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Fourteen Seconds (1/1) (PG-13)

Title: Fourteen Seconds
Author: zubeneschamali 
Rating: PG-13 (language, violence)
Word count: 4,125
Genre: gen
Summary: Post-ep maybe-AU for 6.16, "...And Then There Were None". Sam and Dean discover a few days after leaving Sandusky that all of the traces of the "khan worm" aren't completely gone.

They were holed up in a cabin in West Virginia, the first shoots of spring flowers poking above the ground, tiny specks of color in a landscape that was otherwise unrelentingly March. Sam had seen spring come so many different times in so many different ways, often multiple times in the same year, and there was always this stage where it didn't seem like it was worth it. Where the cold wind and the matted piles of last year's dead leaves and the bare lines of tree branches made the hopeful little green shoots look outnumbered and helpless, like even bothering to have hope was futile.

Or maybe he was just projecting again.

Three days out of Sandusky, their physical wounds were healing, but the mental wounds were still raw and tender. Dean's coping mechanism of pushing aside the hurt had worked to get them out of town and into relative safety. But Sam had caught him staring off into space while cleaning his gun, and Sam knew it was with the realization that that gun in his hands had killed their cousin, even if he couldn't remember pulling the trigger. Sam was all too familiar with how that felt, and he also knew that while Dean's blanket apology/forgiveness speech applied to Sam and Bobby, it wasn’t meant for himself.

As for his part, Sam could remember being so certain that Samuel was possessed. The way he'd been advancing on him, the way he'd looked so focused and deadly…Sam couldn't remember enough about what Samuel had been like during the year they'd spent together to know how normal that look was, but it had sent all of his alarm bells ringing and his self-preservation instincts kicking in.

Dean maintained the bastard deserved it anyway and that he was only upset that he hadn’t gotten to do it himself, but of course Sam couldn't remember why. He only had the brief account from Cas, and he found it impossible to believe that their grandfather had sold them out until Cas told him why. Than Sam found that he kind of understood, from the part of his memory that was intact and held the horrible, bleak months after Dean was dragged to Hell. Being willing to commit insanity to resurrect a family member apparently ran deep in the Campbell bloodline.

The buzz of his phone in his pocket jerked him out of his thoughts, and Sam dug it out. "Hello?"


"Hey, Bobby." Sam had been walking around the perimeter of the clearing in which the cabin sat, and now he paused to make sure the cell phone signal stayed constant. "How're you holding up?"

"Fine." Bobby cleared his throat. "How about you boys?"

"You know." Sam leaned back against a tree trunk, tipping up his face to the early spring sun. "All right."

"Everything okay with both of you?"

The hair on the back of Sam's neck started to prickle. Bobby didn't call to see how they were coping with their feelings. "Yeah, fine. Why?"

The sigh at the other end came through as a rush of static. "You been following the news out of Sandusky?"

A cold shiver ran over him that wasn't because of the breeze. Oh, God, what had they left undone this time? "No, we haven't."

"It's nothing new, Sam, don't worry. Nothing more has happened. Just—the guy who killed his wife. The trucker. He, ah, kind of went nuts in the jail and attacked a cop. They ended up shooting him because he wouldn't stay down."

"Oh." Sam automatically looked at the Impala, where Dean was busy digging something out of the trunk. "What happened?"

"Sheriff says he lost it because the enormity of his crimes finally caught up with him or some bullshit like that. I hope that's all it was, but I thought I'd check and see."

"Yeah." Sam swallowed as the implications sank in. They'd assumed that once the "khan worm," as Dean had dubbed it, was gone, that was the end of it. "Everything okay with you? No aftereffects?"

"I keep getting a big shock every time I hit the light switch, but there's no urge to go out and shoot up the neighbors. No missing time, either, far's I know."

"You want us to come out there and be sure?" Sam was already calculating the hours to South Dakota, whether they should cut up to I-80 or stay south on 70 to keep away from Chicago traffic, shoot up through central Illinois and north on some two-lane in Iowa—

"I think you boys fried that thing so extra crispy I can still smell it."

