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Fic: Devil's Arcade (3/14)


Can't see nothin' in front of me, can't see nothin' coming up behind
I make my way through the darkness, I can't feel nothin' but this chain that binds me
--Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising"


Dean knew they never should have done the hunt.

The weirdness that was Concrete, Washington (and what the hell kind of a name for a town was that, anyway?) had messed with both of their heads, leading Dean to blurt out some things he'd been planning on keeping to himself for a long, long time to come. Like maybe forever.

Now, bound hand and foot in the back of a moving truck, he was regretting that he couldn't keep his big mouth shut. He hated himself for putting that stricken expression on Sam's face when he had admitted that yeah, he remembered every frickin' detail about his time in the pit, and no, he wasn't going to share a minute of it. There was no goddamn way he was ever going to tell his brother about the things that had been done to him, and worse yet, the things he had done.

To some extent, the kid had asked for it, badgering him about sharing and opening up and all that crap that he knew Dean was never down for. Well, never down for unless he'd been infected with a fear virus that gotten him to spew out all sorts of garbage about how dumb their lives were and how much it sucked to be trapped with each other all day long and what a sucky life this was. None of which was even true.

Okay, maybe the last part was true; he'd wanted to turn around in the driver's seat and punch in that big nerd's face when he'd whined about how easy Sam and Dean had it just because they happened to be good-looking. What a moron. Talk about not having a clue. It had almost made him want to describe Year Twenty-Nine in gruesome detail just to blow the idiot's mind. If Sam hadn't been sitting there, he might well have done it.

And now if he hadn't blown it, hadn't shoved the truth in Sam's face and stalked off, there wouldn't be this awkwardness between them that sapped their energy and put them off their game. Dean was firmly convinced of that. How else could the two of them have been overpowered so easily by a couple of yahoos? They never should have taken this hunt, should have taken a couple of extra days to regroup and stop feeling sorry for themselves and each other. He'd almost thought about suggesting it, but Sam had seemed so eager to move on that he wasn't going to stand in his way.

Life certainly was pretty sucky right now. Still, he was lucky they'd given him enough room to breathe, with his hands and feet tied and all of him wrapped up in a muddy old tarp that was doing its best to get him to freak out from claustrophobia. He'd been on the verge of doing so when they were wrapping him up until Sam's cry and subsequent puking sounds had jerked him back to reality. Someone had to keep their cool around here, and it looked like it was going to have to be him.

The pickup jolted forward, and he winced as his head thumped against the bed of the truck. "Sam, you there?" he shouted out.

A muffled response came immediately. "Yeah." There was another thump as they jolted their way from the gravel parking lot onto the main road. "Ow."

Dean rolled his eyes at the darkness around him. Somehow he got the feeling there was going to be a lot more of that to come.

The truck started moving faster, and he pitched his voice louder to carry over the engine. "You got any idea who these guys are?"

"Not a clue," came the response, then something he couldn't quite make out. "You?"

"Not really." The truck turned a corner, and he took advantage of the motion to roll onto his side, facing the direction his brother was speaking from. "Must be hunters, though."

"Ya think?" came the sarcastic response. "Was it the silver knife or the tattoos…gave it away?"

Dean blinked. He hadn't even noticed a tattoo. Score one for Sammy. He'd been too focused on the gun nestled against the back of his brother's head to pay attention to much of anything else. "Did you recognize them?"

"The tats? Yeah." Sam's voice was getting harder to hear. "They're a variation…we've got."

"Huh," he replied, trying to remember how rare their tattoo artist had told them these particular markings were. He'd never asked Castiel how he had managed to keep his tattoo intact while removing every other permanent marking from his skin. All he knew was that he was grateful for it. "What about the men? You know them?"

"Never seen them." There was silence for a moment, broken by identical groans as the truck hit a pothole. "What do you think…from us?"

That's the million dollar question, isn't it? "You'd know better than me," he called back.

There was a pause. Then, louder, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

He let out another sigh. "Nothing. You're the one who's been above ground for the last six months, that's all."

"Oh." They rolled on for a few seconds. Then Sam asked, more hesitantly, "So d'you think it's about you or me?"

Dean couldn't help the snort that escaped him. Yeah, it figured. They were sniping at each other like they hadn't done since Sam was a teenager, and now as far as the rest of the world was concerned, they were both worthy of being treated like supernatural freaks. "I don't know, Sam," he replied. "Could be both."

