When Dean got his shit back together he found himself in the middle of a cat fight. Two chicks were going at it with all guns blazing and he figured it best to keep his eyes closed and play dead. That’s until he heard his own name mentioned repeatedly and realised they were fighting over him.
It was hardly the first time but his satisfaction in the achievement dwindled as his brain kicked into a higher gear. He remembered the second round in the pit, hustling those fuckers good and getting shot by Nathan, again. Dean knew he should feel angry about being set up to fail, taking another bullet as reward for winning, but nothing seemed very important right now.
With the thrill of the fight over, the adrenalin rush spent, the booze and pills he’d downed earlier were doing a fine job of keeping reality at arm’s length. Dean felt relaxed, woolly and the gunshot wound was hurting less than he knew it should. There was little more than a dull throb and numbness round his upper thigh until he tried to move. Then he felt harsh, stabbing pain and remembered the bullet was still in there. Even the pills couldn’t mask the knot of dread which formed in his stomach.
Dean knew he was in the ops room; the dry heat and stink of camping gas told him that although he didn’t recall getting here. His last clear memory was sitting on the floor in the pit, feeling cold, shaky and faint before the lights went out. He lay still for a while, waiting for the pills to pull him back onto the magic carpet ride where everything was floaty and unreal; but Suzie and Kate were still going hard. Their shrill, incessant yapping was making his teeth ache so he opened his eyes and discovered the two women standing right over him, virtually nose to nose. Kate was hollering about immorality; Suzie was shaking her head, insisting at the top end of her register how it made perfect sense. Dean waited for a lull in the argument, which was a long time coming, then made his move.
“Would you keep it down? I’m trying to get a little shuteye here.”
“Shut up, Dean.” They snapped at him in unison, dismissing him like a piece of meat that happened to be on the table between them. When they realised he’d re-joined the land of the living it stopped the argument dead.
“How are you feeling?” Kate’s voice was calm and composed, as though she hadn’t been screaming like a banshee a few seconds ago.
“Like I just ran the Bunion Derby.” Dean pushed himself onto his elbows and winced as pain shot through his leg. Sam was sitting on a chair beside him, outsize medical kit balanced on his lap and he looked red-eyed and pale. Dean glanced across to where Tim, Brody and Ed were crowded together on the couch, sharing a bottle of whisky. They reminded him of three dumb monkeys and he noted the bandage on Ed’s shoulder with satisfaction.
“How are you feeling, Ed?”
“Shut up you son of a bitch.” Nathan’s low growl drew Dean’s attention to the other end of the room. He and Toby were by the door, barricading it and both of them had shotguns now. Dean smirked.
“Bonnie and Clyde, huh? I’ve gotta tell you, Nathan, you’re one ugly piece of tail.”
Nathan was on the move when Suzie’s voice rang out; hard and commanding. “Stay away from him if you know what’s good.”
She put a hand on Dean’s chest, pushing him back onto the table. “We were debating whether to tie you down, stud. My sister doesn’t like the idea but I know how much you enjoy a little bondage.”
Dean sniffed dismissively. “You want to tie me down for kicks, sweetheart, I ain’t complaining.”
Sam stood up fast. “Nobody touches him, unless you’re looking for more of what you got in the pit…”
There was a tangible shift of mood in the room; Dean sensed unease, mistrust and all eyes were on his brother. Suzie fielded the threat with a casual wave of her hand. “If you had any mojo you’d be using it; not handing out wolf tickets.”
Sam raised his chin defiantly. “Want to try me?”
Suzie appraised him through narrowed eyes before nodding curtly. “Have it your way.” She patted Dean’s shoulder. “Good luck, honey. Hope your brother’s got a steady hand.”
She joined Nathan by the door but Kate hung back. “Need any help?”
When Sam shook his head she shrugged off her coat and tucked it under Dean’s head. He grunted his appreciation as Sam began selecting items from the medical kit. Dean knew what all the stuff was for; he’d been on the receiving end of it often enough, but the sight still made him queasy. He looked away, focussing on the callous, expectant faces in the room and got a surprise when his eyes landed on Tim.
Tim’s expression was dark, his eyes flashing and he was getting to his feet. He snatched the whisky from Brody and thrust the bottle at Dean. He spoke quietly; words intended for just the two of them.
“I’m gonna make this right. Just hang in there, man.”
“It’s a little early for happy hour.” Suzie’s tone was light but the underlying menace was clear. “Who said you could tend bar, Tim?”