Sam winced. "Sorry about that." Across the yard, Dean closed the trunk and moved back towards the cabin, the bulge at the small of his back suggesting he was taking in some of the weapons for cleaning.

"Just don't tell me which one of you gave me the kiss of life and we'll call it even."

It would have been a bark of laughter if not for his concern for Dean, but the corners of Sam's mouth still turned up. "Deal."

"You, uh, keep an eye on Dean, you hear?"

"Of course, Bobby. Thanks for the heads up. I'll keep you updated."

"You do that."

When Sam disconnected the call, he tapped the phone against his hand for a moment, thinking. He himself had never been exposed to the worm, and Dean only briefly. They had no idea how long the trucker had been under its influence, but presumably for quite a few hours. Sam would keep an unobtrusive eye on Dean just to be safe, maybe suggest they swing by South Dakota to check up on Bobby. That should do it.

He walked into the cabin, opening his mouth to tell Dean what Bobby had said, and he was completely blindsided.

The first blow came to his temple, the second to his solar plexus, and he'd stumbled to one knee before he could react. Reflexes kicking a second too late, Sam started to raise his fists but was abruptly brought to a halt by the all-too-familiar click of a Colt.

When he felt the cold touch of metal just behind his left ear, Sam's breath caught. Slowly, he lowered his hands back to his side, mind racing. "Dean?"

"Heya, Sammy."

The pressure of the gun disappeared, but he had no doubt that it was right behind him. Dean knew that without the touch of it against his head, he didn't know how far he would have to reach to grab it, which meant Dean had the upper hand.

Which meant Dean was holding him at fucking gunpoint.

"What's going on?" Sam's throat was dry, the words barely croaked out. Bobby's warning had clearly come too late.

"Just finishing up some business." It was unmistakably Dean's voice, without the weird echo that Bobby's voice had had when the worm was speaking through him. Whatever was going on, it wasn't another being—it was Dean, or at least an altered version of him, and Sam didn't know if that was better or worse.

Crouched on one knee, Sam cast his eyes around, looking for a weapon or a distraction or anything he could use to his advantage, finding nothing but worn pine floorboards and not even a rusty nail in sight. "You gonna kill me like you did Gwen?"

"Nah." Sam could hear the creak of the floorboards behind him as Dean shifted his weight. "Thought I'd blow your head off instead."

He fought a shudder at the matter-of-fact tone with which his brother said the words, and he suddenly remembered how calmly and deliberately Bobby had slid his knife between Rufus's ribs. "And why's that?"

"Why'd you kill Samuel?" Dean returned.

A glint of light caught Sam's eye, and he turned his head ever-so-slightly until he could see a tarnished mirror on the wall out of the corner of his eye. "I thought he was infected."

"No, you didn't. You wanted to get back at him for selling us out. Just like I did."

Turning his head a fraction more, Sam could make out the silver gleam of the Colt held rock-steady in Dean's outstretched hands, angled to point between Sam's shoulder blades. The sight made his gut twinge, as if he needed further confirmation that he was screwed.

They weren't of interest to the angels anymore, not enough to be resurrected from a stupid hunt gone wrong like this. If Sam fucked this up and Dean shot him, there wasn't going to be any coming back from it. And once Dean came to and realized what he'd done, the only thing that was going to happen was the use of one more bullet in that gun.

In the time-dulled surface of the mirror, Sam could see maybe a foot of space between the end of the gun barrel and his back. It wasn't much to work with, but at least now he knew where to reach. Slowly, carefully, he started to tense his muscles in preparation. "Dean, I don't know why you thought that – "

"Shut up." There was no mistaking where the end of the barrel was now, cold and lethal and digging into the side of Sam's neck. "He sold us out to Crowley. Just like you sold me out to a fuckin' vampire. And you don't even remember, you little shit."

Sam briefly closed his eyes. He'd found it difficult to believe it when Cas had told him, but hearing it from Dean's mouth, even under the influence of whatever it was that was making him homicidal, it had to be true. "Dean, I'm sorry. I have no idea how I could do that, but believe me, I'm as horrified by it as you are."