"Yeah," came the response.

Beneath them, he could feel the truck starting to climb uphill. The little town they'd been staying in was at the junction of a mountain stream and a larger river, so it was two-to-one odds they'd be gaining elevation as they drove away. The road was still paved, although apparently not very well-maintained, as the occasional bump made clear. Dean figured they'd been going for about half an hour from the motel so far. He tried to remember the map of the area but frowned in frustration. That was more Sam's department than his.

"Got any idea where we are?" he called out.

There was a short pause. Then Sam's exasperated response came. "In case you didn't …can't exactly see…going."

"Didn't those vampires blindfold you and you still figured out where you were?" C'mon, Sam, use your head.

"Not at the time, Dean!" There was another pause. "'Sides, having…trouble here."

"What is it?" Dean quickly asked, alarm rising.

"Kinda hard…breathe."

Shit. Dean had initially worried about that himself, but when he'd realized that he was having no difficulty, he'd figured his brother's broader shoulders would have forced a wider opening around his head. If he craned his head backwards, he could see out the top of the rolled-up tarp. It got him only a sliver of a view of the cab window and a crick in his neck, but he could feel more of the cold night air on his face.

"Can you tilt your head back?" he shouted.

There was a rustling sound, followed by an "Ow!" and a few words he didn't often hear from his little brother's mouth as they bumped off the paved road and onto gravel. Then, "Yeah, that helps."

With the gravel crunching under the tires, they weren't going to be able to have much of a conversation anyway, so Dean called out, "Save your breath."

And then he was left alone with nothing but his thoughts, which wasn't exactly where he wanted to be at the moment. Sealed up in this plastic with his limbs immobilized was a little too much like—

No, he was not going to think about that. Just because he had more years' worth of memories of Hell than of Earth rattling around in his head didn't mean he had to think about them. Ever. Again.

So instead Dean concentrated on the jarring ride, the way that his skull bounced softly against the bed of the truck, the way the ropes were chafing his wrists, the way his left arm was falling asleep from his body's weight on it. All annoyances, to be sure, but they were only that. Not fire and brimstone, not hooks digging into flesh and impossible chasms yawning beneath him. Just the simple discomforts of having a human body in the real world where it was only humans who intended to do him harm.

Dean sighed and dropped his head back. How many people could say that they were reassured by the fact they were tied up in the back of a pickup truck being driven around by armed men? Damn, but his life was screwed up.

He figured it was another half hour of lurching along on the gravel before the truck finally came to a stop. "Sam," he called out before the engine died.

"Ready," came the quick response.

The engine turned off, and he figured they only had a few seconds before the cab doors opened and their captors were on them. "You get a chance, you run. Got it?"

"Same goes for you," Sam replied.

Whatever, Dean thought to himself, but out loud he said, "Okay."

The pickup bed dipped underneath them as one man, and then two, climbed up. A moment later, a foot connected with Dean's ribs, forcing a whoosh of breath out of him. A matching grunt from the other side of the truck told him Sam was being treated the same way.

"Get 'em out of there," he heard the third man say from his post outside the truck.

Dean's world suddenly lurched as he felt his shoulders being picked up, and then another pair of hands grabbed his feet. He wanted desperately to reach out and grab a hold of something, but his arms were bound behind him, and the feeling of utter helplessness at being swung through the air was sickening.

On the other hand, if it was taking two of them to manhandle him out of the pickup bed, he couldn't wait to see what it took to bring Sammy out.

He was lowered off the side of the truck and had a brief, panicked moment of free-fall before hitting the ground with a thud. The air was knocked out of his lungs, and he gasped like a fish for a moment, afraid he wasn't going to be able to breathe with the plastic over his face.

Then the world started to spin madly around him as he bounced around, cursing all the while. They must have grabbed one end of the tarp to spin him loose. Dean emerged onto the hard-packed dirt dizzy and bruised, unable to take advantage of the fact that his legs were being cut free because of the rate at which his head was spinning.

As they jerked him upright, the world was still rotating enough to make him completely unsteady on his feet. Damn, but that was effective, he thought grudgingly, opening his eyes and trying to get a bearing on what was going on.

His head cleared abruptly at the feel of a sawed-off shotgun pressing against the skin underneath his right ear.

"Don't move," came the growled command from behind him, and he was inclined to obey.

