleared the landing at the top of the stairs first, taking them three at a time, and Dean was barely a half-step behind him. There was an animal sounding yelp from behind him, but he didn't turn his head towards it, just kept swinging it around in search for a glimpse of his brother. He noticed the chains against the far wall, first, and then the bloodstains on the floor and he didn't think he'd ever been so angry.
It was him that spotted the hunter with the gun, and he called his father’s name even as he turned towards the other man, finger tightening reflexively on the trigger in the same second that he registered who the stranger’s gun was aimed at.
There was another cry, a second gunshot from his father, but Dean didn’t stick around long enough to figure out that was happening, didn’t even care that his shot had apparently missed his mark, because that was his brother, lying in a pool of blood and with skin so pale it was the colour of paper.
He didn’t remember running down the rest of the stairs, didn’t remember anything until his knees hit concrete stained with blood and his fingers pressed against the cool, clammy skin of his brother’s throat.
The young boy was twisted awkwardly; one hand outstretched towards a silver knife, gleaming with blood from its position on the floor, and Dean didn’t need to take a second glance at the woman’s body next to them to know that the smear of blood across the front of her neck had been the wound to end her life. He didn't need to hear what had happened here to know that she had deserved it.
He held his breath as he waited, hearing his own rapid heartbeat in his ears.
“Dean?” Their father’s voice pleaded from somewhere, but Dean didn’t look up or answer, just kept his fingers in that same place and wished desperately, prayed for some kind of hint that Sam was alive.
And then there it was, the faintest little tap-tap against his fingertips.
Sam was alive, and Dean felt sick with relief, because for a moment there he’d been sure that his little brother was already gone – rescued too late for it to be any good, and the weight of the guilt on his shoulders had threatened to crush him.
“Sam,” He breathed. “Sammy. You’re okay now, I’ve got you, little brother.”
There was a hand on his shoulder, squeezing reassuringly and trying to tug him to his feet, but he couldn’t look away from his brother’s bloodstained face.
“I’ve got you, kiddo. I promise.”