"I said shut up!" There was the click of the hammer being pulled back, frighteningly loud despite Dean's shout, and Sam knew he had nothing left to lose.

Sending up a quick prayer that was more to Castiel than anyone else, Sam did what he hoped desperately that Dean wouldn't be expecting. Driving his head back, he twisted so that the barrel slid along the side of his neck, Dean's hand brushing his skin.

He felt Dean's finger clench around the trigger, and the report of the gun was excruciatingly loud as it went off practically in his ear. Sam fought the instinct to duck and cover, instead reaching with both hands for the gun while driving his shoulder into Dean's midsection. Ears ringing, unable to hear if Dean was shouting or cursing at him or trying to fire again, Sam drove him back into the wall, feeling the whoosh of breath leaving Dean's lungs rather than hearing it. He took advantage to wrestle the gun away, but before he could do anything with it, Dean was shoving him to the floor and falling on top of him, lunging for the weapon in Sam's hand.

For a moment, Sam remembered fighting the shapeshifter so many years ago in St. Louis. This was horrifyingly worse because it wasn't a monster wearing Dean's face, it was Dean, and Sam couldn't lash out and risk really hurting him. Dean, however, had no such compulsion, and he was kicking and punching and kneeing like a wildcat as the two of them tussled on the floor.

In the end, that was what did Dean in: overbalancing, he leaned sideways enough for Sam to get the leverage he needed with the gun he still held. He brought it down hard against the back of Dean's head. Dean's eyes rolled up and he fell hard onto Sam, forcing the air out of his lungs from surprise as much as the weight.

Sam carefully rolled Dean off of him and laid there for a moment, catching his breath. He would have some bruises tomorrow, some cuts and scrapes, and his ears were going to be ringing for a while, but he was otherwise unharmed. He didn't think he'd gotten any hits in on Dean other than the one that knocked him unconscious, and a quick examination told him he was right.

The question was, what did he do now?

Two hours passed before Dean woke up, during which time Sam nearly called Bobby half a dozen times. He figured there wasn't anything the older man could tell them that they didn't already know, not if they were dealing with a previously-unknown creature. He'd checked Dean's ears and seen a faint trace of the black substance that had been there before, not the thick trails from the worm. Thankfully, it looked like there wasn't another one inside Dean, because the thought of having to electrocute him to get it out was horrifying.

Sam had hefted his brother into one of the rickety wooden chairs at the table and tied him to it at wrists and ankles with the most secure knots he knew. Then he'd dropped into the other chair next to him and waited with bated breath for Dean to wake up.

Finally, it happened. Dean grunted as he came to, eyelids snapping open and head jerking up, hands forming into fists as he tried to raise his arms and couldn't. It took only a second for him to realize what was going on, his gaze ranging wildly over the dusty cabin before returning to Sam, grim realization spreading as he took in his situation.

"What'd I do?" he demanded hoarsely, eyes searching Sam's.

Sam swallowed and figured there was no use beating around the bush. "Tried to shoot me."

"Fuck." Dean closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the chair. He drew in a couple of breaths, jaw clenched. When he opened his eyes, they were sparking with determination. "You know what you gotta do, Sam."

He shook his head frantically. "No, I don't. I checked, and there's not another worm in your head, not that I can see. And it was you talking, not one of those things."

"What'd Bobby have to say?"

Sam let out huff of breath. Trust Dean to know he'd been in contact with him. "He called before you—when I was outside. Told me the trucker from Ohio went postal in jail. Bobby thinks it's some kind of aftereffect that he's not going to experience because you—because it was burned out of him."

"Awesome." Dean grimaced. "Well, that does it, then."

"What?" Sam furrowed his brow, not quite following.

Dean met his eyes. "You gotta do the same thing to me."

For a moment, Sam heard the words but didn't understand their meaning. Then he shook his head, at first slowly but then faster and more firmly. "No, Dean, I'm not—I can't do that to you."

