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Mordred's Lullaby Chapter 1/2

AUTHOR:scullspeare

SUMMARY: So why did the Brothers Winchester hit the road for some R&R at the end of Soul Survivor? Because it's hard to relax when home is the centre of all things mystical and magical. A fic featuring the brothers and the bunker.

SPOILERS: Set in early Season 10, with references to Season 8, in-between canon hunts.

DISCLAIMER:The characters of Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke, Jeremy Carver & Co. I continue to play in their sandbox, with their toys, with much gratitude.

RATING:T for swearing.

GENRE:Gen/Hurt-Comfort

STORY WORD COUNT:9200.

A/N: I started this story late in 2014, hoping to post it during the Christmas hellatus, then RL got in the way. 2015 has been a rough one; nothing tragic, thank god, but a series of events and stress up the yin-yang that robbed me of any and all writing time. Thankfully, things turned a corner in September, balance has been restored and, with a new season of SPN now under way (Season 11 – can you believe it?!), I decided it was time to finish this little fic. While, technically, it serves as a tag bridging 10.3 Soul Survivor and the opening scene of 10.4 Paper Moon (the boys in sunglasses, enjoying a beer lakeside in lawn chairs), it's really about the boys and the bunker. I've been fascinated by the bunker and the Men of Letters since they were introduced in Everybody Hates Hitler (ah, Ben Edlund, I miss you!) and wanted to use that setting for a fic, so here it is. Enjoy.






MORDRED'S LULLABY CHAPTER 1









By Scullspeare






Claxons shattered the bunker's silence.

Sam's head shot up from his book in surprise, his eyes widening further when he caught sight of the war room lights blinking in tandem with the alarm.

"Dean?" His shout was no match for the sirens. Sam shoved his chair away from the library table, the squeak of wooden legs on the polished floor easily lost in the din, and ran towards the command centre.

The alarm stopped just as he skidded to a halt in front of the war room console, the warning lights shutting off with it. Sam jumped at a loud, metallic clang that originated deep within the bunker, but as the echoes died away, the only sound left was his own rapid, harsh breathing.

Sam listened intently, trying to place the last puzzling noise. He couldn't.

"Dean!" This time Sam's raised voice carried clearly through the library before echoing along the tiled hallways beyond. "What the hell was that?"

There was no response from his brother–no sound of running footsteps, no shouted "What the fuck…," no beep from his phone to signal an incoming text. They'd tripped more than a few alarms since moving into the bunker and their quickly established protocol was a) let the other know you're OK and b) let him know where you are–ASAP.

This time, Dean did neither.

"Damn it, Dean–answer me!" Sam yanked his phone from his pocket and punched in 'Where R U?' He hit send, and almost immediately heard a chime from the library–his brother's phone was still on the table, right next to where Dean had been sitting just minutes earlier. "Son of a bitch."

Sam swallowed. Not even ten minutes had passed since Dean was sprawled across from him in the library, bored and full of whiskey but otherwise fine. The doors to the bunker were locked and they'd updated all the warding after Crowley's recent extended stay just in case the King of Hell had figured out more than he was letting on.

But something had set off that alarm. Experience had taught them that the Men of Letters loved booby traps, and if Dean had set off one accidently–and harmlessly–where was the shouted "I'm good" or "Son of a bitch–but dude, you have GOT to check this out" as had happened in the past?

Sam glanced again at the console in front of him; two lights–one red, one yellow–were still blinking. From what they'd been able to decipher so far, the lights on this particular panel were part of the bunker's perimeter defence system; yellow lights warned of a potential breach, usually someone or something tripping a motion sensor outside, while red lights meant someone had broken through and made it inside the bunker itself. But what the hell did red and yellow lights flashing in tandem mean?

Sam quickly scanned through the security camera monitors. The Men of Letters had been cautious–or paranoid–enough to install motion detectors and cameras all through the woods surrounding the bunker, and Dean had beefed up the system with new cameras wherever any development since the bunker was vacated now posed a threat. To date, the only things the cameras had picked up were the occasional work crew from the adjacent power plant and a fat raccoon that Dean had threatened more than once to turn into a cap. Now, none of the cameras, old or new, interior or exterior, showed anything out of the ordinary–other than no sign of his brother.