Up in the pickup, the tall, lanky guy and the man who'd gotten the jump on Sam were unwrapping the bundle that held his little brother. Dean held his breath, seeing only one more layer of plastic to go. If Sam could keep those two guys occupied, he had a chance at ducking away from his captor and disarming him with a properly placed kick, as long as he could keep his balance through the lingering vertigo. Was Sam going to come out swinging?

Sure enough, before the last bit of the tarp was removed, he saw Sam swiftly draw his legs up and then lash outwards, catching the tall guy off-guard, who stumbled backwards, arms windmilling, and had to jump to the ground to keep from falling there in a heap.

"Atta boy, Sammy," Dean muttered. Sam was already twisting upwards to fend off a blow from the second man, using his shoulder to knock him down. At the same time, he was scissoring his legs back and forth, and the rope around his ankles was visibly loosening.

Taking advantage of the moment, Dean dropped into a crouch, ready to spin around and lash out with his legs. Pretty dumbass move to cut me loose, he thought, and he was going to take advantage of it.

Unfortunately, the gunman behind him hadn't been as distracted as he'd thought. The kick that caught Dean in the ribs came by surprise, laying him flat on his back with a foot on his chest before he could push himself back up. He was suddenly staring up the barrel of the sawed-off, and the man holding it looked like he was more than ready to use it.

Dean thumped his head back against the ground. First chance blown, he berated himself, hoping there would, in fact, be a second chance for them to escape.

"Hold it right there," the man above him called out in Sam's direction. "You wanna keep your brother alive, you'll stop it right now."

All motion stopped in the pickup. Dean saw Sam's head rise to look at them, and then his eyes grew big at the sight of the shotgun on Dean. His mouth grew tight, but he stopped where he was, long legs braced wide apart for balance, the coil of rope still around one ankle.

"You little…" the man in the pickup snarled as he rose to his feet, picking up his John Deere cap from where it had fallen and placing it on his head. Then he reached out and gave Sam a strong shove.

"Hey!" Dean called out angrily, but Sam was already tilting backwards. With his hands tied behind him, there was no way he could use them to maintain his balance, and he went crashing over the side of the pickup and onto the hard ground below.

Dean lunged upwards, but the foot on his chest kept him firmly in place. "Let go, you son of a bitch!" he grunted, straining to see Sam.

The tall guy—Harry, that's what they'd called him—strode around the side of the truck and bent down. A moment later, Sam was dragged to his feet, shaking his head as if to clear it. He instantly looked over at Dean, who could see his brother favoring his left shoulder. No surprise, after landing hard on it for the second time that day. "You okay, Sam?" he called out.

"Peachy," came the strained reply.

Dean let out a huff and tried to sound offended rather than relieved. "Dude, that's my line."

"Shut it," muttered the red-haired man standing over him. He pressed down slightly with his foot, making Dean's breathing a little more difficult. "Get him inside," he called out to the others. Then in a tone of warning, "Anything doesn't go smoothly, and this one gets a chestful of lead."

"Sam, you give 'em hell!" Dean forced out. He wasn't surprised when the pressure on his chest briefly disappeared before a boot caught him in the ribs again. He curled up slightly, but didn't make a sound other than a sharp exhalation. No way was he giving these bastards the satisfaction of reacting to them.

After all, he had decades of experience keeping his pain and his screams to himself.

He watched Sam being frog-marched into an old, weathered barn that the pickup had pulled up in front of. The nearly full moon was high, showing him the extent of the small clearing that they were in. There was the barn, a rusting tractor outside, and nothing but evergreens all around the dirt driveway. Whatever field the tractor had been used to plant was either well away from this clearing or had long since been overgrown by trees.

Also, it was frickin' freezing out here.

When they finally dragged him inside, the first thing he saw was Sam tied to a plain wooden chair in the middle of the concrete floor of the barn, ankles bound to the legs of the chair and multiple strands of thick rope securing his torso to the back, hands still trapped behind him. He already had a black eye forming and a split lower lip, aside from whatever injuries he'd sustained when falling out of the truck, and Dean felt his blood boil. Sam's lips were pressed together, his breathing coming hard through flared nostrils, his eyes signaling to Dean that he was okay but pissed.

Behind him, the John Deere dude was eyeing Dean closely, the muzzle of what he recognized as his brother's gun resting almost casually against Sam's neck.