"You don't have a choice, Sam." Dean tugged at the ropes around his wrists. "You can't keep me like this, and trust me, you can not go around hunting always wondering if I'm about to turn on you."

Sam had to look away at that one, Dean's accusation about selling him out to a vampire still ringing in his ears. "There's got to be another way, something else we can do."

"We don't even know what that thing was. All we know is that electricity gets it out."

Sam flung his hands out wide. "There's no power in this cabin."

"There's the car battery." Dean's brow furrowed, and then he shook his head. "I don't think that's got enough voltage, though."

"Damn it, Dean, I can't—"

"There's a generator out back. You can siphon enough gas from the car to get it going with enough juice."

"No." Sam folded his arms over his chest. "I'm not doing that to you."

Dean's features were impassive. "Trust me, I can take it."

Sam's gut roiled. "No. Dean, that could kill you! You've already had your heart stopped once from electric shock, you can't do it again."

"That was Dean Winchester 1.0," he replied with a slight smirk that Sam instantly wanted to slap off his face. "This heart probably still has the manufacturer's warranty."

"Don't even joke about that," Sam snapped.

Dean let out a short sigh. "Sam, I don't know what freaky piece of luck it took for you to overpower me, but it's not going to happen again." At Sam's glare, he went on, "I mean it. I can't be trusted to have your back like this. And if I woke up just now to find that it was you that I shot..." He looked away, rolling his lips into his mouth, jaw set in a hard line. "You gotta do this, Sam."

"Dean, I—"


There was no sound for a moment but their breathing, Dean's harsh but steady breaths out of rhythm with Sam's faster, shakier ones. Sam looked at his brother, who'd just a few hours ago held a gun to the back of his head, and contemplated what it would be like to not be able to take his eyes off of him for fear he'd turn on him again.

It hit him suddenly what it must have been like for Dean these past few months, and his stomach churned. No wonder it sometimes felt like they were getting to know each other all over again, after going through something like that.

If he didn't trust you, he wouldn't be asking you to do this, Sam thought. It was cold, cold comfort.

"All right," he said, abruptly standing up. "You, uh, stay here."

The roll of Dean's eyes was entirely expected and entirely welcome.

Sam didn't let himself think about it, just went through the tasks of getting gas into the generator, trying to turn it on, asking Dean's advice when it refused to cooperate, and eventually battering it into submission with a wrench and elbow grease. A bare light bulb flickered to life in the main room of the cabin, and Sam eyed it warily before looking to the nearest electrical outlet, feeling Dean's eyes on him all the while.

He knew what to do then, too, having seen Dean do it to get the damn worm out of Bobby's head, and he went through the motions of removing the plate over the outlet and stripping the first few inches of the wires, careful to keep the bare ends away from his own exposed skin.

When he heard Dean humming AC/DC's "High Voltage," Sam gave him such a hard glare that it actually shut him up for once.

But when Sam was standing in front of his brother, bare wires held up between them and Dean with his head high and jaw set, he knew that he wasn't going to be able to do it. "Dean, I..." He gestured helplessly with the wires.

"You know what I'd be doing right now if I wasn't tied to this chair?" Dean asked.

Something about his tone was off, the same straightforwardness that he'd used when holding a gun on Sam, and it made Sam go still. "No, what?"

"Taking that wire and wrapping it around your throat. Maybe putting my hands around that damn giraffe neck and squeezing the life out of you." Dean's eyes were hard and cold like Sam had never seen directed at him, only at a creature that was good for nothing but being killed. "Or maybe instead I'd be pulling the knife out of my boot and showing you some of the things that Alastair taught—"

Sam was moving before he could think about it, lunging forward and slapping the bare wire against Dean's bare neck.

Dean instantly howled and threw his head back, dislodging the wire until Sam could readjust his grip and get it back on his skin. He counted four excruciating seconds before thin black liquid began to trail out of Dean's right ear, two more before it left his nose as well and trailed down past his open mouth. There wasn't a worm to kill this time, only the residue to force out, and Dean was going to have to hold on until it was all gone.