“Hunters don’t shoot each other for thrills.” Tim’s voice was full of disgust. “We look out for each other and Dean had my back in New Orleans. He saved my ass and that means I’ll give him anything I damned well please. You don’t like it, get fucked.”
Suzie seemed taken aback for all of two seconds but got her game face back on swiftly. “Bravo, Tim. Finally growing a pair, huh?”
Tim scowled. “You’re barely holding this operation together, lady. You really want trouble from me?”
Suzie watched him appraisingly, head cocked to one side. “Worm’s on the turn, huh?”
“Takes a worm to land a catfish...” Tim stalked back to the couch and Dean lifted the bottle in salute.
“Here’s to the worms.”
Sam was eyeing the booze with unease. “You think that’s a good idea, Dean?”
Dean took a gulp of whisky. “I think it’s a friggin’ awesome idea, Doctor Nick.”
Sam wasn’t happy, but he didn’t try to take away the only anaesthesia Dean was going to get. “Just go easy, okay?”
“Back atcha, man.”
Dean drank and cursed steadily as Sam located the bullet. He found it an inch away from the thigh bone and went in with a knife and forceps. It hurt like a son of a bitch but even after weeks of tossing down pain pills like candy, Dean felt some of their blunting effects. It was enough to keep him from squirming on the bench or crying out in pain. He chalked that up as a win.
The booze got the better of him as Sam was bandaging the wound. The room started spinning and a kaleidoscope of colours danced before his eyes. Sam was worried; Dean saw his lips moving but couldn’t make out any words. There was a persistent pounding in his ears and he knew he was losing his grip on reality when he dropped the whisky. He heard the bottle thump to the floor, briefly mourned the waste of good liquor and then he was back in the twilight zone.
He woke up in the cage; hungry, hungover and alone. He was lying on the bunk, covered by a couple of ratty blankets and grey morning light was filtering into the storehouse. Dean’s right leg felt hot, stiff and the wound was pulsing in time to his heartbeat. He flexed it cautiously and cursed at the unexpectedly intense pain. He’d been out long enough for the pills to wear off entirely and now he was facing the harsh, unadulterated reality of a gunshot wound.
He had a pretty good idea why Sam wasn’t in the cage with him. His brother’s psychic sideshow had spooked the gang while his apparent vision about the knives had tossed an extra spanner into the works. Dean hoped that last part was a bluff to protect Kate, but there was no denying Sam had used mind control to unlock handcuffs and unbolt a door remotely. Dean wasn’t comfortable with any of it and if he was honest, deep down it scared him shitless. He felt like he was losing his brother to darkness, helpless to do anything but watch as Sam became something which every fibre of his being compelled him to hunt and kill. He didn’t want to think about where Sam’s choices might lead them, what it meant for them ultimately but it seemed unlikely either of them would live long enough for it to matter much anyway.
The only positive was now Suzie saw Sam as a threat. That might have bought them some leverage, but not while Dean was on his ass feeling sorry for himself. As he pushed the blankets aside he caught movement near the door of the storehouse. Somebody was high tailing it from the room and he couldn’t help feeling flattered. Even unconscious, shot up and beat to hell, Suzie still considered him dangerous enough to post a guard. Dean needed to see if his leg still worked, without an audience and he used the opportunity to haul himself up, using the bunk for support.
He was careful to keep his weight off the injury but the pain was horrible nonetheless. He was sweating, dizzy and nauseas by the time he’d taken three shaky steps across the cage and then he was clinging to the bars just to stay upright. As he began to realise he wouldn’t make it back to the bunk on his own, his leg gave out completely. He hit the deck hard, his stomach rolled ominously and he wound up on his hands and knees, dry retching into the dirt.
That’s how Kate found him. He was too wrapped up in his own misery to notice anything else and nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a warm hand on his back.
“What the hell, Dean? You got some kind of death wish?” There was concern mixed with irritation in her voice and he blinked at her through watering eyes.
“I think your sister’s got it covered.”
“Ain’t that’s the truth.” As Kate helped him to his feet, he saw Ed standing by the door of the cage. He was wearing a makeshift sling, a scowl and there was a .45 in his belt. Dean stared at him contemptuously.
“That’s the honor guard? A one armed friggin’ bandit?”
Ed’s good hand moved to the butt of the pistol. “Only takes one to pull a trigger, asshole.”
“And I don’t need a guard.” Kate sounded amused. “Look at you… can’t even stand without tossing your cookies.”
Dean smiled ruefully. “Guess I had a little too much fun earlier.”
She helped him back to the bunk and he sat down heavily. “What’s up next? Six shooters at dawn?”
“Or something better, if you’re game...” Kate sat beside him and laid a hand on his good leg, way too close to his crotch. Dean jerked with surprise but before he could get offended she leaned in close, lips brushing his ear as she whispered. “Play along. Get rid of Ed.”
Dean’s heartbeat quickened and he swiftly pasted lewd grin onto his face. “That sounds like a lot of fun.” He slid an arm round her waist and glanced at Ed. “This ain’t the Truman Show, pal. Take off.”
Ed looked at Kate doubtfully. “Suzie said…”
“To hell with what Suzie said.” Kate sounded breathless and impatient. “Lock the door and fuck off. Don’t hurry back.”
Ed considered for a long moment before closing the cage door and locking it. “You’ve got ten minutes. I’m betting ramrod there won’t last longer than two.”
Dean smirked at him. “Good luck jerking off with that shoulder, man.”
They watched him leave the warehouse but Kate didn’t seem in any hurry to disengage. When Dean coughed pointedly for the second time she got slowly to her feet.
“You gonna tell me what that little performance was about?”
She shrugged. “We need to talk.”
“Awesome. Where the hell’s my brother?”
“Sam’s in the pit.”
“Fighting?” Dean’s stomach clenched up so hard he thought he might puke again.
“Nobody’s fighting. After that crap he pulled earlier they figured it’s the safest place to keep him. Nathan and Toby are standing guard.”
Dean released a pent up breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. “Where’s your sister?”
“She went out.” Kate chewed on her lip, considering something. Finally she spat it out. “When she gets back they’re starting the next fight.”
“And my brother’s in the fucking pit?” Terror and rage hit Dean in roughly equal measures. He tried to stand up but his leg had other ideas and he fell back onto the bunk with a curse.
“You tell your psycho bitch sister I’m fighting, you got it? She’ll get any kind of show she wants so long as Sammy’s out of it. You got that?”
“Take it easy, Dean. She’s not done with you yet.”
Kate sounded anxious but it barely registered. Dean couldn’t imagine how Suzie expected him to fight when he could barely stand, but he didn’t care. Sam would be safe for a while longer and Dean couldn’t see much beyond that.
“Who’s in the blue corner this time? My money’s on Tim.”
Kate snorted disdainfully. “Tim and Brody went on a chow run. I’m not expecting either of ‘em back.”
“Nathan?” Dean’s stomach twisted. “That should be a walk in the park.”
He scrubbed at his eyes; daunted by the prospect and felt Kate’s hand on his shoulder. “Listen to me, Dean. I called your friend Bobby Singer and...”
Hope flared for a split second before Dean stomped on it hard. He wasn’t getting duped that easy.
“Sure you did. Was it Suzie’s idea to yank my chain, huh? Pull me up, knock me down again…”
“I’m not lying.” A smile was pulling at Kate’s lips. “That Singer guy’s one crabby old bastard; says you and Sam are a pair of idjits but to hang on in. He’s rounded up some guys and they’re headed over.”
There was enough truth in her words for Dean to feel a twinge of optimism. “How long ‘til the cavalry arrives?”
“He texted me from Red Cloud…” Kate checked her watch. “Unless they hit a roadblock they’ll be here in about twenty minutes.”
“So all we’ve got to do is stall the bloodhound gang.” Dean rubbed the back of his neck, feeling some of the tension subside. “I’m open to suggestions…”
They both jumped as the door to the warehouse banged open. Suzie was marching towards them, accompanied by Toby, Ed and a man Dean didn’t recognise. He was tall, whip thin and wearing a crumpled brown suit. His complexion was sallow and a pair of wire rim glasses perched on his narrow nose. Dean shot a glance at Kate.
“Who’s the streak of piss?
As Suzie unlocked the door of the cage her eyes flitted between Dean and Kate. For the most part she seemed amused. “How was the road test, sis? Get him up into fifth?”
Kate ignored the jibe. “Who’s the cheap suit?”
“Highball?” Suzie looked over her shoulder at the newcomer. “He’s what you might call a mixologist.”
“Of course he is.” Dean smirked at the stranger. “I bet you know all about Cock Sucking Cowboys.”
“That’s the best you’ve got?” Highball shook his head. “Does your momma tell you you’re funny?”
Dean scowled. “Bite me.”
Highball produced a syringe from his inside pocket. “You’ll find my cocktails pack a little more punch than the regular type.” He tapped the barrel, squinted at the clear fluid inside then glanced over at Suzie. “We ready to roll?”
She nodded eagerly. “Let’s get this party started.”