It was that last thing that kept Dean from offering any resistance as they shoved him into a matching rickety chair a few yards away from his brother and immobilized him the same way. He wasn't sure if he should be offended or grateful that they only wrapped the rope twice around his chest, half of what Sam had been subjected to. Not that it probably mattered, given how tight they were pulling it, but it was further proof that he wasn't the one they were afraid of.

Surprisingly enough, given the decrepit state of the place, the electricity seemed to work: there were a couple of utility lights shining from overhead, hooked onto an orange extension cord that drooped down from the rafters. Still, it wasn't a whole lot warmer in the barn than it had been outside. Looking at his brother, Dean could see a shiver pass over him. They weren't exactly dressed for sub-freezing temperatures. "Hey, you got a space heater in here?" he called out. "This place is like a friggin' icebox."

John Deere looked over and said meaningfully, "That's right, you're used to a somewhat warmer climate than this, aren't ya?"

Dean froze. Then his eyes shifted to Sam, whose mouth tightened further. Okay, at least now they knew what they were here for. Or at least, these hunters appeared to know where Dean had spent his summer vacation.

He let out a sigh. Maybe if he carried around a bottle of holy water and took regular swigs from it, other people wouldn't feel obliged to go to such lengths to verify that he was who he said he was. Or maybe he could get a certificate from Castiel that verified he was one-hundred-percent human, swear to God, no pun intended.

"So who are you?" Sam asked, his voice surprisingly confident considering a man was holding a gun to his head. "And what makes you think you can go around kidnapping other hunters?"

"They did say you were the smart one," John Deere replied. "For what it's worth, I'm Tom Abramson. That over there is my son Harry." He gestured with his free hand at the lanky young man who was currently closing the barn doors, shutting out the frigid night air.

Dean looked up at the guy in front of him, the one who'd been standing on his chest outside, and smirked. "I guess that makes you the Dick, huh?"

The red-haired man regarded him for a moment, expressionless. Then he stepped forward and threw all of his weight into a punch straight into Dean's midriff.

Dean involuntarily bent over despite the rope around his chest, which put his jaw right in line for the uppercut that followed. He winced as his head snapped back, his abs still aching from the first blow. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sam stiffen in his chair, but there wasn't like there was much he could do from his position. Besides, whatever attention Dean could draw to himself was that much less that his brother would have to deal with.

So Dean straightened his head, cracked his neck to one side and then the other, and said, "Come on, is that all you got? I've been hit harder by an eight-year-old." An eight-year-old who made a wish that he was Superman, but still.

Red was winding up for another blow when Tom spoke up. "Let it go, Joe. He's just trying to rile you up."

Joe's clenched fist wavered for a moment, then dropped to his side. He took a couple of steps back as if to remove himself from temptation, which Dean definitely appreciated. "Don't worry," he said in a deep bass voice out of tune with his less-than-six-foot height. "There'll be more where that came from."

Dean looked up with a sneer, blood trickling from his lip. "Believe me, there's nothing you can dish out that I can't take. Nothing."

He heard a small huff from Sam's direction and looked over to see the traces of a knowing but grim smirk on his face. Apparently his brother understood that Dean had found the one and only silver lining to having been subjected to the tortures of Hell: humans couldn't do anything that he hadn't already withstood and more.

"So tell us what's going on," Sam said. "Tell us what we're doing here."

"Nope." Tom finally stepped back from Sam, lowering his gun, and Dean breathed out a quiet sigh of relief. "You're the ones who are gonna talk. Both of you. You're gonna tell us how a man who was clawed apart by hellhounds can be sitting right here in front of us, alive and in the flesh."

"Divine intervention?" Dean suggested with raised eyebrows. Sam shot him a sharp look of warning, but he shrugged it off. This was the one time the truth was going to get them absolutely nowhere.

Tom snorted as he walked around to stand in front of them. "Not likely. Considering that we know it's the opposite kind of intervention that was involved." His calculating gaze fell on Sam, and Dean felt a cold tendril of fear wind up his spine. "The question is," he went on, his face that of a judge and executioner all in one, "how exactly did you use your demon powers to get your brother out of Hell?"

Dean's stomach dropped. He looked at Sam, who was already staring back at him, eyes wide and tight-lipped expression saying the same thing that Dean felt on his own face.

We are so screwed.

(Chapter 4)



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 5th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
Thanks! It's probably one of the rare occasions Dean would be proud that his little brother is bigger than him...
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )