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Fic: Devil's Arcade (5/14)

ooooooooooooooooo

Now the universe left you for a runners' lap
It feels like home when it comes crashing back
--R.E.M., "Aftermath"

ooooooooooooooooo

The relief Sam felt when the gun was finally taken away from his head lasted for only a few seconds. As soon as their captor started talking about demon blood, his heart plummeted. How could they have known about that? Sure, rumors traveled fast among hunters, and Sam had been a target for years, but not for anything this specific. Now these guys had put two and two together and come up with a very convincing semblance of four.

And how in the world were he and Dean going to convince them otherwise when it was the truth?

"There's a rumor about you, Sam Winchester. Rumor is, you can exorcise a demon without a holy book or a chant." Tom leaned slightly forward. "Rumor is, you can do it all in your head 'cause you got demon blood in you."

"Rumor is that guys who spend too much time in barns start getting it on with the sheep," Dean shot back from his seat a few yards away.

Tom ignored him. "We talked to a hunter who ran into you in New Mexico a few months back. Saw you chase a possessed man into a cave carrying nothing but this." He held up Sam's Beretta. "Saw black smoke come drifting out an hour later and then you carrying the guy's corpse over your shoulder."

"You don't need a book if you have the exorcism memorized," Sam answered, his heart starting to pound faster.

He remembered that day clearly: it was the first time he'd gone into battle confident that he could pull it off in his own special way. Although it had been tougher than expected, he'd managed to get rid of the demon, if not save the young man's life along the way. He and Ruby had celebrated afterwards, inasmuch as "celebration" consisted of Sam getting drunk off his ass while simultaneously wishing like hell that Dean was there and glad that he hadn't lived to see what his little brother had become.

"That's one time," Tom replied. "There's other stories. Some as recent as last month. Seems you're getting more bold with your demon abilities."

Sam lifted his chin, jaw set in a tight line. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"We'll see." Tom regarded him for a moment before turning towards Dean. "And then there's you."

Dean lifted his eyebrows. "Me? Man, if I had psychic abilities, I'd be getting laid a lot more often."

"You shouldn't be here at all." Tom took a step towards him. "You should be six feet under. Or a lot farther down than that, if the stories are true."

Sam saw something flash across Dean's eyes, a millisecond of the same earth-shattering terror that flickered across his brother's normally fearless features when he thought no one could see, the same something that had led Sam to confront him about his memories of Hell.

To distract him, he spoke up. "You already know he's not a revenant. And he's not a product of a reanimation ritual, either."

"No, I suppose that's true," Tom mused. "And I guess holy water wouldn't do anything more than get you wet." Tapping the gun against his leg, he stood directly before Dean. "Doesn't mean you're not a demon, though."

Dean snorted. "If I was a demon, do you think the three of you would still be standing? Not that you will be anyway, by the time I'm through with you."

"Promises, promises." Tom regarded him for a moment longer before pivoting and coming back to Sam. "So how do you do it, boy?"

Sam blinked. "Do what?"

The older man reached out almost casually and backhanded him. "The exorcism," he said conversationally. "How do you get rid of demons with just your mind?"

Pressing his lips together, Sam ignored the stinging of his cheek. How the hell did these guys know? "I don't know what you're talking about."

Tom brought up his arm and centered the barrel of the gun between Sam's eyes, close enough that he would be cross-eyed if he focused on the end of the muzzle. "You want to try that again?" he asked.

Joe and Harry moved quickly out of the line of fire, and off to his left, he could hear Dean draw in a sharp breath. But Sam couldn't look away from the man in front of him and the deadly threat he represented.

It wasn't just the gun that was inches from Sam's face, it was the intentions of the man who held it. Gordon Walker's fate might have served as a warning for other hunters, but ever since Walker had used Dean as bait and made him think he'd blown up the younger Winchester, Sam had worried that someone else was going to come after them. Rumors spread fast in the hunting world, and although the loss of the Roadhouse had probably slowed things down, it wasn't hard to see how word would get around of a man who could cast out demons with his mind and had a brother who had recently returned from the dead.

Dean's angry words from a month ago flashed through his head: If I didn't know you, I'd want to hunt you. Apparently he'd been right about that. They'd both been hunted down here, and he had the bad feeling that no matter what answer he gave to Tom's question, it was going to be the wrong one.

So staring down the barrel of the gun, there was only one thing he could say.

Straightening up as best he could, clenching his bound hands into fists behind him, Sam looked up at his captor and snarled, "No."

The older man's dark brown eyes stared back at him, anger lighting their depths, followed swiftly by resignation. "Fine," he said, lowering the gun and stepping back while nodding at his son. "We'll do this the hard way."

Sam exchanged a quick look with Dean, who looked resigned to more physical threats or even a beating. Neither of them was prepared when Harry stepped forward with a magic marker and started drawing sigils on the ground around Sam's chair.

"Dude, exorcising him isn't going to do anything," Dean said warily.

Tom ignored him again. "Joe, we're just about ready," he called towards the back of the barn.

Sam craned his head to look. When the third man had disappeared back there after securing them to the chairs, he'd forgotten about him. Now he saw that the man in the ball cap was standing inside his own protective circle of symbols a few feet away from one of the stall doors.

And there was something moving inside the stall.

Next to him, Harry stood up and motioned to his father. Sam looked down and realized the protective circle around his chair was large enough for the other two men to stand in, and that Tom was moving inside it. He looked over at Dean, who was sitting on an expanse of unmarked concrete.

Apparently Dean had noticed the same thing. "Uh, you guys forgetting something?" he asked.

"We forget anything, Joe?" Tom called out.

The other man looked over at the four of them. "Nope, looks good to me."

Dean's eyes widened in unison with Sam's, and the older man started struggling with the chair, trying to inch his way closer to where Sam was.

"Cool it." Tom raised his gun and pointed it at Dean. "You're such a tough guy, oughta be easy to sit there and take it."

Dean stilled and regarded the weapon with unease. "What is this, damned if I do and damned if I don't?"

"Not exactly." Sam felt a heavy hand come down on his shoulder. "It's damned if he doesn't."

Before Sam could question what that meant, a scraping sound caught his attention. He whipped his head around to see Joe reaching out with a long hook to pull open the stall door. As he did so, Sam could see the edge of a circle that looked all too familiar. It was a devil's trap, drawn inside the stall itself.

And as he watched, Joe reached out and scratched away an inch's worth of black paint from the ground.

Sam's throat went dry. Dean was the only one who was unprotected, and there was a demon inside this barn that had just been let loose. He bent forward to try and push his own chair out of the circle, but Dean's bark of "Sam!" echoed around the room at the same time that Harry put his full weight on the back of the chair to hold it in place.

Then he heard Harry say, "Hang on, this'll be better." And he rotated the chair so that Sam was directly facing his brother. Dean's chin was up, his jaw tightening and his eyes darkening as they fixed on something behind Sam.

Sam twisted his head back around in time to see a petite female figure emerge from the stall, disdainfully picking bits of straw out of her hair. "Honestly, could you boys be any more primitive?" she asked in a rich alto voice. "I mean, really: a barn?" She looked around casually, but Sam could read the careful assessment she was making of the scene: five humans in the room, and only one of them easily accessible. His heart lodged in his throat as her gaze fixed on Dean, and a predatory smile crept over her face.

She slowly walked forward, hips swinging, long blonde hair fanning out behind her, her black eyes visible from ten feet away. "Well, well, well," she said, never taking her eyes off Dean. "Primitive though the accommodations may be, this is definitely worth the wait."

Dean cleared his throat. "That's what all the girls say," he replied. "Sorry, skank, but I don't think you're my type."

"I've heard otherwise," she purred as she came closer. "I've heard that you had quite the fan club, Dean Winchester, made up of all sorts of people like me. They were lining up from all over to…" She trailed off and eyed Dean up and down with a lewd stare. "Have their way with you."

A shudder swept over Sam at the evil promise in her voice. He cast a quick glance at Dean and saw a sheen of sweat on his brow, though his eyes remained steady and his shoulders never stopped twitching, his fingers apparently picking at the knots behind him.

Then Sam heard a rustle of paper next to him and looked over to see Harry pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolding it. From the couple of words that Sam could make out, it appeared to be an exorcism. He let out a breath. Okay, so having a demon on the loose was not the smartest thing, and he wasn't thrilled that they were letting it taunt Dean like this, but at least they were about to get rid of it.

The blonde stopped in front of Sam and looked down at him. "And it's an honor to meet you, little brother," she said silkily. "I've heard so many…interesting things about you."

Straightening his shoulders, Sam lifted his face towards her. "Get the hell out of here," he demanded.

She laughed. "What, are you going to make me?" Her eyes widened in mock fear. "Oh, I forgot, you actually can. Silly me." She leaned closer, resting her elbows on the solid but invisible wall above the protective circle, her heart-shaped face framed between her forearms. "You know what happens if you do, though, don't you?"

An angel strikes me down? He'd already been struck dead by a lightning bolt once this week and didn't relish the thought of it happening again. "No, what?" he snapped back.

Her tongue came out and slowly ran over her cherry-red lips. "You become more of what you were meant to be, Sam." Her black eyes gleamed, and she let out another silvery laugh. "One step closer to your true self. One step closer to who you were born to be."

"Quit lying, bitch." Dean's voice cut sharply though the air.

"Oh, they're not lies," she said, slowly drawing away from Sam and coming over to stand in front of Dean. "You know that we do tell the truth on occasion." She reached out and laid a hand on top of Dean's head, and her voice dropped to a growl. "Like how much it's going to hurt."

The grunt that Dean let out as his head jerked back and his eyes snapped shut would have been a full-throated scream from any other man. Sam was sure of that. On a pre-Hell Dean, it would at least have been a loud cry. The way the veins were standing out on his neck and his limbs were tensing, Sam could tell that it had to be nothing but sheer pain the demon was forcing into him.

But true to his earlier boasts, Dean had been through far worse in the last half-year than what any living human being had ever withstood. And when the demon withdrew her hand and took a step back, her fine eyebrows furrowing in frustration, Sam felt a tiny surge of pride in his brother.

That pride quickly turned to fear when he saw her eyes light upon Harry's knife, lying on the ground and stained with the Winchesters' blood. She slowly walked over and picked it up by the leather-wrapped handle, hefting it in her hand. Sam watched in dread as she brought it up to Dean's face and twisted it back and forth, the overhead lights flashing off the silver and the length of the blade reflecting in his wide green eyes.

"Do you know what it's going to be worth to me to be the one to bring you back?" she said conversationally. "You've been on the most wanted list for two months, and here you are being handed to me on a platter." Then she paused and looked over at the men standing behind Sam, her eyes narrowing. "What's the catch?" she asked.

Sam heard Tom's voice from behind him. "You understand that we can't let you walk out of here. But unless someone interferes, you can take something with you when you go."

"You sick son-of-a—" Sam whirled around, pulling at the ropes across his torso, eyes shooting daggers at the man who instantly brought his gun up to rest at Sam's neck.

"He's not supposed to be here anyway, Sam," Tom said. "You know that. I'm sorry he died, but he made his choice and you should have lived with it. Whatever sick necromancy you did to bring him back is just another reason why we had to hunt you down. At least this way, he'll be back where he belongs."

"He does not belong in Hell!" Sam roared.

"Some of us beg to differ on that." Sam turned back around at the purr of the demon's voice. When she saw he was looking at her, she smiled maliciously. "Besides, you'll have to catch me if you want to keep me from getting away, old man. In the meantime, though…"

She reached forward again and caressed Dean's cheek with her slender fingers. He jerked his head back and she chuckled. "Funny, I didn't think you were the shy type." She held up the knife again and kept it there long enough for Dean's throat to work in a long swallow before she tossed the weapon aside with a clatter.

Then she reached out and wrapped one hand around Dean's neck.

Dean strained his head backwards, but the high back of the chair was in the way. The defiant look on his face remained, but as her grip began to tighten, his eyes betrayed him. They were filled with fear, and Sam knew it was only his brother's indomitable willpower that was keeping him from screaming in sheer terror, not at what the demon was doing to him, but what was going to happen to him if she killed him.

There was no reason to believe that Dean's death wouldn't send him straight back to Hell.

There was no way Sam was going to let that happen.

"Please," he said, turning to Harry. "You have the exorcism rite in your hand. There's no need to do this. Just send her out of here. You don't need to torture an innocent man." He swallowed hard. "Whatever you want to know about me, I'll tell you."

Harry snorted. "It's not what we want to hear from you, demon boy. It's what we want to see."

Sam inhaled sharply. In front of him, Dean was straining against the ropes that held him, struggling against the slender hand around his throat, but it was clearly to no avail. There was only one way Sam could help him now, and he'd been forbidden to do it. But if God and His angels thought highly enough of Dean to drag him out of the pit, would they really condemn Sam for doing everything he could to save him?