Nine seconds passed, and Dean was screaming for all he was worth, the angry red line along his neck starting to turn dark and ashy. Sam felt like he was going to throw up at the smell of burning flesh and hair, but the black ooze was still trickling out, and he grimly held on.

Twelve seconds, and Dean was heaving in gasps of air, back arched against the rickety wooden chair and legs straining against the knots at his ankles, and Sam squinted through the tears threatening to blur his vision.

Fourteen seconds, and the black liquid turned to bright red blood, and Sam jerked the wire back and almost threw it on the floor in his eagerness to be rid of it. He remembered the potential danger in time and laid the cord on the wooden table before turning to Dean and taking his head in his hands. "Dean! You okay?"

There was no response, and Sam's stomach dropped. Had it been too long? Had he burned the last of the residue out of Dean only to push his body too far?

When he checked for a pulse, it was weak, but least it was there. Dean's chest wasn't moving, though, and the relief that had started to trickle through Sam hardened back into fear.

Whipping out his knife, Sam slashed through the knots at Dean's wrists and ankles before easing him out of the chair and onto the wooden floor. He'd just pinched Dean's nostrils shut when a hand weakly clamped on his wrist. "You better not be 'bout to do...what I think you're about to do," Dean muttered.

Sam sank back on his haunches, feeling weak with relief. "You okay?"

"Gimme a minute." Dean laid there, eyes closed, chest now clearly moving up and down, pulse visibly beating under the skin of his neck. The smell of burned skin still hung in the air, but Sam could force it out of his mind now that Dean was all right. "Is it gone?"

"Yeah." Sam felt a suspicious wetness on his cheeks and took advantage of Dean's eyes being closed to surreptitiously wipe them dry. "It, uh, all bled out of you."

"Gross." Dean reached up to wipe his chin and rubbed the sticky black goo between his fingers, opening his eyes to squint at it. "Dude, that's disgusting."

"Think you can sit up? I can bring you a washcloth."

"Help me up and I'll do it myself."

Dean was already struggling to sit up, and it took surprisingly little effort to push him back down. "Stay there," Sam ordered. Dean rolled his eyes but obeyed, and that was a pretty good indication that what Sam had done had taken a lot out of him.

By the time Sam returned, Dean had stubbornly maneuvered himself to an upright position, leaning against a table leg and looking like it was the only thing holding him up. When Sam knelt to wipe the washcloth over his mouth, Dean grabbed it and started cleaning off his face. "'m not a five year old," he muttered.

"No, you're not," Sam agreed, but he stayed right where he was in case Dean needed any help.

Dean eyed him sideways. "How're you doin'?"

He shrugged one shoulder. "Fine."

"Just, you know, it sounded like you really didn't want to—"

"I'm fine!" Sam snapped. At Dean's pointed look, he rolled his eyes. "I'm not the one who was electrocuted."

"No, you're the one who had to do it," Dean replied calmly.

The look of understanding in his eyes said far, far more than his words could, and Sam shivered and looked away. "I'll be fine," he said more quietly.

"Good." Dean lowered the hand that wasn't holding the washcloth to Sam's shoulder and gave it a firm squeeze. "Because you're buying me pie every day for the next month, bitch."

"Jerk," Sam returned automatically. When he caught Dean's eye, he saw the pleased twinkle there at the familiar insult, and it made a tentative smile curl up his own lips.

"Nothing deep-fried, though," Dean added. When Sam's jaw dropped in disbelief, he raised his eyebrows, the picture of innocence. "Too soon?"

Sam gently cuffed the back of his head in response and took the washcloth to rinse it out in the sink.

Looking out the grimy bathroom window at the edge of the clearing, Sam thought maybe he'd use the rusty old watering can he'd seen out back to water the early spring buds before they left, give them an extra shot at blooming. March would pass, after all.

Just like it always did.


May. 3rd, 2011 09:56 am (UTC)
*hugs* Banter always makes it better. :)