"Dean! This is getting old, man. This better not be one of your lame-ass jokes." Sam turned away from the console, moving quickly through the war room and library and heading toward the kitchen. Passing Dean's chair, his mind's eye could still see his brother sitting there reading while the two of them put a hefty dent into a bottle of Scotch.

"The Sin of the First Son?" Dean raised an eyebrow at his brother's choice of reading material as he refilled Sam's glass. "More Mark of Cain crap?"

"It's not crap, it's just…not useful." Sam exhaled in frustration, slamming shut the battered leather volume he'd found on an upper shelf in the Men of Letters' library, then grimacing as he adjusted the sling that pinned his injured arm to his chest. "There's nothing we didn't already know–and nothing that can help get rid of…." He gestured to the mark on Dean's arm, just visible below his rolled-up shirt sleeve. "That."

Dean self-consciously tugged down his sleeve. "Yeah, well we'll find something–just not now." He forced a smile. "We're on R&R, remember? And for us, that's Rest and Read Porn." He pulled a copy of Busty Asian Beauties from the pile of magazines to his right and tossed it to Sam. "So read that. Trust me, there will definitely be something useful in there."


"Dean–"

"No–no Sam excuses, no Sam logic." Dean held up the now empty bottle of whiskey. "I'll get us another one of these. You–you just look at the pretty pictures." He winked, gesturing with the bottle to Sam's sling. "But remember–you're down to one good arm. Don't do anything that'll sprain that too."


Sam smiled; the crack was classic Dean–off-color but good-natured, a world apart from the vicious barbs Dean's demonic self had mercilessly spat at him. The smile faded; logically, Sam knew those words weren't his brother's, but every taunt was based in truth–salt rubbed into self-inflicted wounds already festering with guilt.

"Dean?" Sam reached the kitchen but it was empty. Frowning, he crossed to the pantry and yanked open the door; the case of whiskey and six cases of beer, bought with the proceeds of a big win at the pool tables a few nights earlier, still lined the shelves.

"Told you that sling would come in handy." Dean slid the case of whiskey onto the pantry shelf.

Sam snorted as he passed the last case of beer to Dean for stacking alongside the scotch. "Dude, I was nothing more than a bystander. I could've stayed home tonight."

"Uh-uh. I needed you there, looking all injured and pathetic. With no backup, I got pegged as an easy mark–which let me run the tables all night long."

Dean grinned as he took the beer from Sam. "And that, my brother, is why we will eat and drink like kings tonight." He closed the pantry door, then frowned as he stared at Sam. "Especially you–we need to fatten you up, Skeletor."


Sam knew he'd lost weight; he just hadn't realized how much until his brother had pointed it out in his usual, less-than-subtle fashion. Grief, worry and injury had conspired to steal his appetite after Dean had died, then vanished, and Dean hadn't been back long enough for the grief to fade, the worry to subside or the injury to heal.

"I'm good, Sammy." Dean had clapped his shoulder in reassurance when Sam had tried to put that worry into words. "So chill, or I'm ordering you a rocking chair and a crocheted rug."

Sam pulled the case of whiskey forward to glance inside; a second bottle was gone–that meant Dean had made it this far after leaving the library. But then what?

He headed for the kitchen door. "Dean!" Again, his shout echoed through the bunker; again, there was no response.

What if the Mark of Cain was affecting Dean more than either one of them realized? What if it had something to do with Dean's disappearance?

Sam exhaled loudly. Or what if Dean had just decided to hit the head? "Get a grip, Sam," he muttered, but his attempt to convince himself he was overreacting failed miserably. No way would Dean have ignored sirens blaring through the bunker, or his brother repeatedly calling his name.

It took Sam less than a minute to reach the bathroom. Like the kitchen, it was empty; the only thing it held was a memory from earlier in the day.

"Son of a bitch, Sammy–just how much weight did you lose?"

Sam had just stepped out of the shower and was clumsily wrapping a towel around his waist, his injured arm still making even the simplest tasks difficult, when Dean walked into the bathroom. He turned away from his brother, suddenly and strangely self-conscious; they'd been dressing and undressing in front of each other all their lives, necessity lending a locker room mentality to every motel room they ever stayed in. But here, now, his brother's worried scrutiny was making him face something he'd chosen to ignore over the past couple of months. "Not that much."

"Bull." Dean moved to the sink, dropping his toiletry bag on the counter as he studied Sam through the mirror. "I look like Schwarzenegger compared to you. And as much as it pains me to admit it, that's a first since you outgrew me."

"It's not…that bad." Sam picked up the sling lying atop his pile of clean clothes, then dropped it in disgust. "Nothing I can't put back on once I get rid of this thing and start working out again."

"If you say so…." Dean turned to face Sam, his expression softening. "Dude, I'm not trying to pick a fight here. It's just…you came out of Hell all ripped and ready for battle, but I disappear for a couple of months and you waste away to nothing?"

"I came out of Hell without my soul, not a screwed up arm." Sam clumsily pulled on a T-shirt, the cotton sticking to his still-wet skin. He winced as his injured arm protested the necessary contortions. "You try lifting weights when your elbow keeps dislocating."

"Oh, that's what it is." A small grin escaped as Dean turned to fill the sink with water. "And here I was thinking it was just because you missed me."

"Not funny." Dean's death was still too raw to joke about, Sam's head still too full of images of his dying brother after Metatron had run him through with the angel blade. "Just…don't."

"I'm good, Sammy."

There was that phrase again.


Dean met Sam's gaze through the mirror. "And I'm back. So, what do you say we use some of this R&R to hit the gym…let big brother help kick that skinny ass of yours back into shape? We'll start with your legs–they both work, right?"

Subconsciously, Sam ran his hand down his injured arm, the high-tech sling a constant reminder of Dean's death and disappearance; had his brother been around, he would have tended to Sam's injury rather than the ambitious ER doc who'd insisted on a MRI and fought him for two hours over his refusal to consider surgery. Sam smiled; Dean would have jury-rigged a sling out of an old shirt, given him a glass of whiskey to wash down pain pills stolen during their last ER visit and cheerfully told him to, "Suck it up." Winchesters weren't big on bedside manners.

Fighting a growing sense of dread, Sam absently drummed his fingers on the door jamb and stared at the empty room. None of this made any sense. Besides the kitchen and the john, where would Dean have gone? His room, maybe, to raid his growing stash of magazines?

Sam walked quickly down the hall toward the bedrooms.

Dean loved having his own room, having a place to keep his stuff and not having to worry about tossing some of it when it grew too much to cram into one duffel. It was also his sanctuary, a place to escape to when he and Sam were butting heads, or when the "general crappiness" of hunting got to be too much.

It was also where Sam had brought Dean after he died. For his brother, it was home.

"Dean?" Sam twisted the knob and pushed open the door to his brother's room. He shuddered involuntarily; the room was empty but the sight of his brother's bloodied and battered body laid out on the bed was permanently burned into memory. He screwed his eyes closed in an attempt to scrub away the image; when he opened them, all he saw was Dean's empty bed, meticulously made to military standards.

"Dude, seriously?" Sam watched incredulously as Dean bounced a quarter off the bed.

Dean grinned, pocketing the coin. "I am a man who takes pride in a job well done, Sammy. Not everyone is a slob like you."

"I'm not a slob–I just don't feel the need to make my bed to Marine Corps standards."

Dean's smile softened as he stared at the bed. "That was one of your first acts of rebellion, remember?"

"What was?"

"You were like five or six and you were pissed at Dad. It was your turn to make the bed and you decided you weren't gonna do it."

Sam's frown relaxed as he found the memory. "Right…and he told me if I didn't make it, I'd be sleeping in the bathtub."

"Yep, and Sammy Stubborn wouldn't back down. What the hell were you mad about, anyway?"

Sam shrugged. "Not a clue–but I do remember the tub was cold and the pipes kept banging. I kept waking up, at least until you snuck in in the middle of the night and gave me a pillow and blanket."

Dean shook his head. "Wasn't me–it was Dad."

"Dad?" Sam's eyes widened. "All this time, I thought it was you."

Again, Dean shook his head. "Oh, I was gonna–I was just waiting for the old man to fall asleep, but he stayed up reading. I think he hoped you'd cry uncle…but when you didn't, he caved."

"You never told me."

Dean shrugged. "Dad came out of the bathroom, saw that I was awake and gave me the 'Keep your mouth shut' signal–so I did. Besides, it worked–you made the bed the next day."

Sam grinned sheepishly. "I'm stubborn, not stupid. Even a crappy motel bed is better than a bathtub."

"Roger that." Dean glanced again at his bed. "But man, I'll take this bed over every motel bed we ever slept in. No bugs, no mystery stains–and it remembers me." He turned to leave the room, winking at Sam as he walked past. "I love my bed, Sammy–and you take care of the things you love."


That glib quip covered a lot more than the bed. In it, his brother had admitted a basic truth: Dean Winchester was hard-wired to take care of those he loved.

Sam frowned; and that was exactly why his brother's sudden disappearance had him so worried. When the sirens sounded, Dean's first thought would be to make sure Sam was OK. The fact he hadn't meant something had stopped him. But what?
The key had to be that mysterious 'clang' just after the alarm shut off. Yeah, he'd focus on that. But where the hell did he start?

"Damn it." Sam slammed his fist into the door jamb in frustration. "Come on, Dean–gimme something to work with."

As he had so many times before, Dean came through for him.

"Sammy…."

Sam spun around, heart racing. It was his brother's voice, no question, coming from inside the bedroom–but the room was still empty. "Dean?"

There was a long groan. "Oh, son of a bitch…."

Sam scanned the room, desperately trying to locate the source of Dean's voice. "Dude, where are you?"

"Um…dunno." Dean sounded weak, disoriented…distant. "It's…dark."

"Dark?" Sam's gaze drifted upwards; his brother's voice seem to be coming from the vent high on the wall to the left of Dean's bed. Sam walked toward the vent. "Dean, you were just going to the kitchen. What the hell happened?"

"I…um…"

Something was definitely off with his brother. "Dean, are you hurt?"

"No…. Yes…" Dean's cough was followed by a gagging sound. "I'm gonna throw up."

Sam swallowed. "OK, just tell me where you are and I'll come get you."

"Told you, Sammy…I dunno."

"Look around–what do you see?"

"Dude, which part of 'it's dark' is confusing you?"

Sam bit back a smile; Dean's annoyance was strangely comforting. "OK, what about your lighter? Can you–" His stomach lurched; Dean's lighter, along with his wallet, car keys and a handful of change were right next to him on Dean's nightstand. "Damn it. Alright, what's the last thing you remember?" When there was no response, Sam prompted again. "Dean, come on–backtrack. We were in the library. You went to the kitchen…."

"To get more scotch…"

Sam nodded. "Right. You got the bottle, then…."

"My bladder was full. Needed to take a piss–make room for more."

Sam rolled his eyes. "OK. You headed for the bathroom and…."

"Don't think I made it, dude–I'm all wet."

"What?"

"No…wait, it's not piss. It's booze. Oh, son of a bitch, Sammy–I dropped the scotch."

His brother sounded drunk but it took a helluva lot of alcohol to take Dean Winchester's legs out from under him–certainly way more than he'd had when he left the library. Was Dean concussed? A blow to the head would certainly explain his rambling speech and apparent disorientation. "Dude, forget the scotch. Did you fall? Hit your head?"

"Maybe…. Feel like I've been on a week-long bender. Ow…hand hurts, too."

"Your hand?" Sam raked his fingers through his hair; he needed to retrace Dean's steps, from the kitchen to the bathroom–maybe he'd walked into the wrong room somewhere along the way, fallen and hit his head. It couldn't be that simple, could it? "Where were you when the alarm went off?"

"Alarm?"

Sam frowned. "Yeah, that Def-Con 1 noise that blasted all through the bunker."

"Didn't hear any alarm, Sammy."

"Didn't hear…." How could Dean not have heard the claxons–unless he'd knocked himself out before the alarm sounded. "OK, what about that loud, metallic…clang?"

"Clang?" Dean snorted. "I'm thinking I'm not the only one who smacked his head."

"Dude, come on. I'm not the one who doesn't know where he is." Sam glanced again at the grill on the wall. "OK, I'm hearing your voice through the vent so you must be near one. I'm gonna head back to the kitchen, then retrace your steps. I'll stop at each vent along the way, see if your voice gets louder. In the meantime, keep-" He stopped talking when he heard his brother retching. "Dean?"

"Oh, that's just…nasty."

Sam grimaced at the sound of more retching.

"I…." The sound of Dean spitting to clear his mouth came clearly through the vent. "I went to the garage."

"The garage?" Sam frowned. "For what?"

"I…I wanted…. Shit…. Can't remember…."

Sam's frown deepened; his brother was slurring his words. "Dean, don't you pass out on me. I need your help to figure out where you are."

"I'm…good." Dean cleared his throat. "Well, maybe not good, exactly, but-"

"Whatever, just…just stay awake. I'm heading for the garage." Sam left Dean's room and jogged down the hallway, scanning the walls for vents and stopping at the first one he saw. "Dean? Can you still hear me?"

"The dead could hear you, Sammy." Dean groaned. "Just…shhhh. Let's use our inside voices, OK?"

OK, Dean was fighting a headache; booze, a concussion–or both–could be behind that. "Look, the sooner I find you, the sooner I get you some pills and you get to catch some Z's on that bed you like so much. Just work with me for a little while longer, alright?"

"Oh, I am so not the bossy one in this outfit."

Sam stared at the vent; Dean's voice was clear but no more so than it had been in the bedroom. He kept moving, hanging a right down the corridor toward the garage. There he stopped at a second vent. "Dean? You still with me?"

"If I was with you, we'd be drinking scotch and reading porn in the library, not talking through a fucking vent." Dean's words were still slurred but impatience lent them strength.

Still, his voice seemed louder. It could simply be wishful thinking, but Sam chose to believe that meant he was physically getting closer to his brother. He just needed to keep Dean conscious and talking until he found him. "You said you hurt your hand. How?"

"Dunno…. Feels like it's cut. Maybe I, um, slashed it when I dropped the bottle? Damn, I could really use a drink right about-" Dean's voice disappeared behind more retching. "OK, maybe not."

Sam ran towards the garage and yanked open the metal door. He flicked the wall switch to turn on the big, overhead lights, rounded the corner and walked up the centre aisle, scanning each parking bay hopefully, but there was no sign of Dean. The Impala gleamed in the nearest bay, backed into place so she was ready to go at a moment's notice, and the classic cars and motorcycles that had belonged to the Men of Letters were all in place in the neighboring stalls. Nothing was out of place.

It had been like Christmas come early for Dean the day they discovered the bunker's garage, and the vehicles it held. During rare downtime, Sam often found his brother detailing one of the cars or tinkering under the hood. In the same way that Sam could get lost in a book, there was something about working with a car that allowed Dean to put aside whatever stresses hunting had thrown at them and relax, at least for a brief time.

Just two days earlier Sam had found Dean polishing the chrome on a cherry red Indian motorcycle.

Sam passed his brother a beer. "Why don't you take it out for a spin?"

Dean snorted, then shook his head. "There's no flying under the radar with these beauties. They're made to turn heads. But one day…." He gestured to the collection. "One day, you'll drive one of these down to the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale and we'll put her on the block. The proceeds will buy us one helluva Vegas weekend."

"I'll drive?" Sam frowned. "Why me?"

Dean shrugged. "Because I'm sticking with my baby. We mothballed her twice–and that's two times too many. Besides, once we sell the car, we'll need wheels to get us to Sin City."

Sam grinned. "We could always fly."

"Bitch."


"Dean?" Sam waited for a response. "Dean? You here?"

Sam's heart started to race at Dean's silence, at least until he remembered his brother going over the architectural plans for the bunker shortly after they discovered the garage.

"Damn, they thought of everything."

Sam glanced over Dean's shoulder at the plans spread out over the war room table. "What?"

"The ventilation system." Dean traced his finger along gray lines representing the vents that snaked across the drawing. "The garage is on a completely separate grid."

Sam nodded. "That makes sense–directs carbon monoxide fumes directly outside, and not into the bunker."

"Right, but check out the interior grid–it's like three times as big as it should be for a place this size." Dean grinned up at Sam. "This place will withstand a siege, dude."

"A siege?"

"Yeah." Again Dean jabbed his finger at the plans. "If ever the bunker was attacked, if ever the Men of Letters were trapped in here for, I dunno, months, the best way to get them out would be to cut off their air supply or try to gas them out. This system means you can't do either. You block off one intake, it diverts to another. You feed gas into another, it routes it back outside. There are so many backups, the system would never be shut down."

"OK, so suffocating them or gassing them out is off the table." Sam played devil's advocate. "What about the food supply? What about starving them out?"

"Possible, I guess." Dean snorted as he rolled up the plans. "But we haven't finished exploring this place. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a grow op in here somewhere–just not the fun kind."


Sam turned to head back into the bunker. He couldn't hear Dean in the garage because it was on a separate ventilation grid. That meant his brother was still inside the bunker. Maybe if he got hold of those architectural plans, the ventilation system that had earlier so fascinated Dean would offer up some clue as to where he was now.

Mind made up to return to the library where the plans were stored, Sam pulled open the door. He was about ten feet down the hallway when his feet shot out from under him and he fell sideways, slamming his injured arm into the wall before crumpling to the floor with an agonized yell.

"Sammy?" Dean's voice was muffled, coming from the vent just to his left, and clearly close enough that he'd heard Sam cry out. "Y'okay?"

"Fuck…." Sam swallowed against pain-fuelled nausea as he sat up slowly, wincing at the jolts shooting through his arm. "M'fine. I just slipped-" His eyes widened as light reflected off the wet patch on the tiled floor.

"Tripped? Over your own ginormous feet?"

"Slipped, not tripped." Sam ran his fingers through the puddle them sniffed them; the smell was unmistakeable. "In scotch. There's a puddle of scotch on the floor."

"Scotch? As in-"

"Yeah…as in the scotch you spilled–it has to be."

"Now we're talking. Open the damned door and get me some daylight."

"That's kind of a problem." Pain in his arm forgotten, Sam pushed himself to his feet and scanned the hallway–solid walls stretched its length on both sides. "There is no door."

"Oh, come on…." There was no disguising the growing frustration in Dean's voice. "I didn't walk through walls to get in here. There has to be a fucking door."

"I know, but…." Sam stared at the floor; the small but growing puddle of scotch hugged the wall to his right, explaining how he'd missed it on his way to the garage. He turned his attention to the wall, running his fingers over the tiles. "It must be some kind of hidden entrance. Any memory about how you may have opened it?"

"Nada." Dean groaned. "Dude, my head is banging so loud, I can barely remember my own name."

Sam frowned. The hidden entrance could be anywhere along this twenty-foot stretch of wall. Opening it could require pressing a tile, pressing a combination of tiles, pushing in a tile and turning a hidden lever beneath it….

"No." He shook his head slowly. Dean had more than likely stumbled drunkenly and fallen against the wall. If that had been enough to open the hidden door, the opening mechanism likely required  simple push.

But what to push? Sam scanned the sea of tiles in front of him. Even eliminating the ones up near the ceiling that Dean couldn't have reached, it would take hours to try every one.

"Dean?"

"Yeah?" His brother sounded defeated, like he'd read Sam's mind and knew the odds were stacked against them.
But when weren't they?

Mind made up, Sam exhaled loudly. "OK, you hang in there. I'm heading back to the library to grab the plans to the bunker. Something tells me they hold the answer."

"Like what? 'X' marks the spot?" A weak snort sounded through the vent. "A secret door isn't really a secret if they mark it on the map, Sammy."

Sam shook his head. "No, there's something there. I know it. You stay awake–I'll be right back."




***XXX***




Dean's eyes slid closed against his will; he forced them open, then smiled at the irony; when it was pitch black, what did it matter if his eyes were open or closed?

But closed he could fall asleep, and in sleep he had much less control over the images–the memories–that invaded his head. The smile faded; his most recent memories were ones he'd give anything to forget.

He'd spent a lifetime hunting evil and killing monsters. He could slash his way through a nest of vampires, run through a rogue angel or gut a demon without losing a lick of sleep. He was a hunter. That's what they did.

But the things he'd done as a demon…that kept him up at night.

"It wasn't you, Dean."

"Yeah, Sam–it was."

"No, it wasn't." Sam's jaw set stubbornly. "Not really. It was only you stripped of all that's good–of that protective streak that's saved my ass more times than I can remember, of your need to fight for what's right, of your ability to care…to love."

Dean snorted, then took a deep pull on his bottle of beer. "What Hallmark card did you steal that from?"

"Laugh if you want…." Sam cleared his throat and turned away from Dean to stare at the beer bottle in front of him on the kitchen table. "But that's my big brother…that's you–not that thing that chased me through the bunker with a hammer."


Dean shuddered. After Sam had brought him back to the bunker, the demon he'd become had broken free and set out to kill the little brother he'd spent a lifetime protecting. And with a hammer. Not a gun or a knife that would allow a swift, clean kill, but a hammer. If Cas hadn't shown up….

"Sam?" He needed his brother back now, talking to him–distracting him from these dark memories. As much as he wanted out of wherever the hell he was, even more he wanted out of his own head. "Sam!"

His shout went unanswered; Sam was still off hunting down the plans that he seemed sure held the key to Dean's freedom.

"Damn it…." Dean swallowed against another wave of nausea. "Come on, Winchester. Pull yourself together. Don't leave all the heavy lifting to one-armed Sammy–find a way outta here." Exhaling slowly, he tried pushing himself to his feet, but had barely lifted his ass off the ground before he crumpled against the wall. His arms had no strength, his legs felt like jelly and just the half-assed attempt at standing brought on another attack of vertigo.

"Son of a bitch…." Again, Dean exhaled, waiting for the dizziness to pass. This was more than the scotch at work. He'd had a pleasant buzz when he'd left the library–nothing more. If Metatron had shown up unannounced, he could have tossed an angel blade and speared him right between the eyes on his first try. Now, he doubted he could even lift a blade, let alone use it.

So what the hell had happened? Dean closed his eyes, deliberately this time, forcing himself to replay his trek from the library. He'd gone to the kitchen and grabbed the scotch, hit the head, then detoured to the garage to–

"Dean?"

"Sammy." Dean could feel physical tension drain away; here, now, his brother's voice took the edge off far better than any bottle of scotch ever could. "You're back."

"Yeah, I got the plans."

"Good…good." Dean licked his lips. "Hope you brought something to drink–I'm dying of thirst in here."

"Nobody's dying today." There was a hitch to Sam's voice. "Just…just hang in there. It won't be much longer."

Dean banged his head against the wall at his crappy choice of words. His death had gutted Sam, he knew that; his transformation into a demon put him through a whole new kind of emotional wringer. As Dean had kicked back in the bunker over the past couple of weeks, recovering from the exorcism, every now and then, he'd catch Sam watching him, see glimpses of the fear that he might just disappear again or, worse still, return Sam's stare through black eyes.

"I'm not going anywhere, Sammy."

"I know." Sam's voice was quiet. "Just…just keep talking to me."

Yeah. They needed to kick that emotional wringer to the curb and just talk. Dean cleared his throat. "Hey, I remembered why I went to the garage."

"Oh, yeah? Why?"

"To get a magazine from the car." Dean snickered. "There was an article I thought you should read."

Sam snorted. "Oh this should be enlightening."

"Definitely. It was called 'Too Long Without a Date? Creative Ways to Deal with Frustration'."

"Nice, Dean. Real nice."

"Hey, what are big brothers for?" Dean's grin faded at the distant sound of rustling of paper. "Update time, Sammy. What're you doin'?"

"Still going over the plans. There's no door marked anywhere on this wall, but there is a larger-than-normal shaft of some kind behind it that hooks behind the garage and leads to outside. I think it's some kind of…emergency escape tunnel. Maybe instead of trying to open the door from this side, I should try to get in from the outside."

"From outside…." Dean would be the first to admit he wasn't firing on all cylinders, but instinct told him that plan was flawed. The air around him was still and stale; if he was lying at the entrance to a tunnel, one that connected to outside, there should be some kind of draft. Mustering his little remaining strength, he lifted his left arm and reached deeper into the tunnel; his knuckles scraped against cold metal before his arm was fully extended. "Don't think that's an option, dude. Looks like when I sprung this trap, two doors swung shut–one into the hallway, one–"

"Into the tunnel. Damn it." Worry seeped into Sam's words despite his best efforts to hide it. "OK, I'll just start pressing every tile anywhere near where the tunnel is marked on the map–and keep pressing 'til I find the right one."

Dean shared Sam's frustration, but the big brother in him took over. "It's OK, Sammy. You'll figure it out. You're way smarter than the eggheads who came up with this rat trap. Just take it one step at a time."

"One tile at a time, you mean."

"Whatever, Mr. Literal. Just keep at it." Dean dragged the back of his wrist across his forehead to wipe away sweat, then frowned. His face seemed to be covered in some kind of sticky substance. He swiped his hand across his cheek, then sniffed his fingers. It wasn't blood; whatever it was had a nauseatingly sweet odour.

A fresh wave of dizziness washed over Dean just as he heard a grating sound and Sam's excited voice.

"Dean, I think I found it! The door's opening."

In the wake of his brother's shout, Dean latched onto a fleeting memory–of him stumbling down the hallway, falling against the wall and to his amazement, the wall ahead of him swinging open to reveal a hidden entrance.

Dean's chest tightened at the next part of the memory. "Sammy–duck! You hear me? Duck!"

Continued in Chapter 2

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