Then an idea struck him from what he'd told Tom earlier: he'd memorized the words of multiple exorcism rites after the Devils' Gate opened, which meant he didn't need a book or any freaky powers to take care of this. He opened his mouth and shouted, "Exorcizo te, inmundissime spiritus, omnis incursio—"

The demon was just starting to turn to him in angry fear when he was cut off by a large hand clamping over his mouth. "That's not what I meant, you bastard," he heard Harry growl. "Dad, help me out here."

A moment later, Harry's hand and Tom's gun were removed and a handkerchief was wrapped across Sam's mouth. He bucked and fought, but the gag was tied securely in place. Then he tried to form the words of the exorcism rite anyway, but they weren't even understandable to his own ears, which meant they sure weren't going to work on the demon.

The blonde was giving him a wide grin from where she stood in front of Dean, her hand momentarily relaxed around his neck as she watched Sam's struggles. "Too bad, Sammy. Looks like if you want me, you're going to have come and get me." Her eyes flashed black. "Which means you can't save your brother and yourself."

Then her hand slowly tightened again.

Dean was looking at him intently even as he struggled for air. "Don't do it, Sam," he croaked out. "You know what…Cass and his…friend…told you." Then his back arched as the demon squeezed harder, and Sam could see his face starting to turn red as oxygen failed to reach his lungs.

"Please!" he tried to shout through the gag, looking up at Tom.

The older hunter didn't even acknowledge him, watching the scene being played out with a stoic expression.

A strangled noise from Dean caught his attention, and he turned back to see the demon's face wreathed in delight as she watched the light dim in his brother's eyes. Sam choked back a cry of his own and dimly wondered how much this transgression was going to count against him.

Because there was nothing else he could do.

Closing his eyes, Sam opened his right hand where it was bound behind him, reaching out with his thoughts towards where Dean was struggling. In his mind's eye, he saw not the blonde bombshell that had stalked through the barn, but a nightmare creature towering over his brother, enveloping him in a black miasma of darkness. Sam focused on the center of that cloud, the darkest part of it, fingertips straining as if he could physically grab it.

When he finally touched it, his stomach roiled as it always did. Humans weren't meant to come into contact with pure evil like this, and he had occasionally wondered if the function his demon-given blood served wasn't in part to protect him from what no ordinary person could withstand. It was still far from pleasant, but at least it was bearable.

He concentrated on pulling, on separating out the demon's form from that of the young woman, peeling away the darkness without taking any of her essence along for the ride. His fingers were closing together now, his arms and chest straining against the ropes that bound him to the chair, his head starting to pound as the enormity of the task began to make itself clear. He'd never been restrained while doing this, but then Ruby had said that physically reaching out was largely a symbolic gesture anyway. He didn't realize how much he had come to rely on it until it was unavailable.

There was one dark tendril still wrapped around the girl's outstretched arm, and Sam pried it loose, a grimace of concentration distorting his features. His hand was now in a fist, the demon's essence breaking loose from the possessed woman and leaking out through her mouth and chest. Eyes still closed, he nevertheless sensed her turning towards him, the demon's anger twisting her face as she fought the inevitable.

Sam pulled with everything he had, his body shuddering with the effort. Black wisps continued to sink towards the ground, and the young woman fell to her knees. Finally he felt the last bit of darkness come out of her, and he flattened his hand and pressed his palm downward. A sizzling sound made his eyes fly open in time to see a black patch burning into the concrete floor.

Then everything went still.

Sam dropped his head back against the chair in exhaustion, shutting his eyes again, not willing to see the expression on Dean's face or on their captors'. There was nothing else he could have done—Dean had to understand that. If Tom and company wanted to see their own trick demon-killer perform, well, they had certainly gotten their wish. He grimaced as a late bolt of pain shot through his skull, the pounding in his temples drowning out nearly all other sensations.

"Holy shit." The words came from Harry, who'd been standing within the circle next to Sam throughout the exorcism. "Holy shit. Did you see that?"

Expecting a snarky comeback from Dean, Sam was disappointed when it didn't come. It finally got him to open his eyes and look at his brother.

Dean was looking back at him with the same expression he'd had in the mausoleum on Halloween: a little awe, a little fear, and a little terror, not of Sam but for him. This time, the fear was clearly of the hunters around them, who had just gotten all the proof they could handle that yes, Sam was a supernatural freak.

The question that he saw burning in his brother's eyes was the same one that was driving spikes of tension throughout his body: what were they going to do about it?

(Chapter 6)

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Comments

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zubeneschamali
May. 5th, 2009 05:12 am (UTC)
LOL! I have to admit, that was one of the motivations for writing this story...
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